Taking a Break

As I mentioned yesterday, my vacation seems to be divided between being at home and regaining my natural rhythms, and going out and doing stuff with my family. Today, in the early afternoon, we went to see The Golden Compass. It's a lovely movie, and they spent much time and effort to relay the world in which it is set, but it can't compare to reading the actual books. There is so much material and so little time in which to tell it, that the whole movie becomes more exposition than story. The acting is well done -- I particularly like the main girl -- but the true heroes are the special effects people. They did a splendid job.
We also had a surprise birthday dinner for my sister-in-law, Amy, this afternoon. We went to The Melting Pot, a fondue place in Louisville. It was fun, though we shouldn't have sat a vegetarian at the same end of the table as the guy allergic to mushrooms. Lessons learned. It was a long meal, filled with lots of laughs. It's a bit of an expensive venture, but I knew that going in. I'd recommend it for a date-night.
Tomorrow looks to be fairly obligation free. I'll probably go to my sister's for New Year's Eve. I was invited out to a music thing, but it didn't grab me. Too much work and too many people, I think. The rest of the day seems blessedly low key.

I'm beginning to re-read The Four Agreements, and I was just reading about being "impeccable with your word," primarily not using it against yourself. It's one of my chief flaws. I'm way too hard on myself. Why is it so hard to be kind to yourself?

And I've spotted another bike I like, the Honda CB. I'm getting the impression that I like practical looking bikes with slightly retro styling.


Home Again Home Again, Jiggetty Jog

I started a post last night about how nice it was to be home again, and then (ironically) today I spent most of the day out. I maintain it IS nice to be home, you just have to stay at home to really reap the benefits. I left my parents at my sister's house yesterday and came home to do laundry and wrap gifts that had not managed to be wrapped before Christmas. It was lovely. At one point, I was trapped, lying back on the couch with one cat on my lap and another one tucked in the crook of my arm. Fortunately, I had a good movie on, I Now Pronounce You, Chuck and Larry. It's actually, a pretty hilarious movie, if a bit contrived. The sentiments in the movie were very worthwhile. Highlights include: the comic chemistry between Adam Sandler (in fine "Sandman" form) and Kevin James (a very good comic and a great "straight man"); the fine looking Jessica Biel; and a cast that included many notable actors/comics, such as Ving Rhames (his sweet singing and dancing in the shower is not to be missed) and Dan Aykroyd (I love his line - "If my pencil sharpener had a skirt, I'd have to hide it."; and the participation of actual gay people (Richard Chamberlain and Lance Bass, for example).
The cats also "helped" me wrap presents. I tried to take photos, but the results were either out of focus or (typical for cats) they had just moved out of the pose. Needless to say, they were very happy to have me back. They are well taken care of while I'm gone (the lady who feeds them sure charges enough) but they miss human companionship.

Today, we had Second Christmas (like the Second Coming, I suppose) with the family members who were in CO over Christmas, and did not make the pilgrimage out to OK. We had it at my half-brother's house, along with a yummy breakfast. I just realized that I didn't describe my "loot" for this year. I got some fun stuff: Rome, the first season (DVD); a pair of beautiful Spode tea cups and saucers (which I am using to drink tea, right now); a work coat (for the jobsite and camping); a Japanese tea set with some fabulous teas; bath stuff (which I already used during/after that lovely jetted tub bath I posted about); a "shopping spree" (just one or two items, really) at Ann Taylor Loft with a pair of fabulous fashion consultants; and a crepe pan with crepe recipe book and Nutella. I think that's everything and I haven't left anyone out. Anyway, it was a good haul. I'm looking forward to using each of these things, but in the long run, the best thing about Christmas is the company.
(Granted, at this point, I'm also looking forward to a little time to myself, but I love and appreciate my family.)

We also went to see I Am Legend. It is a very well done movie. There are so many subtleties that we are just not used to seeing in Hollywood productions. Not everything is explained (hallelujah!) and some small moves are done only once and not referenced again. Will Smith does an excellent job, as usual (unlike my brother-in-law, I find Will to be pretty universally charming). I love that he can carry a film all by himself with no problem. I highly recommend this movie, though I'll warn you, it's scary and deep.


Sparkly Roads OK

Home again. Ah!
We got back from Oklahoma late last night. It took us 15 hours (slower than the usual 12-13, but faster than the 17 it took us to get to OK). There had been a storm in Colorado, but for the most part, the roads were fine. For all of eastern Colorado, the roads were dry, but with dry snow drifting across, all sparkly in the headlights. Once we got to Denver, the roads became packed with snow. The roads in my neighborhood were packed too, but the Subaru did excellently well. I know I've said this before, but all-wheel-drive rocks.
Everyone travelled pretty well (except poor Nina, the Bernese Mtn. dog, who wasn't feeling well). We had three cars, three dogs, and seven people. And unfortunately, only two walkie-talkies. Man, those things are awesome when you're caravaning. Cell phones are OK in a pinch, but they tend to lose battery charge and signal when they're out in the boonies.

