In which I talk about cleaning the basement, my drug-addled cat, and get all political after seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11".
Not my basement.
What better way to spend a beautiful Satuday then by helping some friends clean out their basement. Thom and Annette have been in their current house for several years...and they had boxes in their basement that haden't even been unpacked from when they had moved in. So it was time for drastic measures. A whole bunch of us all showed up and helped them (almost) completely empty out their (rather large) basement. The contents were piled up on the lawn in rough piles - "Christmas and holiday", "Thom's toys", "tools", "games", "camping", "baby stuff"...you get the picture. I had no idea how they had ever managed to fit all of the junk that we hauled out onto the lawn in their house - much less in a single room - in the first place. It looked like the house had literally thrown up and was surrounded by the detrius. Anyway piles were made, and Thom and Annette had to sort through all of the piles. None of us volunteers could help with that. Mostly because if it was up to us, we would have tossed most of it in the dumpster that Thom and Annette had rented for the occasion. Long, hard, satisfying work. And at the end we were rewarded with a yummy barbecue dinner. Mmmmm... We were supposed to have a backyard bonfire as well, but we were all too tired at the end of the day.
I hope that I never have to deal with that amount of clutter ever. Gods preserve me from becoming too much of a packrat, for now I have seen where that path leads.
My cat is a little bit "off", as anyone who has ever met her can tell. I blame it on the fact that she fell out of a sixth story window when she was a kitten. That, and her mother's owner was an extremely heavy pot smoker. So she is just a little bit off. But I digress.
Merlin's current favorite toy is an old sock, stuffed with catnip and tied closed. She likes to just lay there on her side and chew on it. Sunday morning John tied the catnip sock around her neck like a collar, with the catnip lum positioned right under her chin. So she was getting constant catnip vapors from it. Not only did she not mind it at all...I think she enjoyed it. At least, she made no attempt to get it off - which is unusual in itself since she hates having anything around her neck normally. We decided to see how long she would leave it on. And I would like to report that it stayed on until about 8:30 this evening, when it loosened and fell off on its own. That is over 36 hours. Damn. And she was probably high on catnip the whole time. I hope that she doesn't go into withdrawal now.
"Fahrenheit 9/11". If you are not interested in politics or in reading about how I keep getting disillusioned by the political system and politics of our fair country, then you might as well just stop reading now.
John and I went to see it yesterday evening. I thought that it was very well done, and a lot of the editing and cuts were very clever, but it was altogether a very disturbing film. It certainly did not make me proud to be an American. I love this country, but I hate the current administration and their policies. If I was not about to move and start a new job, I would consider moving to Canada if Bush were elected to another term.
(For any CIA, FBI, or other Homeland Security snoops out there who are busily monitering the internet for people like me expressing negative views about our president and his actions and policies post-September 11, I have the following to say. Fuck you, Bush. You are not my president. You do not reperesent me or my interests or my views. I hope you choke on another pretzel and die, you illiterate moron.)
There. Now I feel a little bit better. And if I am contacted by federal investigative forces regarding my opinions (which are protected by the First Amendment, thankyouverymuch) I will be sure to write about it here.
The film did not say a lot of things that I didn't already know - like the Bush family ties to Bin Laden oil interests and money, the Bin Laben family profiting from investments in the Carlyle group after September 11, Bush rewarding money-lending oil buddies with lucrative foreign contracts and appointments, etc... - but I wasn't aware of the scope of some of it, which shocked me. I don't always agree with Michael Moore and his political agenda, but I am glad that he decided to make the film, show the connections, talk about all of the background (all the way back to the 70s and 80s when we gave Osama training and money and weapons because we wanted him to fight the Soviet Union and also gave Saddam money and weapons because we wanted hom to fight Iran) that it seems that no one else in the media wants to talk (or remind the voting public) about, and basically just follow the trail of money to where it led. Made me sick, frankly. I will be voting for Kerry (also known as "not Bush") in November.
As for Moore... I enjoyed "Bowling for Columbine" when I saw it for the first time several months ago. And now I think I want to see his first movie, "Roger and Me" as well.
I saw my friend Ann last night for the first time in about eight (8) years.
