Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome to the Rolling Cooler Diet

OK. It's not really a diet. It's just where we'll be eating from for the next two or three days. Our forty-two month old fridge decided to take a dive. Actually, it started with the freezer. The compressor started making a noise the week before Christmas. I mentioned it to my husband, but he said that was normal. I didn't think so. Then right before Christmas it got louder. Then we noticed that the ice maker had stopped working. Then we noticed that some of the frozen food was getting soft.

On Christmas night, we decided we would call on Monday to schedule a repair visit. We should not have waited.

We came home from dinner last night to a big puddle of water around the fridge. Some of the thawing food had melted into the ice maker door chute. We cleaned it up as best we could, and made an action plan. In the morning we would get a bunch of ice and salvage what we could from the freezer. The fridge itself seemed like it might still be working, but we knew that it was at risk as well. Plus, the repairman might need the whole thing emptied out.

This morning, I purged the freezer. What a scary task that was. It was also depressing. I salvaged some of the food that was pricey and still in good condition. We have a huge rolling cooler. I filled it tight with semi-frozen/still-frozen food. I had a bag of ice and some cold packs that I placed on top. When Goblin got back from his morning class with ice, I put some in Ziploc bags and covered everything pretty well.

He got himself some breakfast, including a glass of milk. He noted that the milk was not as cold as it should have been.

This would happen on a long holiday weekend when our fridge/freezer have never been fuller. Plus, the outside temperature is in the fifties!!! Single digit temperatures would have really been appreciated at this point.

I doubt we can get a repairmen here before Tuesday. If the unit needs replaced we may not have a new one until the weekend.

So it goes. We'll be eating well for the next two days. Duck tonight. Salmon tomorrow night. Welcome to the Rolling Cooler Diet.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A different kind of holiday spirit

One of my favorite things about this time of year is that I get to listen to Christmas music. I have over 50 CDs of the stuff. (Sad, but true.) Every year I pick up a few more. This year I picked up one electronically that is pretty awesome. The a capela Straight No Chaser's Holiday Spirits. Their version of Twelve Days of Christmas is totally awesome.

On the flip side. I got a fabulous holiday CD by goth musicians Nox Arcana. This video is just a shot of the album cover with the song The Carol of the Bells. One of the most intriguing versions of this Christmas classic that I have ever heard.

I already had an earlier CD by them, Dark Manor. However, Winters Knight so impressed me that I've downloaded FIVE other CDs by them. Each of their CDs is thematic. Here are the album covers of my not-quite-comprehensive Nox Arcana library:

Grimm TalesWinters KnightShadow of the Raven
Carnival of Lost SoulsTransylvaniaNecrominicon
Darklore Manor

While Christmas has been fun, I guess my gooey, sticky, warm, pulsing heart really does belong to Halloween.

A semi-useless trudge to Burlington, MA

I had an appointment at the Apple store down in Burlington this morning. As I mentioned earlier my DVD drive bit the dust. Today's appointment was a reschedule from last Sunday's snow storm aborted appointment. The original phone tech who made the appointment for me agreed with my assessment that the drive would need replaced.

Goblin made the 35 minute drive with me. He had the time and I can barely lift the iMac. (It's bulky more than heavy, but I'm broken in so many ways that it's a bad idea for me to try if I don't have to.)

At the appointed time, the tech at the Genius Bar (don't you love that!) had me log into the computer. He saw that I had VMware on my dock and asked me how that was working for me. I said that everything worked just fine except the DVD drive. He made some curious noises and said he wanted to check so things just to be sure that it was a hardware issue.

I often find myself in this situation. I've been dealing with computers for over thirty years (no exaggeration). When I encounter a problem I do my best to diagnose and repair the issue. When I find myself at the end of what I can do, I try to hand my assessment off to the technician I contact to assist me. Inevitably, they assume that I am like every other end user and start from scratch in their assessment of the problem. Eventually, he booted the iMac from an external drive and discovered that the drive was still busted. I could actually see his body physically acquiesce. So than I casually said with a somewhat smug smile, "Hardware, huh?" He met my eyes somewhat sheepishly and said, "Yeah." I said, "Yeah, well. I kind of recognized the sound the drive was making."

He then started taking a bunch of information from me and told me it would be 3-5 business days to fix the thing. I was a bit put out. I mean, it's a standard DVD drive that they use in all their iMacs. He apologized and said that they were out of them and had to order one. He wanted to know if I would be leaving the iMac there while we waited for the drive, or did I want them to call me when it came in.

Goblin thought this was hysterical. I was instantly uncomfortable. Do without my iMac for most of the week??? Bah! Goblin started teasing me in front of the tech. I did acknowledge that I did have three other computers on my desk. The tech started and grinned, "And I thought I was bad."

We all came to the conclusion that it would be best if I took the iMac home and trekked it back down to Burlington when the part came in. I might still have to live without it for a day or two. But, that was much more tolerable.

Bear in mind, if they had paid attention to my assessment, and the fact that my appointment was postponed six days, they could have had a drive in the store. Grrrr... Then again, maybe they were out of drives due to holiday stuff. Who knows?

So, the iMac (BTW, her name is Matilda) is sitting in its rightful place on my desk. I have an external CD/DVD drive that has come in handy in the last week. So, all is tolerable in my computing world right now.

We did take the opportunity to cruise Burlington mall a bit while we were there. I picked up some half-price holiday cards for next year, along with a half-price audio book I've been contemplating. We had a lovely snack at Au Bon Pain, and then hit the ATM on the way home.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Goodbye dear friend

During the mid-1980's I purchased my first and most favorite cookbook: the twelfth edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, in a mass market paperback edition. It was the most comprehensive, yet diminutive, reference in my cookbook library, a library which grew quite large over the intervening decades. At just over a thousand pages, it was doomed. Paperbacks that large, and that well used, simply don't hold up very well. Last year the spine finally split.

I was heart broken. I did not want to part with my beloved cookbook. I knew that newer editions of the book were available but I could not imagine that any were up to the standard set by my edition. If for no other reason than their smaller page count.

But, I did my research. At 896 pages the 100th anniversary (13th) edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook seemed like it might suffice. I was certain that it would be lacking some of the character of my old friend. However, the old book was literally falling to pieces more and more each time I used it.

I put the new edition on my Amazon wish list, and my beloved mother-in-law made sure that the tome appeared under my Christmas tree.

While I'm just beginning to get acquainted with my new friend, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But before I could part with my old dear friend, I thought I owed it this send honor-filled send off.

Thanks for all the years of wonderful service!

Happy Xmoose

I hope that everyone is having a pleasant Christmas Day with their loved ones.

We got up around 7:30. That is sleeping in for us. We don't have any little children in the house anxiously itching to see what Santa brought them. However, I am not a good sleeper, and one of our cats starts yowling from the basement around 6 when no one comes to feed her and let her loose.

While I'm pleased with most of my gifts, I am most pleased with the present I got for our cats. I ordered a motion-activated cardinal from National Geographic. It tweets when it senses movement. I found a retro wire bird cage on ebay to go along with it. Viola! Perfect present for the entire family to enjoy.

Our younger cat was the first to be intrigued by the thing.

When the older cat tried to get close, he chased her off.

She came back later though.

A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another improvement with the next administration

While most Obama supporters are looking forward to serious changes in Washington, there are some not so serious changes to look forward to as well. For example, won't it be nice to have a young, healthy somewhat buff, good looking leader for a change? (grin)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The doldrums of television, sans a writers' strike

For the next four weeks, none of the shows that we like will be on. NONE!

Yes, I realize that television is considered by many to be a complete waste of time. Yes, there are plenty of other activities I could engage in. Why, during this dearth of programming I could find that I enjoy having more time to pursue other more positive activities.