Now we're trying to figure out what the plan is for the day. [sigh] Families. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.


Water Therapy

My parents have one of those jetted tubs and man oh man, does it feel goooooood.
It's like having a mini Jacuzzi. I had jets aimed directly at my shoulders (where I most often have tension) and boy, is it relaxing. I had to come out eventually, of course. I used the lovely sugar scrub and scented lotion that Jenn gave me for Christmas, and now I'm feeling perfectly relaxed.
I'm in the final third of the book too, so hopefully I can finish that before I get back.
Ah. I don't think I've felt quite so relaxed in a while.
... oh, gotta go. They're playing a movie recollection game called Cineplexity. I'm needed!

Missing Home

It's right around this point in the visit that I start missing home. Too many people with their own routines and entertainments in too small a space. Fortunately, I have a good book I'm reading. I stopped reading the motorcycle book and switched to a scifi book that I actually bought for someone else. They won't mind at all if I read it myself before giving it to them (in fact, we've done this with other books). As I said, it's very good, so it's going pretty quickly.
My parents' internet connection is via satellite, so it's annoyingly slow at times. I've become sadly addicted to DSL or cable internet. The Slowskis would love it though. It is keeping me from doing much surfing, and I haven't been able to get my blog's stats yet today. (Don't know why that site is particularly hard to get through without getting a timed out error message.)
I am enjoying being away from work. In fact, I haven't thought about it this whole time until just now. Muahahahahaha! I also haven't thought about exams. Double muahaha!
I do, however, miss the cats.
We should be headed back tomorrow, so I'll be seeing them again tomorrow night and will be able to catch up on the internet news. Not that I think all that much has happened since it's the holidays.
Back to appreciating the moment!


[sv] It's Christmas! [/sotto voce]

When we were growing up, my sister was always the first one up on Christmas morning. She would come into my room and whisper, "It's Christmas!" This is my first Christmas without her alarm clock nature, but I woke early. I'm tempted to call and wake her up, but we're adults now and there are no stocking presents with which to entertain ourselves, so I'll restrain myself and write this post instead.
Our Christmas prep went well. I made the Chicken Salad and the Toast Cups, Deviled Eggs (in honor of my sister), and Rice Krispy Treats (marshmallow creme (a standard ingredient for fudge) was purchased instead of marshmallows, so I'm looking forward to how that turns out). Breads (baguettes and banana bread) were also made, and veggies and dip prepared. The famous artichoke heart dip was put together, but not baked. The dough for the cookies was made, but it looks like the actual baking and decorating will occur today. AND of couse, we watched A Christmas Carol (the best one, the one with George C. Scott).
And now the prep is over, and it's Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you all, whether you're celebrating the birth of Jesus or taking an opportunity to get and give loot or sharing your love with those around you or taking a day off work. Merry Christmas everyone.
Hugs to you all.

PS - Lest I get too much ribbing for how early I'm up, it's actually 6:00 in the central time zone.


Christmas Prep

It is our family tradition that in order to make Christmas Day as work free as possible, as much food prep as possible happens the day before. So, the plan is, go into town, get a few last items, then spend the afternoon making cookies, cutting up vegetables, mixing up the dip, and making my Christmas specialty Chicken Salad in toast cups.

One thing I love about vacation is not knowing what time it is. The day just flows as it flows.


Shiny Roads are Bad

My plans for the holidays includes driving to see my parents in eastern Oklahoma, with my brother and his girlfriend and a married couple whom I'll call my adopted brother and sister. (He is one of my brother's best and oldest friends, so he grew up with our family and when he got married, his wife was adopted in too.) The group was five people and two dogs, so we took two cars. We took into account the unpredictability of the weather and took a Toyota Forerunner and a Subaru Impreza. We're really glad we did because just north of Wichita, KS, we started encountering roads (the interstate, in fact) with packed snow. This slowed things down considerably, of course. Then, in the middle of Wichita, where we were switching roads, we got stuck in a traffic jam. No telling what caused it, really. We weren't moving at all for quite a while, and then we were. After we were stuck in that for a while, we finally got moving again, onto a turnpike. At the first opportunity, we stopped at a service station (which had a gas station, information kiosk, and McDonalds. Unfortunately, they also had frozen pipes, which meant no running water and no bathrooms. The boys pissed outside, and since I'm a bit compulsive about not having a full bladder ("I had a bad experience.") I found a concealed spot and went too. The cold air on my rear end wasn't the worst part, actually. There was a big snowdrift between us and the concealed spot. In the long run, though, I had no trouble at all with the experience. The roads changed from snowpacked to icy somewhere around the Oklahoma border. It wasn't too terribly bad as long as there were sensible drivers that drove at an appropriate speed, with plenty of space, and downshifting to slow. At no time did we skid badly or think we were stuck or anything. Right after Tulsa, the iciness went away for the most part and we had dry roads all the way to our destination. The trip, which normally takes us 12ish hours took 17.5 hours. But we got there safely, so I can't complain.
I'm really glad "Big D" did a good job and the extra time gave my brother's girlfriend and I a good time to chat, so that was a bonus too. I can't praise highly enough our adoptive brother, Gabe, who had the idea to bring walkie-talkies. Great idea!

