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.



I was thinking about one of my friendships today. It's one that has gone through a lot faster cycle of changes than most I've had. To keep up with the changes, I've been using my pattern-finding abilities more than I usually do. This is a double-edged sword because it allows me to be prepared for things, but I also think that trying to find a pattern (and by association find the cause for change) can affect the results. I try not to, but if I see too long of a downward trend, I start to expect it.
The funny thing is, when I started to think about finding patterns in life, I found the perfect antidote. A website came up from my Google search about Patterns in Life by an organization called Fountain International. They seem to be focused on the concept of positive abundance. I only skimmed the article, but it's a concept that's familiar to me and I plan to go back and read it more thoroughly.
It's amazing how a simple Google search will give you what you need.

PS - There's a great Simon and Garfunkel song about Patterns too.

Workday + Studying = Impossible

So far this week, I've not done any studying. Three of the four nights, I've gone out (once with my parents, once with Stacey and Co., once with my siblings). All for good reasons, of course. Celebrating my test results, celebrating my brother's birthday, etc. And I had fun every time, which isn't a good incentive for staying home and studying instead. The one day I was home, I ended up doing household chores.
Thankfully, I have no extra-curricular activities planned for this weekend. It will be All Study, All The Time (except for laundry, I really really need to do that). So, hopefully no fun posts about yummy food I ate or cookies I baked (must resist!), just a post or two about how much I now know about assymmetrical loading or overturning moments. Wooo!
Cross your fingers for me, folks.


Mmm... Vodka

After Max's suggestion, I got some Van Gogh vodka (vanilla flavor). Mmmm is it tasty. It's even good straight. Thanks, Max!


Livin' It Up

Mmmm, good food. I just got back from going out to dinner and drinks with a good friend (and her husband and another of her friends) for a celebratory outing. Celebrating my three passes, that is. We had two Cosmos (martinis) each and shared a mushroom risotto cake appetizer and shared a serving of buffalo ravioli. It was very tasty and Stacey let me eat the leftover mushrooms on her plate. Whadda pal.
(Actually, at lunch I got a dish that was a little too spicy for me and my dining companion (FS, for those in the know) let me share his lunch too. Very nice of him.)
And now I'm back at home, thinking maybe I'd rather go to bed early than study.


YAY x 3!!!

I got some of my results today! I passed three of the four exams so far and the fourth one I have not heard pass or fail yet. Pass on both Building Technology and Site Planning. The most important thing is that I passed Construction Documents! YAY!
Of course I will continue to study my butt off, but the "Omigod I'm going to fail" mantra can be turned off for the moment.

Risk Taking

Last weekend (not the one we just had, the one before that), I wrote a couple posts that didn't get posted because they were pretty much full of me feeling sorry for myself. Today, however, there was an article by an advice columnist I really like about making decisions and taking risks. It so perfectly addresses what I wanted to write about that weekend but was too emotional to do so rationally.
In a nutshell: here's the things you should look at before making a big decision, but don't worry too much about making a mistake because that's how we learn.


A &%*$ Kinda Day

Well, I studied pretty much all day. There was a bit of a hiatus when I got sucked into To Sir, With Love (great movie, can't go wrong with Sidney Poitier) while eating brunch, but all afternoon I was very good. So why is it a &%*$ day? Well, despite Structures being a more interesting subject than Contracts, I'm still worried about knowing enough to pass the test. Plus, I studied all day with the intention of taking a break in the evening. But the evening event was cancelled, so no reward there. Also, it's Sunday, which means I've got to go back to work tomorrow, AND Sundays are when I used to get together with a friend of mine (a habit that has been discontinued) so I'm feeling particularly alone.
AND today I figured out that I forgot to record Battlestar Galactica's latest TV movie, Razor, &%*$ it, and it appears they're not showing it again anytime soon.
Obviously, I'm feeling cranky.
A little &%*$ of another sort would be appreciated, but alas, that's not happening either.
I'm thinking that maybe I should just go and study for another hour so I can go to bed feeling particularly martyred. :P

