Cuteness Webcam

I don't generally follow animal webcams, as I'm not very consistent, BUT...
I finally followed Firefox's link to a webcam for firefox (or red panda) cubs and jeezoopeetz, are they cute!
If they're sleeping, like they are now, you can click on the "meet the cubs" tab to see some up close cuteness.


Pie, for dinner?

"What do you have for dessert?  Peas?"
- 80s TV advertisement

This picture of a beef curry pie with a parsley crust that I made yesterday goes out to all the folks who missed the photos I posted on Facebook of the San Francisco trip.  (If you're interested I can post some of them here too.  Requests can be entered in the comments  :)


Intellectual Attraction

An Alien's Guide to Earth

This somewhat rambling and popular-talk-show style podcast/radio program has, at its core, a great interview between Neil Degrasse Tyson and Jon Stewart about The Daily Show's newest book "Earth: The Book."
If you can stomach the talk-show banter (honestly, I wouldn't have made it through if the interview was even one notch less interesting) and the ads (virtuous ads, but still ads), this interview illustrates why I adore Jon Stewart.  He really speaks about the things I think about.  You know that conversation-starter question about "what famous persons would you most like to invite to dinner?"  He's at the top of my list.


"We'll catch you on the flip-flop."

Today I got some news that I was kind of hoping for and dreading at the same time.  My dear Uncle Sam passed away this week.  The good news is, he went the way he wanted to go -- independently, in his own home, with little fuss and bother.  The bad news is, the selfish beings he left here in the physical must continue on without his humor and love to make the going easier.

I am so glad I moved out here to Denver and got to know my father's siblings and their spouses and my cousins.  Uncle Sam and Uncle Arch helped me to fix up the house. When I bought it, it needed new floors throughout and a new fence and the two of them helped me do it.  Two septuagenarians (both 72 at the time) labored over my new hardwood floor and cedar fence.  I'd feel guilty, except that pair of jokesters had so much fun doing it.  I know Sam didn't always have the best relationships with those he loved, but with me, he was always loving and supportive - even when I first showed up at one of our lunches at Olive Garden on my motorcycle.  He joked that I'd be causing accidents, since all the fellas would be rubbernecking to see the gal on a bike.  He was my AAA when I had a car that didn't automatically turn the lights off when the engine was turned off.  I would be coming home late from school and the battery would be dead, because I had left the lights on after driving in the snow, and he come out from Lakewood in the middle of the night to jump start my battery.  He had the best memory (until those last few years, anyways) and was a great storyteller.  The decline of his memory and independence was difficult to witness.  I am SO glad things worked out so that we could have that mini-reunion for his 80th birthday.  It was wonderful that everyone made an effort to get together and share the day.   I always think of Sam when I see a big rig and I think my dear sister put it best when she posted some lines from a C. W. McCall song:
And then everyone was asleep, except me. And as I saw the morning star come up over the mountains, I realized that life is just a collection of memories. And memories are like starlight: they go on forever.
We will miss you, Uncle Sam, you gave us some great memories.  Give Aunt Waneta a hug and a kiss from us.  Love, Annie


Beautiful Writing

This link has been put about on Facebook, but I know some of my readers have not, so I will repost it here.

Roger Ebert is best known as a movie critic, but ever since cancer and the attempted treatment of it changed his life, he has emerged as a preeminent modern essayist (in the form of his blog).

This post about loneliness struck a chord for some of my friends, and it does for me as well.  One thing he did not bring up, but a commenter later on does: some of the loneliest times I have ever experienced were in the presence of another person.  I would state "most of the..." but I have a crappy memory and I'll give myself and others the benefit of the doubt.  For me, loneliness is about connection and sharing - or lack thereof.  Most of it can be avoided by exerting oneself, and the remainder must be endured.

It sounds like it might be a sad post, but it's not really.  Just thought provoking.


Fall in the Mountains

Photos from my trip: West Virgina

Blackwater Falls, named thusly for the tannin darkened water.


Trees... (this shaggy one looks like it could be from a Seuss book)

And more trees.

My lovely hostess...

There's a fungus among us!

A picturesque view from a Pennsylvania hill at Kentuck Knob. Anyone want to buy that little farm for me?  Looks like it would be nice for Christmas.


The Rally

Some time ago, I posted a link from the Daily Show that made a case for the US political machine being like the WWF.  It brilliantly illustrated a long held speculation I've had about politics.  (Re-watching it, I still think it's brilliant.)

In mid September, I had a similar feeling of concurrence.  This feels a little like deja vu.  As a non-conformist, this happen rarely (it had better!) and as a moderate, this happens rarely (unfortunately) as the media doesn't  cover moderation very often.  Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, announced the Rally to Restore Sanity.  He said it would be for all those people who are tired of the divisiveness of the current political climate, to which I thought, “Absolutely.  It would be cool to attend that. How often do you see a rally for moderates?”  Of course, I'm not going to pay hundreds of dollars just to go stand with a crowd of people, no matter how much I agree with them.  Besides, I had two fears: one, that the rally would be co-opted by extreme liberals (I know Jon doesn't swing that way, but many people who watch his show do), and two, that it would be all shtick and no substance.

A week or two later, I was planning my trip to WV and MD, and I realized that I would actually be in the area the weekend of the event.  The stars aligned and I ended up going with my hostess, Jen, and her friend, Sarah.  (My one regret is that Sarah and I didn't explain the purpose of event to Jen a bit more, so she knew what it was about beforehand.) We made a small detour to check out the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian (very cool building – I'd like to visit again and spend half a day there...) and then dove into the crowds of the rally.

