One would think that having more time to organize my life and my thoughts would lead to some great and introspective posts, wouldn't one?
Ultimately, it hasn't.
Part of that is because I'm communicating with friends on a more individual basis (and IRL), and part of that is because my life and thoughts feel a little disorganized right now.

I'm feeling like things are moving forward and my mental map of my life is adapting to the new circumstances. I can't really describe what that map is yet, but I still feel pretty positive about things.

I appreciate you all very much!


Clean Kitchen

Several hours of labor, broken up over two days has yielded a shiny (if not sparkly) kitchen. I moved everything (including the microwave) and cleaned places I haven't looked at in years, but there are two places that didn't get cleaned yet. I am putting off for another day: the fridge (another day's work) and the cabinet under the sink (which, I think, requires some industrial strength cleaner and a bunch of elbow grease).

ETA: Jen A was so impressed with the cleanliness she saw, she threatened to buy me something to accentuate it (via the juxtaposition of a foil). I can't even describe it, so just go look (here too). Thank goodness she restrained herself! [shudder!] I even LIKE bugs and I found it creepy.

No More Cable [sob!]

I had my standard cable trimmed all the way back to basic today. That's the one with network TV, TBS, Discovery Channel, and CSPAN.
Since I'm keeping the internet and there's a package deal, it would have only saved me an additional $6 to get rid of it entirely, so I kept the basic.

I sometimes like to have the TV going on in the background for auditory companionship. The previous go to channel was Food Network. Now, it'll be Discovery Channel. Not bad!

I will have to remember to watch my cable shows (Monk, Burn Notice, BSG, etc.) on the computer now though. Me and remembering usually aren't a good pairing. We'll see how it goes. So far I have a standing offer to see BSG at my brother's. That'll help. (Whew!)


Snowy Day in Denver

Janiece posted a snowy picture from her backyard, so I thought I would too. I think I have more snow, but it's hard to tell.
The scene in the first picture naturally leads to the scene in the second: my labor for the day...


Barista Competition

Last weekend, I mentioned to a friend that I was going to a barista competition. She was intrigued enough, not only to ask that I maybe expand on the theme in a blog post, but followed up with a reminder when I forgot. Thanks, Tania! ;)

My dear friend and cousin, Susan, is an owner of a drive-through espresso shop and a coffee roasting company. Both of them are called The Black Cup (the site is a teeny bit out of date, ahem, Susan), and are located in Loveland, Colorado. So, if you're ever in town, they're located on the east side of 287, heading north out of Loveland. Her roasted coffee beans are adored by the family as an easy way to partake of her genius when you're not in CO, as she will ship on request.

The Mountain Regional Barista Competition, is a step on the ladder to the World Barista Championship. There is a "competition area" that includes a large espresso machine, coffee grinder, and prep area (the competitors bring their own cups and tamper and other prep items). There are four tasting judges, two technical judges, and one head judge who oversees judging consistency. The judging criteria (based on page 22 of the Rules and Regs) include competition area cleanliness, taste (the most subjective part), presentation, technical skills (consistency, doing all the steps correctly, etc), and overall impression. The competitor produces four espressos (one for each tasting judge), four cappuccinos, and then four of their signature drink in 15 minutes, all whilst the technical judges are peering at their process. The flavor of the coffee throughout the drinks is not only affected by the skill of the barista, but by the coffee bean blend they brought with them. It reveals their taste in coffee, and a refined sense of taste will elevate the level of all the drinks. The signature drink is (aside from performance) the most nerve-wracking of the elements. You want to be creative enough to be noticed and to stand out, but not so crazy with your flavors that you put off the judges. One barista we talked to is vegan, so she made a vegan coffee drink flavored with coconut milk and lemongrass. On the opposite end of the spectrum was someone who included bacon in (or with?) their signature drink. Susan's signature drink this year was flavored with clove and kumquat. And throughout this experience, the barista must be able to speak confidently with the judges on things like the flavor profiles of their blend, their process, and where they got the idea for their signature drink.