I hope all of you are safe and sound too! Happy holidays! I plan to keep blogging during the trip, so I'll still be around, but I don't think I'll be able to keep up with reading friends blogs as I'd like. I'll be sure to catch up when I get home though. Don't want to miss any of the fun. ;)


On Failure

fail·ure (per dictionary.com)
- The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends: the failure of an experiment.
- The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short: a crop failure.
- A cessation of proper functioning or performance: a power failure.
- Nonperformance of what is requested or expected; omission: failure to report a change of address.
- The act or fact of failing to pass a course, test, or assignment.
- A decline in strength or effectiveness.

Most of these definitions have a negative connotation: not achieving, not succeeding, not functioning properly, not being strong or effective. But does "failure" have to have a negative connotation? A friend once challenged me on this point and I have to admit he had a point.
Failure can mean many positive things: you tried, you took a risk, you did something that stretched your abilities. There are many things you can gain through failure: what doesn't work, where your boundaries are, where you can grow and develop your skills. And ultimately, all things come to an end and isn't that often interpreted as failure? (Organ failure is the most obvious one.) The end is just the end - it's not good or bad in and of itself. The value we put on it is not inherent, and therefore is something we can change.

Since I've talked about endings being natural and a part of life in my post, Good at Endings, I'll move on to the point on taking risks. An article on MSN Money called "Do dyslexics make great CEOs?" makes a very good point that people with dyslexia get used to failure. This translates into success because they're more willing to takes risks, to delegate, to value the efforts of others, and to not get discouraged by the small issues. The fact that these traits are a byproduct of their abilities is something that's generally ignored by the marketplace, but the traits themselves are valued. These traits that came from struggle and risk and imperfection.
As a recovering perfectionist, the revelation that failure has great value was an important one. I refer back to it whenever I can. I'm not very comfortable yet with failure, but I hope to be able to take enough risks in life to become acquainted with it, and maybe, eventually, to become friends with it.

Acknowledgements go to MWT, who subsequently blogged about endings. MWT's comment about feeling like a failure prompted this post, though I admit to spending much time thinking on this subject in the last few months.



I was going to post something witty about... well, I don't know what about, but I would have found something. However, I just spent most of the evening making food for the cats and vacuuming. I just looked up and it's nearly 10:30, way past my bedtime. You'll have to entertain yourselves for a little while. I'll see if I can find something interesting to post tomorrow, probably briefly during work. On the docket for the "after work special" is cleaning the kitchen and bathroom and wrapping presents. Not entertaining (OK, wrapping presents is), but it's nice to have a clean house again. :)


A Couple Items

When buying Christmas presents on Amazon, a couple items for me slipped into the order. One of them was this book: Breaking the Limit: One Woman's Motorcycle Journey Through North America by Karen Larsen. I started reading it this afternoon and man, is it a tough read for the winter. I keep wanting to go out and ride my bike too!

I went to a couple "cookie exchanges" in the last few days. I didn't have time to make my usual holiday baking item -- baklava -- so I made rice krispie treats instead. My only problem? I bought "Rice Krispies with Real Strawberries." Crap. Instead of returning them, however, I chopped up and added a couple handfuls each of dried cranberries, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds to make a "Nuts and Berries" version. Pretty slick, eh?

I'm taking Lateral Forces, right? (or Dec. Test Report, Part 2 of 2)

It felt like I was taking an exam on the American Revolution, having studied an American textbook, only to find the exam written by a Brit. If I understood the subject in a complete way, I wouldn't have any trouble. Unfortunately, I don't, so everything seemed like I should understand it, but it didn't look like it did in the study materials, so I had to extrapolate/interpolate like mad. Educated guessing as an exam taking method is not as fun as actually knowing the answer.

I'll find out results in 2-4 weeks. In the meantime, I can get back to the rest of my life: prepping for travels, wrapping presents, cleaning the house, making food for the cats, etc.

Thanks for all your support, guys!


Good at Endings

Quick aside:

I just realized that I am pretty dang good at letting go, at ending things. No, I'm not suicidal.
This weekend, I was describing for Susan the end of a friendship that occurred last year. My friend got mad and stopped talking to me and although I really enjoyed her perspective, I found it sometimes forcefully presented. I still like her and wish her well, but we only talk if we see each other at someone else's party and even then, not for long. I would be extremely surprised if I were invited to her upcoming wedding, or any party she gave, for that matter. Some might say it's a sad end for a friendship that was, at times, quite close. I think these things run thier courses and then it's done.
Another friendship I had last year took a major downgrade when I was going through a bad month and she took it personally. We salvaged something, but she doesn't get too close anymore.
I was thinking on this again today because I feel another friendship sliding away. Nothing as dramatic as the last time, but I'm feeling a gradual fading of interest. It made me a little sad at first, since my latest goal in life is to find people who want to go on adventures with me. But, if someone doesn't find me valuable enough to spend time with, hey, who am I to argue? Realizing that I don't care that it's ending anymore is a little sad too, but I'm sure I'll get over that quickly. (Later: I realized on the drive home that I'm a bit of a liar there. Most of the time, I'm getting close to not caring. The rest of the time, I want to ask "why?" even though it's a dumb question - like asking if these jeans make me look fat.) And you never know, I might be wrong. Sometimes these things take temporary downturns.
So if you're my friend and you're not interested in being friends with me, you're probably not reading this blog. However, if you decide to in the future, rest assured, I'll take it well.