Good times, good times

I had a great time eating yummy food at Thanksgiving, and then again on Saturday for my brother's surprise birthday party. Having family around is truely fun. Of course, part of the enjoyment is that it doesn't happen all the time.
Thanksgiving, my sister managed to fit all eleven of us around her dining room table. I was stuck in the back, which provided me with an excuse not to get up and get seconds, so I didn't overeat. All of the food was delicious, of course. We had all the typical fixings: turkey, cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry jell AND cranberry relish, rolls. I made Waldorf Salad. We also had dessert: chocolate mousse and pumpkin pie. Everything was very tasty, particularly the chocolate mousse, which was paired with a cinnamon whipped cream. Mmmmmm!
Saturday, all the guests brought appetizers. I brought a version of the Caprese Salad, a fresh basil leaf and a slice of tomato on a slice of fresh mozzarella. My mum made artichoke heart dip, which was, as always, the hit of the party. Other contributions included: Texas caviar, crudites and dip, roasted bell peppers and procuitto rolls, chickpea cakes with cucumber yogurt sauce, blue corn chips with guacamole, all yummy. My brother's girlfriend made a wonderful cheesecake with berry sauce. I took a picture, but it's on my sister's camera. Max was very surprised and honored by the experience.
And now, I'm taking a day to catch up on my studying. Yip-ee. :/


Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you are all with your families or those who know you best!
Hugs to all.


Can't Win

Some days I blog instead of studying. Today, I studied instead of making cat food (or writing a report for work).
Can't win.

Maybe my self-judgment should give up.



Back On Track

Ahhhh! This is why I live in Colorado. Today, the high temperature was 74, so I took the motorcycle to work. I didn't get out of work early enough to drive anywhere except home, but it was nice to be on the bike again.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my siblings and thier S.O.s (and JR & Stacey and Paden). I got to meet my brother's girlfriend's Akita. Such a sweet dog. Towards the end of the evening, we were playing Guitar Hero, a Wii game that's played on a guitar-like controller. Jenn persuaded me to try it, and after an initial frustration with it, I started to get better and started to like it. It's a very good thing that I don't own a Wii. That would get way too addictive.
Also, on Friday, I led a group tour of my project for a group called Women In Design. It's an appropriate fit, since so many of the key people on the project are women. Anyway, I'm told it was a good tour. That's good, 'cause I was tired of talking by the end. The building itself is pretty darn impressive. They just poured the 31st level last weekend. Almost to the top!
And I am REALLY looking forward to the long weekend.

Life is good.

PS - While looking for a site that shows what an Akita looks like, I found this site, which has stories about the history of the Akita, two of which are particularly touching:

First was the story of Hachi-Ko, one of the most revered Japanese Akitas of all time. He was born in 1923 and was owned by Professor Eizaburo Ueno of Tokyo. Professor Ueno lived near the Shibuya Train Station in a suburb of the city and commuted to work every day on the train. Hachi-Ko accompanied his master to and from the station each day. On May 25, 1925, when the dog was 18 months old, he waited for his master's arrival on the four o'clock train. But he waited in vain; Professor Ueno had suffered a fatal stroke at work. Hachi-Ko continued to wait for his master's return. He traveled to and from the station each day for the next nine years. He allowed the professor's relatives to care for him, but he never gave up the vigil at the station for his master. His vigil became world renowned, and shortly after his death, a bronze statue was erected at the train station in his honor.


However, just as the breed was stabilizing in its native land, World War II pushed the Akita to the brink of extinction. Early in the war the dogs suffered from lack of nutritious food. Then many were killed to be eaten by the starving populace, and their pelts were used as clothing. Finally, the government ordered all remaining dogs to be killed on sight to prevent the spread of disease. The only way concerned owners could save their beloved Akitas was to turn them loose in the most remote mountain areas. There the breed's hardiness and keen hunting instincts helped them survive the war years.