It was a fun time, Susan did excellently well (though I am not a barista in any fashion). She was self assured, tidy, and performed well. Unfortunately, a couple elements of her drinks were a little off. She says her blend was not quite as well chosen as she would have liked, and the judges thought the clove element was a little heavy-handed. I think with some tinkering, it would have been a real winner. However, that's the other part: when you're running two businesses and are dealing with end of the year stuff, how hard is it to find the time to tinker with your signature drink until it's perfect in the minds of the judges? Very difficult.
So, Susan did not make finals this year (she did last year, which was the first year she competed). There's always next year, right?

9 News did a very good clip on the competition, mainly because it included a nicely informative interview with the guy who ended up winning the Mountain Region competition.


One of Us! One of Us!

I just joined the cult that is Facebook and feeling pretty good about it. I've gotten in contact with some friends from my childhood whom I miss. I've posted a bunch of photos, and in doing so have made great strides in figuring out which 100 photos, from the 1000 taken, that I want to get printed out and made into a photo album (for all those non-Facebook people out there).
Speaking of reconnecting, I went out to a friend's 40th birthday party and got to see friends I haven't seen in a year or more. That was pretty awesome. They are some really stellar people and I miss them lots. Several of them have been making some big changes that I'm really proud of.

Later: Actually, I can share my Facebook albums with anyone, so here's:
India Trip, Part 1
India Trip, Part 2


Home Comforts

I made soup today, pretty much out of stuff I had around the house: garlic, onion, carrots, celery, ground turkey, homemade chicken stock, lentils, mushrooms, and wild rice. Primary seasonings are: salt, pepper, parsley, with a few shakes of garlic salt and italian seasonings. It's pretty yummy, if I do say so myself.
I have a friend whose husband used to be a restaurant chef and who has told me many times about the yummy food he makes for them. Then there's Jim. I've always thought their spouses were lucky. However, I just realized that I lucky to have ME as house chef. Granted, when I'm feeling lazy, there's no one to whip up something awesome. But I am a good cook. And that's nothing to sneeze at. :)

House cleanup is going well. My current method of choice is to take a pile of papers, dump them on the floor, and then sort it out. It works because I dislike having clutter on the floor, so I HAVE to clean it up: file, deal with, or recycle.

The boys are funny. When I'm fiddling around the house, they're generally nearby, but not always. When I'm lying on the bed, reading, they join me (Matti scrubs around under the covers, Martin sits next to me). Here's a cute picture of them investigating an interesting noise outside.


Care Package Queen

Yesterday evening, I came home to find a lovely little care package on my front porch. It was the promised care package from the incomparable Jen A.
The message in the card says it all, "There is absolutely no way you'll be on the job market for long, so before you're snatched up, make time for reading, eating, and self-pedis!" The box contained a book, The Late Bloomer's Revolution, which we've discussed before, a big bag of delicious chocolate chip cookies, a mini pedicure kit, with a pumice bar, file, and two bottles of nail polish (awesome colors, by the way).
It's a wonderful package, but what elevates it to awesome is the same element that elevates other creative endeavors - presentation. She used a handy little card box (I love Papyrus too!) and some cool paper to put together the pedicure kit. She's done this sort of thing before, using a round tin for cookies and a Nestle Quick box to send a cake pop. She's not only ingenious re-using containers, but it adds an extra level of thought that really is impressive.
Jen, you give me something to aspire to. :)


A Request for Tolerance

One of the things that most strikes me about the politics of today is that it is the inverse in many ways of the changes that occurred 8 years ago.

In 2001, when Bush took office, many conservatives felt that the office of president had been sullied by Clinton's behavior while holding office. Many of them reiterated for their liberal brethren that Bush is our president now, so sit down and be quiet. Many liberals considered (even at that time) Bush to be akin to the Anti-Christ. To have not voted for Gore was to have been a vote for darkness and chaos.

Now, change the above paragraph, substituting 2009 for 2001, conservative with liberal and vice-versa, Bush for Clinton and McCain for Gore, and you have (aside from the economic and world situation) a virtually perfect inversion.