Busier Than a Woodpecker at a Pirate's Convention

I'm going to a Girls-Night-In gathering tonight, and I'd like to squeeze in some more studying before the exam tomorrow morning. So, I'm a wee bit busy.

In the meantime, however, I will leave you with this link to a peculiar, but well-drawn online comic strip called The Abominable Charles Christopher about a strange, dumb beast who lives in a forest with a bunch of funny, talking animals.


Busy Weekend

My friend Susan gave me a glass teapot and flowering teas (for Christmas, kind of). Something I had seen and always wanted but never bought for myself. I had one once, but it was in a take out cup, so I couldn't watch the tea unfold into a flower shape, like I could with the glass teapot. It was so cool!
Fortunately, I had something to give in return that was perfect for Susan. I had bought it for someone else, then discovered that they had bought something really similar for their spouse for Christmas. I was considering whether I wanted to return them or give them anyway with a receipt for return or what. Then, Susan came over and I suddenly realized that the beautiful little cordial/shot glasses were perfectly suited to her modern design tastes. And from her reaction, they were. Yay serendipity!

Yesterday I went to a cookie exchange party given by my good friend, Dena. The first part of it was pretty mundane, but then some of the dominant personalities went home and Dena, goddess of entertainment, could take over. She is such a dynamic and genuine person, that I can't help enjoying her company, as did Susan.
We dragged ourselves away, to get back home (since I had to get ready for the office holiday party), only to fall back into deep conversation and no getting ready. About a quarter of an hour after the cocktails portion of the party had already started, Susan and I managed to part and I sped around trying to get ready. I got there an hour later, a quarter of an hour after the dinner portion of the party was supposed to have started. Fortunately, I didn't miss any of the dinner. It was a western themed party and more folks than I expected dressed with some degree of westerny-ness. I had a western-esque shirt and my motorcycle chaps. That was the extent of my preparedness. The food was good and so was talking to my various co-workers. I sat next to a construction guy (who, since he is now affianced, seems much more relaxed around me. I think, being a very good-looking fellow, he feels besieged by feminine attention at times. Being part of an acknowledged couple has done him good.) on one side and the wife of another construction guy on the other. She was very animated and entertaining, particularly throughout the white elephant gift exchange. I ended up with (don't ask me how someone decided to bring this as a white elephant gift) a satin nightgown. [shrug] It looked like it would fit me, and I would actually have a use for it, unlike 80% of the other gifts. It's neither ugly nor risque, so why not? The rest of the evening, people entertained themselves with poker tables, kareoke, a shooting gallery, and cigars outside. I had never tried kareoke. I had been to one party that had it, but dodged the peer pressure by getting into a very deep conversation with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Later, I discovered that a guy I was attracted to was a very good singer and had helped out other people's singing by singing with them. Damn, missed opportunity for flirtation. Oh well. Since then, I've wondered if I had the guts to try it. Last night I did. I sang "Brickhouse" with my friend Stacey. We had the bad luck to be singing at the exact same time that half the people at the party decided to leave. It was a little irritating and I think I'll have to put singing kareoke in the same category as skydiving -- OK, did it once, I've had the experience, but I'll probably not do it again.

Today, I've been studying for the exam I'm taking Tuesday. Since I've now spent half an hour writing this post, I think it's time to get back to it. :)


Best Meal at Le Central (so far)