Yeah, right. What I will actually end up doing is watching more movies and odd ball shows, courtesy of TiVo.

After work, my brain cannot handle anything other than non-participatory video-driven mush. I really enjoy vegging out for a couple of hours before bed. Does this make me a cretin? I don't think so.

I read. I try to keep up with major news issues. I have an intellectually challenging job. So, by the time 6:30 rolls around, I want to put my brain on 'stand by'.

Some of the shows that we watch are mediocre in quality. That's ok. My expectations are pretty low. Some aren't too bad. Here's the run down of shows I've been watching this year (including one that's coming back in late January):

  1. My own worst enemy

  2. Sanctuary

  3. Sarah Connor Chronicles

  4. Heroes

  5. Fringe

  6. True Blood

  7. Bizarre Foods me, not hubby

  8. One Tree Hill me, not hubby

  9. ER me, not hubby

  10. Ultimate Fighter Hubby only

  11. UFC Fight Night Hubby only

  12. Whale Wars Hubby only

  13. Lost coming in January

We're still waiting for our BBC SF shows to come back, some haven't even scheduled their next filmings (Torchwood, Dr Who, and Sarah Jane Adventures).

We were thinking of canceling HBO now that True Blood is over for the season. However, we'll probably wait until the end of January now since there's nothing much on otherwise that we would like.

Angst and trepidation - delayed

Drat! The snow storm arrived earlier than anticipated. The roads were too crappy to drive 40 minutes in safely. So, I had to reschedule my "Genius Bar" appointment.

I did try to go. I figured that the big roads would be plowed. However, I called the Apple store first to see how the weather was down there. I told the young woman who answered the phone that I had an appointment in 50 minutes and that I wanted to know how the weather was there since I was coming from New Hampshire. She said, "It's pretty bad down here. So, do you think you'll be late?"

She was serious! So, without thinking I said, "Probably, since I haven't left my house yet." We discussed getting the bulky machine from my car into the store. Apparently they will come and get it from your car. This numbed my brain momentarily so I ended the call.

As I drove out of my neighborhood to our local Dunkin Donuts, I could see Daniel Webster Highway (a relatively well-traveled road). It was still snow covered and more snow was falling, albeit slowly. As I pulled onto DWH I realized that driving down to Massachusetts to get my CD drive replaced was a fools errand on such a day as this. So, I turned around and went back home.

I called the Apple store to tell them that the roads were too bad and that I would not be coming today. I spoke to the same young woman. She offered to reschedule my appointment. The next convenient and available appointment is next Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

Let's hope that it doesn't snow THEN!

Angst and trepidation

I have an appointment at 10 a.m. tomorrow to take in my iMac for a CD/DVD drive swap. I'm ticked that I have an issue like this with a (very expensive) computer that has only been in my house for a month. However, I really just want to get it fixed.

My appointment is at a mall 40 minutes from my house. We just got a foot of snow dumped on us. We're supposed to get another 8 or so inches dumped on us tomorrow afternoon. So, timing is everything.

Also, my iMac is a pretty cumbersome affair. I don't do well with heavy/bulky objects. I'm concerned that I may not be able to carry the machine into the mall. I hope to dig up a luggage cart that I used years ago, sometime before I go tomorrow.

I'm also quite attached to my iMac. I have it working (minus the CD/DVD drive) just the way I want. I already have much of my life tied up in this machine. I am crossing my fingers that none of my data or configuration settings gets jeopardized by tomorrow's adventure.

What a way to spend the better part of a weekend: worrying over a computer.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter has arrived in New England

As of this morning, NH still had nearly 50,000 homes that still had no power after last Thursday's ice storm. And, great news ... we're getting our first serious snow storm of the season tomorrow afternoon. Expected accumulation: 6 to 12 inches. Then, we might just get another storm on Sunday.

Wait. Winter doesn't supposedly start until Monday. Right? *sigh*

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

wahhhhhhh.... Hardware is still hardware

While I really really love my iMac, it has developed AN ISSUE. It looks like the super drive (aka DVD-RW/CD-RW drive) has died. The system is less than a month old, so it is totally covered. However, this is going to be a beaucoup pain in the butt to deal with. I am totally addicted to my iMac. I'm hoping that I can just take it into the Apple store down in Burlington and have them swap the drive. This will mean blowing the better part of a Saturday, no doubt.... and that would be the last Saturday before Xmoose...

Yeah ... this'll be fun. More on this fiasco later.

Ga. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf - Yahoo! News

Way to show how backwards Georgia can be: Ga. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf - Yahoo! News.

While I am totally on the woman's side, I do think she weakened her position a bit after the bailiff told her she could not enter the court with the hijab on, she told him that she "had been in courtrooms before with the scarf on and that removing it would be a religious violation. When she turned to leave and uttered an expletive..." After which the bailiff handcuffed her and took her before a judge.

Still. Georgia: Wake up.

Next medical chapter... me

While waiting for Goblin's surgery to complete on Monday, my left eyelid began to bother me. Over the course of the evening it got more sore and more inflamed. Apparently, I was developing a zit right on the edge of the eyelid. Yesterday, it not only hurt but began to itch. Over night, the goo sealed my eye shut. This morning, it's very swollen, sore, and somewhat itchy.

So, guess who's off to the doctor today?

P.S. Our schools are still closed as a result of last week's ice storm. And ... last night we got our first real snow (about 2 inches or so). Remember folks, Winter begins next week!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Medical mumbo jumbo

As Goblin and I suspected (and the reason I held off posting on the situation for so long), modern medicine is not an exacting science. It's more about guessing and playing CYA in case there is finger pointing to be done.

My husband was experiencing some 'digestive difficulties'. This is not uncommon for him, but it had gone on a very long time, so he sought a medical opinion. Said medical opinion eventually involved an MRI and blood tests. The MRI showed some 'masses' in his abdomen. The blood tests did not show any of the flags for cancer, but they wanted to biopsy the masses to be sure.

When Goblin was three years old, he had his spleen removed after a car accident. Today's surgery showed that some of the pieces of the spleen had escaped and were enjoying a happy existence sponging off his bowel and other abdominal organs. These spleen cells are apparently not causing him any harm, so they decided to leave them as they are.

Forty five years after the supposed removal of his spleen, Goblin is still playing host to colonies of spleen cells in his abdomen. The doctors were very happy that it wasn't lymphoma. They were also very intrigued at the happy existence of these independent spleen tissue masses living in his abdomen.

I guess Goblin officially qualifies as a medical freak at this point. No one seems worried about these masses now. My only question is why it too forty five years for anyone to notice. He was in the hospital for a digestive issue when he was 19 or 20. No one noticed then. Then again, maybe 'technology' wasn't up to noticing then. Or, maybe, the colonies were too small to notice at that point.

Maybe by the time Goblin is seventy, he will have completely regrown his spleen! Then, he can go into the medical history books.

A minor drama I've been holding my tongue about

So, I've kept quiet about this long enough.

Goblin is having exploratory surgery today. He was having some tummy trouble after Thanksgiving. He had several medical appointments and one of them turned up some enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen. The blood screen for cancer came back negative. Also, he doesn't have a spleen, so any infection can lead to over-active lymph nodes. However, the surgeon he consulted with did not want to wait until after the holidays (which Goblin wanted to do since he has no leave left for this calendar year).

I'm sure this is all an exercise in medical CYA, that it's all traceable to his lack of a spleen and the fact that he's been fighting a recurring skin infection for the last couple of months. However, keep your fingers crossed for him any way.

Size 10 hero

I thought this headline had to be a misprint: Bush says Iraq ware not over, ducks shoes. However, while in Baghdad, an Iraqi reporter threw shoes at Bush. The man was swarmed by security guards and taken away. Bush and Al Maliki were not hit by the shoes. But, hey! It's the thought that counts.