Got Any Change?

I'm feeling much better now. I did all the emotional processing I needed to do (or all I could handle right now, so the rest was put in storage, I'm not sure). I didn't come to any revelatory conclusions except that it's ancient history and not worth rehashing. It's better to just move on and hope I'm not so foolish next time. Things change. Circumstances change. People change (even the ones who don't think they do).
Thank goodness I can change.


Feeling Crappy [Not a Simon & Garfunkel Tune]

I woke up feeling like crap today. I think it's due to three things: fighting off a cold, bouts of insomnia, and some emotions that came up after a conversation I had yesterday. I tried writing about that, but most of what came out was assumptions and feeling sorry for myself. So, I'll just spare you from that and say "send me good thoughts, I need them this weekend."

And I just read this lovely line about writing. I've thought it many times myself and I think it's applicable to many parts of life:
I didn't even get to feel unique in my despair. -- Neil Gaiman


Blogging Ups and Downs

I posted a while ago that I got StatCounter for my blog. The data has been fun. As Rebekah pointed out, it involves data and math and for me, finding patterns is fun. When I started doing NaNoWriMo, finding (and playing with) an Excel spreadsheet to track my progress was one of the chief enjoyments.
I have found that I get about 11 unique visitors per day. They are generally people I know and have figured out because they spoke up on the blog, but there are a few lurkers who have servers in New York, Virginia, and, of course, Colorado (I most likely know these people). I also get people searching for the words to the Lily song sung in Blazing Saddles and other combinations of words that appear in the blog in general, like "inferiority complex in a main character of a novel" (which I've never written about specifically). All in all, it's been interesting.
Lately, however, I've noticed a downward trend (see right) and it has coincided with a downward trend of my own in how often I blog. For me, it's been the fact that I've been busy with work and life and feeling a bit tired out. I imagine it's been the same for my readers. This week, I've had 40 unique hits (today and tomorrow haven't been counted yet), and last week I had 62. Both of these are down from the previous 6 weeks which had averaged 82 each. Well, I won't bore you with the details, but it's an interesting trend that I've seen in myself as well. Maybe it's seasonal.
So thank you, readers, for sticking with me, even though I haven't had the opportunity to blog as much. Hugs all 'round! :)

PS - I've included the daily stats from the last two months as well, so you can see how interestingly it spikes up and down each day.


Thanks For Listening

Things that make me sad:
Endings (though I know they have to happen to make way for beginnings)
Being used
Not being understood
Not being appreciated for who I am
Being taken for granted
Being replaced
Wishing things were the way they used to be
Being separate from people I care about
Being separate from people who care about me
Being sad when I'm really very lucky, comparatively speaking

Things that make me happy:
Being appreciated
Being hugged
Being used by cats
Being appreciative of all that I have and not dwelling on the things I don't
Taking time for myself.

Things that make me laugh at myself:
Making myself list things that make me happy in an attempt to BE happy when I'm really feeling melancholy. :P


Test Report

When I was studying this weekend, I went to my sister and brother-in-law's house and took my flashcards with me. My dear sister took a picture and sent it to me. So you see, I have photographic evidence that I studied. I think you're going to need photographic evidence, 'cause I'm afraid you won't be able to tell by my score. I really don't know if I passed or failed.
I see some of you shaking your heads. "That Annie, such an over-achiever, doesn't know if she passed?" Seriously, folks. If I do pass, it'll be by the skin of my teeth. I felt like I was guessing (an educated guess, mind you, but a guess nonetheless) for a majority of the questions. I've already got a plan in mind for how I'll study if I have to take it again. I hope not, 'cause that was a horrible experience, but I very well may have to. [shudder]
I also have yet to receive the scores for my other tests. It's been 5 weeks since the first one, and 4 weeks since the second. Grr!
The silver lining to the nearly passing or nearly failing experience is that I don't think I'm going to have too much of a problem procrastinating from studying. I've been "scared straight" as they say.