My dear friend and cousin, Susan, came down from Loveland yesterday to have dinner with me. It was to be celebratory one, since I was supposed to have finished the latest battery of exams (not the last, though). I moved one of the exams to next Tuesday, however, so that I could take some time for personal things last weekend. (Auntie Ruthie is on the mend and doing very well, I hear.) So we had to celebrate the taking of the fifth exam, passing of four (so far), and just being together. Not too shabby, I'd say.
Susan is a serious francophile, so we went to Le Central, "the affordable French restaurant." It is affordable, but only relatively so. We got an hors devours to share, and each got two drinks, an entree, and a desert, all for $50 each (incl. tip). This is a good deal, even outside of the fact that it was one of the best meals I've ever had, and certainly the best I've had at Le Central. I not only loved my own food, but loved what I tasted of Susan's meal, as well. So, on to the descriptions. (I was assisted in this task by menus that Le Central posts on thier website. Very handy!)
We started with drinks. I had a Martini au Poire, which was "Crisp Grey Goose pear vodka, sweet crème de cassis and fresh lime juice with a slice of pear." Wow, was it good. It was a perfectly balanced drink, due, in large part, to the fineness of the vodka. I've had Absolute Pear vodka, and while it was tasty, there was still the sharp bite of alcohol behind it. The Grey Goose pear vodka was as smooth as silk and mellow as a summer night. Yum! Susan had Le Kir, which was "Chardonnay and black current liquor, garnished with a lemon twist." A very simple drink, and very refreshing. The Chardonnay was excellent and it would have been an easy mistake to think that economizing with the wine wouldn't be noticed because of the added flavor of the liquor. Bravo, Le Central.
Susan chose the hors devours. I had never had escargot before I met Susan, and this was only my second time having it, so I made her choose. She selected Escargots Bourguignon, which is "Six escargots sauteed with mushrooms, garlic, butter and parsley." Oh. My. God. It was so good. I know that's because of the mushrooms, garlic, and butter, but [shrug] what can I say? I'm easy. The escargot essentially borrows the flavors in which it is cooked (much like tofu does). In this case, the flavors were excellent. We made sure to sop up every last morsel of sauce with the french bread that was served with it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
It was difficult to choose an entreè. There were so many tasty looking ones. Susan was tempted by thier Christmas Goose meal and I looked longingly at the Boeuf Bourguignon. I have fond memories of my mother's version and the only thing that kept me from ordering Le Central's was that a) it was something I could and probably would make myself and b) it would not be served, as my mother's was, on spaetzel. Ultimately, however, I chose something that sounded delicious and that I would not make myself. My entreè was Mahi Sauce Mole Durango, which was "Coco powder dusted filet of mahi mahi paired with a classic mole sauce of ground toasted nuts and seeds, bittersweet chocolate and fire roasted peppers." I have heard of mole sauce before, and possibly even had it before without knowing exactly what was in it. Of course, it was the chocolate ingredient that intrigued me. The sauce was excellent. It started out sweet (not chocolatey sweet) and then deepened into the mellow heat of the peppers. The peppers gave flavor without overpowering the sauce or the dish as a whole. I could barely taste the chocolate. It's not as recognizable when it's not flavored with sugar. I think it was the fats/oils of the chocolate brought the main value to the sauce, smoothness and a more substantial "body." I'm not positive, but I think we could credit the chocolate for the smoothing out the flavor of the peppers. This well balanced sauce paired excellently well with the fish. I had not been sure this would be the case. I ordered the fish done "medium," since I was concerned about the fish being overdone. (I've gotten way too used to the deliciousness of seared tuna.) The fish was done perfectly well, flakey and not dry. I tasted the fish by itself and it was nice, but paired with the mole sauce, it was excellent. I really enjoyed the dish. (It was served with some rice and green beans and a cooked tomato and a three inch portion of corn on the cob. They were ok, but not remarkable.)
Susan's entreè was the most expensive on the menu, but for good reason. Not only did it have some pricey ingredients, it was DE-licious. She chose Tournedos Rossini, which was "Seared beef filet served on top of a brioche toast with seared foie gras enhanced with a succulent Madeira wine and black truffle demi glace." Now my mouth is watering again. She ordered it medium rare and I got to taste a slice of the beef with an attendant slice of the foie gras. I was transported to food heaven for the minute it took me to eat it. The flavor of the two pieces of meat together paired excellently well, on top of the fact that they were very good quality. The caramelization of the sear brought all those wonderful flavors to the fore. [sigh] yum. [stirs oneself from a daydream of eating more Tournedos Rossini] As with my entreè, it was served with vegetables (in Susan's case, mashed potatoes instead of rice) that were ok, but not remarkable.
Fortunately, the portions were small, so that we still had room for dessert. I've had many of the different desserts they offer. The crème brulèe and the pain perdu are both excellent. I had the Cobbler du Central, which is "Warm apple and pear compote with cinnamon and spices topped with almond and pistachio crumble and vanilla ice cream." It was a perfect fall dessert. The crumble on top was yummy (probably a lot of butter, mmmmmm) and the spicing of the apple and pear compote was delicious. Susan chose to have some coffee and Iles Flottantes (loosely translates as "Floating Islands"), which is "A soft meringue floating on a bath of crème anglaise." Yum yum yum-yum yum. Susan described it as the most delicious marshmallow you've ever had. It was true. Light and fluffy and floating in a pool of delicious crème anglaise, which is a sweet vanilla flavored sauce, much like ice cream "batter" before it's put in the ice cream maker. It also had some caramel drizzled and pooled on the side and that was delicious too. The almost-but-not-quite burnt flavor was a great foil for the sweetness of the crème anglaise. It was the last of the iles flottantes, so we felt really fortunate to have it. We felt full a few bites short of finishing our desserts, so the portion sizes were perfect.
I highly recommend the restaurant, though I've heard reports that some people have felt ill after having the mussels. I'm not sure if that is a flaw in the restaurant or people's ignorance of their body's tolerance for shellfish. It's a good idea to make reservations if you're dining on a busy weekend night or for thier famous weekend brunch. They also have some really nice group options, particularly these feasts. I go to Le Central for lunch whenever I feel like I deserve something a little extra. My favorite lunch is the Salade de Culotte de Boeuf, which is "Grilled sirloin steak served over a classic cesar salad, accompanied by a side of flash fried Swiss cheese." I've tried finding other things on the menu to eat, but this, essentially a steak salad, is my favorit. They have a lunch martini special (which I don't indulge in) and a dessert special (which I occassionally do indulge in).

