Not My Day

Today I turned on my personal computer and got the dreaded blue screen. It seemed to indicate that it was new hardware or software that was causing the problem. I managed to get Windows to open properly and I uninstalled McAfee, the only "new" (just updated) software or hardware I have. I didn't want to reinstall without knowing if I would just be creating the same conditions that caused the problem last time. So, I got online to ask "Tech Support". Chimps with 5 buttons for 5 questions, more likely. After waiting forever to get a person on the chat line, I went in prepped with all the info I had been told I needed to answer this sort of question. (I had found a page through a search that listed all the pieces of info I needed, but nothing about what to do after I found the info.)
Anyway, the chimp eventually told me that they're working on the issue and should have a corrected version in 3-4 days. Hmm... methinks someone wants off the line. "Yeah, uh... they're 'working' on it. Come back in a few days and it'll be all better." BAH!
While all this was going on, I was trying to record something that I had on DVR to VCR, except I couldn't figure out how I had set it up. I figured it out eventually, but not before knocking over the lovely bamboo arrangement my sister gave me as a housewarming present. It fell, top-first, onto the floor, scattering itty bitty stones everywhere and breaking the tops completely off the bamboo. I put the broken bamboo in water (perhaps it will grow roots?) and picked up a fair amount of stones.
Big ass bummer right there.

I'm feeling a bit drained now.

I was going to post about how heartened I am by the appearance of several spiders in and around the house. I'm so used to seeing them that the first 3 years in the house without them felt a bit odd. I've seen several now, so it feels much better.

Except for Blue Screens of Death and ruined bamboo arrangements, that is.



Not Clamming Up

When I saw the can of "white clam sauce" in the Italian food section of the grocery aisle, I thought "Huh! I don't think I've ever had that before." So I bought it and a can of artichoke hearts and a bottle of capers, thinking they'd make a good addition to the base sauce. I also got a box of linguini and, as a last minute thought, I bought a can of smoked baby clams.
So, tonight I decided to brave the unknown and invent a pasta dish -- not for the first time, but the first time in a long while. I started the linguini cooking and opened the can of white clam sauce and dumped it in a medium-sized saucepan. I tasted this new item and was severely underwhelmed. It was salty and tasted mostly of chicken stock, which I assume is the base for the sauce. Hmm... this was going to be tougher than I thought!
I rolled up my figurative sleeves and pressed on. I chopped up the artichoke hearts and dumped them in. I added a few capers and then tested the mixture. Hmm. Better. I also added the can of the smoked clams. It added a nice amount of protein that hadn't been covered by the teeny chopped up clams in the original sauce. Definitely better.
I remembered some leftover pesto and dumped it all in boldly. After all, the flavor certainly couldn't be worse. It was a surprisingly good addition and almost completely masked the chicken flavor. Yay!
Just as I thought I was done, I glanced at the linguini box and saw a good looking recipie for a clam sauce made from scratch. (That may be my next project.) One of the ingredients listed is white wine. Now there's a good idea! Wine makes everything better, trust me. I added a jag or two.
When the linguini finished cooking, I drained it and then put it back in the pot to have the sauce mixed into it. This is not my usual way of putting together pasta and sauce (I generally go the individual serving route) but this seemed like the right way to approach this. I served myself a small helping and [cue fanfare] tasted it. Hmm. Surprisingly palatable. It needed one thing more -- a generous dusting of parmesan gratings. OK, now we're talking! I ate the whole serving, and just as I was finishing it, thought of another addition that would make it not only better tasting, but more attractive.
For those who cheated and looked at the picture at the beginning, you'll know I'm talking about tomatoes. I chopped up a bit and added it to another serving, just to check before adding the rest of the chopped tomato to the pot of pasta and sauce.
I don't think I'll make this particular sauce again, but I might make a from-scratch version. It might turn out better if it's not working from a taste deficit.

And now I have to go to bed, since I'm due at my sister and BIL's house for brekkie early tomorrow morning.
One last fun thing: Subversive Cross-stitch
As a sometime cross-stitcher and friend of free-speaking ladies (sometimes one myself), I found this to be so funny and so appropriate for counteracting that illusion that only old ladies cross-stitch. Thanks to Diablo for posting this.


Partisanship and the Media

Here is a fascinating article from The Washington Post:
Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases
It confirms what I've always thought, that people will see what they are expecting to see. I found the paragraphs about context to particularly enlightening.

Progress at the site

Here's a picture of the One Lincoln Park jobsite taken yesterday. As you can see, they've started digging! Yay! (On the other hand, there are issues with that digging that might get them into trouble, but that's another story altogether.)


Latest Activities

On Thursday I had fun going to a party, meeting new people, and dancing to some great 80s music (no, not a contradiction in terms). At least, I did until I put my foot wrong and hurt my knee a bit. Just enough to put an end to the dancing, not a permanent injury, thank goodness. We left at a good time. People were getting drunker and I wasn't, particularly as I needed to go to work the following day. Also, there was a guy whom I liked, but he was entirely too confident of his progress. It was better to leave and remove the temptation -- for myself that is. We'll see if anything else comes of it.