We met on the bus when she was a freshman and I was a sophmore in high school. Yes, we were both such massive dorks that we rode the bus to school. At least it wasn't the short bus. Anyway, we have been friends for a long time and even did some visiting back and forth during college (she was at BU and I was at Cornell). Then college was over and neither of us moved back to Cleveland. She moved to Chicago and I stayed in Ithaca for a bit and then moved to Ann Arbor. And we did loose touch for a while, but fortunatly, though the magic of the internet and mailing-lists of old high school friends, "out of touch for a while" does not mean forever.
Ann has just graduated from the MFA program in theater set design at UW and already has an internship lined up with a regional theater in Denver. (Check out her portfolio website. She does some really cool designs.) So now she is driving from Seattle to Denver. The long way. Well, okay... she is really only driving from Chicago to Denver (she flew there first to see her parents and pick up her car). But she is still driving to Denver the long way, and the long way involves going through Cleveland by way of Ann Arbor.
And I am certainly not complaining about her lack of directional sense because this meant that I could see her in person for the first time in almost a decade. And I got to see Adam too, because he came down from East Lansing to hang out with us.
Ann and I went out to dinner, and then met Adam at Leopold's. We hung out and shot the shit and shot pool and it was just like it was when we were all still hanging out at Coventry in Cleveland again. Except that we were all older and (presumably) more mature and were drinking lots of the yummy beer that Leopold's brews.
You can't even go back home again - but sometimes you can take short vacations there.
I might as well just give up on the weight training class... this is the second one that I have missed. This time because of a meeting that ran late that I didn't feel comfortable just getting up and walking out of.
Did get to do more AD&D though. This was one of those "stupid gamer tricks" sessions when we were all just doing monumentally STUPID things... and not just doing them once, either. Doing them multiple times. Like when the mage tried running head first into the black, glassy portal that our party found in a forest clearing to "see what would happen". This after he had been paralyzed for about an hour (game time) after he tried poking it with a dagger. Paralyzed again. For two hours (game time) this time. We throw various items, both magical and non-magical, at the portal and experiment with various spells and chants, all in attempts to get the darn thing to open.
Me: "Wait a minute... let me check my inventory... Hey, I've got that
black horn... (I had taken it off of the body of a human-sacrificing black
druid last session.) I blow it!"
GM: "About damn &^%$*@ time! You were only blowing on that all last week!
It was just that kind of night.
I should probably mention that I am playing a black paladin in this little game. I may be evil, but I like animals.
Tuesday: I continue my voyage of discovery re. my high blood pressure.
My blood pressure gets takes a couple of times, and the doctor decided that my blood pressure is being handled - but barely. (It was lower, but still not as low "as it should be".) So my daily dosage is upped from 5 to 10 milligrams. Then we get down to the tricky business of trying to figure out exactly my blood pressure is such a problem in the first place. Several possibilities and options are discussed (I won't induce boredom with those tedious details) but the upshot is that more tests are ordered.
Apparently there are two big possibilities for the blood pressure issue. I could have thyroid problems (high blood pressure can be a symptom of thyroid malfunction) or I could have renal arterial stenosis (which is a fancy way of saying that maybe my arteries, especially those that go to my kidneys, are too narrow... which would cause high blood pressure in much the same way that squeezing a garden hose will cause the water to shoot out at a much higher velocity). For the first, I need a blood test to check the levels of various thyroid-secreted hormones in my blood. And also to check my cholesterol, because hey, why not? Unfortunatly this means that I need to fast for 12 hours first. No snacks for me tonight! Checking for the renal arterial stenosis is a little more involved, and means that I need to schedule an appointment for an MRI. If it turns out that my high blood pressure is because of thyroid problems, then it can be medicated pretty easily. I have no idea what can be done about renal arterial stenosis, however.
Fortunatly, after all of that, it is Tuesday and fakbn night. For our viewing pleasure David has gotten his hands on a horribly funny little film called "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera". It is an over-the-top satire of every single horror/suspense/sci-fi movie of the 1950s and 1960s. See it! I about died laughing.
My favorite lines:
Ranger Brad: "Say, you don't believe all of those stories about the
Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, do you?"
Evil Scientist: "I'm a scientist! I don't believe in anything!"
