It's Writin' Time

Some of you may be familiar with my annual writing effort: National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Essentially, I am participating in a sort of writing marathon -- 50,000 words in 30 days (the month of November). It's an activity organized online, but the effort is essentially individual. You can follow my progress on my NaNo page.
The first year I did it, 2004, I "won" by managing to successfully string together 50K words in the regulated amount of time in a story about a space bounty hunter. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. The following year, 2005, I wrote about a poor couple who discover there is a magical "underbelly" of the world. I did not finish, because I was finishing up the construction document phase of a project. In 2006, I decided to experiment a little with a story that was a thinly veiled Mary Sue -- wish fulfillment of a sort. I didn't finish that year because I got involved with someone and didn't have the time. In 2007, I knew I wouldn't get far. I was working on taking the ARE and studying would take priority. I decided to try a light variant on the exercise, writing a faux travel journal by hand. It was also a bit of wish fulfillment, as I pretended I traded my car for a motorcycle and took off for Mexico. As expected, I didn't get far. (All of the stories above can be investigated by clicking on the NaNoWriMo label or this link.)
This year, I have no expected interruptions. I've told my friends that I'll be turning down invitations to drinks. I have no S.O. and zero prospects of having one in the near future. Work is not too pressing and there are no impending deadlines. AND I'd like to complete a NaNo novel that's good enough to expand into an 80,000 word (regulation length) novel that I can try to shop around to publishers. If I want to be able to support myself in retirement by writing novels, I really ought to start now.
So, wish me luck and tune in for the blog posts that I'm sure will be procrastination from the real writing. ;)

Prize Loot

My prize for winning Michelle's short story contest was a book, which arrived... well, sometime in the last week or so. I opened the package, thought "Cool! This looks good!" and then was picked up again by the whirlwind that's been my life lately.
The book is The Shape of Mercy, by Susan Meissner. Michelle has already done a review, but I'm trying to hold off reading it until after I read the book.

Also pictured above is a postcard (coincidentally, also from Michelle) is from San Antonio, TX. I'm thinking of starting a UCF postcard scrapbook with all these cool postcards. :)

Thank you, AGAIN, Michelle. :)


New Toys

Ah! Home again! I left the book club thing relatively early, 'cause I just had to spend some time at home. Part of that is because I have a couple new toys. The main one is my new "netbook" (a Dell Inspiron Mini 9, aka 910). Some of you may recall me drooling over it a couple weeks ago. Funny thing was, Dell had a big sale less than a week later, coincidence... or serendipity? Since it was pretty much exactly what I wanted and the price was good, I decided to jump in and buy. It came a couple days ago and the wireless router I bought to connect the netbook with the desktop and the internet came yesterday.
This evening, I hooked everything up. My sister helped me out by talking/listening through it. You know how you sometimes need someone hovering to get computers to work right? Well, sometimes the phone is just as good. Thanks for your help, Aileen!
So, now I'm writing this post on the Mini. It works pretty well. The keyboard is small and mildly reorganized. There's only one key change that irritates me, and that's the '/" key. We'll see how well I get used to it.
One of the things I plan to do with it is experiment with finding other programs to do the things I like. Firefox, for example, or Google Desktop and word processing programs. (Any suggestions are appreciated!) If the netbook gets too tangled, I can always reformat it (as I plan to back up everything irreplacable).
Above, I've taken the picture with a paperback (regular little sized one, not one of those oddly big ones) and my new cellphone, which has a cool texting feature. It can open two different directions and has a QWERTY keyboard, for easier texting.

Considering the current economic situation, this will probably be the last of my indulgent purchases for a while. But it is so cool! :)

An Informal Poll, Appropriate to the Times

A friend (who wants to win an argument) has requested that I put a question to you, dear readers.

What would you think of an employer who, when laying you off, tells you on a Friday and asks you to leave at the end of the day (you are permitted to come back on Saturday to get your things and send an email to the rest of the company saying "bye")? Is this insulting, insinuating that you are not trustworthy? Or is this considerate, saving you from awkward goodbyes? Does getting a severance package affect the "feel" of the dismissal? Is there a better way to do it?

Your input is appreciated and no, I won't tell you which side was mine. (To be honest, I can see both sides, though one side was my natural inclination and immediate reaction.)


spam spam spam spam spam spammity spam!

You may have noticed some spam around here. I've got a professional spammer from Beijing, China harassing me. I'm not sure why. He (or she) may think I have something to do with a commercial public storage space, and therefore high blog traffic, or it may just be a random thing. S/he is definitely a professional, using a Google search that goes directly to the "post comments" page. Very interesting (if a trifle inconvenient for me).
So, I've changed my comment settings to disallow anonymous comments. That should put an end to it. If not, I'll step it up to moderated comments for a while. The spammer will move on, and we can go back to having an open community here. :)

In the meantime, amuse yourselves with Monty Python's Spam Song...


