Thursday, January 29, 2009

And the recession hits home

Goblin was laid off today. He's taking it well. We'll get by. It'll be painful, but I'm sure there are folks out there worse off than we are.

Sadly, this is going to throw some big vacation plans into the dustbin for this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Calling all writers looking for inspiration

OK. I know you're out there. Heck, I'm here, so you must be THERE. I'm about to start a writing class in a couple of days. So, it got me thinking. There are tons of writing prompt sites out there. And, I'm sure what I'm proposing is not new. However, if you will play along with me I will be ABSOLUTELY committed.

My friend BriWei and I thought it might be fun to post the beginnings of a story and to see what happened if we opened "what happens next" to each other (or anyone else who wants to play along).

We only ask that you use the prompt and any subsequent comments as your springboard before embellishing the story yourself.

If you want to play, see the initial post entitled The Road to Nowhere. Hopefully, BriWei will have added his contribution before we Hand over the keyboard to you. But, don't wait for him if you're inspired.

Nobody's perfect, but ...

Our country is in a financial mess. We need strong leadership to help get us out of the mess. We don't need a Treasury Secretary who has a tarnished reputation for, at the very least, ignorance of his own financial situation. I am totally disappointed with Obama's choice of Timothy Geithner, and his confirmation by Congress. How can we expect the man to straighten out our finances when he couldn't even keep track of his own?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Random Song Answer Meme

Drat you, Dr Momentum! I liked this meme so I had to play along.

Likewise, I'm not tagging anyone, but if you want to play feel free to.

1 Put Your iTunes on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.
5. Tag at least 10 friends

What do your friends think of you?
She Drives Me Crazy

If someone says "Is this okay?", you say:
Welcome to Paradise

How would you describe yourself?
Youth of the Nation

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Judy in Disguise

How do you feel today?
Nice Guys Finish Lastg

What is your life's purpose?
Brass Monkey

What is your motto?
Rock Me Amadeus

What do you think about very often?
Evil Ways

What do you think of your best friend?
Veteran of the Psychic Wars Bri, it totally fits!

What do you think of the person you like?
If You Could Only See

What is your life story?
What a Wonderful World

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Cosmic Messenger

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
Until the End of the World

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Jungle Love

What will they play at your funeral?
Veil of Darkness (by Nox Arcana)

What is your hobby/interest?
Easier Said Than Done

What is your biggest fear?
Dare You to Move

What is your biggest secret?
Edge of Seventeen

What do you think of your friends?
What's My Age Again

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Commitment, Indulgence, and Stress Reduction

I have long considered myself a hobby writer, in that I write more for pleasure than with any notion of ever making it my profession. In my youth, I did harbor that fantasy but certain realities about that industry and my own personality made me realize that I was never going to make a living at writing. In a lot of ways, that is more than fine. I get a great deal of pleasure out of writing. If I needed to rely on my writing to pay the bills, the joy would probably be completely sucked out of it for me. (I usually end up despising anything that I feel that I 'have' to do.)

Over the years, I have found myself spending less and less time writing for pleasure. And I am the worse for the lack of it I think. Blogging is the only semi-regular outlet I have these days.

Since I periodically belong to the Writers Digest Book Club, I frequently get mailings from them advertising online workshops. I usually just delete them. I've told myself that I don't have the time or the money to commit to such things; or, I tell myself that those workshops are for people who have professional writing aspirations, which definitely is no longer a goal of mine.

I got one of those emails earlier this week. Something stopped me from deleting it. I re-opened it and glanced at it every day for four days. Then I thought about it.

I'm not taking any classes for my degree right now. I'm not taking any professional development courses for my job for the next few months. Work and home have been bombarding me with some minor stressors in the last couple of months. Writing centers me and helps me work through stress. Also, the cost of the class is currently not a big deal for me.

So, viola! I am now registered for a twelve week online workshop on Fundamentals of Fiction Writing. I've ordered the textbook. The class starts Thursday. YIPPEE!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hanging with the boys

Throughout most of my life, most of my friends have been male. My adult career choice (various computer jobs) just facilitated this predilection since the field was highly male-dominated when I entered it, and remains so (if to a lesser degree).

Last night I had a 'date' to meet up with four male former coworkers at a local sports bar. The waitresses wore skin-tight short-skirted dresses with high-heeled boots. After the second round of beer, my buddies started unconsciously tracking the travels of several waitresses around the pool tables. My former boss, Patrick, would occasionally catch his own testosterone-inspired behavior and smile at me and say something like, "Isn't it a pain to hang out with the XY crowd?"