Current estimates place the crowd at 200-215 thousand people.  I'll not go into a long description as this article from the BBC summarizes the situation well.  There were some great signs; my favorites were “Poster Board is a Terrible Medium for Complex Arguments,” “!,” and “What do we want? Moderation!!! When do we want it? In a reasonable time frame.”  (Some more can be found in this gallery.)  It was an extremely diverse group of people with all ages, colors, and creeds represented (here's a photo gallery from the event).  I saw lots of women in Muslim headscarves (which, unlike some former NPR journalists, makes me feel happy about diversity).  For people-watching, it was a “target rich environment.”  The noise of the crowd, however, drowned out any hope we had of actually hearing the event, and after a couple hours, we left, needing a toilet not in a plastic box, a place to sit down, and somewhere where we weren't being jostled every other minute.  Turns out, being somewhere where the crowd was continually moving was good for people watching and bad for people averse to being knocked about by people who (sensibly, I admit) carried all their provisions for the day on their backs.

Later, we caught up though commentaries and live-blogging on some of the events we'd been present for but couldn't see or hear.  The pundits claiming that this would be something to motivate the youth to vote missed the point entirely, as should be evident from some of the un-youthful entertainers they had: Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, The O'Jays, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and R2D2.  After a day or two, Comedy Central has posted most of the show online. Most notably, we listened to Jon Stewart's closing speech, which can be seen here as “Jon's Moment of Sincerity.”  I highly recommend watching it, as the sentiments expressed are extremely sensible and illustrated well (I love a good metaphor!):

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

My fears were laid to rest, as it was neither partisan, nor without substance.  I wish I could have heard it live (the recording is deceptive – the crowd was never silent, there was always some idiot (not Jon) talking) but I am satisfied with having been there, having represented, and knowing that the cameras were recording Jon telling the world what I and many like me want to say:

“We are reasonable people and we can work together and be diverse at the same time.”

Thank you to Jon Stewart and all his minions for doing this for us, the quiet moderates.

Postscript: Yesterday, I saw video from a post rally press conference.  Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert acquit themselves well.  Stephen had shed his larger-than-life parody character and was actually himself.  He has a gentle demeanor that was very surprising to me.  Jon, as I've seen in other interviews, was earnest and easily shed questions that tried to apply too much political meaning to the event.  Great interviews, if you're interested.


Trip East: WV Forest

I am, for the moment, visiting friends back east.  This photo is from Morgantown, West Virginia.  I had forgotten and not forgotten how lovely the Appalachains are.  :)
So far, we've visited Blackwater Falls, Kentuck Knob, the WVU Arboretum, and tomorrow we're headed to the DC area to visit another friend.
I am taking lots of walks and having a great time. :D


Fall Anticipation

I can't wait to see the fall colors of the Appalachians!  Two days to go!
(This is the local, CO, color. :)


Weekend in an Afternoon


For the last three months, I've been working on a couple back to back projects with crazy schedules.  (Well, the second didn't have a crazy schedule until we had to put the start of intensive work on hold until the first one was finished.)  It's been intense and waaaay longer between breaks than is good for me, but the last crazy deadline is done and I have 4 weeks until the next one.

My immediate reward (besides the giant margarita immediately after finishing the deliverables for this morning's meeting over 16 hours before the meeting):  take the afternoon off.  I did some research shopping for a tape deck music converter, had my favorite salad at Il Vicino, paid my overdue library fines and got some more audiobook CDs (one of them is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, read by Michael Jackson -- if that turns out to be the famous singer, I'm returning it immediately; he may be a fabulous musician, but his voice is creepy!), drove home and caught up on some internet stuff, went for an hour long walk and tested my new smartphone's tracking abilitiy, sat outside with the cats, started the laundry, and wrote this blog post.  I'm going to try to go to bed early.  We'll see how that goes.

It's amazing how ONE afternoon can recharge your batteries!  :)

Additional: OK, in looking up the link for the late, great MJ, I listened to a few of his songs.  Boy do they take me back to the 80s.  I think I'm going to buy his Greatest Hits CD -- it's fun music, dammit!

Additional Additional: Dinner tonight was sauteed shrimp and green beans (frozen -- not as good as fresh, not as bad as canned).  Dessert was a Dark and Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer, YUM!)


Time for Writing

I am sitting here at work at 8 pm, taking a mental break by surfing a little (and extending the time I will need to be here by the same amount of time [arrgghh]) and ran across a post by Mr. Scalzi (yes, again, but apparently I'm skimming the good bits of gold from the gravel pretty handily) about finding time to write. This is a subject that's been much on my mind lately. I've taken a hiatus from writing for the last year or so, partly because I have a job that's been a challenge to manage and partly because I've been feeling cut off from my connection with... well, I don't know what to call it... certainly not my friends and family who have been and always will be so wonderful to be with. I've been scatterbrained and stressed and disengaged and ultimately, all of this is just what my current interpretation on my life is. And I want to change that. I won't go into it all, as I really should get back to work, but one big goal I have is to get back to writing, even if I feel super crappy at it right now. Because something that I've realized during the hiatus? You can't get better at something if you don't practice.

I've talked before about getting a better regimen going in my life -- damn me if it doesn't include a regular writing schedule.


Van Gogh Like You've Never Seen Him

Lately I haven't had much time to surf the internet, check out what people are saying/seeing/doing, engage in frivolous online discourse. You know because you've seen how dormant this blog has become.