Gulp! [Dives]

[That's me coming up for air before diving down again...]

It's a busy week for me, and has been since mid-last week. Here's a rundown:
Last Thursday - Had drinks with Stacey instead of going grocery shopping
Last Friday - Grocery shopped, had lunch with my brother, cleaned the kitchen, and made a fabulous meal for eight.
Last Saturday - Hung out with my mum, got locked out of the house, drove around looking for various items my mum needed, went to my sister's to hang out with the family.
Last Sunday - [Blessed free time in the morning!] Hung out with my parents and aunt and uncle, listening to reminiscences, went to my brother's to hang out with the family.
Yesterday - Went to The Melting Pot with mum, sister, and future SIL for a girls' night out.
Today - Going to a friend's house for a get together.
Tomorrow - [Blessed free time! I think.] Probably trying to finish the book club book, The Thin Man, and catching up on financial housekeeping.
Thursday - Going to book club gathering.
Friday - [Blessed free time! I think.]
Saturday - Start NaNoWriMo.

Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it.


Tales From Distant Lands

This weekend I got a postcard from Singapore from John the Scientist. Woohoo!
I also photographed the one I got from San Antonio from Random Michelle. (I got it a few weeks ago, but neglected to blog about it at the time. Better late than never, I say.)

I loved the stamps on both. Uber cool. One is a watermelon and the other, a civet cat (I believe). If I get SARS, I'm blaming John the Scientist.


And now to hijack my own post (in honor of Nathan):

A Quiz That Gave Me the Results I Totally Expected:

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 9(9)
Right Brain Dominance: 10(10)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

It's not for nothing that I'm an architect.

ETA: Dammit, I meant for this post to come up tomorrow morning, since I'll be out in the field most of the day. :P Well, it'll still have to count as my Monday post.


Dinner: A Photo Essay

Flowers, brought by some of the guests.

Wine, Crackers, and Cheese. Note the contented cat amongst the chatting.

Main Dish: Roast Chicken on a bed of bread salad (think huge, tasty, and crisp/soft croutons).

Vegetarian Dish: Cheesy Creamy Leeks on Brown Basmati, the vegetarian version of the bread salad, and water with slices of lemon.

Dessert (sorry it's a little blurry): Crepe Cake with Wild Raspberry Jam (gift of Janiece) and Limoncello flavored cream.

Thankfully my family showed up a half an hour early to help out. :D


Dinner Gong

Let the day commence!

7:00 Get up, pet the cats, and begin morning routine of showering, brushing teeth, etc.
(Interesting article while catching up on the Internet: Link found between physical and emotional warmth.)

Hmm, "wasted" the last hour catching up on the Internet, comics, forum, and other fun stuff. Discovered a website of bizarre and funny t-shirts. Am going to transfer the cat off my lap and go get dressed now. Seriously.

9:00 Showered, dressed, cleaned the bathtub while I was in it, cleaned the cats' bathrooms, and have started tidying. That's better.
I have to be at home between 9 and 11, since the free blinds that I won at the work conference vendor show are supposed to be installed then, but during that time I can be cleaning/tidying. Then, it'll be off to the grocery store. Much better.

11:20 Grrr... Something wrong with Blogger. :( Until then, I shall keep notes on Notepad.
In the past couple hours, I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen. The blinds installer was here from 9:45-10:45. The blinds are very nice. Then I took the cats outside while I ate breakfast. Now it's off to go grocery shopping. I'm a little behind schedule, but pleased with what's been accomplished so far.

3:50 Uh, well, the hour long lunch I thought I would take with my brother turned into something a little more like 2.5 hours. Eeep! Grocery shopping is done now and I'm going to start pronto on the crepe cake, which needs to set for at least four hours. Fortunately, the chickens only need to roast for an hour or so. I think I'll still have time, but I need to focus. Eeeep!

10:40 As you might guess, I was running from then on out. Everything turned out fine. People enjoyed themselves, food was good. Mission Accomplished. Report will be filed tomorrow. Right now, I need to go to bed. :)


Impending Dinner

I'm thinking of live blogging (in an extended sense) tomorrow to let you all follow along in my dinner party process.

So far, I've planned the menu, read through the recipes of the dishes I haven't made before (most of them) and gotten a sense of when things should be done. For example, I'm roasting chicken, which was prepped a day in advance (didn't get the herbs to shove under the skin yet, dammit), and I'm making a crepe cake, which needs to have some time to set in the fridge. I'll be making that tomorrow morning.
I wrote out the grocery list and made sure of what I have. I meant to go shopping this evening, but a therapeutic drink with a friend turned into a whole evening of chat. Oh well, I forgot my list at home, anyway. ;)
So, that'll happen tomorrow morning as well.
I've put a rough timeline together of when different parts should be started, but that'll be thrown to hell (in a good way) when my parents come over early and offer to help. So, at least I've run through the process a time or two in my head.