Bush made a joke about the incident afterward saying that the shoes were size 10. So, hooray for the size 10 hero!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is a test of the emergency redundant emergency system

With the power still being out to large swaths of our town, the school board decided to cancel school for Monday. This is not a huge surprise. What was a huge surprise is the two different automated phone calls we got about it within the space of an hour.

Let's think about this. At least eighteen hours before schools are set to open, the town decides not to open schools the next day. Many town residents are without power. Many residents rely on electrically powered phone systems in their homes. Many residents aren't even in their homes because of the power situation. OK. Let's not rely on traditional radio, television, and newspapers to inform parents that there is no school tomorrow. Let's call them. Twice.

Maybe the kids can afford the day off from school tomorrow (after having Friday off). I think that the administration needs a day of education though, or at least some brain-boosting supplements.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We were lucky (follow-up to the emergency)

While we had a minor power hiccup Thursday night, it was estimated that 90% of our town woke up without power on Friday morning. See: Merrimack hit hard by ice storm

We live on the Nashua/Merrimack town line. So, I guess that's why we lucked out. Today, I drove north into the main part of town on my way to Bedford. Most of the traffic lights were out between here and Bedford. I drove back at dusk. It was eerie how many homes and businesses along the main road were dark.

Oddly enough, on Friday night we called up the local Dominos and got no answer. We figured they were too busy to answer all their lines. However, I passed the store this afternoon. Black.

Authorities say it may be Monday or even Tuesday before all the power is restored. Wow! Who knew what a little bit of ice could do. I can't wait for the blizzards to start up!

Dumb dogs have the most fun

Great holiday music to accompany the antics of one hilarious dog.

Friday, December 12, 2008

State of emergency

We had a wicked ice storm late in the day yesterday. It knocked down trees and took out power. Hundreds of roads are closed. So, not only were most schools in the state closed, but Governor Lynch declared a state of emergency.

Early this morning, I was sitting at my computer when I heard a brief crashing sound, like someone slamming a large car door VERY hard. It was still dark outside, so I couldn't see anything unusual from my window. About an hour later, I was startled to see a firetruck pull up outside our house (we live on a court of townhouses). I looked out to see that a huge tree across the street had fallen onto several cars.

The firetruck couldn't help the car owners. Eventually, the guy who works for Service Master called some co-workers who came by with a chain saw and helped extricate these cars.

Uploaded a while later:

And, later still, the fate of the fallen tree:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hero dog in Chile

This is pretty amazing. It's too bad that the 'rescued' dog was no longer alive. Still ...

Full story

Monday, December 08, 2008

Perhaps I'm becoming a Socialist?

I understand why Washington feels that the financial and auto industries need bail outs. The failure of either industry would be catastrophic to our economy, and would take decades to recover from. What I don't understand is how the government can pour billions of dollars of tax payer money into these industries without insisting on some huge strings and oversight on how the money is spent and how those industries are run.

The reason these industries need help is because their management failed to run their businesses in a sustainable manner, pure and simple. So, they blew all of their capital and now we're giving them more money to mismanage without sufficient oversight to ensure that the funds are used wisely. Sounds like OUR MANAGEMENT (aka the Federal government) may soon be looking for a bailout from some mythical big brother after they squander our capital and resources.

Free market proponents argue that the market should be allowed to repair itself, that business knows how to take care of itself. Well ... um ... didn't they just prove that they don't have a clue?

So, if we're going to hand industry any money there should be massive strings attached to the deal. Minimally, the BoD's of recipient companies should have voting Federal representatives on them. Depending on the level of funding we need to infuse in these concerns, I am not adverse to a complete Federal takeover of the business. Yes, that smells like 'nationalization'. Yes, that smells like Socialism.

If Nanny is going to put a bandaid on your knees and elbows, Nanny should also make you eat your vegetables and tell you when to go to bed. If you don't want to be told when to go to bed, don't ask Nanny to fix up your scrapes.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A political appointment I can definitely live with

While I was not initially supportive of Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, I have adjusted to the idea. The final event that will make it more than all right is that it looks like Clinton's Senate seat will probably go to Caroline Kennedy. I have admired Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg over the years for staying out of the public eye, and then for coming forward when she found herself inspired by Obama. I did kind of question her credentials when she was put on his VeeP selection committee. However, I think Joe Biden was an excellent choice.

I have been impressed with some of Obama's other cabinet appointments (and not so much by others). Though many of his choices seem like he is resurrecting the Bill Clinton White House, others will inject new perspective into the Executive Branch I think. Now I have even more reason to read Dorris Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Let's hope that this team of powerful, and powerfully opinionated, people remember who their boss is and stick to his vision. Obama will listen to their experienced voices, but they will all need to follow his lead when the rubber hits the road.

The next four years are going to be very interesting.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Is Bush The Worst President Of The Past 50 Years?

In front of a live audience, pundits debated the point: Is Bush The Worst President Of The Past 50 Years?

The audience was polled before and after the debate. Even with Karl Rove on hand to make Bush's case, the number of people in the audience who agreed with the question increased by the end of the debate.

Both sad and cool.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Song viruses

My little red 16Gb iPod arrived today. You can only get the red ones directly from Apple. Also, when you buy an iPod from Apple's online store you get free engraving. I had my name put on mine along with "___'s private world and cure for song viruses".

What's a song virus? It's a tune that you can't get out of your head. Usually it's just a few bars. Often times it's put in your head by someone else humming or whistling a bit of a song that you are very familiar with.

Years ago, a beloved co-worker of mine (let's call him Monkey Pants) and I constantly tried to song virus each other. One of us would sneak up behind the other and sing a few lines from a very popular, and usually annoying, song. It usually worked very well. The recipient of the song virus was usually burdened by the tune until they could bludgeon it out of their head with another tune.

I think having an iPod handy might combat any unwanted song viruses. It's good to be prepared.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Separate beds

As many of you know, I am a chronic insomniac. On the other hand, my husband can fall asleep at the drop of a hat with the added benefit of being a consummate snorer. This is not a good combination. The last few nights neither of us have gotten much sleep. His snoring wakes me up, and then I poke him to make him change position. We are both having some other health issues that are exacerbating this situation.

Tonight, when Goblin came home, he took a bunch of blankets and sheets into his office where he has a futon couch. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had ordered an anti-snoring device but, until it comes, he is planning on sleeping on the futon.

Hopefully, we'll both sleep better. *SIGH*

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Icky weather and xbox Live addiction

While I know other parts of the country have already had snow, I am simply not in the mood for winter weather, at least not just yet.

This afternoon and evening, we have been treated to snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The roads are utterly crappy. Grendel has a standing meeting on Sunday evenings 25 minutes north of our house. I have been struggling all weekend with some particularly excrutiating pain in my left rear hip. The weather and pain combined so that I begged off on driving 25 minutes each way and sitting around in the church for two hours in between.

He doesn't seem devastated, only mildly disappointed. Could it be that he's looking forward to three additional hours of xbox live? The boy has been on that game system about forty hours since Wednesday evening. I'm not sure what came first, chicken or the egg, here. But, maybe he's stocking up on xbox time this weekend because he is not allowed to play it during the week? At all!

Hope everyone had a restorative holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our furry family on Thanksgiving

Our house was unusually clean for Thanksgiving. And, our cats were amusing. So, while we take pictures of them all the time, I felt I could risk sharing the shots we took of them on Thanksgiving.

We have a wooden howling coyote statue on our landing to go upstairs. Caboose decided to pose with the coyote. He actually was looking a bit more up just before the shot. But, he's still kind of cute here any way.