My other former boss, Scott, stopped speaking mid-sentence to watch a well-endowed female patron walk past him. He didn't stop staring until she had gotten a good ten yards past him. Then, he stuttered and yammered for half a minute before he laughed and hit his own social-acceptability reset button.

My buddy Kyle made a few more tolerable comments and smiled.

The youngest guy, Tom, barely noted the comely wait staff or prowling female patrons. He was the most well behaved of the bunch.

Did it irritate me as a woman? ... Not really. The first half dozen or so times I just laughed. I just added it to my mental notebook about why its better to be male than female.

Sex is a wonderful thing. It adds to the complexity and enjoyment of life. I feel sorry for most males who's subconscious (and sometimes conscious) minds seem so obsessed with meeting the demands of their sex drives.

My husband explained it to me once in these terms. In the George Orwell book, "1984", citizens can never turn the television off. They can only ever turn the sound down to a low murmur. Once males hit puberty, the television (aka, sex drive) can only be turned down from concert-volume-loud to riding-in-your-car-alone-music loud. As they age, males gain the ability to turn the sound a bit lower and lower. My husband is in his late 40s. He says that the television sound is down to where he can have a conversation with other people in the room, but the 'televistion' is totally understandable whenever everyone else stops talking.

I threw in the towel after my third beer. The four of them were just getting started. I encouraged them to enjoy their beer and their night out away from their wives. Bless their hearts. (Yes, I will join them the next time they invite me. Mostly, their neanderthal behavior was good natured and humorous.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't let the door hit you ...

Please crawl off into anonymity and never pop your head out of your Texas hole again.

Stumbling back online

I took the day off so I could enjoy the inauguration. I had two real goals. First, pay witness to the inauguration of the first African American president. Second, witness George Bush's last official day in Washington. (There were moments when the second goal seriously outweighed the first.) A third unrelated goal was to get the oil changed in my car and to get new wiper blades.

My plan was to get up this morning and take care of a few minor tasks for work, and then to get on with own goals. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to have any Internet connectivity when I arose. This happens once every couple of months. Typically, I just power cycle my router and modem a few times, and all is good. That didn't do it this morning. I was able to plug my work laptop directly into the modem. So, I took care of the work tasks and changed my plans for the day.

Before I left the house for the lube shop, I set up TiVo to record the beginning of the inauguration coverage, in case I didn't make it back before things started. I timed my departure so that I'd be done with my lube job just about the time Best Buy opened up. I then went from the lube place to Best Buy and picked up a Vonage router. My dead router was a Vonage-enabled Linksys router. (So, yeah, we had no phone service either - that was my actual clue that the thing was really dead since phone service usually came right back after a power cycle.)

Once I got home, I was multitasking big time. I was watching the inauguration lead-up while disconnecting old router and reconnecting new router. I kept popping back and forth between my husband's office (he has a tv) and mine (I have an over-sized closet for an office.) After the ceremony was done, I was able to get basic Internet going again on my network. However, I still need to get the phone service working again.

*sigh* This was NOT how I wanted to spend this day of joy and reverie.

Once I get the phone service working, I think I deserve a nap!

Monday, January 19, 2009

100Gb's and counting

Since getting my new iMac, back in November, I have been slowly working on ripping much of my music collection to iTunes. I also picked up a 16Gb iPod.

My digital music collection was around 25Gb when I got the iMac. Today, I surpassed the 100Gb mark. Since my musical tastes are so wide and eclectic, I don't find the fact that I have over 15,000 songs that impressive. I've probably only digitized about 40% of my cd collection. In the process of digitizing my collection, I've also become aware of gaps in my music that I have been filling in with purchases.

One of my playlists is for my personal "greatest hits", it includes such artists as the Dave Matthews, Toadies, Concrete Blonde, Queen, Clannad, Animals, Eddie Rabbit, Edvard Grieg, Modest Mussorgsky, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Johnnie Horton, Johnny Cash, Butthole Surfers, Green Day, Death Cab for Cutie, Flobots, They Might Be Giants, Modern English, Cypress Hill, U2, Baha Men, Boomtown Rats, the Cure and Adam Ant. Someday, I hope to post that playlist in total. It currently has about 250 songs on it.

Music was one of the major driving factors for my move to the iMac/iPod environment. Diddling with my music collection is my primary personal computer-oriented time sink. I cannot imagine my life without music.