If that sounds terribly planned out (for me at least), I'll have to tell you the stress mess one of my dinner parties was like a couple parties ago. I invented a dish on the fly and without aid until just before the dinner started. Taught me a lesson, and even though everything turned out fine (dish tasted great, people had fun), I'll never do it that way again.

I invited Admiral Legs, but she was unable to come due to a family gathering. I thought she said she was free that evening, but I have a terrible memory and should have confirmed. :(
Next time.

The other thing I need to do is tidy the house. So, that'll probably be between shopping and cake making and the arrival of the parents.

Since I've been away from my computer a lot this week (on the jobsite), I thought this might be a great opportunity to do a periodically updated post that keeps you entertained and abreast of the process.


Fall Beauty


I have been randomly gifted by that mischievous mastermind, Michelle.

And, of course, made my day. I love that it's a live plant. :D

You are awesome, Michelle.

(And I will have my revenge!)

[commence plotting]


Speaking Up For What's Right

Sorry I haven't been as prolific of late, folks, but even when I think of something to blog about, by the time I sit down at the computer I've either forgotten or lost interest. However, I did find something today...

On John Scalzi's Whatever, he posted about something very important in today's political and sociological climate -- On Who is American. He was prompted by Gen. Colin Powell's remarks during an endorsement of Obama. Powell said (according to this NY Times article) about the conservative concerns that Obama is actually Muslim and not Christian, “And we have got to say to the world it doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you are. If you’re an American you’re an American.”

Thank you, Colin Powell, for saying what's been bothering me about the current trend of American thinking. Muslim does not equal terrorist. No more than Christian equals disbeliever of science. No more than atheist equals morally-bereft. We cannot vilify each other if we ever hope to make this world a better place for anyone.

[sigh] I love Colin Powell. (Thank goodness he climbed out of that pit he fell into when he in Bush's administration!) Go to the NY Times article or the MSNBC article and watch the video. It really says it all.

And yes, it would be So. Awesome. if Powell were formally involved in Obama's administration. I understand if he doesn't want to be, but it would be so great.

The Daily Show addressed the extreme negativity pretty directly, as well as whether Muslims can be good family men. (The first one is particularly good.) I feel sorry for John McCain.


Office Breakfast II

Today was my biannual breakfast day extravaganza, so I took a picture of the spread: (from foreground to background) Ham & Cheddar Fritatta, Chorizo & Potato (w/ Jalepenos and Monterey Jack) Fritatta, Asparagus & Tomato (w/ Swiss) Fritatta, Ham & Cheddar (w/ fake eggs) Fritatta, green and red tamales (bought), Poppy Seed Cake, and orange juice and milk.
Turns out, I did almost the same thing last year around this time and blogged about it pretty thoroughly (the pictures in that one are much more appetizing), but I thought I'd post about it anyway. :)

Hope your day is starting well!


Internet Silliness

Name That Candy Bar

Some of the other UCFers answered a quiz about T-Rex digestion, but on the same site, I was fascinated by the "Name That Candy Bar" quiz. I think part of the fascination is the method by which they show you the candy bar and what information you have to identify it.

Silly, but fun. I got two mixed up, which resulted in the 87%.


Ironically enough, that's the exact same score I got on the "Name That Element" quiz. Thank goodness I'm not a complete dunce.

Name That Element

(Yes, our Chemist friend will laugh hysterically at such an easy quiz. Even the trick questions weren't that tricky.)


New Discovery

I had some really tedious work to do today, so I went online to find some streaming media to keep me entertained but not require constant watching. In the midst of that, I went to cnet.com on impulse. I've been thinking about getting a laptop and I wanted to peek at what current prices are (and dicovered a cool new option: netbooks, particularly the new Dell Inspiron Mini 9). In the midst of THAT, I found that cnet has fun informational internet shows about technology, and the most entertaining ones featured a smart, funny, and attractive gal named Molly Wood. I proceeded to watch most of the archive of at least two of her shows, Buzz Report and Mailbag, while doing my tedious work, and the time just flew by. She's like a younger, female, technology-oriented version of Jon Stewart. See for yourself: Here's one tidbit and here's the whole shebang.

I don't know how many tech items I need to know about, but I do need laughs now and then, and Molly Wood delivers.

PS - This is my 700th post in this blog! (Yes, I had a newsy website previously, but as only my mum remembers it and it didn't have "posts" per se, we won't count it.)