HOWEVER: Today, following my nose I stumbled upon the following awesome image slideshow of Van Gogh paintings that have been manipulated in Photoshop. To clarify with words from the author/artist: "Nothing in any of these paintings been added or removed or had its proportions changed. The effect is achieved simply by manipulating the light in the scene and adjusting the areas of the image that are more and less in focus, as you will see."

Click here to go to the full slideshow. Well worth your time!

Simply amazing.

(Due credit to Mr. Scalzi for bringing it to the attention of his audience.)


Sense and Sensibility

The Daily Show is on hiatus this week, so they're doing their usual thing and highlighting past interviews with a common theme. This week it's "brilliant banter" and the first one was so spot on, I had to share.

Jane Goodall is lovely, thoughtful, and supremely intelligent. Worth listening to:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jane Goodall
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

I LOVE what she says about fundamentalism.


Loot! Loot for m..e?

Actually, I did not get super excited when I picked up the package from the post office this morning.  (It was express, and they wanted me to sign for it.)  I suspected and then saw that it was from John the Scientist and Nathan.  I had a little thrill of apprehensive fascination, wondering what strangeness awaited me.

I did open it at work, but not with anyone nearby, so I didn't have to explain why someone was sending me food-grade bull penis.  Mmmm... yummy!  :D
I think the really raunchy jokes will be reserved for a more private venue, but job well done, boys.  I think I was a little more icked out by the idea of meat that's been in the mail (with an ice pack, yes) for a day or two, rather than the source of the meat itself.  I'm probably not going to eat it a) because it was in the mail for a day or two and b) because it's main attribute seems to be chewiness (and is a good treat for dogs).  Nice try.


Musical Bridging

I was fortunate enough to find out before it aired that PBS was airing "Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song." So, I set the DVR (no cable necessary -- this is PBS!) and recorded it. I didn't get a chance to see it until this weekend, and now I've watched it about three times. It's fabulous.
The musicians who played in Paul's honor were incredibly diverse and included: McCartney himself and Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, teen heartthrobs Jonas Brothers, jazz great Herbie Hancock with Corinne Bailey Rae, rock star Dave Grohl, country star Faith Hill, the not-as-lovely-as-Hot-Chick-Janiece-but-still-talented Emmylou Harris, classical pianist Lang Lang and the truly alternative Jack White, with remarks by Jerry Seinfeld. The least interesting part was Jerry Seinfeld, partly because half his jokes were about how horrible marriage is (which always bothers me), and the most interesting were the performances by Jack White and Dave Grohl -- neither of which I had really heard before. Jack White played a fascinatingly delicate version of Mother Nature's Son. Faith Hill, who followed him with a rendition of Long and Winding Road, sounded almost disappointingly conventional, until I played the mental game of pretending I was hearing them in a different order. Dave Grohl played Band on the Run with such great passion and skill (I liked this version better than the original) I had to Google him to find out why I hadn't heard of him before. Turns out it's partly because I'm always at least ten years behind the curve and partly because he's the type of fellow who plays in and leads strong ensemble bands not named after himself (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures). Also, though I'm not usually a big fan of long hair on men, it really works for him. Really does. :D
To be clear, ALL the performers were excellent, including the great Sir Paul himself. Lovely lyrics, lovely performances, and it reminded me that I really need to pony up the cash to buy the Beatles compilation. I highly recommend watching the show. It can be found online at PBS. It's really fun when watching a show about music you love can broaden your horizons to music you may also love one you're exposed to it.

Edited to add:
Turns out Foo Fighters did a great cover of Band on the Run with a more hard rock edge to it. That is now my favorite rendition of the song.  Hard rock guitar and drums... yum!


A Strange Sighting

During last weekend's camping trip, we saw lots of animals: elk, deer, pronghorn, bluebirds, pelicans, magpies, prairie dogs, and this guy.
Yes, he looks like a little old man who lives in the culvert.
He is a porcupine!


El Dia del Padre

Back on Mothers' Day, I wrote a post about mothers. Being an egalitarian, and an appreciator of fathers, I decided to do a companion post for Fathers' Day. Again, might be a bit hackneyed, but [shrug] that's the way it goes sometimes.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing, but as I was cleaning out the basement and garage today, I thought how appropriate it is that I'm doing it on Fathers' Day. Never let it be said that my father doesn't know how to have a good time -- he does. He loves laughing and listening and telling stories with old friends and new friends alike. (We kids used to have a joke that our dad was eventually going to be friends with everyone in the world.) I learned (along with all my siblings) three things: that you must do the best job you can at whatever task you're attempting, that work is easiest done as a team - a machine in which each person is a part, working in concert, and that labors are best done sooner rather than later, or they'll collect on your back and weigh you down. Yes, that last one is the "why you should keep up with your homework" speech. (I have learned since then that sometimes when you procrastinate, it turns out that a job needn't be done at all when someone changes their mind, but -shhhh- that's not part of the current story.) So, today, on Fathers' Day, I celebrate the day by cleaning out and organizing the basement and garage. Appropriate, eh?

To Daddy:
Thank you for being there for us. Your understanding, caring, and consistent belief in our abilities to live and grow successfully - while tested often enough when we were teens - is a support system few are blessed to receive. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for being yourself. Thank you for showing us what the world might be like if we believe in ourselves. I love spending time with you, hearing about your adventures and projects, and telling you about mine. I love making you laugh. I love that you are open about your love for each of your children. I love you very much!

To My Brother-In-Law:
Happy Fathers' Day, dear brother. I love seeing what a great father you are. I love what a great team you and your wife make and I love watching your wonderful son grow and blossom under your love and care. My nephew is a very lucky little boy and so is his puppy dog. I know you will do wonderfully in the amazing/trying years ahead, but also know that we are here to support you!

