On Names and the Internet

Some of you may remember several years ago, when I started dating someone surreptitiously and then 6 weeks into it outed myself on my blog (there were signs prior to that, but nothing overt). I used to call him Le Squeeze and then after we stopped seeing each other but were still friends he became Former Squeeze (or FS). I didn't get any guff from certain quarters **cough**Max**cough** on that affectation.
This year, however, when I start dating someone (less surreptitiously) and try to come up with a suitable Internet pseudonym, it does not pass without comment. I think part of the reason for that is Max is in love and loves broadcasting it. (This is a great thing, since happiness in love is one of the things he has long deserved but only recently found.)

Most of my friends with public blogs have a pseudonym for their S.O. Janiece has the SmartMan (which is a fabulous pseudonym and I am jealous that she already thought of it), Belsum has Mr. B, Nathan has Anon GF, Carol Elaine has CuteFilmNerd. True, not everyone does this (Shawn loves Donna) but a lot do. I think it varies why, but it has a lot to do with privacy. For me, it also is a reference to the fact that I am telling a story. It is from my point of view, so anyone in it is really a character it the story. It's colored by my perceptions. I do my best to be clear when the story is fact and when it is opinion (to be honest, in my opinion (no pun intended) stories that are mostly opinion only have a very specific and limited use).
I find that I often use identifiers other than names in relating stories. For example, I had invited my sister to the birthday dinner, but she turned me down because she was feeling tired. When we arrived at the restaurant, however, there she was! She had changed her mind and decided to secretly come after all! My brother had brought her with him. Yay! I think that's mainly because I have several circles of friends, not all of whom know my sister and brother by name.
Then there's the notion that on the internet, you can redefine yourself. My mum comments here, but I don't call her "mum" here because that takes away her freedom to define herself as someone separate from (but allied to) myself.
Ultimately though, I think it comes down to privacy and distance. I have a public blog. I'm sure there are people who read my blog who I don't know (not counting you very nice lurkers who came here from a friend's blog). Using a pseudonym gives distance between these unknown people and those I care for.

So, since he's the one who sparked the controversy, I asked my boyfriend what he wanted to be called. (On Janiece's blog he's SmartFriend, but he's more than that to me.) He decided on his internet handle: UrbanDK. Interestingly, that's a much more specific and searchable name than just his first name (which I have coincidentally seen about 3 times in the last two days), but everyone's got their own style. [ETA: Scratch that about being searchable. A quick glance through the Google results show nothing related to him and lots of things relating to music and design.] Besides, it's got clever wordplay in it! How can that not be preferable?

So, you'll be seeing UrbanDK (maybe D for short - we'll see) in some of my stories from now on.

Sorry, Max. Get used to disappointment. ;)


Fresh Pasta Monday

I got a new toy yesterday, so you can be sure I was test driving it today!

Started with a lump of dough, of course.

"Kneaded" it through the largest setting on the pasta machine...

Then fed it through the smaller settings. The dough became thinner and longer each time.

Along with the roller, I got two cutters. One, for linguine, seen here...

And one for spaghetti, seen here. I had to try them both!

I reserved enough to have one small bowl of each and the rest I hung on a rack (this is a roasting rack, turned on its end) to dry. Then, from that drying portion, I divided each type into two sections, one to freeze and one to put in the fridge. I wanted to test the different methods, of course.

And this was one of the delicious bowls of pasta. I had spaghetti with just butter, salt, and herbs, and the linguine with a smidge of red sauce.

Thank you, ladies, for your awesome gift!

Birthday with Friends

My birthday began well. I was at a (non-birthday related) party on Saturday night and we had stayed so late that five minutes after midnight, my friends (the 10 or so people still lingering at the end of the party) burst into song and serenaded me with "Happy Birthday to you." We had a great time talking and laughing with them and in the wee hours of Sunday, finally left, headed for bed.
Since we had been up VERY late, we slept in and thankfully, I didn't get the first of several birthday calls until a reasonable hour of the morning. All the birthday wishes, either called in or online were greatly appreciated.
I made a yummy breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs (with mushrooms and cheese) and then we finished up watching the end of season 1 of Rome. At that point (sometime in the afternoon), we decided it was time to switch bases and zipped on down to Larkspur. There was more lounging while we watched the first episode of the second season of The Wire and then it was time to head on out for the evening's entertainment: dinner with Janiece, her SmartMan, and my siblings, Mummy Grabill and Max at Fleming's Steakhouse. Even though it was a great place, with good food and great (if dim) ambiance, I won't go on too long about the food, except to say that the steak was divine, as was the chocolate hazelnut mousse. No, I want to reserve my words for the wonderful company we had. Janiece and her SmartMan are always (to me, anyway) funny and entertaining folks. I was really happy for them to meet my siblings, who are very important to me. Mummy Grabill and Janiece got along like gang-busters (big surprise there) and Max and the guys got into an in depth discussion of PC gaming. I am happiest when surrounded by the people I care about having a good time with each other, so you can imagine how MUCH I was loving this.
Then, to top it all off, I got prezzies! I got Willow on DVD and the Lord of the Rings trilogy books (both of these were per my request) and a Kitchen Aid pasta machine from Janiece, Jeri, Michelle, and Tania! Yay! This was something I had been wanting for months, but had to table due to lack of funds. I believe I started giggling maniacally when I saw what it was and, as you can see by the photo, I am planning much delicious mischief (the "bunny ears" fingers in the photo are my brother's). You are all invited to my house for fresh pasta!
Other gifts I have received for my birthday are: concert tickets, a limerick (see below), a toaster oven, and a crockpot. I've also gotten some really lovely and funny cards. All of these are greatly appreciated.