I hope you have had as good a meal as this sometime in your life and if not, that you will have one soon!


December Test Report, Part 1 of 2

I took the General Structures Exam today. I feel like I did better on it than I did on Construction Documents (which I passed), so I think there's a strong likelihood that I passed. I didn't feel like a complete idiot and thought I was able to be a "good guesser" (more on this later). There were some that I had no friggin clue (and knew I should) and some that I knew I had seen during my studies, but could not recall the equation. Oh well. We'll see in 2-4 weeks.

Speaking of which, I got the long-awaited results for the Building Planning Exam. You won't believe it, but I passed. Yeah, I know, you're stunned aren't you? To stunned to speak, I'm sure. ;)

While playing with the freerice.com vocabulary game, I observed something interesting. I have gotten to very high levels (momentarily to 46) and it's not because I have a dictionary for a head. It's because I'm a good guesser. I look at the word and after thinking "what in the heck does that mean," I think "well, that sounds really similar to" or "something tells me it's that one." Maybe I heard it once long long ago and don't even remember the context. I don't know what knowledge I'm drawing from but I have a higher rate of success than I think most people do (at least at vocab). This is what I think I'll have to do to pass these tests without studying more. (No, I'm not going to do THAT!)

Which brings me to a quote a coworker just told me: "Not everything worth doing is worth doing well." I think that's my current motto. This exam is a "competency exam." I don't get extra points for being an A student. All I do is get a paper that says pass or fail. So why discard perfectly lovely parts of my life (like seeing friends and family) to do very well on the test when I can get by with well? I think this is ironic on the heels of the competitive post.

And finally: Yesterday I posted about an old favorite. (Later: Janiece posting a music video gave me an idea. Here's a link to a YouTube segment of Red Dwarf.) Today, my friend Janiece posted about a favorite of hers and now I have a new favorite, a string quartet that gives a new meaning to "classical rock". Here's the song that lured me in (appropriate that it has an Indian flavor) and here's the CD I've put on my Amazon wish list.


Competitive This...

In the last month or so, I've been called competitive by three different people, all of whom I regard highly, and tonight, while trying to study, my brain will not let go of a rant on the subject, so I'll spell it out here to quit dwelling on it.
I don't consider myself competitive. I don't see myself as having a drive to win. I think it is different from the drive to do well. One of the reasons it bothers me that people think I do have this drive is because in order to win, there must also be a loser. I don't want other people to be losers. (OK, I do, but very rarely. I'm only human, after all.)
So how do I disprove being competitive? I have pondered this. The only thing I can come up with is -- Lose.
So, you're right folks. I was wrong. I'm the most competitive damn S.O.B. you ever met. Face me over the game board and quiver in your boots. If I don't win, ain't nobody happy. So just leave me alone and compete with someone else.

Hmmm... that's karma for you. I write a pissy post and get mad at one of the cats for knocking stuff off the desk and now I feel terribly guilty. Nothing like hurting an animal or a child to make one feel incredibly small.

OK, not convinced? Here we go:
Dictionary.com says:
com·pet·i·tive 3. having a strong desire to compete or to succeed.
Well, I admitted above that I want to do well and one of dictionary.com's definitions of
suc·ceed: 2. to thrive, prosper, grow, or the like
I do have a strong desire to thrive, prosper, grow, or the like, which means you're right, Anne = competitive.
I realize that by protesting this labelling, I am potentially insulting everyone who is proud of the fact that they are competitive. I don't like it when applied to myself, but there are several people I know who carry it off fine. (There are also several I know who take it to uncomfortable extremes, but assume you're not one of them.) Think of it this way: if you're offended, then I win, so do your damnedest to not be. :P

[Gasp] Squee!

I was on Amazon today, checking on an order and spotted the Red Dwarf Complete Collection. Squee! I've wanted them since Max lent his to me a long while back and I've never gotten them since they tend to be expensive. This, however, looks like a good deal. It's a really funny English scifi/comedy show. Like The Odd Couple, if it were set in space and one of the couple were a hologram of a dead guy and a complete git. Hee! I love that show. If I don't get these for Christmas (which I probably won't, since it's probably too late), I'll buy them myself with some credit card reward money. That'll take the sting out of the price and I'll get to finally have these!

Have I said "squee?"