American liberals and conservatives should keep in mind that they have stood in each others shoes. Remember how you felt when someone denigrated someone you believed in. Remember how fearful you felt. Understand that these feelings are now those of your ideological opposites. This doesn't mean you have to agree, but it should inform how you treat your brothers and sisters. Be kind to each other. We have more in common with each other than we differ.


An Embarrassment of Riches

On Saturday, the flower delivery person brought me ANOTHER flower arrangement. It had the same message from Michelle. No, she didn't forget what she had already done, it must have been an error on the part of the flower place. (If anyone's missing a flower arrangement, let me know.) As you can see, the flowers from the first one are opening beautifully.
Thank you, again, Michelle. :)
The funny thing is, this isn't the first time I've gotten two of something. I got two Christmas cards from Jen A. I'm pretty sure that was because I sent a card in reply to the first one, which prompted the sending of the second one.
Thank you twice over, Jen!

I went to the dentist today (since my insurance is giving out at the end of the month). I had cavities (as I suspected) and got lectured on flossing (standard operating procedure). Amazingly enough, they had time to fill my cavities today! So, now my jaw hurts from having it cranked open for so long, but my teeth are all nicely fixed. (There was a minor mixup on my part on the insurance, but with the help of some friends, like JR giving me the Delta Dental group number, I got it all worked out.) Now, I'm eating yogurt for dessert, in an effort not to chew or open my mouth very wide.

Jen A. indicated that she got a little care package I sent out last week. There should be two more.


Update + Art

I'm still doing pretty well in unemployment land. I applied for unemployment on Thursday, which just means I started the process, not that there's money coming to me anytime in the next month or so.
I've found myself to be curiously busy. Part of it is still job related, for example, Tues. I went in to tie up some loose ends, yesterday I took a fellow laid-off-ee on a tour of my building so she could get some photos for her portfolio, today I'm going into the office again to get some photos I wanted but forgot, and twice I have gone out to lunch with the people from the construction office. Part of it is fixing up the house (the project in the basement will be blogged about in the near future) and trading services with a friend who is also laid off and fixing up his house. Then there are the phone calls and emails from concerned friends, plus evening gatherings I would be going to anyway (BSG at brother's house, women's group, etc.). So, I haven't been sitting around the house needing to motivate myself as much as I thought I would!

One of the fun things I did this week was go to a women's group (the spellchecker doesn't like the word "women's." What, a group of females can't possess something?) that supports each other in spiritual expression, development, and exploration. It's not focused around one dogma (in fact, we often express the differences in our beliefs) and that's what makes it an interesting group, in my opinion.
Last week, we met and two of the gals, who are artists, set up an evening of art, inspired by a woman who does "soul painting". They didn't set the bar too high - we didn't try to paint our souls, just tried a self/spiritual expression exercise with multi-media art. I found it interesting that two of the gals initially had trouble without stronger guidelines of What To Draw, but as they experimented with media and started talking instead of thinking so much, they did much better. Those of us with artistic (of the painting and drawing type) backgrounds linked in with that creative impulse a lot quicker.
Though I spent much of my childhood doing art (went to art camp every summer of high school), I don't do a ton of it now. Occasionally I will do a painting in gouache, but ultimately, I don't often find the time to play with art. I really enjoyed myself that evening, and though I really don't need to have yet another creative pursuit or buy the supplies for it, I'd love to do it more often.
We "warmed up" (loosened up, is more accurate) with charcoal, and one of my first efforts, I really liked what came to my fingers:

When we moved to the colored media (watercolors, chalk pencils, acrylic paint, oil pastels, etc.) I decided to base my next piece on that first one. I had a really fun time doing multiple media (which I haven't done much of). It really yields some interesting depth and texture. I was very pleased by the outcome. If pressured, I would say it represents where I feel I am right now, but ultimately, it's a nice piece of art:


Anabanana, Makin' Catfood

(you have to read that title as if it's being said by Rob Schneider doing his SNL skit about the guy who sits next to the copier)

Belsum said in the comments of another post that making my own catfood seems complicated. It's not really, and since I don't think I've ever explained what it is or why I do it, I thought I'd post about it here.

