29 December 2006

Shoe Shopping

The Martian thought this was a very funny photo. After some consideration, I decided he is right, even if he is a brat.

Obviously, we made it to the Mall, and yes, the wheelchair was free to use. But not that convenient. The wheelchair/information counter is in the center of the mall on the bottom floor. The mall has entrances in the center as well; one that opens to the parking lot on the second floor, and one that opens to an outdoor promenade of shops on the first floor. To get from the second floor parking lot to the first floor wheelchair lender place, you can hobble with your crutches down to either of two elevators, about evenly spaced 20 miles apart, or you can take your chances on the escalator. Alternatively, you can park out by the outdoor promenade & hobble with your crutches 20 miles up to the Mall. Go ahead and ask me if I think somebody planned out the whole wheelchair thing.

I made it down the escalator alive, and lept into my free wheelchair. Happily, most of the stores we visited were wheelchair accessible. Some -- specifically those aimed at The Martian's pre-teen nieces for whom he needed to buy gifts -- were not. Tsk, tsk.

I did look at shoes. I can't help it: I have the shoe-shopping gene. And anyway, I needed a large shoe (wide & longer than my normal shoes) to fit over the brace on my right foot so I can hobble in rain or cold. I didn't find one in my price range. Wal*Mart had some cheap black sneakers with Velcro closures -- but not in the size I needed. (pout)

So today, in the rain, I wore a fuzzy slipper. It's almost as fashionable as the Boot. I am pretty sure I am going to be on the cover of Vogue very soon.

28 December 2006

Colorful feet

Voila, the colors of New Year celebrations at my house!! That's the outside of the broken ankle, in glorious purples and blues. I'm not sure which hurts more: the ankles, or my hands & armpits from the crutches. This is *so* annoying! But I feel a lot better about my situation after one of the other Miniacs (who broke his ankle in a bicycling accident a couple of years ago) pointed me to mybrokenleg.com. It's hard to keep whining about a simple broken ankle when you read some of the stories of people who have some seriously messed up bones.

Last night, we went to the grocery store for a dog food run, and oh no, I didn't hobble around the Kroger with the critches -- way too much work. Instead, I rode in one of the slick motorized carts they provide for those in need. Which was me, yesterday :) It would have been more fun if The Martian were kinder about "Hey, watch out for that POLE!" every 5 minutes. (No, seriously, The Martian was very good. It was my dad, later, who was wondering if I hit any non-moving objects while driving the cart.)

Doc had said I should ice the ankles at night & heat in the mornings, so this morning The Martian filled my wonderful garden tub with nice, warm water & I soaked my poor self in there for a while. The nice thing about heat in the morning is that the ankles get very stiff overnight & the heat loosened up the one I still need for walking, at least.

The plan for today is to go to the mall & rent a wheelchair. The last time I did this stupid broken ankle thing, the local mall (in Pittsfield, Mass.) had wheelchairs you could use for free -- you just left your driver's license. Not sure whether The Woodlands Mall will consider wheelchair 'loaners' to be a free service or a money-making opportunity. But at least it will get us out of the house.

27 December 2006

Owch, Redux

They talked me into a doctor visit. Left one is broken. Right one is just smacked around.

Doc said if I move the left one in the next two weeks he is going to knock me out and put a screw in it to hold it in place. So I'm not moving.

When I can just sit here with such fashionable footwear, why move?????

Ho, Ho, owch

The Martian and I have been enjoying the holiday with some old movies, including some favorites suggested by readers here. After Miracle on 34th St, we took in A Christmas Carol (ok, it's not American but what American does not know who Ebenezer Scrooge is, and the phrase, "God bless us, every one"?). To balance the serious stuff with some silly Americana, we found time to watch Talladega Nights, a goofy satire of NASCAR (and F1) that's worth a few good giggles. The Unnamed Male Relative also gave us a collection of Frank Capra films, which we plan to start on, maybe today, since I can't do much besides lie here....

It's been a quiet holiday so far, and so when the Houston Mini Motoring Society came up with the idea to go Karting, the Martian & I decided we wanted to go fast. So we drove out to the southwest side of Houston and met up with six other Miniacs for a bit of fun.

The fun ended for me in the middle of our second qualifying session, when another driver (who did not see me, I think) squeezed me into the wall -- or more accurately, a large, iron pole. Neither the pole nor the kart had nearly enough bumpers, and so in slowing from 15 to 0 mph, the vast bulk of the force transmitted directly to the first possible compression zone: my ankles.