Oh man... why can't all artsy, Cannes-film-festival films be like this? They don't all have to be Serious Pieces of Social Commentary do they? (Not that I am NOT going to go see "Farenheit 9/11" this weekend.)
Update on the blood-test-fast: I ended up shoving handfuls of potato chips into my mouth during fakbn at David's house while we watch "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera" just before the cutoff point.
Sarah's shower on Saturday was successful, in my opinion. A bunch of people showed up. The food was good. (Though I felt a little icky later, and blamed it on the chicken.) Sarah and Mike got a lot of good swag. (I got to sit next to Sarah and hand her presents and record who brought what. wheeee.) Mostly they got what was on their registry, which primarily seemed to be kitchen and cooking stuff. They have a great Japanese theme going on. And no stupid bridal shower games! Well, one very small game. (I only prepped one game... I had trouble thinking of games that would be all-ages-appropriate, if you know what I mean) Basically it was a "match a question about Sarah and Mike with the correct answer" sort of thing. We got that out of the way pretty quickly, between the end of food and the unwrapping of the presents.
A note about bridal shower traditions and superstitions: there are some weird ones. Like, the number of ribbons that the bride-to-be breaks while unwrapping the presents is supposed to predict how many kids she will have. For the interested, Sarah was very diligent about unwrapping and didn't break any ribbons, to the dissapointment of some of the guests. Like I said, weird. And a little scary to see how many of the older female relatives there were really rooting for her to break ribbons. Eeeck. I couldn't tell if they were kidding about the whole thing or were serious about the whole breaking-ribbons-babies thing. I thought we had progressed past the stage where the wife's role was as a baby breeder (and by implication, happy homemaker)?
Roving user tests update: The less said about my mostly futile automotive quest around southeast Michigan last week the better. The office manager joked that at least "I was getting to see some of Michigan other then Ann Arbor." Hmm. Other then some points up north that I would like to go see - the Upper Penninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Mackinac Island, to name a couple - all I want to see of lower (specifically southeast) Michigan is Ann Arbor. Most of the places that I "toured" last week are not places that I want to go again. I was testing an academic improvement website, and the users were the principals of schools that had been identified as "at risk". Now, maybe not all "at risk" schools are like this, but all of the ones that I went to (with one exception - a very rural elementary school) were in ghettos. 'Nuff said.
Uh. Spent most of today driving around southeast Michigan getting lost. Total user tests done: two. Missed tests due to poor directions from Mapquest: one. Need to re-do the missed test (which is in Pontiac for god's sake) tomorrow. Ugh. All of this driving really cuts into time I could be using to do something productive. Bleh. I think that I hate Mapquest now.
And I missed my first weight training class. After I got home, I was so tired that I had to lay down on the couch "just for a minute". Yeah, right. I lay down at 4:30. I intended to just rest for a half-hour. I woke up at 7:30. The class was 5:30-6:30. Damn.
At least I made it to the AD&D game that Dave invited me to be a guest player at. That was fun. Frankly, the best part of the day.
Man, I hope that tomorrow is better....
Aannndd... back to hot 'n humid. With the occasional thunderstorm thrown in for a little bit of variety.
I am more tired then I am normally on Mondays. Maybe it is the fact that I have been madly going over user test results and writing out reports. Maybe it is the fact that I had my first Yoga class after work today.
And damn, that yoga class was more work then I expected it to be. I guess I just assumed that yoga would be really 'easy' and 'relaxing' and wouldn't be all that hard. What a misconception that was. Yes, it is not actively as aerobic as, well... as an aerobics class. But all of the different poses are really a lot of work. I could feel muscle groups that I didn't even know that I had working to help me hold some of the poses. I realized that I have some really well-developed leg and back muscles (thank you bicycling!), and that some other groups of muscles (especially upper body and shoulders) need a lot of extra work. And, well... I knew that. I need to build up those muscles for fencing, which is one of the reasons I am taking this class. (The weight training class I start Wednesday will help even more with that.) I like being fit, and I want to be even more so. Am I a little bit obsessed with fencing? Maybe a little bit... and when everything gets settled out in my personal and professional lives I want to fence more then the one day a week that I do now. At least two days a week would be nice, if John is willing to oblige me there. I do have goals with regards to fencing. I eventually want to earn a brass ring. Which is years and years in the future, I know. But I have to start somewhere.