When I was growing up, we fed the cats both dry and moist catfood, so that's what I intended to do when I got cats myself. When I offered them moist catfood from the store, however, they only licked off the moisture and wouldn't eat it. I was certainly NOT going to buy something that they were only going to lick, so I started casting about for other options. (I did try other brands with the same result.) In the vet's office, I spotted a brochure for a way to make your own catfood. I figured I'd try it. It was a smashing success. They ate all that they were given. Over time, it seemed like a good decision because their coats became healthy and they seemed to have very few health issues. Plus Matti, a little on the lean side, gained weight, while Martin, a little on the heavy side, seemed to lose weight. They really seem to enjoy it.

It doesn't take long, maybe and hour to an hour and a half to make a batch and a batch lasts 7 days in the winter and 10 in the summer. (They eat more in the winter.) I can do it while watching TV and can do it in advance, since it's frozen between the time I make it and when I feed it to them. When my dad was taking care of the cats while I was in India, I made three or four batches to tide him over til I came back.

It's not complicated either. I buy a powder online that has many of the vitamins and minerals the cats need. I add that to water, plus a little salmon oil, then add ground chicken and liver. I grind it myself with a small food processor from chicken breasts I buy at Costco, so that keeps the cost extremely reasonable. When all that is mixed together, I divide it up into single serving sizes (refined from the powder's instruction after a little trial and error when I'd first started) that I put in cheap plastic baggies (the fold-over sandwich kind seem to be best) and then freeze. The daily routine then is to take the frozen servings out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to defrost, then warm them up (or defrost if I've forgotten step one) in a warm water bath before dumping the serving from the baggie into the bowl. I've tried to figure out a less wasteful way to package them for freezing, but I need to be able to warm them a little and the microwave tends to start cooking it if I'm off by a second or two. Plus, I need to be able to defrost them quickly (without cooking) if I forget to. So, that part is still being thought through.

All in all, it's cost effective (through the wonders of Costco), and only a little time consuming (which for people who know me know is not an issue), and the cats really seem to thrive on it. I really enjoy taking care of them as much as they enjoy taking care of me. :)

At least I can still move my fingers to type. Thanks, Martin.

Matti being cute while sleeping. As usual.


I Have Awesome Friends

One of the nicest things about hard times is that you find out who your friends are. I can't count the number of times I've heard in the last three days, "I don't know what I can do to help, but if I can do ANYTHING, please give me a call." Many friends that I gathered at work have insisted on getting my contact info so we can keep in touch and they can pass on any leads they get. I've actually had to do more reassuring than being reassured, which has been funny and touching at the same time.
Sweet, Random Michelle sent me the flower arrangement you see above. I was supposed to get it yesterday, but was away from home most of the day. Then, it was supposed to come today, and despite the fact that I WAS home, I somehow missed the delivery guy. So, I went to pick it up. I suspected it was from Michelle, as the Random Flower Fairy has visited my house before, but it was nice to see those friendly words on the card. I've had "threats" from Jen A, saying she was putting something in the mail for me (which I am eagerly anticipating). Janiece has invited me over for dinner and as many drinks as I care to have. Cheryl has speculated on having dinner for me and other friends who have been laid off. Michelle also put up this post of funny pictures to make me smile. Too many people to name are wishing/praying/hoping the best for me. I've also been getting phone calls and emails from people who have heard secondhand (which is totally OK, by the way) and want to pass on their concern and good wishes. I'm still feeling upbeat and positive about this change, so the conversations have been easy.
So, here I will say officially: My Friends Rock. I feel so supported and that really makes a difference. Thank you, guys.

Keeping Busy

I put together a list of stuff I need to do, ranging from job related things like updating my resume and portfolio to household stuff like taking the things I've be accumulating in my vestibule to the Salvation Army. I've been pretty diligent all morning getting random things done. So far there's not much rhyme or reason to it. If it catches my eye, I do it.

It's a little weird feeling, but at least I feel like I'm accomplishing stuff.