Bleah. Nasty Tests. I hates them!


I Hate Stress

Great. The middle of my back, between my shoulder blades just seized up. It hurts, but I won't take any pain medication, 'cause that doesn't do anything for stress (for me anyway). I do think I'll call the massage therapist for a little post-exam reward.


Gritting My Teeth

I spent all weekend studying. It wouldn't have been quite so intense if I had been better about studying prior to this weekend, but when you hate studying and when you are a procrastinator, that's what happens. I did go to visit my sister and B-I-L (and some other friends who were at thier house), but I also took my flash cards with me. I made it all the way through the study book (from Chap. 4 on Friday through Chapter 12 an hour ago), but I can tell you're supposed to have studied a few other items, like the actual contracts and the ADA requirements.
I just finished taking a mock exam and got about 70% right. Unfortunately, that's not significantly higher than the mock exam (different source, different wording, definitely different difficulty level) I took on Sat. and got 67%ish. I'm going to guess the mock exam I just took is a pretty good indicator of how I'll do, so I'm going to hope to hell that 70% is enough to pass. The reason I'm gritting my teeth is that I just went through all the questions I got wrong and some of them are so frustratingly contradictory! I tried to come up with an example, but it's too long and complicated for this time of night. Suffice to say, there are going to be questions I'm going to get wrong because these questions are asking for some very specific knowledge or judgement on a very subjective and wide ranging subject. So phooey to them. As long as I pass.

Maybe the next exams will be better. This IS Construction Documents and Services, which is, by definition, laden with stupid legalese. Grrr!


Office Breakfast

Occasionally I mention in this blog an office tradition/routine called "Donut Day" in which everyone in the office rotates the responsibility of bringing in breakfast for the rest of the office. This means that every 6 months or so, I cook breakfast for the office. My routine is (and has been since the beginning) to make three fritattas the morning of and supplement with sweets, tamales, and/or bagels. I really enjoy doing it, even though it's more expensive to do that than buy a couple dozen doughnuts, because my breakfast day has become something to look forward to. (An Aside: I really like looking forward to things, since it's almost as fun as actually getting/doing the thing itself, plus it extends my pleasure over a much longer period of time. Unfortunately, there are some things I just don't get to look forward to yet.)
To the left, you will see the three fritattas I made this morning: an asparagus, tomato, and mushroom with Swiss cheese; potato and chorizo; and ham and cheddar. If I have a friend at work who has particular dietary needs, I'll often make a mini-fritatta. This time, it was making a no-cholesterol version of the ham and cheddar with Eggbeaters and olive oil. I also bought some yummy tamales from a local tamale place. This is because I'm never sure if the three fritattas are going to be enough, but making four just takes too darn long in the morning.
And finally, not content to just do that, I did a sweet offering -- Apple Pecan Caramel Cake.
Needless to say, I got lots of compliments in return. I soaked 'em up and stored them for the next six months. :)


Wonderful "Jumper"

I just ran across a link to a blogger who knitted a sweater that looks like the Wonder Woman costume. She designed it herself and did a wonderful job! Seeing such rampant creativity tickled me pink. The photos are delightfully exuberant.


Mmmm... Writing

Both today and yesterday I had about half an hour to do something and both times so far, I've picked writing. That means I'm up to 1388 words in my little journal and I'm having lots of fun writing it. :) It also means I haven't progressed as much as I'd like to with studying. I think I know what other things to blame for that. I'm looking at you, Miss Procrastinator. (Who me?)
I don't regret my choice. Half an hour of writing actually yields something, while half an hour of studying is just reminding yourself where you left off.


Doldrums (or Gettin' The Oars Out)

I'm not feeling very successful today. I did OK at work, and I got a household chore done that needed doing, but I haven't written in my NaNo Journal, nor have I studied much today.
I guess I'll go do one of those two things until bedtime.