I love you all and really appreciate what you bring to my life.

And now, from the uber-clever mind of Tania:

A talented UCFer named Anne
Leads a life both witty and urban
With two cute little catties
Martin and Matti
And a taste for properly made Naan


Happy Birthday to Me

I'm having a lovely birthday. Will report back later.


Comfort Food (On Many Levels)

Hot chocolate spiked with chocolate liquor (peppermint schnapps not on hand) and fresh homemade marshmallows melting on top


The Upside

... to unemployment is that you don't have to go out in this:

I am (and most of those I care about are) safely ensconced at home. I'm thinking of making some... mmmm... hot chocolate. I'd like to have it with homemade marshmallows, but they won't be done until tomorrow. Maybe I'll make brownies too... Hmmm...

Speaking of baked goods, the taste taste proposed in the comments of this post was held yesterday. Early polling put the cookie A (coincidentally baked by me*) ahead of cookie B (coincidentally baked by MG). Cookie A performed well in the Appearances and Flavor categories. Cookie B did very well in the Texture category. I'll see if MG can give me an update on late polling. [hint hint]





(for me, not Hitler or Germany...)




Power Games

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of going to a St. Paddy's Day party at a new friend's house. We had corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes, natch. After eating, the group broke out a game called The Great Dalmuti. It's card game that, with the right players, can be a heck of a lot of fun. We did have the right players and Janiece giggled so hard, her mascara ran. One of the interesting aspects of the game is the strategy involved in knowing when to play what cards when (which, as with any strategy, can backfire). A key point to that strategy is gaining control of the game (ie. being the person who chooses which cards to put down at the beginning of a round). It occurred to me as we were playing, that I was not taking full advantage of the strategy and power plays.

I know that as a kid, I manipulated my brother and sister so that I would have power over them, mainly by exercising (or not) my ability to entertain them. As they grew up... as WE grew up, they found other sources of entertainment and I gave up the notion that I had (or wanted to have?) power over others.

So now, as an adult, I see when I give up positions of power. For example, if I do something not right, like snap at someone when I'm tired or cranky, I'll apologize for it later, even if it's not necessary. I know that apologizing unnecessarily puts me at a disadvantage in the game of human interaction, but I do it anyway. I'm not sure why. Why give up power for no apparent gain?

It's all an interesting puzzle.


Something is Wrong on the Internet

I have been baking and cooking stuff (lasagna for sister, turkey and veg soup for Ruth, bittersweet brownies, baklava) and NOT been taking pictures of it all! Gasp! What's become of the world? Is there no one we can count on?


Moment of Silence

A good friend of mine suffered a terrible personal loss yesterday and in respect the UCF blogs will go silent today.

Go outside, live life, hug your loved ones and remind them how much they mean to you.

You, my friends and family, are my foundation.

Thanks for being here on this earth with me.


Not For Me

Made lasagna for my sister, BIL, and new nephew (OK, he'll get it after it's been processed by my sister's body). I'll drop it off at my sister's tomorrow morning on my way up to my aunt Ruth's where I'll help her maintain substantial eating habits by making "Laverne's Chili." And I'll be taking up two jars of jam, made by our own generous Janiece, one of strawberry jam and the other (mmmmmmmmmmmmm) cranberry walnut jam. Neither of those are for me either.
I'll also be making catfood (for the cats, obviously) tomorrow.

My best hope for something made for me is that I'm making baklava for a party on Saturday and (possibly) brownies for a women's gathering tomorrow night.

Yum! I love making food for others!