And to all the other wonderful and loving fathers I know, Sam, JR, Mel, John A., Tom, Dave, Kevin, Jim, Matt, Vince, JTS, Mike, Gabe, Jason, Heath, and so many more:
Happy Fathers' Day, Dad/Pa/Father/Padre/Papi, you deserve a whole month of celebration for all that you do! Love to you all!


New Look #2

OK. How about this one?

(Interestingly enough, Aileen saw the last design in the same way I did, but as communications is partly about what people perceive, I decided to change it...)


New Look

I've been wanting to update the look of the blog for quite some time, but haven't liked any of the new Blogger templates that much.

Until today. (Well, ok, it's been debuted this week, but it sounded more dramatic...)

I'm not completely sold on one particular template, but I'm liking a lot of the options here. And it's cool to play with! :D


Trying to Catch Up to the Wagon


I've fallen off the exercise wagon and because I haven't managed to get back on the proper sleep schedule to exercise in the morning as I like to do. (I have exercised in the evening before, but I leave work later, so it feels like I'm using my entire evening for that and none for other chores like vacuuming, mowing the lawn, cleaning out the catbox, etc.)
So, because I'm off schedule, I keep accidentally staying up late. (Chores + Internet usually add up to late.)

I will get back on the wagon. (Grrr...)


World Cup Soccer BEGINS!

Englishman John Oliver from The Daily Show teases the American soccer team. The clips from the game and the American fans chasing John at the end are the highlights. Viva Futbol! Woo hoo!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Two Teams, One Cup
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party


Dome Tour

Yesterday I got to go up to tour the dome of our state capitol building (this is the view from the bottom). The fun part was going up stairs like these:
And the view from the exterior levels.

My job is cool. :D


A Study in Contrasts

The Seattle Space Needle as Legos (from the UCFers)
St. Basil's Cathedral as a 3D puzzle (from Karen)

Thank you, everyone!

One of these was well documented and easy to assemble.  The other?  Mmm... not so much.  The former I'll be keeping on my bookshelf.  I'll let you guess which that is...  :)


Cool Things: Stone Papers

My new composition book, in which I write my blog posts, was an impulse buy at Target.  When I picked it up, it felt different -- heavier, softer, more flexible.  I looked at the label and it read:
Stone Papers
Made from stone
tree-free, acid-free, natural paper products made from all natural stone

Cool!  I looked for them online, but their website was under construction when I visited it.  I did find another, similar (I think) product that outlines the process (I'm assuming it's a similar process.  It may not be.) pretty well.

I admit, I'm using my favorite pen, but the ink is received by the paper very smoothly, and I love how it feels!
I'm not sure if every Target has this product (online they do not) but it's worth checking out.


On Priorities, Part III: The Solutions

In Part I, I brought my much ignored readers up to speed on where the issues began.
In Part II, I outlined my priorities.

In order to work towards a life that is guided by these priorities, I've have instituted the following goals:
  • Go to bed on time (9:30ish).
  • Get up early (5::30ish).
  • Exercise for an hour or so.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Spend less time on the computer when at home.
  • Compose blog posts on paper first.  (The three On Priority posts were done this way. I don't always follow the rough draft, but it gives me structure and a definable task.)
  • Accept invitations to friends' activities.
  • Plan my own activities/parties/camping trips/etc.
  • Don't turn on the TV while cooking.  Cook, then watch a specific program while eating.
  • Read more books, either through audiobooks (while exercising/cooking/cleaning) or a real book.
  • Read something brief and upbeat (currently my compendium of Calvin and Hobbes strips) before bed every night.
  • Try to clean incrementally, don't wait 'til it gets out of hand.
  • Keep a list of upcoming tasks and do them one at a time.  Slow and steady, like a mountain-climber.

I've developed these slowly over the past month.  Part of this realignment has been because work let up a bit to allow me some time to think, but mostly I've been making small steps towards each of these for quite a while.
I'm hoping this plan to write off-line will work to reincorporate blogging into my schedule.  So far, it has seemed to work well.  Hopefully it will be enough of a priority that you'll see posts here more often!

Thanks, as always, for your readership.  :)


On Priorities, Part II: The Reevaluation

In Part I, I brought my much ignored readers up to speed on where the issues began.  I felt like things were out of balance and I needed to reevaluate.  Here are the results:

My Priorities:
Sleep - I like about 8 hours.  I can do with less, but my day goes better with 8.
Food - Specifically healthy and flavorful food.  It's part of my interest in feeling fit and healthy, but I also enjoy healthy food more.  Granted, what I mean by that is yummy yummy vegetables, and not whole grain pasta (I still cannot get on that wagon) and tabbouleh every day.  The beautiful pasta machine given to me last year is getting a workout.  And when I am super busy at work, I eat frozen leftovers from The Hot Chick's Kitchen.  They are much healthier than processed food, very tasty, and much appreciated in stressful times.
Fitness - Besides eating healthy foods and taking care of oneself when sick, I find fitness requires exercise.  I don't get enough in my normal day and I really like to feel fit.  Unfortunately, when I'm having a time crunch, sleep often trumps exercise.
Friends - It's no secret that I enjoy spending time with friends (this includes family, who are friends), though my close friends also know that I need time to myself (there will be a future post on this).  I like to hear what people are up to and tell them my own stories as well.  To share time for attention and appreciation and connection is very restorative for me.
Creating - Sometimes this is on a big scale, like putting a bathroom in the basement, but most of the time, this is baking gluten-free cookies for my aunt or inventing a soup for dinner.
Writing/Reading (as a subset of creating) - I'm a word craftsman by nature.  I enjoy putting together a well-fashioned sentence/paragraph/letter/blogpost.  I haven't written much lately, but I think about it a lot.  Reinvigorating this blog is part of that effort.
Order -  At times, I have perfectionist tendencies (sure, go ahead, laugh) but this does not translate into a drive to do housekeeping or yardwork.  In fact, just yesterday, I got a notice about my grass being too long.  (I cut it on Monday.  The time lag on the notice is apparently a week.)  However, I like having things relatively clean and orderly.  It bothers me when things get too disorderly for too long.  Unfortunately, I don't like the work involved in accomplishing that order.