Shortly there after, we caught Zoey watching part of the Tom and Jerry marathon that was on television. She really does watch television. It's very amusing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Too many blogs, not too much shopping

I posted date my last post. It's not cheating! It is actually when I posted it... to one of my other blogs. Yes, I have more than one. I had posted to my church book group's blog last, so when I went to post last night I didn't notice that I accidentally posted there when I meant to post here. I only post there once a month, and I almost always end up posting my next post for here over there. Confused yet? No worries. I fixed it.

So, today was officially Black Friday. Last year I foolishly ventured out to an actual mall. Today, I went to a small local computer store to get a laptop memory upgrade. Then, I ventured to a craft store to pick up some presents for our niece who lives in Texas.

The guys at the Showtime Computers said that they had experienced an unusually busy day. I congratulated them. They were surprised. They said that Black Friday is usually quiet for them since most folks frequent the big box stores for the mega sales. I pointed out that Showtime has good prices all the time and excellent service. They thought I was sucking up. I said that I was not, that it was just the truth.

We purchased our last two Wintel computers from them. They build them from the ground up, with no bloatware. We didn't get my Wintel laptop from them, which is part of the reason I think it had performance issues. It came with lots of bloatware initially installed and not enough memory, just 512Mb. It now has 2Gb. I am going to refresh the laptop from its initial recovery disks, rip out the bloatware, and pass it to my son. He plans on using the laptop primarily as a gaming machine. I am not encouraging more gaming, I'm just trying to keep his primary computer clean for school stuff. We'll see how that all works out.

I'm done all my holiday shopping. Now I just have to do my holiday shipping, which is just about an equal pain in the neck.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy turkey day

Thanks to massive over preparation on my part, our culinary day was a success. We made sure to send our guests off with the bulk of the leftovers, so they wouldn't be around tempting us. Though, we did keep the pumpkin pie and home made whipped cream.

After our guests left, Goblin and I went off to see "Twilight". The book was way better, but I still enjoyed it. Goblin was so intrigued he now wants to listen to the book as well.

It's been a really long day. Maybe I'll sleep like a normal person tonight? (Silly to even imagine, I know).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Betty Crocker strikes again

I've spent most of today preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, tomorrow.

I cleaned my house (somewhat, though we've got more to do ... since the vacuum cleaner found its way to church two weeks ago and hasn't come back yet). I cleaned out the fridge to make room for all the prepared and leftover food. I still need to do that to the freezer as well.

I cut up veggies, cheeses, and cold cuts for snacking. I made an actual cheese ball! I then baked a pumpkin pie. My son made banana bread. Still lots to do, but we got a huge dent in 'the list'.

We're going out to run some geeky errands as a reward for our efforts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current guilty pleasure

I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit this but, I am listening to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

Yes, it is a young adult book. However, I have an extreme weakness for vampire fiction. The Anne Rice vampire series books are some of my favorite all time reads.

I decided to read the Twilight series months and months ago, before I heard they were making a movie out of the first book. Then an office mate, who isn't a big reader, told me how obsessed she was with the books a few weeks ago. She read all four of them in a week. So, since I had already picked up the first one on CD I decided that now was the time to listen to it, before going to see the movie.

Twilight is a truly engaging book. It's not 'fine literature' by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can't wait to get back in the car to listen to the next 50-60 minutes of the story.

I have already picked up the next title, New Moon. Books three and four are on my Amazon wish list for Xmas. And, I'm already anticipating Stephanie Meyer's next book, which tells the story from the vampire's point of view (the first four tell the tale from human Bella's point of view).

I periodically allow myself a foray into young adult fiction. The last series was James Patterson's Maximum Ride books. Those were pretty good, but they seem shallow and poorly executed in comparison.

So, if you like a good vampire story and aren't too embarrassed to be caught reading a YA book, I highly recommend Twilight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Are you more civically savvy than the general population?

So, maybe you'd like to see how you measure up compared to the general population, or the government officials I blogged about yesterday.

Take the Civics Quiz and find out. I only scored an 81.82%. The average score for those taking the online quiz is currently 77.9%

I wonder if we should require all candidates for office to take the quiz, and then to disclose their scores. I'd love to know Sarah Palin's score, for example.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics - Yahoo! News

It was bad enough when I posted back on October 10th about the general ignorance of our population. But this is even more special. US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics:

"WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

'It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned,' said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI."

So, the folks who are supposed to know how to run our country don't understand civics ("...the study of citizenship and government with particular attention given to the role of citizens― as opposed to external factors― in the operation and oversight of government." ... courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another kind of "play"ing

I spent most of the day at the church, indulging in spa treatments and doing some light weight shopping (for a good cause). I'm about to take a much needed nap, having stayed up way too late last night playing with the iMac.

Goblin and I are going to 'be social' this evening. We're going out with two other couples from our church for dinner at an Indian restaurant and to see A Secret Garden. I like attending plays and concerts occasionally. I particularly like it when the events are in small venues. I find crowds very tiring.

I haven't seen the play before, and it's been years since I saw the movie. And no, I've never read the book. The novelty will add to the pleasure of the evening.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Playing at Betty Crocker

I love to cook (and I love to eat ... hence the constant battle of the bulge). And, I love an excuse to cook. We're hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house next week. Goblin's sister and her family are coming up from RI. So, they'll be four adults, Grendel, and two preschoolers. That's relatively low key in my book.

Our church is having a holiday faire tomorrow. I signed up to do some baking for the bake sale. I already make a nice big batch of peanut butter fudge (wicked easy: 2 bags of white chocolate chips, one stick of butter, one jar of peanut butter. Melt butter in double boiler. Add chips. Stir until chips are thoroughly melted/blended with butter. Add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Spread into a greased oblong container; I used a glass 9x12 pyrex dish. Refridgerate until set (no need to keep refridgerated). Done.

I am in the process of baking about six dozen chocolate chocolate chip cookies. I love the taste. However, when I'm making them, the dough kind of grosses me out if I look at it much. It bears a visual resemblance to a certain bodily output. Once they're baked, the resemblance is gone of course.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself

While I made the decision to divorce Microsoft at home, I felt somewhat wedded to it in the office. Until this week.

I work on a team of six full time IT Security professionals, with the addition of a co-op. One coworker uses a Mac, and runs the obligatory Windows software in a virtual environment. Another coworker eats from the Windows trough. But, our two incident handlers ditched Windows a long time ago. They run Ubuntu, and fire up a VM for the obligatory Windows crud our organization foists upon us. I had been running Windows, but had been considering my options (since making my decision for home).

Then, it happened. I discovered that some stealth infection had hit my Windows machine. The behavior had all the wrong signs, but none of our Windows virus tools picked up a thing. So, we had to refresh my system. The IH guys strongly suggested that I drink their Koolaid. And, I have agreed. When I go back to the office on Monday, I will be running an Ubuntu machine, with Windows in a VM for when I need to run Windows-only programs.

One of the IH guys forwarded a link to a ZDNet article that says it all: I Really Don't Want to Use Windows Anymore. Perfect! I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Attention deficit computing

After I posted last night, I did set up my iMac. It took some doing to find a spot for it on my desk (see below).

Note the four displays (2 are laptops - one work and one home). The monitor in the corner is connect to two computers (one Windows XP and one Fedora). I am working from home today because we have someone coming to vacuum our air ducts. I also plan to multitask and begin the migration process from my Windows XP laptop and desktop systems to the iMac.

Attention deficit much?