Man, all of this self-improvement is going to result in some sore muscles... and probably a more or less permanent bruise collection. I know that I promised Sarah that I wouldn't have any visible bruises at her wedding, but Idon't know how well I will be able to keep that promise. Maybe I should just look for some really good concealer.
A big thanks goes out to the Wandering Pixie, who found me the full lyrics to the cat song that was going through my mind all last week.
A reminder to self: I really have to remember to post on the Malachan boards. Just because Zach is out of town does not mean that I should take a break from my faction.
Now I am sorry that I wished for rain and slightly cooler temperatures yesterday. For lo, it has not stopped raining since, oh, sometime last night. And it is cold out - in the 60s. Yesterday I was laying around my apartment in a very short and skimpy sundress. Today I am wearing jeans and a sweater. This is summer? Man....
I would like to order up, if I may, one (1) Perfect Summer Day - mid 70s, low humidity, sunny, but not oppressivly so, and no obligations...work or otherwise. I want to get on my bike and go to the Arb or the botanical gardens with a picnic lunch, or go downtown and get a book at the library and then lounge at a sidewalk table at Espresso Royale sipping coffee and reading and people watching. That would be perfect. Lately I find that I have too many obligations... work, SCA, friends, life-maintenance (apartment-cleaning and groceries-shopping and other errand stuff). All of this basically means that I have an ever-shrinking pool of me-time. This is the downside of being a total workaholic type A personality. My over-achieving-ness goes beyond work and into my personal/social life. I take on too much stuff. And I end up having repeated mini burn-outs. I need to cut back, I know this. But how? And how can I justify cutting back when I quite honestly think that this life is all we get - and thus I must experience it and enjoy it to the hilt?
<end introspection now>
An open note to drivers in Ann Arbor. You have turn signals. They can be used to signal turns. That is what they are there for, fer chrissakes! They can, and should, also be used to signal lane changes. This afternoon I was driving to choir practice after work and was almost hit twice by the same car. First they cut me off in a turn (they were the outside turning lane, and I was the inside - you can guess what they did) and then they decided that they didn't want to be in what turned out to be a right-turn only lane and decided to make a left-hand turn from the right-hand turn lane without signaling. I was in the center lane and was going straight through the intersection. Do you not see my car? I mean, it is a Honda Civic, but it is not that small. Please! Do you just assume that all of the other drivers on the road are paying strict attention and that exempts you from doing the same? One of these days I will be a little distracted, and will not brake in time to avoid getting hit by you. And then I will do my best to make sure that you deeply, deeply, deeply regret the fact that you decided that you should be exempt from the rules of the road.
Meetings all day long here. Literally. From 9:15 (in Novi, so in order to get to the meeting on time it was necessary to leave Ann Arbor at 8:15) until 4:30. I feel brain dead now. Not the best way to feel when I need/want to try and find hacks for some IE CSS support issues for the PSC intranet site. Hopefully I will be able to find a hack that works... I really do not want to have to re-write the whole navigation system just because one browser (that happens to be the most popular browser in the known universe. ggrrrr...) doesn't display properly.
And the fact the it has been unusually hot and humid the past couple of days (over 90 yeaterday) is not helping my numbed brain-dead state. Right now it is 83 degrees, with 80% hunidity, and thunderstorms predicted for this evening. Oh please let there be thunderstorms. Anything to knock the temperature and humidity down a couple of notches. I haven't turned on my AC yet - I have 'issues' with turning it on before July - but it is so miserable right now that I may reconsider my stance.
And as a complete aside, I have had part of a children's campfire song stuck in my head all day. All I can remember is part of the refrain.... "...And the cat came back, the very next day. Oh, the cat came back. We thought he was a goner, but the cat came back..." I can't remember the rest of it, and I want to. Maybe remembering the rest of that damn song will get it out of my head already.
Trying something new with my photography page here... dunno if I will keep it or not yet. It is just ...new. Does anyone like it? Does anyone hate it? I am putting this up for votes.
I really love all of the little street fairs that Ann Arbor has during the summer... and Ann Arbor does street fairs so well. Today's fair was "The Taste of Ann Arbor". This ia a little food fest that is conveniently locaed at the end of the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10k run... so all of the runners can end the race and go right to the fair to load up on carbs.