I've got one lead on a small renovation project. That might get me a few bucks to add to the kitty. We'll see. My friend is passing on my name and number to the potential client.
Friday I have lunch plans with friends, am taking photos for my portfolio, and will be going up to my brother's for BSG watching.

So, it looks like life goes on. Surprised? No, me neither. :)


Life Changes

I'm pretty sure you've all heard that the economy isn't doing so great. With the breakdown of the financial world, the banks have shut down lending. Without financing, developers can't do what they do best - spend other people's money in order to make money. No money, no projects (this includes schools and other government projects if the bonds aren't passed by voters). No projects, nothing for architects to do and no way for them to get paid. Architects like me.

I thought I would have a job through the end of January, since my project would end around then. I wasn't sure what would happen at that point, since they seem to be keeping on other architects who don't have active projects.
I was off by three weeks. My project is not completely done, but yesterday I was laid off. I got a little bit of severance and had almost two weeks vacation saved up, so I've got till about the beginning of February before I'm eligible for unemployment (yes, I'm going to sign up now so I don't miss any benefits due me). Considering that I've been paying into unemployment for the last decade or so, I definitely don't consider it embarrassing or accepting charity to collect unemployment. So, that plus my savings plus economizing should keep me afloat for 6 months or more (probably more) while I look for a job and wait for the economy to improve. I may not even get a job in architecture. I don't know. I've got some diverse skills, including writing and project management. These can be used in many places. So, don't get all worried yet folks. My current take on this is that changes, though scary, are what can shake you out of a rut or put you on a path that you'd never thought of before. As an adventurous person, that is exciting to me. Yes, you may call me crazy, I'm ok with that. ;)


Today was weird. I went into work to get my stuff, try and tie up some loose ends, and collect some things I could use for my portfolio. I spent four hours going through stuff (I'd been there 6 1/2 years, but it's been only 3 since we moved our office to the new space), recycling what could easily be identified as unneeded, and trying to archive thousands of project related emails. PDF writer made that a thousand times easier than it sounds, but it was still time consuming. The only think I really didn't get done was collecting stuff for my personal records (photos/renderings of the buildings, etc). However, I think I have enough good will there to still get those later this week.
Then, I had lunch with the construction people I've worked with for the last 2 years. They were more shocked than I was that I was laid off. They'll be fine, I left things (on the architectural side, at least) 95% done. There are a few outstanding issues, but most of the background work is done on them. I will miss them though, as much as they miss me. The funny thing is that while we were eating lunch (at the very end of lunch) at the Mexican place across the street from the project, the superintendent got a call on her cell that said the fire department had showed up. She and the others ran back across the street to find out if it was a false alarm or a real emergency. Hee!
I went and did a couple errands, including posting the secret project I've been working on. I wasn't going to put all that effort into it and balk at paying the postage. After that, I went to JR and Stacey's for some commiserating and talking through what the next steps will be.
By the time I got back home, it was 4:00, and I spent most of the evening putting a door in the basement with the help of a friend. Turns out it's harder than it seems it should be, but we got it in OK. It works well. I forgot to buy a handle and latch, but it's in. I'll put in the handle and also do a little work on the jamb (drywall that needs to be put in) in the next day or so.
Then we went out to an economical dinner (happy hour priced drinks with one appetizer and one entree, both shared).
Happily the evening activities ended there so that I would have a couple hours to write this lengthy post for you all!

And that's how I ended up busy all day long on the day after I was laid off.

Tomorrow I'll list some of the projects I have planned to fill my days.


Unexpected Productivity

Today I:
- made cat food
- went grocery shopping
- filled the gas tank
- vacuumed the house
- cleaned the bathroom
- fixed the toilet
- put away the Christmas decorations and cards
- cleaned the cat bathroom
(more to come... still on a roll)

- did 2/3 of the laundry
- worked on a secret project that will go in the mail Tuesday

And a friend came over and we played Texas Hold'em. Got my butt kicked and figured out we had played it wrong, dealing 3 cards instead of 2. Oops!