Thinking About Growing a Beard

I don't know if you know this about me, but I occasionally worry about imposing on others. (Those that DO know me, please keep your chuckles to a dull roar considering how obvious this is to you.)
Today (and lately in general, probably because of the new relationship), I've been more worried than usual that I'm imposing my needs/wants/personality on those around me. I know I can get enthusiastic about things, and that can be perceived as overbearing, but I really do try to be considerate of others' space.
It's times like these that I feel like taking a break from socialization and becoming a hermit. Because worrying about crap like this just wouldn't happen if I didn't have any friends! ;) Hermits have other things to worry about... like the level of the water in the creek they wash in once a month, or what to do about that especially noisy frog outside their hut.



Sorry I've been contentless lately!

I've pretty much been trying to assimilate myself to a new routine.

Here's a bit of news, however:

- My unemployment claims have gone through and money has appeared in my bank account.
- I'm getting involved in a group called Women in Design to keep my networking schedule filled.
- I met some of D's friends and neighbors this weekend at a St. Paddy's Day party. It was highly entertaining. They seemed to like me, so they must be alright. ;)
- I am caught up on watching BSG and am looking forward to the finale on Friday!
- Speaking of watching awesome shows, I've been recently watching the DVDs of The Wire, a great cop show set in Baltimore
- The murals are approaching completion. My mum helped out with them (and also added a couple animals.) Each time I go to my sister's I keep working away at 'em. I promise to post photos of the completed project.

Hope you all are doing well also!


La Microonda

Got a new microwave (last one imbued my home with the stench of burnt popcorn every time it was used) at Target on Wednesday. I also looked in Bed Bath and Beyond, but the nicer ones they had were more expensive, even with the 20% coupon. I could have gone to Walmart or Kmart, but my impression from looking at what they had online, the microwaves they had were cheaper, but also much cheaper quality.
What I got was a medium-sized, medium-priced, medium-quality microwave for about $100 - which was the right price for an unemployed architect.
I did not get one that would mount to the wall/cabinet, as that was either too big or more expensive. I think I'll have to install a shelf instead.
It works fine and is a bit smaller than the old one, which is nice.

I already started the "make Casa Ana smell nice again" effort by making Michelle's divine brownies and then sharing them with my friend, Ginger, who's been having a crappy week. I think I may have to make chocolate chip cookies and/or Hungarian goulash again.
Rough life.



Sooper Dooper

Back when The Incredibles came out, one of the promotional gimmicks they had was an online site where you could figure out your superhero character. Mine was Mega Dyna Gal and she was very fast and nimble, as I recall. I even printed out the ID card they "gave" me.

Today, my buddy Jen A (mentioned two days in a row - not bad, lady!) posted the official results of her superheroization - The Great Shredding Angel. Of course, I wanted to do it too. Rather than obtaining superpowers through the removal of a lobe of thyroid, I've been given powers through the hypnotic gaze of Demento Dog (like Peter Parker and the radioactive spider) and become Demento Dame.

(Those journalists obviously got my name wrong.)
My self-designated powers are flight (hence the cape) and hypnotic mind control.
Not a bad gig, if I do say so myself. Now if I could only convince someone to give me a fun high-paying job.

If you too, wish to establish your superhero credentials, head on over to:
The Hero Factory.


Briefly Considered

My good pal, Janiece is working on a site layout overhaul for her blog. Someone in the comments linked to several blogger style templates, a couple of which were somewhat nice and briefly had me considering making some changes around here. I've had this green layout for eons and have looked at Blogger's templates on occasion or fiddled with the colors, but every time have come back to the old design (except for some minor color changes and the photo for the header - THAT I've actually changed periodically). Ultimately it comes down to the fact that I LIKE the design. I like the colors, the rounded corners, the structure. It feels like it represents me pretty well. That's not to say that my head hasn't been turned by some lovely sites (Jen A's blog comes to mind). So, today, I felt the old tug of curiosity to maybe fiddle with the look of my site.

Until I remembered that it would only be procrastinating, since I have a few other tasks/projects I'm supposed to be working on. One of those is revamping my professional website. Derailment averted. All the horses are once again pulling in the same direction. Procrastination postponed.

So you will just have to "put up with" my old design for a while longer. ;)


On Track

The properly scheduled unemployment claim went smooth as silk this morning. I didn't even have problems with a slow site (as I have heard sometimes happens).
I took the opportunity to download CutePDF to electronically save my paperwork. THAT worked like a dream too. Very easy program to use.

Don't forget to change your clocks!