Note: this is my first blog posting using the iMac. YIPPEE!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The new arrival

The iMac arrived this afternoon. I haven't plugged it in yet, but I did take it out of the box. For those of you familiar with the O'Reilly books, I placed one in the photo so you could get a sense of how big the monitor is. I'm still rearranging my desk space to make room for my beloved monster.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The joys of townhouse living

Over the summer, the neighbors to our immediate north remodeled their kitchen. While we were happy for them, we hated them while the project was going on. When you live in a townhouse, if your neighbors run up and down the stairs you know it. If they are pounding nails, drilling holes, and generally making a racket with the structure of their walls you might as well go over and watch because the sound carries into your house as well.

This week, we think that they are laying new hardwood flooring. All weekend and each evening this week, we have gotten to share the 'pound, pound, pound' of every nail for hours on end. Sunday, we ended up not taking the nap we were planning on because we couldn't fall asleep through all the noise.

Wouldn't it have been the neighborly thing to do, before beginning the project, to sheepishly inform the neighbors to either side of you that you'd probably be making quite a bit of noise for a week or two?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Mixed success on the diet

I have been on a vegan, highly organic, diet for the last two weeks. I have also been gluten-free. What grains I did allow myself were whole and organic (mostly brown rice). And while I did not totally give up caffeine, I got it down to green (usually organic) tea in the a.m. only. Could I have been more restrictive in my eating habits? Sure. Could I have kept it up for any length of time? No way. I got as restrictive as I thought I could keep to.

I embarked on this quest in an attempt to fight chronic pain and inflammation, some digestive issues, and possibly as a means to lose a few pounds. I guess two out of three isn't bad.

I have lost about ten pounds in two weeks, and my tummy and I are on much better terms. Unfortunately, my pain situation has not changed much. Right now I am in enough pain to want to put my fist through a wall, just to have something else to think about.

I plan to stick with the vegan/organic thing for a few more days. I have enjoyed some serious tummy benefits, so I will probably fall back to this after Thanksgiving in one form or another.

But, to my fellow pain sufferers out there who were hoping for abatement through dietary restriction, it didn't do me a lick of good. Maybe you'd have better luck. It just didn't work for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Circuit City's days are truly numbered

Circuit City has been in Chapter 11 for a while now. They recently announced plans to clase 155 stores, but may be closing another 150 stores on top of that. I got my weekly sale email from them last night and clicked on a link only to be greeted with the following:

This page was all you could get from the home page of the site for about five hours today. Not good, huh?

Our closest Circuit City is right next door to their nemesis, Best Buy. I wonder if our store will be closing soon. I hope not. I want to get my laptop's memory upgraded before I pass it on to Grendel. We bought it at Circuit City, and we have Fire Dog support through March.

Aside from Circuit City, I think it is a true sign of how much the economy stinks by the number of store closings I am seeing lately. Several furniture stores are going belly up, as well as Linens N Things.

Again, thank you, George W. Bush for taking a booming economy and flushing it down the toilet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A well spent day, including a movie

I had to get up at 6 (yes, on a Saturday) so I could exercise and pick my son up from an overnight before my 10 a.m. date with destiny. OK, it was just a workshop for new Mac users, but it was a big deal for me. I learned some cool tips and tricks that I can't wait to try out on my new computer when it comes next week. I also bought myself a game to install on the thing. I spent the next couple of hours running errands, wearing myself out, but generally having a good time.

When I came home, Goblin had the kitchen torn apart. We got a new counter top delivered at 7:15 this morning. So, he needed to empty the cabinet that it went on to attach it. Basically, the contents of the cabinet had exploded to cover every other surface in the kitchen. Goblin was frustrated with how the task was going, so he was cursing and grumbling. He was about to go out to Loew's to get some more supplies when I suggested that we should go see the new James Bond flick. Grendel liked the idea as well, so off we went.

When we got to the theater, it turned out that "Quantum of Solace" was sold out for the next couple of shows. We were about to buy tickets for a later show when I noticed something on the marquee. Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla had FINALLY come to New Hampshire. This movie has been out for more than a month, but not within a hundred miles of our house. Goblin and I loved Snatch and I am also a huge Gerard Butler fan, so I've been ACHING to see RocknRolla. So, we decided to see that instead ... of course.

While Snatch is still a much better film, I really enjoyed RocknRolla. And, while I love Gerard Butler, Toby Kebbell steals the movie as crack-addict-rocker Johnny Quid. Jeremy Piven has a minor part as one of his music managers as well. Tom Wilkinson does a fine job as Johnny's crime-boss step-father (though he's not as menacing as Snatch's Brick Top). And Thandie Newton is excruciatingly sexy as the disloyal and scheming accountant for a Russian mob boss.

If you like light twisty crime movies, with a touch of irony and humor, you'll like this one. I plan to pick it up on DVD as soon as it's available.

Note: We also saw a VERY intriguing preview for next May's Star Trek prequel movie. Another CAN'T WAIT. Especially since Heroes Sylar is playing a young Spock

Now, I can get back to obsessing about my new Mac.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary being considered for secretary of state

Anonymous insiders are saying that Senator Clinton is being considered as a potential secretary of state. Somehow, this seems like a poor choice to me. Clinton does not have enough foreign policy experience to do justice to the position. I can understand Obama's desire to reward Clinton with a cabinet position, but this is the wrong one in my opinion. If you want to make her day, give her Health, for crying out loud! Yes, State is more prestigious, but it really isn't her. Also, if we want to change/repair our relationship with other countries we need someone who is known for the strength of position as well as finesse at diplomacy. Again, not Hillary's strong suit in my opinion.

There are plenty of other Democrats out there with better standing for State. Hillary would be a mistake. This could be the first place that Obama and I seriously disagree.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I placed the order for my iMac this afternoon:

1TB Serial ATA Drive
Apple Keyboard (English) + User's Guide
Apple Mighty Mouse
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS w/512MB GDDR3
Accessory kit
3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2 GB

Ships: 1 - 3 business days
Delivers: Nov 18 - Nov 24

...pant ... pant ... pant

Darn you NBC, or not

Early last month I sang the praises of NBC's new show, My Own Worst Enemy. Apparently, we were one of the few households taken with the show since NBC has axed My Own Worst Enemy. While I am truly bummed about this turn of events, the announcement on E! did say that the cancellation makes room for a similar show, Dollhouse, by Joss Whedon. So, maybe I'll still be watching the same amount of television when this is all said and done!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

McCain says Palin didn't hurt presidential bid?

McCain says Palin didn't hurt presidential bid - Yahoo! News


Mr McCain, let me enlighten you. Your shift over the last year or so to the right was mere ice cream underneath the whipped cream and cherry topping that picking Lady Avon Lady as your running mate ended up being. Had you picked a running mate with more centrist appeal, you may have gained one or two percentage points, which might have made the race in a couple of states. Your incredible slide to the right alienated those of us who thought you were a moderate and free-thinking Republican. Then, you picked a frighteningly far-right dominant newbie as a running mate. I don't know that I would have voted for you, but I would have though longer about it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A week of healthy eating

As mentioned in my November 3rd post, I have been trying to eat healthier to diminish inflammation and maybe drop a few pounds. I have not noticed an appreciable decrease in pain and inflammation. However, I have lost about six pounds in the last ten days.

I thought I was being pretty good. I hadn't allowed myself any dairy in the last four days. Or, so I thought. It turns out that my evening frozen coconut bar has skim milk in it! I discovered this yesterday. So, I did not allow myself one last night. Also, I've been having soy sauce on some of my food. The bottle that I have at home contains wheat. Since I'm trying to stay away from gluten, I need to kick that for a while as well.

Though I'm loving the weight loss, the primary goal was pain reduction. I plan to give this another week to see if there is an improvement. Then, I need to start baking and cooking for my church holiday fair, and for our own Thanksgiving gathering. So, I'll be off the wagon by Thursday the 20th. Starting December 1st, I'll be back on the wagon, but with the primary goal of weight reduction. (Holidays and dieting are a pretty silly combination, no?)