Girly Fun

Janiece and I went shoe shopping today at Park Meadows. Being the smart shoppers we are, we started at Off Broadway and proceeded to DSW before window browsing at the mall itself.
I needed (yes, I actually NEEDED) new casual shoes and black office shoes. Fortunately, I found them. The casual shoes were Sketchers, just like the ones I've worn to nubbins. The black office shoes are nice (if plain) and from Naturalizer, which means they're also comfy!

We ate lunch at a nice asian bistro place. We had beer and sake and lettuce wraps. I had spicy honey chicken and a bit of sushi while Janiece had black pepper chicken. Both were very flavorful, but at the end of the meal we realized we hadn't photographed our food! [gasp!] The fact that neither of us had brought a camera was also an issue. So, you'll be spared the food pr0n today. ;)

Afterwards, we talked as we window-shopped at the mall. For the most part, we were very virtuous - at Borders, we both got out of there for under $15 (Janiece under $10). I LOVE the bargain books tables and got two cookbooks: one on appetizers and finger foods and one on sushi and japanese cuisine. They're both really nice looking books. We almost managed not to buy anymore shoes, until we found AWESOME prices in the Aldo store. Normally $80 shoes were $25! Only the colored ones, not the plain black ones. Seems like they're shifting to This Years Colors and trying to get rid of Last Years Colors (the horror!). So taupe grey and deep purple are out and something else is in. I'm guessing steel grey and deep blue-green. (Not that I have any clue what I'm talking about.) So, swayed by the lovely (comfy!) design, excellent quality, quirky color, and awesome price, I bought sassy new pumps. For whatever reason, I consider those the delightful finishing touch to a really relaxing and fun day.
Technically, the delicious Godiva chocolate bonbons that Janiece bought for us (one each) was the delightful finishing touch, but I did give a sigh of contentment when we left the Aldo store. I really enjoy buying something nice when I feel like I've gotten a good deal.

I had a really fun time, as I always do with Janiece. She really is a cool and classy lady. :)

Oh, and the car pictured above? 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Supersnake From Restoration Hardware's Shelby Replica Series. Janiece and I looked them over but decided $80 was too much to pay for a toy car. About $75 too much.
It's here for the non-shoe people who made it through the whole post. Congrats!

Cat Sleeping Habits

Both my boys, when they sleep with me on the bed, will curl up either on/below my feet, behind my knee joint, or at my waist. I don't think it's just because there's a crook there to snuggle into (in the case of my feet, it's definitely not that). My guess is that my body gives off marginally more heat at the joints.

OK, Matti is pestering the heck out of me. I'm going to go feed him, in case that's what he wants (even if not, it'll distract him for a while).


Review: The Shape of Mercy

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

Michelle gave me this book for winning this contest.
Michelle has her own review of it which I pretty much agree with (except for which character's story I identified most with).

It's about three women - a college student who is hired by an old lady to translate the diary of an ancestor who was tried as a witch during the Salem trials.

I most identified with Lauren, the college age gal, mostly because I over think things like she does and puzzle over my own thought processes like she does. I found a few lines particularly profound, like when her dad points out that even if you manage to see people as they are (and not assuming they are), that still doesn't justify judging them. [It lost something in the paraphrasing, but you get the idea.]

It's well-written, and light, kind of like eating a good salad. Enjoyable, good for you, doesn't seem like it'll fill you up, but then it does. It is skewed toward a female audience (all three main characters are women) and there are aspects that would appeal to a young audience. It's very well done.