PPS - A short story of mine won Michelle's writing contest! :D


Circle of Life

I've been watching some of Discovery's Planet Earth. On one hand, I love seeing the beauty of nature and life. On the other hand, life out there is Tough (with a capital T). Yes, I know it's all necessary. The wild dogs need to gang up on the ibex for their dinner, otherwise they'd starve (and so would the ibex, once their numbers exceeded the ability of the environment to sustain them). I just hate seeing animals in distress. When the calf elephant get separated from his momma and follows her trail in the wrong direction, you know he's going to die, alone.

Oh great. Now they're showing the huddled masses of the male penguins protecting their eggs in the winter of Antarctica. Sigh. (Anyone remember seeing March of the Penguins?)


Software Changes

After my rants about the sucky McAfee anti-virus program, I got a recommendation (from Belsum, I believe) for Avast, a free (for home users) anti-virus program. Tonight, I downloaded the program and will try it for a while before registering. So, we'll see.

I'm also looking at switching browsers. I've noticed that Firefox 3 is the most popular browser amongst my site's visitors and I've often heard people singing its praises. So, tonight, I'm downloading the program and trying it out. Any advice you guys have on its use would be appreciated. (I know you guys like giving advice. ;)

Hope your weekends have started out well!

Friday Cat Blogging

Michelle regularly has "Friday Cat Blogging" and for the first time, I coincidentally have cat pictures from a cozy evening watching TV:

The cuteness! It burns!


it's here! [/sotto voce]

[Dances jig]
My mail in ballot arrived today in the mail. Yippee!
I'll take my time over the next week or so to check out the million and one amendments Colorado has on the ballot (including the royally misguided and unthought out Amendment 48), vote, and then get it in the mail to be counted by election day.

Yay voting!


Finally a Political Voice

I was watching CNN's* post debate discussion this evening and was struck by a realization...

But first, a little background. Five or six years ago, I decide to change my political affiliation from Democrat to Independent/Unaffiliated. People said it was foolish, since I would lose a chance to vote in primaries. However, I was disgusted with the political machinations of the Democrats and was tired of being associated with the party. (Friends who happen to be Democrats are fine, of course, it's the behavior encouraged by the party that I disliked.) So, I changed my affiliation. I said that instead of making a "protest vote," I would make my registration a protest.

Now, things have turned on their head. I've always been a proponent for a multi-party political system (yes, there are nominally more than two parties, but we all know it's Dems vs. Reps) but have been told it's pretty much impossible at this point. Tonight, listening to the pundits, I suddenly realized that we ARE moving away from the two party system, in a way that's even better than having three or more major parties. I, as an Independent, have become part of a nebulous third group that defies stereotyping. We don't have many representatives in Senate, and we're not going to have an Independent president, but we ARE a force to be considered and reckoned with. There are enough of us that politicians are starting to have to pay attention to what concerns us (or at least pretend to). Pundits are biting their nails trying to figure out "what will the Independents do?"

I, who have never felt like I had a voice in politics, feel like someone's listening. Maybe I and my fellow Independents might actually change things around here.


* PS - CNN deliberately avoided "The Spin Room," saying "what's the point?" Bravo, CNN! Thanks for realizing how stupid it is to hear partisans parrot their party's talking points.


New Arrival

My couch came yesterday! (Cat provided for scale.)
Pretty nifty, isn't it?

The network adapter for the TiVo also arrived yesterday, and my wonderful brother helped me set it up. I'm sure I could have figured it out myself, but he was happy to do it for me and I was entertaining him and his fiancee with a story. So I can record TV again! Yay!


Thought of the Day

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

- The Man in Black, The Princess Bride




When I was a kid, I read a lot. I recognize now that it was to escape. I slowed down the pace of my reading when I started building a life that included entertainment with friends and family as well as the obligations of living (vacuuming, cooking dinner, emptying the cat box, etc).
The last few weeks, I've regressed. I not only read at night (which means I'm sliding on some of my obligations of living), but also in the morning, before work. This morning, I seriously considered taking a mental health day and just reading all day, but I promised to do a jobsite walk this afternoon. Plus, I'd rather really get away if I'm going to take time off work.
I'm uncertain if I should cut myself some slack and just move through the phase without the self-flagellation or if I'm being self-indulgent to do so. If I were to just apply a little discipline, would it help? We'll see.

It's very much like having a recalcitrant child, but without the extra cost of food, schoolbooks, and clothes.

Later: Jeri (in the comments) put it best when she describes reading as "an inexpensive mental vacation."

You all will be pleased to learn that tonight I finished the book I was reading - Young Miles (a compilation of The Warrior's Apprentice, "The Mountains of Mourning", and The Vor Game) by Lois McMaster Bujold - and am moving on (in the absence of the next Miles book, which I will be purchasing momentarily from Amazon) to The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Even Later: There, the remainder of the Miles series has been ordered, mostly through Amazon, but a couple from Paperback Swap. [cue evil chuckle] While I'm waiting, I'll decimate my "to read" list as well as I am able. :)