Maybe this is where they went

Considering my last post, I couldn't resist sharing some photos my husband forwarded me today. Perhaps this is where my erstwhile neighbors moved.

And, after all that moving, maybe they can vacation here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A blight removed

We live in a relatively quiet condo community. About two thirds of the homes are owner-occupied. Most of the renters are good people and make good neighbors. The rents are not cheap ($1300-1700 for a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath in southern NH). That probably accounts for the relative placidity of the community.

Unfortunately, that changed this summer when a single mother and her three 'children' moved in across the street. My first encounter with the family was when the oldest 'child', a young woman of about 19, tried to strike up a conversation with me one morning as I was leaving to go to work. At 07:00 the girl was hyper, her pupils were dilated, and she didn't take several not-so-subtle hints that I was in a hurry. She was being pulled down the street by a five pound puppy. Really. Pulled. The girl had badly cut home-bleached hair and trashy eye makeup on. I later found out that the girl had been arrested just outside our community, for evading an assault warrant in MA.

The youngest 'child' is a boy of eleven or twelve. He spent his summer bullying younger children in the neighborhood and throwing rocks at animals. He's a husky kid with a very strange buzz hair cut. An adult in the neighborhood chastised him for his behavior and the kid flipped him off and ran down the street. He was recently banned from riding the school bus for his behavior.

The middle boy is relatively quiet in comparison, though I've seen him come and go at odd hours with other teens in cars. Grendel says this boy never speaks to anyone on the bus stop and doesn't make eye contact.

The family owns a pretty old aqua striped Chevy pickup truck. They typically park it so that it's tires cross into the adjoining home's parking space. Once, they even left the truck's doors open when they went inside, forcing their neighbor to have to get out and close the doors so she could squeeze into her parking space. They had been inside for about ten minutes, and didn't bother to come out after the woman was able to park her car.

They speed in and out of the development with no concern for the speed bumps and the pedestrian traffic in the community. (The girl was so busy yelling at one of her brothers one day that she wasn't looking forward as she drove, and nearly hit me.)

I was home from work today. As I sat at my desk I noted some activity over at their house. This is not unusual, since there always seems to be something going on over there. I looked out the window to see their truck and another backed up in front of their house, loaded with furnishings. I watched for a few minutes and was THRILLED to see they were bringing stuff out of the house. I also noted that it was a school day and both boys were home at 09:00.

I walked over to a neighbor's house and asked her if she'd noted the activity. She told me that she had heard two weeks ago that they were moving out. Apparently, the youngest one's issues warranted a change in school districts.

My neighbor and I joked that maybe we should throw a little party. I don't want to sound like a snob, but these folks are trash, pure and simple. I am thrilled to see them go. I grew up in a home of meager means with lots of friends who were equally challenged, economically speaking. However, we all behaved with consideration to our neighbors. The parents in my neighborhood would never have put up with some of the behavior we have seen from the kids across the street. And, being a single-parent family is no excuse. About half the families I grew up with were single-parent families. That's no excuse for poor behavior and general bad manners.

So, farewell folks! Perhaps having to move because one of your kids crossed the line will encourage you to clean up your act in the next town. But, then again, maybe not.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Where does the time go?

Sundays are pretty busy for our family. Last year, Grendel started attending Sunday evening youth group at our church. Our church is about 25 minutes to the north of our house. Regular services end at 11:00. Grendel has mid-day tennis lessons 25 minutes to the south of our house. His youth meeting is at 18:00. Since two 50-minute round trips in one day is tiring enough, I almost never go to morning services any more.

Today, I decided to go to morning service since I hadn't been in several months, and I have off from work the next two days.

While waiting for the service to begin, my friend Y sat next to me. I knew I hadn't seen Y in a while, but I did not realize how long "a while" had been until I asked about her baby daughter, G. The last time I had seen G, she was only a few months old. Y told me that G is now three years old. My jaw literally dropped.

I know I only went to church a few times last year, but I attend a good deal of the social activities (since I co-chair the committee). I could have sworn that I just saw that little girl a year or so ago.

Is this a sign of age when your perspective of time gets totally whacked?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Michael Crichton, you will be missed

Michael Crichton died of cancer this week at age 66. Not only did Crichton author "Andromeda Strain", "Jurassic Park", and "Timeline" (among others), he was the creative force behind one of my favorite television shows, ER.

Sixty six is way to young to pass away these days.

Crichton made himself unpopular in certain circles in the last fifteen years with his novel "State of Fear", which acted as a bully pulpit for his skepticism on global warming.

Maybe I'll watch Timeline this weekend in memoriam.

Edible Complex Meme

Courtesy of Cobweb's Shadowmanor, but originally from Very Good Taste.

Here’s what to do:

1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: Post a comment here or at linking to your results.

Herding Kitten’s Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho I LOVE this soup
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Apple
19. steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar Never on the cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo - I've even made it a number of times
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk - Prefer it to cow's milk, actually
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin - great sushi!
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian - I'll try it, but I suspect this stinky stuff will make me retch
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Ooops, my red neck roots are showing
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong - Lovely tea
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - the closest I've come is the tasting menu at Mario Batali's Esca in NYC - FABULOUS
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - What did I say about my roots?
92. Soft shell crab - My mom's favorite food, that rubbed off on me
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I'm curious about a lot of the stuff I haven't tried, and I'll try almost anything once. I guess I have another quest!

Had to come back and update - duh, OF COURSE I've had a hot dog from a street vendor... zillions of times

Friday, November 07, 2008

I want my ... Roladisc

I have way too many CD's (about 2200, actually). Years ago, I discovered the best way to store them all was in the Roladisc system developed by CD Projects.

As you can see, the system involves removing the CDs from their jewel cases and filing them in sleeves in a rolodex.

This system has worked well for me. However, all my rails are full and CD Projects doesn't make this system any more. I've been hunting around the Internet to see if anyone still carries them. SO far, no luck. I plan to keep trying. It's a bummer when someone makes a product that you like, and then you can't get it any more.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Laudable goals and democracy

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi was quoted as saying:
"Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities...The growth of our economy, the education of our children, the health of our people, the end of dependence on foreign oil and the end of the war in Iraq."

Those are my priorities as well. I plan to remind them if I see them going off track. This election reminded us all that this is OUR government. WE sent them there. WE are the boss of them! (grin) Don't let them forget it. Watch what goes on. If they do something that irks you, DON'T let them get away with it. On the flip side, if they want to do something that they're having a hard time getting support for among their peers, write them and tell them that you agree with them ... and then write some of the other folks and tell them too.

It's high time that we run our democracy, like a democracy. (Some would say that it's a republic, but it works the same way.)

Here is a great speech from "An American President" about what it means to be President, how politics works, and what it means to be a citizen of this country. Obama is great, but I would love to vote for Andrew Shepard.

Frivolous longing

I have access to FOUR Intel-based machines in my home office. One is running an old version of Red Hat, which acts as my sandbox and the proxy server for my son's Internet traffic. One is a very nice laptop for work. Another is a laptop that I bought a year and a half ago, which is sluggish mostly for want of memory (512Mb currently). And finally, one is a four year old desktop barely running XP, which seems incapable of installing any patches and pops up random errors which only a reboot can clear.

I primarily use the sluggish laptop, and failover to the old XP desktop when the laptop really gets on my nerves. About a month ago, both machines were acting up at the same time (this happens periodically). That's when I decided that I had had it with Windows.

I have had a home computer for nearly two decades. In the beginning, I typically spent about $3k on a home system. It usually caused me little frustration and often times provided me with both utility and entertainment. Over the years, as the Microsoft operating system has become more complex and feature rich, it has also become more frustrating to work with. A beefy machine purchased in January is usually gunked up and quirky by June. Part of the issue is the Internet threatscape forces us to run firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam, and other anti-performance software to stave off disaster. (Can you say data and financial loss?)