My mother suffered from major hearing loss. Supposedly there is a genetic predisposition to her particular condition. I had my hearing testing several times in my 30's, since that was the normal age of onset. Fortunately, I think the disease skipped me. Life would lose much of its meaning and pleasure for me if I could no longer enjoy music.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Finally, a cooperative teenager!

I won't get my hopes up that this is the beginning of a new trend, or anything. However, Grendel did take a turn clearing snow this afternoon. Doesn't he look thrilled by his accomplishment?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The measure of justice

I read three stories today that had me scratching my head about our justice system.

The first story is a current supreme court case involving a (then) thirteen year old girl who was stripped searched by school officials after a schoolmate implicated her in the distribution of prescription-strength ibuprofen. IBUPROFEN!!! The girl was an honor student who had never had any issue with the administration before the incident. An initial search of her backpack revealed nothing of a suspicious nature. So, she was taken to a room by the school nurse and another female staff member and forced to stripped down to her underwear. They also searched her bra. Again, they were looking for signs of 400mg tablets of IBUPROFEN. At issue is, how far is a school allowed to go in violating one students rights in the defense of the overall safety of the school population?

Do I think that school administrators have the right to strip search a student base solely on the claims of one other student?

In most cases: NO WAY!

As an individual responsible for the safety and rights of all students (including the accused), you need to consider the safety and rights of all parties and weigh the risks and rights.

If one student accused another student of carrying a gun, a body search would be a measured response. The potential risk to the school community is high enough to warrant a potential violation of rights of one student.

If one student accused another student of possessing drugs, say it was even cocaine, a search of the student's backpack/locker may be reasonable. A body search would only be reasonable, in my mind, if there were multiple accusers. And then, I might wait for the police. They are trained in appropriate and legal response to such situations. The student could be held in the school office until the police arrived.

No weapons equals no hurry.

The second story involves the
vandalism of the Washington State Capitol. The offender is an anarchist and well known mixed martial artist, Jeff "The Snowman" Monson. Monson defaced the Capitol with spray painted graffiti. It cost $19,000 to clean up the defacement.

Here's where the questionable justice comes in for me: "If convicted, Monson could face a maximum of 10 years in prison."

Huh? Vandalism of public property can be punishable by 10 years in prison? That seems more than a bit disproportionate to me.

Maybe the law is written in such a way as to encompass every level of vandalism, from breaking a window to covering an entire legislative chamber in cow crap? But, we are talking about vandalism here, right? Not the actual full out destruction of a building. Not the physical harm or endangerment of human beings, right?

The final story is actually one we discussed at the office yesterday. Here is another example of RIAA going overboard on it's response to the illegal exchange of copyrighted music. In SONY BMG Music v. Tenenbaum. The link is to the Boston Globe story regarding the judge's decision to allow streaming video to the Internet for some of the proceedings. The summary of the case from that story is:
Tenenbaum is accused of downloading at least seven songs and making 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network in 2004. He offered to settle the case for $500, but music companies rejected that, ultimately demanding $12,000. He could be forced to pay $1 million if it is determined that his alleged actions were willful.

Let me state upfront that I am totally against distribution of media without the consent of the creators of that media. Those who create content should have the right to determine how it is distributed. Distributing such content without the permission of the owners of the rights to do so is a violation of law (copyright and/or piracy, depending on the nuances of the ownership and the distribution there of).

Those on the RIAA side of this argument claim that illegal distribution deprives the owners of a market for their wares. However several surveys have showed that most people who download illegally would not buy the material they are downloading for free if every avenue of illegal downloading dried up.

In addition, chasing after individual young people for six or seven figure payouts is ridiculous. RIAA has dropped a lot of the cases it has brought. Many defendants have settled prior to trial for inflated but non-ridiculous amounts (between $500 and a few thousand dollars by most accounts). These lawsuits are not a deterrent to the behavior by individual 'pirates'. These cases just make RIAA look stupid and they galvanize the pirating community.

In the past, RIAA has tried to include ISPs in its suits. However, most ISPs do not monitor or control the activities of their subscribes enough to prevent piracy behavior on their networks.

Recently, RIAA did sign a graduated response agreement with several major service providers. Once RIAA has notified an ISP of a subscriber's behavior, the ISP will warn the subscriber three times before suspending or canceling their service. Some universities cooperate with RIAA by fining students a few thousand dollars when a violation is documented by RIAA. These responses seem a step in the right direction.