A couple of blocks of Main street get barricaded off, basically all (most) of the restaurants on Main street set up little booths with a la carte little servings of food (apprtizers, entrees, and desserts), and there is live music. You buy tickets, and then exchange the tickets for food at the booths. It just makes the lines move a lot faster when no one has to worry about making change. It is a great way to sort of munch your way up and down the street and get a really varied meal. Plus it lets you try out samples of food from restaurants that you might not otherwise go to. I like it. All of that and some great people watching. Oh... and the live bands were excellent. Mad props to the jazz group at the corner of Liberty and Main. John and I sat for a while (and ate spanikopita and some fried greek cheese dish that was quite yummy.
The Gipper is gone. It doesn't feel quite as much like the end of an era for me as it clearly does for some. I was still really young during Reagan's presidency. Too young to be paying much attention to anything outside of my own small world, and certainly far too young to be conscious of the politics of the era. Most of my opinions of him were formed well after his presidency had ended. And honestly, I can admire the guy. He wasn't called the Great Communicator for nothing. But mostly I admire him and Nancy and all of his children for how they dealt with the fact of his Alzheimer's - straightforwardly, unflinchingly, and with great dignity. Alzheimer's runs (or so my Mom says) on her side of the family. I only hope that I can take the lessons from the ways that the Reagans lived the last years of Ronald's life and apply it to my own, if the situation ever arises. I think that is the best tribute I could pay to a great man.
Also... say "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". Liked it a lot, though not as much as I was expecting to. I really enjoyed the book and the bottom line is that too much of the plot was cut and rearranged for the movie for my taste. But let's face it - the movie is simply never as good as the book, and I will almost always (with very few exceptions) prefer the book to the movie.
I am sitting in the Philiadelphia airport, waiting for my flight back to Ann Arbor. As usual, I tried to estimate how much time it would take me to get checked in and through security and was way off of the mark. Since it is Friday, I figured that there would be really longs lines of weekend travelers at the check-in desk and at the security gates. I was wrong. My bad. So I ended up at the sirport with about 2.5 hours to kill before my flight starts boarding. Good thing I always bring lots of books with me. And, of course, my laptop.
I have been going through Eric Maeyer's latest CSS book to see what ideas I could get out of it to improve my own site... and indeed he devoted a whole chapter to photo galleries. Go, Eric Meyer. I have been thinking for a while on how I can make my photo gallery look better... organizing tips, CSS tips, etc... one of the things that I didn't think of, that Eric Meyer pointed out, is that to make a gallery page look neater (which is what I really want to do with mine) you should have all of the thumbnails be the same dimensions. Well, duh. You might think... that is fine if you have all vertically oriented or all horizontally oriented imanes, but what if I have both? The solution is so simple that I am still kicking myself that I didn't think of it on my own. Give all of the horizontal images the same length as the height of all of the vertical images. Or, to make it a little more concrete... all of my horizontal thumbnails are now 110 pixels wide by 75 pixels tall, and all of my vertical thumbnails are 75 pixels wide by 110 pixels tall. So each thumbnail fits very neatly in a 110 pixel square space. Viola! I just spent an hour resizing all of my thumbnail images.
But I am sure that people are more interested in what went on at Elsevier this morning then what I am doing with my online photo gallery...
All right. I think that the interview this morning went really well. I got to meet UCD people from all three offices - Philiadelphia, St. Louis, and Dayton. And I think that I would be happy with this company and that I would enjoy working with this company. I still think I prefer the as yet hypothetical position that Andrea is trying to create in Dayton to either of the open positions (Philly and St. Louis). Dayton is closer to both Ann Arbor and my folks, plus Sarah is there, which I think would help ease the transition a bit.