Today I've been cleaning the inside of my house. Tomorrow, my brother-in-law is coming over to help me clean the outside.

While I've been cleaning the house, I've been watching a dragon movies marathon on the SciFi Channel. Suprisingly, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God has been the best of the lot, with some truely egalitarian moves (there is no traditional romance, the main hero and heroine are already married, two of the adventurers are women, and not in namby-pamby roles). I liked it.

I have to admit I've been enjoying the Burger King ads featuring little people. Not only am I happy they've got employment, they're also darn funny. Certainly a lot better than the scary Burger King dude they had in thier last series of ads.

Lastly, you might take a look at the most recent addition to my list of cat pictures. Since I made a page devoted to Martin, I thought it only fitting that I do so for Matti as well.


I forgot to add that my friend, keckler's, post about corn has inspired me to eat as much corn as I can, even if I have to buy it in a grocery store. I recently found some lovely lovely white corn (my favorite) for 8 ears/dollar. See the proof of my enjoyment below. Delicious!


Purple horseshoes

A friend of mine invited me to a fundraiser this weekend. I was about to refuse, as I had wanted to be a hermit this weekend. Then she said it was a polo tournament. I did a mental doubletake. How often is one invited to a polo tournament? So, of course, I said "yes."
It was a lot of fun. There was a giant tent to keep us out of the sun - it was very hot (100 deg. F) - and lots of food and drink. After we stuffed ourselves, I turned my attention to the polo matches. The final game of the day (not the final one of the tournament, I believe) was the best. The teams were much more professional (instead of the more amateurish ones in the games before). Their play was a lot tighter, more skilled, better teamwork and their horses were all proper horses. The amateur teams had horses that varied in size more, mainly because they are the horses available. I think there were even a few Argentines playing in the final match but I missed the entire statement by the announcer. They had a British announcer, which made it all the more official sounding.
Between the games, they have a tradition of allowing the spectators to come out on the field and replace the divots. I did that once and while out there, I found a horseshoe! My first impulse was to return it, but my friends said I should keep it. After a moment's thought, I agreed with them.
When I got home, I investigated the "proper" way of hanging the horseshoe. I found that it can be interpreted either way, so I decided to choose by testing each way. First I hung it with the ends down (as they do in Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.) then I hung it with the ends up (as they do in Great Britain). Turns out I prefer the latter. Perhaps that's the way I'm used to seeing it, but I also liked the bowl shape it makes. The shape seems to be very receptive and that's what I'd like to promote.
I had fun, but now I really want to go riding!

And so it begins...

Here's the first of many panoramas I intend to take of the project I'm working on. As you can see, they've started to push dirt around and drill piers.
I've started going to coordination meetings, which are very interesting. I'm also starting to go to OAC (owner-architect-contractor) meetings which are scary as crap. There is a lot of money being handed around and mistakes can be costly. I feel very inexperienced at the OAC meetings. The coordination meetings are better. In them, I get to solve problems with the engineers and contractors. There are fewer bigwigs, so things are a bit more relaxed.
I am trying hard to keep a positive outlook on this project, despite the challenges we are experiencing now and will face in the future.

Gender Marketing

I noticed this in Costco on Wednesday. It was disturbing to say the least:

They are two different *packaging* versions marketed according to gender. I'm nearly positive that the disk itself is the same. The "Buttercup Edition" has a picture of Wesley and Buttercup on the front and text about the lovestory on the back. The "Dread Pirate Edition" has a picture of the masked Wesley and text about the adventure story on the back. True, the DVDs are not labelled "Boys" and "Girls" versions, but they nearly well did. Frankly, I'd rather have the boys version and there's nothing askew with my femininity. Take that [rude gesture] gender stereotypes!


Gender Inequality

As a female in a male dominated field, I found this article about the experiences of a transgendered scientist to be fascinating:
Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist


Italian Flair

Trust the Italians to do things properly.
Here's a photo of the Italian soccer players at thier triumphant return to Rome. They are all wearing matching all-black suits (Italian, of course!) that look [kiss-the-fingertips] perfecto!


Oh how I love a rainy night...

...when I'm asleep in my cozy little tent (pictured to the right).
It rained during 90% of my camping trip this weekend. Wacky eastcoaster that I am, I actually enjoyed it. We didn't get to do any hikes or outdoor activities other than gather round the fire and propane heater under cover of the shelter tent. As long as I was relatively dry and warm(ish), I was happy. I loved waking up in the middle of the night to a downpour. It reminded me of my childhood in a house with a metal roof.
Getting to the campsite was a bit hairy though. It was raining from Castle Rock to Colorado Springs and at times it was pouring so hard that I could barely see the road. I just followed the car in front of me at a reasonable distance. Thankfully, it stopped raining long enough for me to set up the tent when I got there.
I had lots of funs with my friends. Here you can see us setting up tarps to protect our cooking area from a potential rain onslaught (during the lulls we could never tell if it was going to clear up or continue). As you can see, we are an ingenious group.

Good News and Bad News

The Good News: Italy wins the World Cup! They played very well and deserved thier win.
The Bad News: The World Cup is over for four more years. [sniff] I'm going to have pick up watching European soccer in the interim.