The book gave me much to think about afterwards, but interestingly, one of the most striking points of thought was not prompted by the book but by some of the reviews on the book's Amazon.com page. Turns out that in some circles this book is idenified as "Christian Fiction." This brought up an immediate reaction - and judgement! - but in looking for another link, I stumbled across an excellent review page that said pretty much what I was thinking, only better than I could have said it:
As a Christian myself, I honestly didn't realize it was Christian Fiction until I saw it called so. The only religious aspect to the book, aside from the Salem witch trials, is that the characters believe in God and in passing the author mentions that they pray or go to church. While the theme of the book is a Christian one of not judging others that theme transcends Christianity to all walks of life. [emphasis mine]

I love that the reviewer, ElizaJane, pointed that out. (There's HOPE for the world!)
Religion in this book is perfectly appropriate for each character. The woman from the past was embedded in a highly religious society and people were being accused of allying themselves with The Devil.
Interestingly for me (and this fact is cited by another reviewer on that page), If I had known about the label, I would have either not read it (for fear of finding it too "preachy") or started reading it prejudiced. In both cases, I would have been the loser, as it is a lovely book that transcends its labels. Plus, I wouldn't have had such a great opportunity to think about my prejudices, my judgments, and how I think about myself.

The link I was looking for when I found the good review page was a blog that follows the story of the characters after the end of the book. The author says she wasn't ready to leave these characters just yet. Kinda cool!

Highly Recommended: 8/10


New Year, New Prezzies, Resolutions, and "Staycations"

I had a lovely Christmas and I hope you all did too. :)
I got cozy socks, Stardust (LOVED it!), and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I also got some lovely stocking presents, including a lovely dragon pin and a sweet little puzzle box shaped like a cat (both shown above).
THEN, yesterday morning (though it might have been there since the 31st) I found on the doorstep a yummy tin of homemade cookies (also shown above) from Jen A! She is just too much some times. Thank you, Jen! I have my revenge planned!

Now, it's the new year, and after several lovely gatherings of one sort or another, I'm ready to begin what's looking like it will be an exciting (in that Chinese curse kinda way) year. Several of my friends, like Michelle, talk about not making resolutions because "If something is important, why not just do it once you have decided it is important?"
Honestly, she's right. Every new second is an opportunity for a resolution to begin or begin again. However, there's nothing wrong with people needing an event, an impetus, and a special moment to begin doing things differently. Many heroic changes are started with a New Year's Resolution (for example, the incredibly brave Kate, who put it all out there on her blog and said "wish me luck"). So, I'll state something too. Something similar to Kate's. I am going to be aware of what I eat. I am going to exercise regularly. Not because I want to be thinner, but because I want to express how I love myself. I love feeling healthy and I love the way my muscles feel and operate when I am in shape. I want the beauty of my insides to be reflected on the outside. So, I'm not making a resolution, just another step in a path I've been on for... (Jeez!) nearly 15 years.

Happy New Year to everyone! And in honor of the new year, I'll point out to you Eric's musings about the arbitrariness of "keeping" time.

And finally, I'll mention that "staycations" are cheaper, but not really as good as "vacations". I've been on one of the former for the past week or so and while I read a lot and had a good time with my family and went to several fun get-togethers, I have been a lazy bum. Which is not generally OK when you are surrounded by a house that needs a little TLC. Yes, my dad and I worked on an ongoing project in the basement, but that one thing was offset by the hundred other things I can think of that need to be done. So, what you save in $$$, you make up for in guilt. :P


Tom Clancy, Eat Your Heart Out

I spent the last two days reading Tom Clancy's Without Remorse (mainly because it's about John Clark, who was played by the yummy Liev Schreiber in that otherwise crappy movie, Sum of All Fears).

Imagine my surprise when I come back to the Internet (Land of Crazy Theories) and find that my online friends group, the UCF, has been outed as a super secret counter intelligence group. Damn. And we had planned it all so well.

JTankers, online "intelligence" analyst (CONTROL to our KAOS, if you will) has figured out not only our secret organization's true name (Uniformed Counter-Intelligence Force), but our command structure (Nathan is Our Leader), and funding (tax dollars, of course). Our true purpose is to confound the truly brilliant members of our society, like Walter Wagner (defender of the innocent and opponent of the LHC), who refuse to buy into the propaganda of The Man. Our cover as a geeky, opinionated group of individualists has been blown.