PS - I had a hellacious time getting the link to Amazon right. I ended up having to transcribe it myself, character by character. Wierd!
Oh, and thank goodness for Blogger's wonderful new autosave feature, 'cause in testing the link, I would have lost the post without it.

PPS - The link copy/paste didn't work again on the show link. Fortunately the imdb link was a lot shorter than the Amazon one.


Cautiously Optimistic

I started doing some of the practice exams this evening and although I'm not getting everything right, I'm doing pretty well in terms of understanding a majority of the questions. There are three chapters in a second book that I should really read. I might skim them tomorrow. We'll see.
Regardless, I'm happy that I'm not super stressed out.

I've been spending some of my procrastination time reading the archives of the online comic strip, Player vs. Player. It's a funny strip with lots of computer/gaming/scifi references, but most important of all -- well drawn characters.

Also, my sister made me laugh my ass off when she said that she had a feeling of half deja vu when she sat in the passenger side seat of my car. See, my brother-in-law, her husband, also has a Subaru Impreza WRX. The reason it's half deja vu? My BIL's car is impeccably clean. Mine, however, is... not. Not that there's McDonald's french fry boxes all over the floor or anything, but the dash tends to get dusty and sometimes dead leaves collect on the floor mats. I wasn't offended at all, just had a really good laugh.

My big Amazon order last week hit a snag since I was trying to get the free shipping, which necessitates waiting 'til everything's collected to send it out. When they predicted I'd get the whole order in mid to late January, I went in and changed the settings to "send it whenever you have stuff to send." Snag unravelled and now I have at least some of my purchases headed my way and the rest are scheduled to be sent early next week. There may be a Christmas after all. Whew!

One more advantage to all-wheel-drive: I usually like to back into the garage to park. (I prefer to be able to see where I'm going.) However, when there's snow and ice, I used to have to just suck it up and drive in front-ways, since I had front wheel drive and I needed to get powered wheels onto dry concrete to pull into the garage. Now all my wheels are powered, so I can back in under snowy conditions -- the back wheels will pull me in. Yipee! Small thing, but it's nice.


If The Boo-Tuh Fits...

Our office is having a western themed holiday party, so this evening, some friends of mine and I went to Shepler's to find a few western themed articles of clothing. I'm wearing my chaps (squee!), but I have no western blouse to go with it. I found one on sale for about $10. It'll do. I also looked around at the boots and tried some on. I don't think I'm a cowboy boot kinda gal. They look cool, but I just don't like the fit of the ones I've tried (not many). I did try on a really cool pair of boots that were a cross between a motorcycle boot and a western boot. They fit well and were on sale. The only problem? The toe was about an inch longer than I'm used to having. I thought that might be too risky to work with on a motorcycle. No pointy toes, only square ones!
One of my friends bought really snazzy red cowboy boots though. She was ecstatic.
My search for the perfect motorcycle boot continues...


A Full Day

My sister and I went up to Loveland to leave a card for my aunt and ended up talking to our cousin (her son) and his wife and then -- wonderful surprise -- we got an audience with the the great lady herself! Yes, we got to visit, a short one, of course, with dearest Auntie Ruthie and see how she's doing. She's not out of the woods yet, but her spirits were very good at the time we saw her. She had just had a bath and was feeling quite chipper (I can SO sympathize!). It was wonderful to be able to hold her hand and give her a kiss on the cheek.
Then, we helped my brother and his girlfriend move. It was freezing and snowing, so a perfect day to be killed while moving. It wasn't far, only from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom in the same complex. BUT it was down a flight of stairs and up two. There were some question of whether we would be crushed by the TV (damn CRT) or make it to the third floor, but in the end, we got everything moved without serious injury. My back and arms are sore today and I have a crick in my neck (from moving the mattress, I'm sure), but it was worth it to help Max and Jenn.
Even though the weather was super crappy (re: aforementioned snow and ice), we went to the party in Ft. Collins. It was fun and I got to talk to some friends I don't get to see very often, but I waited too long before leaving. It turned out fine, since, although I was tired and my contacts felt like chips of plastic on my eyeballs, it was so late that there were almost no cars on the road. No cars = no unexpected variables = no skidding (yay!). "Big D" did great. The all-wheel drive really made a difference. At one point, there was a fog in addition to the snow and ice, and idiots (in SUVs and pickup trucks) went zooming on past me. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed that they seem to have made it through the fog intact (ie. no horrific wrecks), but I suppose there have been times that I've been an idiot and haven't been killed, so I can't complain. I used my usual trick of downshifting instead of braking (it irritates the hell out of me that people think you can only do that in a manual drive) and had very few problems. I officially love all-wheel drive. The wedding is Wednesday next week.

And now I'm home and the plan is to kick some study material ass.

Yep, I'm hard core.