By the way, despite my unsuccessful attempts at complete efficiency, I am feeling quite happy today. I don't know why. I'll just take what I can get, I suppose. ;)

Back to the grindstone!


Weekend of Friends

Studying? Not so much.

Let's see... where to begin?
Friday night, I went to a birthday party with the Girls' Night In Group. We had a good time, of course. We always do. The guest of honor is a vegetarian, so I brought leftover roasted vegetables and steamed broccoli and yellow cauliflower with melted cheese on top. There was also a gluten-free chocolate cake, roast pork, a really yummy bean dip, gluten-free pumpkin spice muffins, and assorted appetizers.
Saturday, I met Stacey for breakfast at a little cafe here on Tennyson that I've been wanting to try. The vegetarian Eggs Benedict were pretty darn good. The cute little kid that kept coming up to say hello was really sweet too.
Then, I went up to the mountains where some good friends of mine had rented a cabin to get away for a long weekend. They had invited several friends up to join them. The friends covered the full spectrum of family hood - one couple had older kids, 9 & 7 (nice kids, well behaved); they have younger kids, 3 & 1 (two sweet little boys); another couple were expecting their first baby; and a fourth couple didn't have any kids at all; and then there were me and Matt, both single. Fortunately, they did not try and set us up. The kids were fun to play with, and there were enough willing adults there to take care of them so that no one person had to get too tired out. Speaking of adults and kids, I had a very strange realization while I was watching the kids and some of the adults sledding: I was at a family vacation and I was one of the adults, not one of the kids. Hmm. Getting older, I guess. The excursion would have been a wee bit better if I had remembered to bring my swimsuit so I could go in the hot tub.
I left in the morning, planning to go see another friend, only to get a voicemail from said friend cancelling the visit. I'm going to assume it was (at least, in part) meant to help me, since, in theory, I wouldn't have to leave the other gathering, but I already had. I was a bit disappointed, but I ended up not going back, since I had already taken leave of everyone and it was at a reasonable juncture (after breakfast had been cleaned up, just as kids were going out to play), so I headed back home. I can always find something that needs doing. I studied some (and will do more, once I get off the computer) and cleaned up the leaves in the yard. I picked 'em up with a lawnmower a friend lent me. I used fewer leaf bags, 'cause all the leaves were chopped up, but there was a bunch of "leaf dust" left over. I guess it'll turn into soil quicker. It was more convenient, I admit.
Oh, and the cats are really happy I'm back. Goof balls.


Travel Blogs

I've stumbled across a couple fascinating and well-written travel blogs (or "travelblog," like "travelogue") lately. Three, actually, but one was given to me personally (rather than just being out there to find) so it's not really mine to put forward as reading material. The other two, however, are fair game.
A Long Ride (by Dusty Davis) - is a travelblog by an American who decided to get reacquainted with his native country/continent via motorcycle. Subtitled: journal of long distance motorcycle trips. It's got great photos. I found it via a link on Roadtrip America when I was doing research on roadtripping.
el Loco & el Lobo (by Mike and Bondi) - is a travelbog of an Aussie and his Malamute travelling around Europe. He's in Scotland right now. It's also got great photos. Mike posted something funny on another blog I frequent, and I checked out the blog associated with his post.
The third one is a friend of a friend who is travelling in Asia. He's in the Himalayas right now.
I'm planning on reading them all more thoroughly (though when in the oodles of time I have that'll happen, I don't know) but I thought you'd all enjoy them too. It's strange to have found them all in such a short span of time and at the same time that I'm writing a fictional travelogue myself. I must have travelling on my mind a lot lately.


Good Start

Started my fictional travel journal this afternoon. I've got about 500 handwritten words and a good start. (Got my idea chatting with a co-worker today.) My protagonist just set off for Mexico on a motorcycle. Heh.