Tomorrow, Part III, in which I reveal what the solutions are...


There's a Fungus Among Us

This appeared in my backyard this morning.  My first thought was WTF is that?
Not what it looks like, unless your innocent mind says "why it's a mushroom, silly!"
So, what kind of mushroom is that?  Is it dangerous?
(Those of you who want to make a joke about The Mushroom That Impregnated New York can do as you please, as usual, but this is actually a real question as well.)

Addendum #1: You are no help at all in mushroom identification, folks.  Turns out it's a "stinkhorn," with the totally obvious family name "Phallaceae."

Addendum #2: I sent the picture to the Mushroom Expert for his collection and he (very kindly!) replied:
Thanks for your e-mail. That looks like Phallus hadriani to me:


. . . but the specimen is a little bit odd, because part of the "egg shell" stuck to the cap when it expanded, which doesn't usually happen. Neat!

On Priorities, Part I: The Problem

First, my apologies on my long blogging absence. I'm not sure where it came from -- at least one of those weeks was a busy week at work, but what about the other ones? True, FB allows for quick, momentary statements of being, which satisfies the need to communicate, but it can't replace the blog for a good introspective wallow.

Part of it is the length of time it takes me to write. There's the actual writing and editing of the post itself, then there's the online procrastination - reading blogs and forums and playing FB games - that precede the writing of the post. There is also the researching of attendant links because I love the educational and interconnective aspects of internet writing. So, I've been avoiding the time sink. More specifically, I've been avoiding the computer.

I've been working on my priorities. My life's been feeling a bit out of whack since I got the new job and I know I feel happier when I'm spending time on the things that are important to me. I feel happier when I'm fit, am creating, feel connected with friends, and have mental and spiritual peace. In order to foster these, I have been correcting some imbalances. I've been weaning myself from the TV and internet at home. There are still pleasures to be had from watching a great TV show or an interesting blog event, but for the most part, I'd like to put them lower on the priority list.

Tomorrow, Part II, in which I expand on my priorities...


Blog Spin-Off

(Wow! It's been 3 weeks since my last post. Yeesh.)

I've been trying to re-establish some priorities in my life (see upcoming post - no, really, I swear), and one of those is exercising more. Sure this can include activities, such as hiking or white-water rafting, but I really need to do it on a more regular basis. Like 3-5 times a week. I like feeling trim.

Several years ago, I was observing a leggy brunette getting into her Jeep Wrangler when I thought (not for the first time) "hmm... I really think active women are more attractive to me..." followed by (for the first time) "Hey, wait a minute, I'm an active woman like that!". So, fast forward a few years, past a long (2 year?) stint of going to a gym three times a week, to the present, after a year long exercise hiatus. I quit the gym when I lost my job and had been intending to set up a cheaper (read free or nearly free) exercise routine. For a year I've been intending to do this. And now, prompted by a gradual weight creep upwards and a gradual tightening of my clothes, I am motivated to Get To It.

Last week I managed to get up early enough to do a walk/run around the lakes, but the rest of the week I was working late. Because sleep is my top priority, if I work late (which means going to bed late), I sleep through my morning exercise period (6-7 am). THIS week however, I've managed to exercise two out of the last three days, so I'm calling this good habit STARTED. Tomorrow's looking promising too.

I have posted my good progress on Facebook, but it feels a bit repetitive there, so after I looked around the web for a good exercise tracker, I decided to make my own. It's called Active Accountability and it's a pretty basic log of a few stats and a few thoughts on the activity of the day. If you want to follow along, get some inspiration, give some inspiration, suggestions, thoughts, etc. please do. There's a link in this blog's sidebar, in case you don't feel like bookmarking it.

As I have said several times in the past week... I am looking forward to being in better shape!

PS - Another priority of mine is to blog here more, somehow without spending too much more time on the computer. I have an idea of how it will work, but we'll see! :)



I believe the established procedure is to exclaim:
"Loot! Loot! Loot for ME!"

Last week, Janiece asked for some feedback on what graphic she should use on her next set of address labels. She promised a prize, but I consider living within a short drive of Janiece to be a prize in itself.
Surprisingly enough, I actually won.

Today, my prize arrived... YAYAYAYAY!

Yes, those are the (in)famous Bonbon Bars!
Of course, when I was photographing the above, Matti had to check things out. :)

I've decided to save them for my visit with Susan next weekend. I find pleasures shared are generally twice as nice as pleasures alone.

How on earth am I resisting the siren call of the Bonbon Bars? Well, I don't think I could have if I didn't have these in the fridge:

Thank you so much, Janiece! You are the best!


El Dia de la Madre

It might seem a bit hackneyed to do a blog post about Mothers' Day on Mothers' Day, but it seemed appropriate this year. I looked through cards and all of them used the word "Mom" (which is not our term of endearment) or were too syrupy sweet. My mother is an unusual woman. She is more sentimental now than she used to be (or used to admit to), but that doesn't mean a card will capture the complex relationship my mother (or really any mother) has with her progeny.