Back in college and graduate school, I was exposed to some of the early MacIntosh computers. They were fun and functional. Recently, I've been exposed to these systems again at work, since about a quarter of our staff use them. It used to be that Mac users had limited choices in software, which was one of the reasons I wasn't interested in them. The other reason that people avoid Macs is price. On the surface, they seem much more expensive than the mass produced wide variety of Windows systems. Well, maybe you get what you pay for.

I decided on that fateful day, a month ago, that my next system was going to be a Mac, AND that I would have one by March at the latest. I also decided that I was going to join the iPod nation. I have had several other MP3 players, which I have liked well enough. However, the amount of free content available as podCasts was the final temptation. (Besides, if I'm going Mac, I might was well go all the way.)

Once I made the decision, the desire began to haunt me. I am nearly salivating in anticipation of this acquisition. I plan to get the beefiest, most tricked-out, iMac that Apple sells. Even though I'll get an educational discount through work, I'll still be spending about $3k. In a way, that seems right. I used to enjoy my home computer that I paid $3k for.

I look forward to coming home and sitting down to a computer that JUST WORKS.

As for the laptop and the XP desktop? My son has expressed an interest in the laptop. We will either shove some more memory in it, or (more likely) load Ubuntu on it. The XP desktop is on borrowed time. A few weeks ago, the hard disk made that telltale clicking sound on boot up. It hasn't done it since, but I know that it's just a matter of time.

There were rumors that Apple was about to put out a slightly improved iMac line in the next week (a pre-holiday refresh). However, I just read that there will be no refreshes to the line before the end of the year. So, I'll probably be ordering it soon. It'd be great to have it by Thanksgiving weekend, since I'll have a lot of time to play with it and get it going.

Materialistic longing is so gauche. But, I really really really want to have fun with a computer again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Worth staying up late for

Yesterday, I left work a few hours early so I could avoid long lines at the polls. The only line when I got there was for voter registration. I was amazed at the number of new voters this election brought into the game. Bravo! (Then again, things had to get pretty crappy in this country to convince people that they needed to participate in the process, huh?)

We flipped between CNN, Fox News, and Comedy Central during the evening. Fox was pretty unbiased for them. Comedy Central, with Steven Cobert and John Stewart, added levity to a tense situation. CNN did a fantastic job, including a holographic interview.

The only thing I wonder is how the media can predict the outcome of a state's election with less than 20% of the precincts reporting in. I guess it is educated gambling. They probably base their predictions on bellwether precincts for the state (ones that are typically representative of how the state will go). It still makes me nervous when they do this. It always makes me think of the Chicago Tribune's flub in 1948 when they went to press early with "Dewey Elected" when Truman ended up winning.

One of the amazing things about this election is the number of states that went from Red to Blue: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, and (especially) Florida. Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina are still too close to call today. Heck, in North Carolina the tally between the two candidates is only about nine thousand votes apart! For the latest tally, see CNN's election map.

At the end of the evening, I watched McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech. McCain was extremely graceful (even if supporters were not - they booed mention of Obama several times), especially in expressing his condolences on the death of Obama's grandmother. Obama was inspiring. I liked how his supporters applauded McCain.

Obama's speech spoke to me on a few particular points. I liked how he said that we may not get the job done in one year or one term, but that we will get the job done. And, he warned that there may be some missteps along the way. I fully expect that he's right on both counts. I hope people heard this note of reason. Like a good manager, Obama is trying to set reasonable expectations. The country is in serious trouble, and all of our issues may not be addressable in a couple of years. However, I think we elected the right person for the job. Obama seems like a serious person who will make well considered decisions. I hope he plays to the center, though he's a noted Liberal. His ultimate support came from the center. Also, while he won, the country is still divided. We will definitely need the support of a lot of folks on the other side to resolve our issues, so it's best not to alienate too many of them.

I am really proud to be an American today. I actually agree with John McCain on at least one thing: We are the greatest nation on Earth. (Flawed? Yes. But head and shoulders above the rest.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I got spammed by John McCain

I have only registered with two web sites with any sort of political agenda: and I typically support left-of-center ideals. So, imagine my surprise when a campaign plea from John McCain showed up in my inbox over night. I can't imagine how they got my email address. It could not have been from a site that I visit that is sympathetic to his cause. Could he be so desperate as to have bought large blocks of address lists in hopes of garnering even a tiny bit of additional support today?

This election will hinge on tiny margins in several key states. I hope everyone who is physically and legally able to get out and vote makes the effort today. We are in the worse shape that we have been in since the Depression. Make your voice heard. Regardless of whose brand of solution you are warmer to, speak up. Even if you would rather see a third party in power, vote for them. So many people on this planet do not have the right to speak their mind to those in power. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to do so when you can.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trying to eat healthy, at least in the short term

Over the last few months, I have been feeling worse and worse. My back and other muscle pain has increased. My digestive system is not operating optimally. And, my weight is headed in the wrong direction. Plus, my insomnia is as bad as ever. So, I decided to try something different.

I just embarked on a two week mild detox. I'm easing into a vegan diet, with the added strictures of no gluten and no alcohol. I'd like to ditch caffeine too, but let's not get crazy here. As a compromise, I'm only allowing myself green tea for my caffeine fix. I'm also trying to eat organically whenever possible. I have a few cups of yogurt that I want to finish up before I cut the dairy out of my diet. Plus, I may have some bubbly to celebrate on election night (or to drown my sorrows). After that, I plan to spend two weeks on this regime.

I am hoping to reduce my general inflammation levels. I also might inadvertently drop a few pounds. I started on Saturday. So far, so good.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Julia Child and America's Test Kitchen

I've been meaning to blog all week. Sadly, no particular topic seemed compelling enough to overcome my ennui. Here is the one topic that keeps nagging at me, that I must share.

I finished reading Julia Child's autobiography, My Life in France. I had suggested it to my book group as an offbeat choice from our usual fair. My only exposure to Julia may have been one or two PBS shows as a child, and the parodies of her by Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live when I was a teenager. I consider myself a foodie. I like biographies. And, with the holidays coming up, I figured the book might be entertaining.

What a truly unexpected pleasure! Her story is not just for foodies. The book begins with her arrival in France with her husband Paul. The two met during WWII in the OSS in the Pacific. They married after the war, and were initially posted to Washington, D.C.

A year or so later they are posted to France where Julia finds herself. She discovers that she loves good food and wants to know how to make it. She approaches food with a passion and scientific curiosity. Eventually she enrolls in the Cordon Bleu (which is not the perfect ivory tower that outsiders often assume it to be). She makes the same dish dozens of times to understand why it works, what will ruin it, and how to recover when it has problems. She meets two French women who have written a book on French cooking for the American housewife, and eventually agrees to help them with the book. This partnership leads to a multi-year odyssey that culminates in the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (now in a 40th anniversary edition).

The book primarily focuses on the story behind the great cooking tome. However, we also gain insight into life in the U.S. foreign service and the effect of McCarthism. We also are treated to some lovely vignettes around Julia's home and family life, including how she and Paul sent hand-designed valentines to their loved ones each year and the construction of their cottage in the south of France. And finally, we learn the roots of Julia's television career and eventually celebrity which always seem to surprise her.

This is a fabulous book. Julia was a remarkable individual.

Reading about her passion for food and how she approached recipe development reminded me of the work of the recent PBS show: America's Test Kitchen. I simply adore their magazine, Cooks Illustrated. I have their cook book: The Best Recipe (now in a new edition: The New Best Recipe). Cooks Illustrated does what Julia used to do. They scientifically evaluate a recipe and find the best way to make a dish, and they explain to the home cook how they arrived at the recipe they now recommend.