Overall, we have one of the best legal systems in the world. However, today I am reminded that there are still some areas we could improve upon. Scalding hot coffee, anyone?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yet another winter update - reading distractions

So, tomorrow, our temperatures will be going into the negative digits! Today was bad enough. Tomorrow, I plan on wearing leggings under my jeans.

Oh, and it might even snow... Gee, maybe it'll be too cold for snow!

On the reading front, I just finished listening to book 3 in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga. I had one more to go, but I am also committed to completing Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" before January 27th. So, on Monday, I started "A New Earth". I got about halfway into the second CD on the way home. It's not bad, it's just not compelling. AND, it's not what I want to listen to.

On Tuesday, I started book 4 of the Twilight series. Maybe I'll be good and try to get through another CD or two of "A New Earth" before the 27th. However, my book group has no requirement that you actually read the book to show up to the discussions. I do lead the book group, so it might be bad form for ME not to have completed the book. On the other hand, I usually do. Also, when this choice was offered up I did not find the idea compelling. However, I smiled and agreed. My choices usually win out. It's only fair that we occasionally read other people's suggestions.

Next month we're reading Ellison's "The Invisible Man" in honor of our new President. I plan to offer up either "The Soloist" or "People of the Book" as our March selections. Let's see where that goes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter and summer collide!

From the Nashua Telegraph

Snow plow crashes into tanning salon

GOFFSTOWN (AP) – Winter and summer collided when a plow truck crashed into a tanning salon in Goffstown.

The truck smashed into the businesses Saturday after another truck rear-ended it. The collision sent glass flying and caused structural damage to the building, but the two people in the shop were unhurt.

The shop recently reopened under new management, and owners say they plan to get everything fixed in time for their planned grand opening celebration early next month.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Strange linkages and altered art

Yesterday, I purchased a few songs and albums online. One of them was OK No by OK Go.

Last night, I was at an event in our church basement. We have a huge area where people can donate books. It's sort of a leave-one-take-one system. (I have donated a great deal to this collection.) A friend was perusing the piles and this book cover caught my eye:

The book is Three Came Home by Agnes Newton Keith. It is the story of her family's internment by the Japanese during World War II.

While the two images aren't exact duplicates (the book photo doesn't do justice to the color similarities), my exposure to two somewhat similar images in a short span of time struck me. So, I snagged the book and brought it home to add to my (increasingly insurmountable) reading pile.

In the long run, I may end up using the volume for an altered book project, simply because it has such an interesting cover. For many book lovers, such a concept would be considered horrifyingly sacrilegious. I beg pardon to those of you out there who would be offended by the desecration of a book. However, some consider book altering an homage to the book being altered. Often times, altered books are rescued from trash piles only to find new life as personal art.

I promise to attempt to read this book before converting the tome into my own personal art canvas. If the story itself impresses me enough, I may abstain from the act of transforming it. We'll see. With such a fabulous cover, it would have to really impress me not to play with the physical book. Considering that the OK Go album inspired me to pick the book up, I might have to include the song lyrics from the album in the transformed piece.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yippee! It's snowing again.


Well, at least I got to go to the 12th night potluck at church this evening. We thought about canceling it. However, the snow wasn't supposed to start until 10:30. I was driving home around then, and that's when the flakes started coming down.

Who knew that the meteorologists could get it right like that?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

One of our favorite household games

Our downstairs powder room has about an inch gap under the door. This has become the focus of one of our cats' favorite games. See if you can figure out how it goes from the pictures. (Zoey has black-bottom paws. Caboose has white paws.)

While it can be somewhat distracting and annoying when you're focusing on your real purpose, it usually is pretty funny ultimately. They really do insist that you play.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Anticipating more power outages

NH is destined for another snow, ice, and wind storm tomorrow. I wonder if my son will have school. I wonder how many people will have power. I wonder when winter will end...


Thursday, January 01, 2009

43 Things Quiz

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Tree Hugging Self-Knowing De-Clutterer

I don't know if I'll read the book, but the quiz was kind of fun. The book sounds intriguing to a compulsive list maker like me though.

Happy Frigid New Year

The picture above is from a news story on Yahoo about the freezing temperatures. The bird reminded me of the mechanical bird we got for Christmas. She looks about as happy as I feel about the recent weather trends.

We've been in the single digits for the last couple of days, after another 5-7 inches of snow and high winds. I have to keep reminding myself why we moved to NH. I really don't like cold weather. However, I hate heat and humidity much more.

Only four more months until spring creeps into New England! (Oh, and until I go on my London/Paris trip!)