First, Mummy:
Thank you for all the sacrifices you've made for us. I'm so glad I could be part of your growth and you could be part of mine. Thank you for not killing me during my teen rebellion years, no matter how I deserved it. :) I love being friends with you. I love being able to trust you with my ideas and thoughts. I love making you laugh and I love talking about trivia. I love you very much!

Second, my sister:
Happy Mothers' Day, dearest sister. I love watching you be a great mother. My nephew is a very lucky little boy and so is his puppy dog. I know you'll have some grand times ahead and some frustrating ones. Know that you are supported through it all by love from all sides.

And to all the other wonderful and challenging mothers I know, Ruth, Stacey, Janiece, Karen, Rachel, Dena, Ginger, Heather, Belsum, Natalie, Jeri, Kimby, Bonnie, Krissy, and so many more:
Happy Mothers' Day, Mom/Mum/Ma/Mother/Madre, you deserve a whole month of celebration for all that you do! Love to you all!


Creative Space Making

My brother sent me this fabulous video of a Hong Kong architect's idea of how to utilize a small space very efficiently. It's an example of function creating beauty.


My Baby, All Grown Up

That building I worked on and showed pictures of to you for a couple years has one an award from the Downtown Denver Partnership. Here's a little video they put together for the occasion. (Yes, I'm cross posting this with FB, mainly because I have a couple readers who, while on Facebook, never go there -- I'm lookin' at you, Ruthie...)

To watch without the side chopped off, you can view the video at the original link or on YouTube.


Project Eyeball Repair, Part 1

Companion piece to Jen Amber's extensive posts about her experience (1, 2, 3, 4):

This week I am going to get my eyes fixed.
After 27 years of wearing glasses and 23 years of wearing contact lenses, I will no longer be a "four-eyes." Though I don't actually recall being teased for having glasses, I am self-conscious in them. I don't feel at my best when wearing them. After the surgery, I won't feel fuzzy in the morning because the world around me is fuzzy (a gal I know said she used to use that fuzziness to shut out the world when she needed to focus on what was immediately in front of her). I won't have to worry about "what if my glasses break" or "what if I lose my contact lens". I won't have to worry about getting water in my eyes when I'm swimming or SCUBA diving. I won't have to carry a tiny screwdriver to tighten that loose screw in my glasses. I won't have to worry about carrying a contact lens case, airport approved size bottle of cleaner, and my glasses with me when I travel. And most of all, I won't have to worry about finding my glasses when I've misplaced them and can't see diddly.

So, how did I find the right place to go? I researched. I went to three different places before I found the right one.
The first place I went, Icon Lasik, was recommended by a former coworker, but seemed too "assembly-line" like. It ended up being the cheapest, about half the price of the other two. I decided to keep looking, just to see what else was out there.
The second place I went, Lakewood Eye Clinic, was recommended by three coworkers. It was much more personal than the other, but I still felt a little rushed and they were a little off-hand about everything. They also dilated my eyes with a much stronger substance than I'm used to and I was still having focusing issues 24 hours later (with no forewarning of a difference). This seemed careless to me. There was a delay in the scheduling, so I decided to keep looking.
The third place I went, Spivak Vision Center, was a place that initially had nothing more to recommend it than some good commercials on the radio. The process of evaluation, however, went smoothly, unrushed, with every test and every result explained. I happen to love information. Facts are what I use to make a majority of decisions in my life. Preprocessed or overly simplified information put me on my guard. The technicians and doctor I talked to at Spivak were clear and personable and most importantly, informative. They gave you a card for your records that had the name of every person you interacted with during your evaluation experience. I didn't feel rushed and though it was the most expensive of the three places, I found myself feeling like I was buying the best service, not like I was being squeezed for every penny. Best of all, they were happy to work with my usual eye doctor (who I like very much as he is extremely thorough and informative as well) for my pre- and post-operation examinations.

So, on Thursday, I will be driven to the surgery by my good friend, Stacey, and a careful and experienced surgeon will give me a highly customized surgery to fix my eyeballs!


Driving off the Goths

On Saturday morning, I went to counter protest the Westboro Baptist Church. (Google them if you are curious. I'm not going to link to them here.) They are a bunch of extremists whose basic premise is the God hates homosexuals so much that he is destroying America for its tolerance of them and blacks, Jews, and pretty much everyone else who is not like them. (Where people get the idea that God and Jesus are white and the Bible was originally written in English is beyond me. I won't even get into their missing the point of Christ's message of universal love.) They came to Denver for a long weekend to protest various places and on Saturday (the Jewish sabbath, I'd like to point out) they decided to protest at several Jewish temples and community centers.

Here's how I got into the counter protest:
Hot Chick, Janiece, posted about her interest and ambivalence in going. On one hand, conventional wisdom is that one should not reward inappropriate behavior with attention. On the other, is being silent the equivalent of being complicit in their behavior? There was much discussion on Janiece's blog and I decided to join her when she decided to attend.
The day of the protest arrived and our ranks had swelled to four, including Janiece's Hot Daughter and our dear friend, Stacey. It was a cold, damp day and the WBC group was small and included a couple children. We followed them around to their various locations, stopping for coffee and then a delicious sandwich at the Spicy Pickle during the intermissions. Janiece gives a great summary of the day on her blog (with pictures!), so go there for more detail, but suffice to say, we felt successful at the end of the day. At the third venue, the WBCers left halfway through their allotted time (as specified in their protest schedule on their blog). I never thought that would happen!
Why did I end up doing it? Because I wanted the targets of the protests and the people who saw us by the side of the road to know that I don't agree with the sentiments professed by the WBC, and furthermore, that I cared enough to speak out against it. This is unusual for me, as I generally tend to live my beliefs, not try and change others minds, but I guess it was a confluence of circumstances -- me feeling more extroverted than usual, having friends I wanted to support, and a ridiculously wrong group (I find most groups to be varying shades of gray, but not this one) coming to Denver. And finally, I went because of what one of my favorite protest signs said, "Thanks Westboro, You're Only Bringing Us Together!"