Later: Arrgh. Supposed to be studying, instead I researched online for the next two legs of my fictional road trip. Not a good sign. Fun to plan though! ;)


Forget It

Sometimes it's sad when something that's interesting or important to you isn't remembered by a friend. It's bound to happen sometimes, and friends are human too, but it's still a reminder of how we're not as interesting or important as we sometimes think we are. Floating around in our own bubble universes.

Formwork With a View

Here's the view from my jobsite. I'm standing on the 29th level formwork, looking due north.


Ready for Writing

In the absence of any entertaining activities to tell you about, I thought I'd post a picture of the little journal that I'm going to be doing my annual November writing exercise. I normally do NaNoWriMo (kind of a writing marathon), but this year I am way too busy. However, I would love to participate. So, I decide to write a little, just enough to get my fix, but not high stress enough to give me a melt down. I've got my little journal (bought for my Honduras trip, but never used) and I'm going to hand write a fictional travel journal. The structure should be loose enough that I can write for as long or as short a time as I have. I hope to write a little during the in between times, maybe as a wind down when getting home from work.
I'll keep you guys updated! November starts in one and a half days. Eeeep!


School Daze

I'm learning how to study all over again.
Fortunately, I picked a relatively easy exam for my first multiple choice exam.
I started reading for it this weekend. On Saturday I read the first chapter and it was slow going, but I did pretty good (80%) on the end-of-the-chapter quiz. Then, on Sunday morning, I was thinking "Hey, maybe it would be a good idea to take notes while I read..." DUH! As soon as I started doing that, it was a little less dull. I had to engage my brain a little more to take the information and condense it into what I thought I should write down. Plus, writing it down helps me remember stuff. The second chapter seems much longer, but I think that's because the material is a bit denser. Regardless, the studying is going better - though I'm still thoroughly undisciplined about it. :P
It was funny relearning how to study though. Very odd sensation.

New New Header

OK, I've changed the header again to an unaltered (except cropped) picture of some rose hips I have growing near my garage. It looks better with the green background, is less contrived than the last photo, and shows the fruit of the rose, which is in keeping with the season.


If You Could Taste Fall

Today I bought that most evocative of seasonal foods, apple cider. I love just heating a cup in the microwave with a stick of cinnamon. I enjoy the Starbucks Caramel Apple Cider (except that it's a little too sweet and a lot too expensive), so I bought some caramel syrup to try. It's nice. Adding a small amount gave the hot cider a hint of extra sweetness.

Later: I made some of the Alton Brown hot chocolate that Aileen pointed out. It's good (though I think I added a shade too much cayenne pepper) but it'll take me a bit to figure out the mix to water proportions. I did it per the recipie first and it was too rich. After I drank some to make room in the cup, I added more hot water and it's better.


The New Header

Yes, it's a Photoshopped version of the photo I posted. The colors are the same, I just cropped it down till it was the right proportions, then moved the moon down so it was "in frame." Oh, and flipped the mountains so that the moon could be on the right and be in a good place relative to the mountains. It is, however, the same size as in the original photo, even though it looks gigantic closer to the mountains.

I fiddled around with changing the colors to something that matches the header, but they all looked hideously garish and there were a couple areas that stayed stubbornly green. So I left it as it was.

Hunter's Moon

I got a better picture of the moon this morning, with the mountain lit by the morning sun. A better camera would have done a better job, but you get the general idea of how beautiful it was.



Well, I got my money back from Bed Bath & Beyond. Good customer service, yay!
I also went on a wild goose chase for a store that a friend told me about. So, when I got back home, I was pretty pooped.

However, two things revived me:
1. Going out to see the Hunter's Moon (I tried to take a picture, but it just looks like a bright white dot in a sea of black. None of the cool details you can see with your eyes.)
2. Talking to my brother on the phone. He's just started a new job, and it seems like a pretty good place for him, good perks and whatnot (ppbbbbttt, Max & Brian! :P). He reminded me to go watch some "webisodes" (little videos on the internet) for Battlestar Galactica.