So, as you make your Thanksgiving plans, and think about holiday gifts, maybe you should include a little Julia in your thinking!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Is it November already?

Is it that time of year again? NaBloPoMo I didn't commit this year. Maybe I'll do it anyway.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The real Sarah Palin on SNL

I missed this when it was on a couple of weeks ago, so I tracked it down. I thought it was wicked funny. And as much as I dislike Sarah Palin, I thought she took it well. After all, publicity is publicity, right? (There are a couple of commercials front loaded into the video.)

Full commentary by the clip hoster at:

Tina Fey, Sarah Palin redux: Real candidates on 'SNL' are rarely funny - Medium Fidelity - The Grand Rapids Press -

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two more weeks

While the polls look good for Obama, now is not the time for supporters to get comfortable. We need to make sure that we don't just elect him. We need to send a clear message to the government that we're sending Obama to Washington with a mandate for change. Move On sent out these:


1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Florida and elections

There are way too many ways to enjoy the fact that Florida has opened the polls more than two weeks before the rest of the country.

  1. Maybe with all that extra time they can count the votes correctly?
  2. Maybe the Electoral College will invalidate their election for being officially too early?
  3. Maybe the voters will have enough time to interpret confusing ballots?
  4. Maybe the Republicans will have enough time to come up with a believable line of crap as to how their candidate pulled off another close election in the state, while giving the missing ballots more time to be eaten by gators in the swamp

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yes, the Iraqi's want us out

Yesterday, (mostly) peaceful protesters in Bhagdad called for the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The U.N. (post-facto) mandate authorizing a U.S. troop presence in Iraq expires on December 31st. U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have been trying to reached a draft agreement for extending the arrangement.
...officials are examining "contingencies" in case the Iraqi government is unable to sell the status-of-forces deal to the country's various factions...the "final" draft calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraqi cities by June 2009 and out of Iraq by the end of 2011 unless the Iraqis ask the United States to stay.

Gee, I wonder what the 'contingencies' are. I wonder what McCain or Obama would think about the contingencies.

Child-free adventuring

Our son, Grendel, is spending most of the weekend in Vermont with several dozen other teenagers. Sounds scary, doesn't it? It's not. About five times a year, his church youth group gets together with groups from other churches throughout New England for "Con" weekends. They usually stay in a local church, get virtually no sleep, talk a lot (sometimes about socially responsibility), entertain each other at a 'coffee house', and then go out for a huge breakfast on Sunday morning (after they've thoroughly cleaned up the church where they've been crashing). They are somewhat chaperoned by a handful of adult advisers, who also are forced into not getting any sleep. The teens do all the cooking and cleaning. The adults are just there to make sure everyone follows the rules, which is usually not an issue.

While he's gone, my husband and I attempt to spend some time together as non-parents. Today we're going window-shopping for a Macintosh computer (isn't that an interesting juxtaposition of terms?). I'm not quite read to part with the money. I just want to lay eyes and hands on the thing that's soon going to cost me nearly three grand. (More on that in a future post.) Then, we'll probably do some other low-cost shopping. We plan to stop for a respite at a tea cafe I like. We may take in a movie as well. Tomorrow, we'll hit the local end-of-season celebration at the Nashua Farmer's Market. We may have lunch at my favorite Vietnamese noodle shop or his favorite Irish pub.

Tomorrow afternoon, Grendel is supposed to be home by 2. We have plans to visit a good friend of mine from work at 4. John's been wanting us to come to his house and meet his family for a while. He wanted to wait until he got his big screen television installed. Grendel and Goblin both play guitar. John used to play guitar in a rock band, and still dabbles for pleasure. I suspect the three of them will be down in the 'man cave' for a while playing guitars. I've never met John's wife. I hope we hit it off, or I could get pretty bored pretty quickly. John's kids are early elementary school aged. So, Grendel won't have much to say to them. I'm not used to being around young kids any more. But, John speaks so highly of his kids (particularly his daughter), that I'm sure it'll be interesting.

After all we have non-planned this weekend, I may need to take Monday off to recover.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How could I have missed Dictionary Day?

Yesterday was Dictionary Day, which commemorates the birthday of Noah Webster, considered the Father of the American Dictionary.

I love words. I play word games (Scrabble is, of course, my favorite). And, my favorite radio program, Says You, is mostly about word play.

I recently read a fun novel, The Lottery by Patricia Wood. The main character is a mentally challenged man whose life changes after his grandmother dies and then he wins the Washington State lottery. Perry, the main character, reads the dictionary every day to improve his vocabulary. Throughout the book, he tells the reader what his words are for the day. He also defines words used by other characters in the story. The definitions are sometimes spot on, but sometimes unintentionally humorous misinterpretations.

So, a belated Happy Dictionary Day to everyone who loves the magic of words.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How ignorant are we?

Polictically, we as a country are pretty ignorant. A recent survey asked a broad spectrum of American voters three basic questions.

  1. Which party is in control of the U.S. House of Representatives?

  2. Name the U.S. Secretary of State

  3. Name the U.K. Prime Minister

I was not that impressed by the fact that I easily got all three questions correct. I was really unimpressed by the number of those surveyed who got all three answers right: 18%. Wow! We really are a nation of dolts. It's no wonder that we elect the people we do. We don't know anything about them, regardless of how much media surrounds them. We simply refuse to pay attention to any information out there, good/bad or right/wrong.

It really is all about sound bites, smiles, and crowd appeal.

BTW, in case your wondering: Democrat, Condoleezza Rice, and Gordon Brown.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy

We just watched Christian Slater's new television show, "My Own Worst Enemy". Way cool. It's not just a Jekyl and Hyde thing, which is pretty cool. It's like watching two brothers work out some of their sibling rivalry issues, but never being able to meet. Imagine having an evil twin, in your own body.

Edward is a cold-blooded assassin. His deep cover identity is Henry, a really mild mannered suburban family man. The problem is, Henry doesn't know that he is really Edward. Edward kind of knows about Henry, but doesn't have direct access to his memories. Edward chose to split his personality approximately nineteen years before the show begins. Unfortunately, something happens to break down the walls. Edward and Henry start to randomly 'wake up' at the most inconvenient times for both of their lives. Since Edward knows about Henry, he can kind of fake being a boring suburbanite. Unfortunately, Henry has no idea about Edward and no desire to fake being a super secret agent.

Henry is nearly killed a couple of times. The agency that Edward works for tries to reprogram Henry so that things go back to the controlled 'on off' personality switching that they orchestrated previously. However, Edward sneaks off a DVD recording to Henry cluing him in about some bad guys that are going to try to kill him. Henry manages to kill them first, thanks to Edward's coaching.

Confused yet? It's a lot of fun to watch. At one point Henry is in Edward's apartment and decides to take one of Edward's sports cars for a ride. During the ride he becomes Edward. Edward ends up at Henry's house and has amazingly (unusual for Henry) sex with Henry's wife. In the morning, Henry's wife thanks him for the hot sex, which he does not remember. After his wife leaves, he reads a note that Edward wrote on his hand telling him "Don't touch my car again." Henry then realizes that Edward slept with his wife the night before, "That bastard slept with my wife!" Wicked funny.

Highly recommended!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Solo adventuring

Yesterday, my church group sponsored a trip to Beech Hill Farm, west of Concord, NH. There were animals to commune with, some crafts and antiques to ogle, corn mazes to get lost in, and ice cream to eat.

Afterwards, I swung by the Mill Brook Gallery's outdoor sculpture garden. Really cool.

I went on my own. I probably could have cajoled husband and son to come along, but I would have had less fun dragging them around. Click on either picture to see more from each diversion.