And I'm glad I went. Otherwise, I'd never had found out that Godfrey is Love.


Sushi Queens

I have, in the past, posted about a new discovery, Facebook games. I've had to cut back because it's a big timesuck. I gave up Farmtown, Cafe World, and Country Story (which was the hardest to give up as I "abandoned" some of my neighbors) among others. I have not given up Restaurant City yet.

I had a lovely garden cafe with a lovely entry and my sister, another RC restaurateur, has an English pub. She was considering quitting, as she had pretty much leveled up all the dishes that were appropriate to her venue and the place was well set up in its "narrative." When she said that, I thought "yeah, she's right. Maybe it's time to quit."

And then they brought out the Japanese themed decor and dishes. I was reeled back in.

I've set up a new restaurant, and started all the work of earning money to decorate it and level up the Japanese dishes. The tables are arranged around the grills, hibachi style, and I have a zen garden in the back. My sister offered her financial backing (buying me three of those nice black stoves) and is now an unofficial co-owner. I imagine it as if I were the manager and she the financier who comes in, hangs out at the sushi bar (all the servers know what she likes and brings it to her right away and on the house) and chills out in the zen garden.

MWT put together this image of the restaurant to show another player, so I stole it to show all of you. It's progressed a little since this image was taken, but not enough to put together a new image. (Thanks, MWT, by the way! :)

Speaking of MWT:
This is one cute tableau at MWT's restaurant. It looks like three cactus cowboys trying to corral a couple cats. Good luck, boys! ;)


Staircase to Heaven

I was researching ships ladders online for work today and stumbled across this beauty. (Here's the article it comes from...)

My future hermitage will have one - heck, why not several? - of these.


Now That's a Knife

As always, I had a wonderful time during my cousin and friend, Susan's, visit. She came down yesterday at about noon and we went shopping. First, to the Savory Spice Shop, where we got - you guessed it - spices and herbs. (One was a truffle salt that we are going to share, but Susan forgot to take her half.) Then, we stopped by a new place, In Season Local Market, that specializes in local produce. We purchased eggs (pasture-fed), yoghurt, mushrooms (elephant ear and some red-capped something-or-other), and soap. Then, it was off to one of my favorite places to empty my pockets, Sur Le Table. There, among other things, Susan contributed towards my latest birthday present, a new knife:

It's a lovely blade and I look forward to using it lots and lots! :D

It's always tough to avoid spending way too much at Sur Le Table, but I've never regretted a purchase from there, so I guess it's alright. Finally, we stopped by a pretty large Asian supermarket that a friend of mine pointed out to me that I hadn't checked out yet. It's pretty awesome, with great looking produce and a huge selection of ramen (they even had Tung-I!). I found the proper boba pearls (I'd like to learn to make "bubble tea"), mochi ice cream, and other fun stuff.

As Susan and I are fans of fine cuisine, we usually try to find ourselves somewhere delicious to feast. Yesterday, it was Brasserie Felix (which is only 1.5 miles from my house, so we walked). We had red wine (a Spanish Tempranillo), escargot, paté, beef bourguignon, and coq au vin. All was delicious. We ended the day with a long, deep talk, chocolate peanut nut dessert, and a chocolate digestif.

The next morning, after sleeping in as long as we dared, we put The Knife to work with the local produce we had bought. Here's the mushrooms and some bacon:

Added the eggs (they were mixed colors, indicating mixed breeds of chickens):

The final breakfast included: eggs scrambled with mushrooms and bacon, yoghurt sweetened slightly with honey (delicious!), Indian chai, and bread with apple butter and chokecherry jam.

I gave the knife a workout this afternoon, chopping up lots of veg for a lentil-rice-vegetable dish. It tastes yummy and has lots and lots of veg, but the lentils are way overdone. Note for all y'all: lentils do NOT need to be soaked prior to cooking, no matter what the package says.


Strange TV Happenings

I, being a cheap bastard, only have network cable (the $15/month cable that I only have because with the internet, it's only $10/month). Magically, in the last few days, my selection of channels has doubled. I'm getting Siffy and TBS and The Food Network. I'm trying not to get too attached, as it might be all a mean trick. Unfortunately, I do not seem to get USA, which is the channel I think I miss most.
Very very odd.


Muppets Au Natural

My love of the Muppets is well documented. Here is some grade A improvisational material, particularly the part at the beginning with Kermit and Fozzie. Don't miss them talking to the cows at the end!

PS - oh, yes. I should credit my friend Richard for posting this on FB. Thank you!


When I saw this...

I thought of my good friend, Jen Amber.
This is the vault where they keep county records at a courthouse I visited recently. They're vaulted not to keep people away, but to keep the records in a safe environment. There are racks and racks of these books and when I saw them, I thought of Jen. She loves things with cool patterns and this was right up her alley.



Warm Weather Dining

It's Springtime! That means I can pull one of my favorite inventions again:
Quick Pasta Salad

The recipe is easy:
Start with a big bowl...

Cook pasta (elbows or shells are good because of their size and shape) and add frozen peas halfway through the cooking period. When they are done cooking, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Add to the bowl...