Well, as self-proclaimed Librarian for the group, I'll document the insanity here:
Janiece Posts a Provocative Post About Wagner

JTankers Reveals The Truth
Janiece Admits The Truth
Eric's Utterly Hilarious Origins Story
Nathan Reacts to the Revelation He Is Our Leader
Kim Speaks on the Difficulty of a Double Life
Vince Tips a Monty-Pythonesque Hat To JTankers
Michelle Reveals Her Own Origins Story
Ilya Uncloaks Himself And Posts a Cool Rollover Logo
Edited to Add:
Jeri Tells of Her Career As An Independent Intelligence Analyst
How MWT joined the Uniformed Counter-Intelligence Force
Shawn Ruins the Universe In a YouTube Video
JTankers Revises The Truth

My Thanks to JTankers for his clever detective work. Oh, wait... what's my motivation again? Right. Got it.

Curse you, JTankers! [shakes fist]


My Own Origins Story:

[Squinting in the hot and bright light that shines in my face and isolates me from the shadowy figures in the otherwise darkened room]

Ow! All right! I'll tell you my story if you quit giving me noogies and an indian burn!

It all started one blustery day as I was doing a site walk on my project. They had just poured the 29th level slab and it was hard enough to walk on, but not completely set yet. Suddenly, the wind picked up. The port-a-potties shook enough that I began to worry about the traffic below. Then the source of the increased wind appeared. A small helicopter was descending, landing on the newly poured slab!

A man stepped out. He wore a heavy overcoat, pulled up around his neck and ears, but I knew him by the glasses and mustache.


It was Nathan. Janiece had warned me he might show up, so I avoided spending much time on the street, in alleys, or in smoky bars. I never suspected he would be so bold, and told him as much.

"My cover as a location manager allows me access to surprising places," he said with a smirk. "The production company will be disappointed that I found this high-rise construction site to be too restricted for their purposes, but hey, that's what they pay me for."

I asked him what he wanted. If he told me, I might be able to get him to leave and get off my damn concrete.

"I'm putting together a new group. It'll be a hairy ride, but worth it. We'll be fighting a good fight against those who would derail the Establishment."

That was baloney, I knew. Nathan always knew which side his bread was buttered on.

"Can't fool you, not like some," he laughed, and I wondered if he meant someone in particular. "No, in addition to the honor of Maintaining Status Quo, you'll be paid. It's government money though, and you know how stingy Congress can be."

More baloney. The government doesn't know diddly about how anything works, so all they can do is throw money at it. The budget would be big. Really big. But I didn't have to let Nathan know I knew that until after I had negotiated a big enough cut for myself.

I realized what that meant. I was seriously considering his offer. I played for time. Negotiations would go better if he thought I was reluctant. I asked about the other probable recruits.

"Janiece, of course," he said. "After what she did to salvage things the first time around... not to mention protecting all... well, most of our asses." He paused, considering which names would be the most persuasive. "Eric, JTS, Vince, Tania, most of the old crew..."

Jim and MWT's names were conspicuously absent, so I challenged him on that.

He smiled. "I just located MWT, hiding out in Georgia, of all places. That's my next recruit to approach. Thought it might be helpful to have your buy in first."

I smiled at the flattery, but dismissed it.

Jim? I prompted again.

Nathan grimaced. "Finally tracked the bastard down in Alaska, but caught him on a migraine day. Thought it might be good to let him cool off again before a second approach. My sources say he's open to the job though."

I grimaced at the thought of tangling with Jim on a migraine day too. Nathan had been lucky to escape unharmed... it was then that I understood the stiff way Nathan held his left arm against his side. Left arm, not his dominant right. Nathan was right, Jim was open to the job.

I wanted to ask about the others, but decided he'd been on my building long enough. The ruts in the concrete were setting up around the bottom rails of the helo. Any longer and it'd be even harder to repair.

I told him I was interested, but wanted to talk about my cut. Even more, I wanted him to get his butt off my building. He heard sirens in the distance, one of those ubiquitous fire engines that was almost always buzzing by, and mistook it for police cars.

"I'll be in touch," he said, putting his hand out. We used the secret coded handshake and then he was gone, leaving ugly grooves in the surface of my concrete and a new excitement for the future.