The game was a real battle of giants. The Italians dominated the first half, but got tired. That meant the French dominated the second half. Thankfully, the Italians held on with thier awesome defense and eventually it went to penalty kicks. I say "thankfully" because I decided I was on the Italian side when the French got a goal off a penalty kick won off a dive. In fact, for all thier reputation for drama, the Italians were not the worst offenders for faking fouls. During this game, at least at the beginning, before the ref caught on and stopped believing thier tricks, the French were falling at the drop of a hat. The Italian goal was a real beauty, headed in off a beautiful cross from a corner kick. Then, in the second overtime period, nine minutes before the end of play and the beginning of the penalty kick "shootout", the French superstar, Zidane, lost his temper and headbutted an Italian player. It was caught on tape, but that wouldn't have mattered in soccer unless one of the officials saw it. Thankfully one did and reported it to the ref. Zidane was sent off the field with a red card. It was a stunning and horrible way to end his career.
On the plus side, I have a new love in my life -- the Italian captain, Fabio Cannavaro, pictured above. Not only is he a wonderful soccer player, he is a wonderful defensive player (my area of expertise). He's a great leader as well - cool-headed, enthusiastic, caring. He's a family man, with a pretty, but not super-model wife (you think I joke, but you should see the Italian goalie's super-model girlfriend!). He seems to be a great player AND a great person. (Plus, he's very good-looking, despite his decision to shave his head a la Sinead O'Connor.)


Rainy Nirvana

I'm so glad I hadn't decided to go anywhere to see fireworks yesterday. I was sitting at home, reading and watching soccer and then I heard the rain start. It was a lovely drenching rain. I pulled a chair over to the sliding door and opened it up so I could enjoy the sound and smells of the rain as I read. When the kitties came over to join me, I opened up the screen door as well. Of course, they had to go out. Martin did a little at first, venturing only as far as the roof overhang protected him. Then Matti showed up and decided that it would be better under the tree. He dashed out (I didn't move, since I predicted the outcome) and made it to the trees. Martin tried to follow, but only made it to the far side of the porch before deciding that no, this wasn't any fun. He dashed back. Not two seconds behind him was Matti dashing back. Turned out the rain was coming through the leaves. Anyone who knows cats knows that Matti's next move was to ask to be petted. In the cat world, humans are paw-warmers, food-getters, and fur-dryers. As a domesticated human, of course I complied with the request. So, they settled down by the door to watch outside from the comfort of the house. A couple times Matti ventured out, but never went outside the wind shadow of the house. This picture was taken after I closed the screen door to cut down on a bit of the cool air.
What with the feline entertainment, good book, and lovely rainy weather, I had a perfect evening!

Review: Cars

I saw Cars over the weekend. As I expected, it was a lovely example of Pixar's strengths: attention to detail, research, multi-level humor, and subtle characterization. I can't wait to get the DVD to find out what lovely jokes I missed the first time around. The voice talent was good, particularly Luigi (voiced by the incomparable Tony Shalhoub). The animation was phenomenal, particularly the scene when Doc Hudson shows his stuff. I've also heard the soundtrack highly praised.
That being said, I think the plot was a little bit predictable. I think Owen Wilson was well cast as Lightning McQueen, but it was simultaneously a little too easy a characterization for him. No stretch.
The jokes were great, particularly Mater's "happier than a tornado in a trailer park" and "he did what in his cup?" If you see it, make sure you see the credits. There's a great joke by John Ratzenburger. Also, the list of people they thank for the research portion is fascinating. Those who know of John Lasseter's obsession for research will not be surprised.
Overall, my feelings on the movie are overwhelmingly positive. I'd say it's a 3 1/2 stars out of 5, and I'll definitely be getting the DVD.

Sweets for the sweet

I made this Apple Cake with Caramel Topping for a BBQ yesterday and got many compliments on it. I'm going to have to remember it for the next office dessert contest. It's moist and cinnamony and has lovely bits of caramelization and pecans. I highly recommend it.

And this Honey-Lemon Baklava is one of my specialties. I usually make it for the Office "Holiday" (Christmas) Cookie exchange. I made it last week for a gal at the office. She says it's the best baklava she's ever had and requested it instead of birthday cake. (I am *such* a sucker for a compliment.)
My favorite moment in the making of baklava is when I pour the hot honey mixture over the fresh-from-the-oven baklava. The heat from the pan brings the honey back to a boil and the whole pan of golden baklava bubbles merrily for at least a minute or two. I tried to photograph it, but there was so much movement the camera had trouble with the shot.


Review: The Devil Wears Prada

Three Stars out of Five

It was ok. I like Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci. They did were very likeable. The fashion was fascinating to observe and I now have a new perspective on transformation stories. However, one of those three stars I gave is due entirely to the performance by Meryl Streep. Villans can be so easy to caricature and she did not. The ruthless and self-serving part was easy, but she also humanized the character. She was brilliant.
I won't buy this movie, but I will genuflect in the general direction of the amazing Meryl Streep. Brava.