The BSG webisodes follow young Bill Adama. They're very short -- around 2 1/2 minutes -- so it's hard to get anything beyond a basic storyline, but the effects are good. (True to BSG form, they have a sex scene right at the beginning of the first one, but in thier defense, is there any quicker way to show how close two people are than by a sex scene followed by dialog? A bit of an easy shortcut, I agree.) There are three webisodes up, and the third one has a space dogfight in it that reminds me how far special effects have come in describing how ships might move in space. I once heard them described as "flippy little ships." They are, indeed, wonderfully manuverable. The BSG people are getting us ready for a spin-off TV movie about Battlestar Pegasus, the other ship BSG runs across during thier travels. It should be good, but we have to wait until the end of November. The question I have is: when are they releasing the DVDs of season three?

Now, I think I am going to go to bed early, like I had planned to yesterday. Yes, my life is thrilling, isn't it?


Sweet Dreams

A long while back, a friend pointed out that my bed is under-pillowed. I "only" have two (and they're pretty old, too). Then, I slept in a couple beds that had more than the standard two and I realized that, yes, my bed is under-pillowed.
So, today I went out and [woo hoo!] bought a couple new pillows at Bed Bath and Beyond. A salesperson offered to help me, but as my process is basically looking for a mid-range priced pillow and squishing them until I find one that feels good, he really couldn't help much. (Turns out I like feathers.) I got one for $15 and one for $30 (I like all my pillows to different, so I have variety). I'm interested to find out if there's a difference in the quality. I also got bamboo (Oooooh) pillowcases. If they wear well, I know what kind of sheets to get next time.

Later: Grrrr. I just looked at the receipt and the girl at the checkout rang up both pillows as if they were the same kind. I would't be complaining if she had picked the cheaper one, but no, she rang up the more expensive one twice. I guess it's worth $15 to go get it corrected. :P

Well, I was going to say I'm looking forward to going to bed, but this mistake has made me irritated. Oh well. It'll be fixed. I also was going to go to bed early, but in 15 minutes, it will be 9:30, bedtime. [sigh] Oh well.


Something Colorful

Ha ha! I knew I would find something colorful for you guys. Little did I know I would find it so quickly. After logging off, I started tidying up, getting ready for bed, and these two little gems caught my eye. They are a pair of shot glasses given to me by a very good (and obviously tasteful) friend who just got back from a trip to Spain. The signature on the side is from the famous Spanish architect, Gaudi (hrrm, that needs an accent on the "i."). Bravo... No, wait, that's Italian... Muchas gracias, mi amigo! Son vasos hermosos!

Beige instead of Gray

I wish I could post something entertaining today, but I'm just out of ideas. I'm going to start studying for the Construction Documents exam... tomorrow. I've got a plan for a low key involvement in NaNoWriMo, but that's for November. I've got a plan to research doing an on-the-cheap version of the modular shelving, but that requires research at Home Depot. I watched the second season premiere of Heroes tonight and it was interesting, but a little patchy. Meh. I don't really have tons to talk about tonight. I'm thinking about going to bed early. To be honest, I'm looking forward to going to the gym. I think I worked out the stupid kinks in my MP3 player. Other than that, this evening I'm not really interested in watching any more TV, reading any books, even Jane Austen, nor in surfing the net any further. I'll go to bed early, and hopefully won't wake up with insomnia, like I did last night.
Oh, some news: yesterday, I scored a major success on the building project I'm on at work. Because of me, because I was persistent, we will have beige terrace pavers on the project instead of gray. Woo hoo! Go me! (Seriously, it's a major improvement. I really do feel like I accomplished something. Hope that isn't too sad for y'all.)
I'll try and come up with something a little more colorful for tomorrow. Literally.