Add a drained can of cooked chicken or salmon or tuna...

Add three stalks of chopped celery...

Add a handful of finely minced parsley...

Add to taste mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and herbs (I use dill, celery seed, garlic salt, powdered garlic or onion, but other herbs like basil and oregano would work well.)

Mix well and viola! A big bowl of tasty pasta salad.


Das Restaurant

Some of you may have heard me (in real life, not on this blog) rave about a little German/Hungarian/something-alpine restaurant I went to some years ago on the western slope. Well, as I am going to Montrose, CO, for a business trip, I decided that if I could find this little restaurant, I would make sure to arrange it so I could eat dinner there. (An early dinner, I would still have far to drive at that point!) And through the marvels of the internet, I found it! YAY!
It's called Rosi's Little Bavarian Restaurant in Glenwood Springs, CO. I had my very first taste of Hungarian Goulash there and I've never been the same since. ;)
Happily, in my online search, I also found three other promising restaurants, one right here in Golden. So, I'll be checking those out too - as a fact finding mission for my friends the Hot Chick and Her Smart Man and for my sister and brother-in-law. They're all fans of the German/Bavarian branch of cuisine, so it's the least I can do. The other restaurants are:
- Westfalen Hof Restaurant, Golden, CO
- Cafe Prague, Morrison, CO
- Budapest Bistro, Denver, CO

(PS - the other very good German restaurant I've gone to in recent memory is Black Forest Restaurant in Nederland, CO.)

(PPS - Found an interesting Westword post about East European Dining for those who are interested...)


More Internet Silliness

Per the suggestion of this NPR article about "What does your birth date song say about you?" I checked.

I went to This Day in Music and put in my birth date.

My song?

Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver.
True enough. Sunshine on my shoulders DOES make me happy and I didn't really appreciate it until I came to Colorado. And I do love John Denver. His songs are sometimes a little simplistic, but dammit, sometimes I want the world to be a little bit simplistic and a lot more positive!

(No, this is NOT silly... it was on NPR!)


Birthday Weekend, Part 1

I have a brief lull in my work schedule and I'm trying to get the Bathroom-in-the-Basement done, so I decided to take a couple days off work to do that and to relax a little for my birthday. The progress on the BitB is going well. I managed to get the tile walls grouted and Sunday I'll do the floor. Hopefully I can set up an appointment for the plumber to install the plumbing fixtures early next week. There are still quite a few things to do, but the end is in sight!

The birthday weekend had a good start when I found a box from Amazon on my doorstep. I opened it to find three books from my Amazon wishlist:

The packing slip said "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday to YOU! Love, Michelle and Michael"
Thank you so much, Michelle and Michael! You guys are awesome. I love that you picked such a diverse selection. Big hugs!

Today I'm going to a friend's to help with a school project, to Janiece's for a little R & R, and then to another friend's to cook up some Indian food and do some socializing.

I love long weekends. You can get stuff accomplished AND relax!


WWA: Back At Home

For those who enjoyed Michelle's Weekly Word Association last week, it's back in it's rightful home.

And Anne's Blog can go back to being the sleepy little town after the president's cavalcade passed through its one intersection.


Two Quotes

I finished A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse yesterday. It certainly is lovely to read something funny and sweet, even if it IS a romantic comedy. I thought I'd share a few lines with you that mixes the funny with the bittersweet:

"Hullo-ullo-ullo-ullo-ullo-ullo-ul-Lo! Topping morning isn't it!" observed Reggie. "The sunshine! The birds! The absolute what-do-you-call-it of everything and so forth, and all that sort of thing, if you know what I mean! I feel like a two-year-old!"
George, who felt older than this by some ninety-eight years, groaned in spirit. This was more than man was meant to bear.

But I guess that reads better in context. It really is funny when you can hear Reggie's infernal chirping as the foil of George's gloominess in your head. You kinda have to know why Reggie is so ebullient (just asked the girl he loves to marry him) and why George is so depressed (just found out the girl he loves is in love with someone else). I tried to include some part of the quote from before this piece, or after, but each time I tried, I wanted to include more of it. Just read the darn book, people. I know that except for the happy ending (hope I'm not spoiling it!), it's one I identify with and I find speaks volumes about life and how sometimes, even though crappy stuff happens, you don't have to lose your sense of humor or your impulse to do what's right.

How about another quote, this one from the Numb3rs finale. I liked the wedding homily so much, I saved the recording so I could transcribe it. It's read by Peter MacNicol, who will always be Peter MacNicol for me (except when he's Janosz in Ghostbusters II).

Peter MacNichol: At the request of the bride and groom, I'll keep my remarks short and non-technical.
As you all know, the four fundamental forces in physics: electro-magnetism, strong nuclear interaction, weak nuclear interaction, and gravity.
FBI Dude (ironically played by an actor who has an engineering degree from MIT): So I wonder what the technical version sounds like.
Peter MacNichol: I heard that.
We've been talking here about the forces that bind the universe. But what binds humans? Love. Powerful in small spaces, yet with profound effect on distance. Love defies time, outliving both its source and its object. Love is faster than light, for light requires time in order to travel through space, but love reaches its object instantaneously. Love journeys forever, into infinity, and it's here binding together two lives.

The wedding setting here was less of a significant point to me than an excuse for them to say something very interesting about the physics of love. This statement focuses on the love between humans because it's at a wedding, but I think this love can be felt to and from other things/entities. I know the love I feel for Nature, for my Boys, for my friends, and for my family are no less profound than the romantic love being spoken of in this wedding homily, but it's something I have to remind myself of all the time.