As Josh observed yesterday - I do have a hard time making friends, and it is better for me if I move someplace where I already have friends. If I am only looking at the proximity of friends, that leaves Philly solidly in the running, since Josh id near by. And I do have to admit that it is a very nifty looking city. I like the sense of history. I don't have to choose yea or nay yet, here or there yet, but I am already agnozing over what I will choose. It would be nice to move closer to Josh...and it would be equally nice to stay near all of my Ann Arbor friends. Home is where your friends are. By that measure, I have several "homes"... Ann Arbor, Dayton, Cleveland, Ithaca, and the Philly/South Jersey area. Which home is the best? How do you even go about making that sort of decision? In this case it would be a toss up between either Dayton or Philly, since both put me within easy visiting distance of friends. But in both cases my family loses out... no matter what Iwould be moving farter from them. In some sense, I might be borrowing trouble here - I only just had the interview. It is not like I am being pressured to make a set-in-stone decision instantly. We will just have to see what happens... Sometimes having too many choices can be as paralyzing as having too few choices.
And now my laptop battery is starting to flag (curse you, two year old battery! Though I suppose a battery that is that old and can still handle 2.5+ hours of use is doing pretty darn well) I will shut down and resume my book - "Blinded by the Right". (Thanks for the recommendation, Josh, I am only a couple of chapters in, but this is a really fascinating read)
[8pm Ann Arbor]
The flight home was over an hour late. Because they could not find the pilot. It really just made me think... hey, what kind of a professional organization is this if they can misplace something so important as a pilot. They never found him to my knowledge. They just seemed to give up after a while and instead located a substitute pilot to pinch-hit (as it were...just to throw in a sports metaphor) for the one whol went AWOL.
A day of travel.
I took yesterday off as well, just to give myself extra time to finish getting ready to go and finish my presentation without having to get too panicked about it. Plus I had some errands that I wanted to run. What does it say about me that my idea of a good day off is running errands and puttering around my apartment? I remember when my idea of a good day off was sleeping in and then taking off to spend hours hanging around in a coffeehouse sipping and reading. Did I grow up or have I just started to get boring? To be fair... yesterday was pretty grey and grim, and I view rainy days as errand-running days anyway...
But today... the flight was a flight. There really isn't a lot to say about it since unless you are going to be flying first class (which I wasn't) I think that all flights are pretty much created equal. The only unusual thing was that there must have been some sort of air conditioner vent right under my seat, because my feey and ankles got freezing cold. Fortunatly, there was no one in the seat next to me so I could curl my feet up and kind of stretch out accross the row.
And Philiadelphia is a city. A big city, a historical city with a lot of cobblestone and brick streets and cool architectural details on the buildings, but still it is just a city. And, frankly, I find big cities to be a trifle intimidating. At heart, I guess I am just a small-town girl, despite growing up in Cleveland. (Well, growing up in a suburb of Cleveland anyway.)
That being said, the main reason I came so early to Philly is that I wanted to see Josh (since it has only been about two years since we last saw each other) and hang out with him - not see the city. We wandered and chatted and just spent a lot of time catching up. It was just great to see him again...one of my best friends from Cornell and I didn't realize how much I missed him until I saw him again. He gave me an cool old porkpie hat. (It is so sw33t! And I think that I look really cool in it.). We saw the Liberty bell. I had to do some touristy stuff... and I had never seen it... and he admitted that he had never been to see it either. It was a lot smaller then I expected... And then we wandered some more and ended up at an Irish pub for dinner.
We talked a lot about the interview and everything... and he understands a lot of my ambivalance when it comes to the possibility of moving. According to him, home isn't a place, it is the people in that place. I completely agree. And I know that I found a great home in my friends in Ann Arbor, which is a source of my reluctance. But Josh also said that he thinks that I do need to move out of Ann Arbor for a time in order to grow as a person and take advantage of opportunities. And I kindof agree with him there as well. I love Ann Arbor, but there is certainly a limit to how far I can go there, career-wise. And if I do leave it for a time, nothing says that I can't eventually move back. Hmmmm... a PhD in HCI at SI perhaps? Heh. We will see. Josh is a very insightful person, and is extremely astute at reading people. Which I kind of envy, since I am terrible at reading body language. I really respect his opinions, and he is uncannily spot-in in making predictions about human interactions. Sometimes I think that he would make a good therapist or social worker because of this...
It was just great to see him again. We should not go this long without a visit again.
And if it wasn't for the fact that all signs point to me moving out of Ann Arbor... I would invite him to try job hunting in that area, since I know that he isn't terribly happy here (here being right across the river in South Jersey) and I think he would really fit in well with the whole group up there.
So now I am settling in for the night at my hotel. Tomorrow is the big day.