Eastern European Dinner

Yesterday evening, I had my parents and Janiece, her SmartMan, and MY SmartMan (henceforth to be referred to as D) over for dinner. For whatever reason (probably because I know that SM and D are afficionados of the German cuisine), I had it stuck in my brain that I wanted to have spaetzel with goulash for dinner. I had a recipe for Hungarian Goulash, but I wasn't sure it was the best recipe I could find. I did a little online searching and found this great slow-cooker recipe. The only changes I made were: used 14 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of the 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, used Hungarian ("sweet") paprika, and added a bay leaf and about 1/2 tsp. of caraway seeds. This latter addition was because of what I'd read on the more "authentic" Hungarian goulash site (interesting history bit). And I made it with bison meat instead of beef. I also made a vegitarian mushroom gravy with mushrooms, faux meat (made from mushroom protein), and creamy mushroom soup. I swear that I had planned to make the spaetzel myself, but my parents (experts at the spaetzel assembly line) took over, so I stood aside and tried to help where I could.
The goulash turned out quite well, actually. The meat was especially tender and went very well with the tomatoey-paprikaey sauce.
Janiece brought the most heavenly dessert: Rote Gruetze. I would describe it in detail, but just thinking about it is making my mouth water like crazy. Suffice to say, it was GOOD and heaven is filled with vats of it that you can eat and not get fat.

The other ingredient of a good dinner is the company, and I had the best kind: good friends and family. We had a great time talking and laughing and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Good food and good friends, as Janiece would say.

Resolved Dilemma

On Wednesday, I had lunch with (among other people) a woman who was laid off a few months before I was and had similar issues starting up her unemployment. I thought I remembered her saying that she had gone to an office and had been turned away. I was partially right and partially wrong and it was the wrong part that was important. She had been turned away, but they had taken her name and contact info and someone had called her back. I asked her *which* office she had gone to and though she was vague, she gave me enough information to start figuring it out.
Thursday morning, I went to the office that most closely matched her description. It was with a small measure of trepidation that I went, as I do not make cold calls that often. I went into the lovely and mostly empty lobby of the office thinking
"no line? this can't be good." The lovely receptionist smiled at me welcomingly and I hesitatingly said that I was having issues with my unemployment claim. She made encouraging noises, so I pressed on and she began to take my information down. When she had gotten all the info she needed, she said that she was submitting my inquiry to the unemployment team and that someone would call me in 24 to 48 hours. I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed when I thanked her for her help.
Since the office was a couple blocks from my old project, I stopped by to see the construction team that was still there, resolving end-of-project issues. I had a nice long chat with my friend, Christina, and then before I had even gotten out of their office (maybe 40 minutes from the time I had talked to the receptionist), I got a phone call from the unemployment office. The extremely competant and helpful gal helped me resolve my issue, make my initial claim, and told me when I should file next and for what weeks. Yay! A clear and unambiguous schedule!
So it turns out that while some parts of the unemployment office are difficult to get a hold of, if you know where the side door is, it can be remarkably simple and well organized.
My thanks to the two angels who helped me resolve my claim issue!


Latest Dilemma

Yesterday, and a week later than I should have (I think), I tried applying for the second phase of my application for unemployment. The first phase is to establish an account. Then, they send you paperwork saying certain weeks are ineligible for payment because of severance or vacation time. They also send you a pin number to access your information and a card through which payment can be transferred to you. This all happened smoothly and without incident several weeks ago.
Yesterday, as I said, I tried to begin the second phase, "application for payment." I've been actively looking for a job (a requirement for payment) for the last two weeks, so I am applying for payment for those weeks. The system has two ways to do this - online and on an automated phone system. I did the first and got the statement that a claim under my SSN did not exist (BS and I have the paperwork to prove it). So, I went to the phone system which had a different error message: "You have no open weeks to claim at this time." What does that mean?
The only way to resolve this (and I've looked everywhere for an online alternative) is to call during business hours and talk to a person. The only trouble is, the line is always busy. It started being busy five minutes before they opened and has been busy the dozen or so times I've called in the last hour. I tried calling the other help number, for outside the Denver Metro area, but got an error message saying that number could not be reached from my calling area (the Denver Metro area). So. Now what? Keep calling, obviously, but how likely is it that I'll get through? I have no idea. They don't even have a hold system. At this point I'd love to be on hold for an hour or two. (Seriously, I would!)
I'll also keep trying to file via the phone and computer, hoping that maybe I'm just not applying at the right time (maybe I'm offset from my proper time by a week).
I may go there in person, though I've heard you get turned away at the door.
We'll see. Updates will be forthcoming.


Auntie Annie, Day 1

My nephew Alexander was born yesterday morning. YAY! Mummy and Daddy were doing great when I saw them. I'll be off to visit them again, momentarily. I'm sure I'll love being a people auntie just as much as I love being a doggy auntie. :D