One is the Lonliest Number

For some reason, I felt really lonely today. It happens to me sometimes (it's wierdest when I'm actually *with* someone), but today I was just ill prepared to deal with it, probably 'cause of the stresses of the week.
Fortunately, I had to return a call from my brother and he and his girlfriend pepped me up a bit. Enough to get through the rest of the day. I'm really looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.
I will be going up to Ft. Collins with my sister to help them move. What I decided to do was stop be the hospital where my aunt is and leave a card with the nurses. It shows her the magnitude of our caring without intruding on the space she needs.
Until then, study study (not like yesterday, when I ended up feeling like crap and going to bed early).
Thanks for coming by and sharing this space with me!

Top of the World

I don't know why, but I really like this photo. It's me and the two main architects on the project. One of them still works on the project and the other one has moved on to another job. He hasn't seen the building since it was a hole in the ground and he was very appreciative. I had forgotten what a cool project it is.


Auntie Ruthie

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep. The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.
- Shakespeare

Not sure when I'll be able to visit my auntie -- I'm told that having visitors (or rather, more visitors, since some of her immediate family are attending her) might not be good for her. This worries me, since all I want to do is sit by her, but I'm not there and can't see how she's doing or talk to the doctors. So I'll wait and see what her caretakers say tomorrow.
In the meantime, could you pray or send healing thoughts in her direction?
Thank you so much.


Being Flexible

I found out that my dear Auntie Ruthie (she's like a beam of light and love walking around in human form) had surgery today. I really feel like it's important to go visit her in the hospital this weekend, but as you know, I'm a wee bit worried about two exams I have to take in a week. A friend pointed out the obvious truth -- people are way more important than a stupid exam. So, I rescheduled the later exam for after the weekend. I'll still take General Structures a week from tomorrow, but I've rescheduled Lateral Forces for the following Tuesday. I'll get a couple more days to make up for the lost time this weekend.
Whew! It'll all be OK. I'll be super efficient with my "day off." I'll get to see Ruthie, help my brother move, and go to a friend's party. Then, it'll be back to the grindstone. Next weekend might be similarly partitioned. We'll see.
For now, I really should get some studying done.
As for flexibility, sometimes it really is that easy.

Later: Turned out that I did a majority of my Christmas shopping on Amazon instead of studying. Good thing too (probably should have done it earlier) since it's claiming that I won't be getting them in time for Christmas. They're always overestimating the time, and I think I will get them in time, but it might be a near thing. I couldn't resist the free shipping option. It saved me $30! And paying wouldn't have guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. I'll chance it.


Big Discovery, But Behind the Times

For those of you who haven't seen this yet (and most of you probably have), I am linking to a supercool site call FreeRice. It's a combination of vocabulary test and charity organization. It's a lot of fun, mostly because the test is designed to adjust to the proficiency of the tester. So if you're a child (or not well-read) you get easier questions than if you read the dictionary every night before bed.
Here's how it works:

How does the FreeRice vocabulary program work?
FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are thousands of words for students, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people… everyone!

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.

There are 50 levels in all, but it is rare for people to get above level 48.

I've gotten up to level 45, but it's hard to maintain for long. It's also surprisingly addictive.
(A co-worker was just describing how his son beat the system by artificially depressing his start point so that his slow climb up (three questions at a time) would all count towards free-rice. It'd be interesting to do the calculations to see how affective that would be.)

So no matter what your vocabulary level, you can enjoy this game. Cool, eh? I've heard mutterings about this before, but never had the time or inclination to investigate until today.


Progress, Of a Sort

I'm making my way slowly through the structures book. I *might* be understanding things well enough to pass, might not. We'll see in t-minus 10 days (or nine?). Yikes!

Also, my dear, very fashionable sister borrowed some dresses from me for her holiday party. Wow! I've come a long way, baby! :) When she was over here this evening, we had a really great chat and it made me realize I haven't had a good chat with her in a long while. We'll have to do something about that, right, Aileen?

I looked up the phrase "Life is too short" and came up with this phrase site.
Life's too short to spend it doing things you don't want to do. (This sentiment while I'm doing this stupid testing process?) A friend of mine has the following quote at the end of her emails:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming....


The Many Sides of Meez

For my entertainment today, I made 3D avatars of myself (and my many sides) at Meez 3D Avatars. It "only" took a couple hours (and I made 5). These are all animated, but some I chose to only show a still picture because I didn't think the animation added much (particularly the abbreviated animation they do when you have to export it -- the motorcycle had a whole segment doing a wheelie that doesn't show up in the exported animation).
Motorcycle Meez (obviously, I couldn't resist this!):
Meez 3D avatar avatars games
Diving Meez (They had a "diving" animation, but the swimmer was moving around WAY too much. Diving is about being efficient with your motion and air.):
Meez 3D avatar avatars games
Swinging Meez (I love this one. The long animation is more fun, twirling around and such.):
Meez 3D avatar avatars games
Warm & Toasty Meez (I should be longing on the couch reading, but that animation had too much movement as well. I figure this shows me chatting with the viewer.):
Meez 3D avatar avatars games
Meez allows for five variations, and I am undecided on the fifth and final one. I've tried an office one (but I tend to go for the grouchy looking animations for that) and a hula one and a dressy one, but I think I'll leave it open ended for now.