Having smacked a concrete barrier at some 100 mph in a Spec Racer Ford some years ago at Firebird International Raceway, I was familiar with the sensation of an ankle taking a big impact. It is not my favorite feeling in the world. In this case, both ankles immediately began filling with the fluids that the body rushes to such injuries. Lucky me!!

A regimen of RICE (rest-ice-compression-elevation) is keeping the ankles reasonably happy, under the circumstances. The left one is less happy than the right, but I don't think either one is actually broken. I've taken a couple of Advils and slept well through the night.... that's a good sign, in my view. My logic on the doctor thing is, if it's not broken, I'm going to have 3-4 x-rays at $xxx per shot, and a $xxx doctor visit just so they can tell me to do exactly what I'm doing. If it is broken, it will still be broken in 48 hours, which is about when I finally saw an orthopedist (is that a word?) after the last break, so it's no biggie.

The Martian will tell you I'm a lousy sicko. I'm an independent cuss, I hate not being able to do everything myself, and I'll hurt myself rather than ask for help. And I'm grumpy. Not a nice holiday for him right now !!!

19 December 2006

Martians, baggage and hair

So... the Danish Martian has arrived for his semi-annual Christmas visit and donation of luggage to the Travel Gods. The last time he came for Christmas, British Airways lost his luggage. (We think The Grinch stole it.) Thus, when his bag was not on the carousel this time, we knew he was Cursed. However, the curse is broken: A 90-year-old elf showed up at my house at 2 a.m., 2 days after the Martian's flight, bearing the bag, contents intact. It was even almost ok that he woke us from a deep, deep sleep without any prior warning that he might be coming....

So the Martian is here with clothes, a toothbrush & presents!

For our first fun family activity, the Unnamed Male Relative (UMR) was in attendance for Miracle on 34th St in mom & dad's new (awesome) media room. The Martian swears he didn't sleep through the *whole* thing, although the jet lag was getting to him. The UMR has since flown off to Brazil to be a Martian for his sweetheart in Belo Horizonte... but we watched the 'new' Pirates of the Caribbean movie without him. I feel for the heroine in that movie: Who could choose between Orlando Bloom & Johnnny Depp? Yummy!!

As an early Christmas gift, the UMR gave us a Frank Capra movie collection,. which we have not yet watched, although we're working on that now (if only I were not busy writing this nonsense.)

Today's entertainment was a visit to the hair salon. My original plan was to run to the mall for a quick cut, but dad convinced me to do the Salon thing. Thus, the resulting hair is *his* fault.

I figured that a drop-in, with no appointment, at a nice salon would be unlikely, but to my surprise they had just had a cancellation and *poof* I was in. The Martian had also wanted his hair cut but didn't think he needed a 'stylist,' so he headed to the Mall to leave me for coloring & cutting. The stylist asked me whether I wanted to match the lighter ends of my hair, and I said no, I wanted to match the more natural, darker brown. So he mixed a color, painted it on, and you know the rest.

VampiraThe Martian's reaction to the result, a couple of hours later: "Hmm. I am surprised you made it so dark."

It's not brown by any stretch of the imagination. It's black. I look like a freakin' vampire. A wicked witch. But with lots of curls. OK, it's funny in a "wow, you got a cute haircut, but what were you thinking on that color choice?" way.

The good news: Color fades. The bad news: When it fades first on the 'silver' parts of my hair, I'm going to have NEON gray showing.

10 December 2006

Playing with the Mac :)

Macs are fun :) See Plasq for more information about the ComicLife software I used to make this little window into my day. I can't seem to convince Blogger to publish it big enough to read it on my screen, but if you click on the image, it will open as a larger (i.e., readable) image.

Dog n Squirrel

(Yes, there's a fire in the fireplace. It's freakin' cold here. The Martian -- who is due here on Friday -- reports that it's colder in Houston than in Denmark. That just ain't right.)

I'm still playing with the 30 days of free trial on the Comic Life, but it is fun so far:

03 November 2006

Certifiable? Indeed

The final exam for Fundamentals of XXX Engineering is scheduled as a three-hour ordeal with some wiggle room before lunch for those who might "need a little extra time."

The instructor warned us that the first part of the test would be closed-book covering a particular diagram he handed out on the first day of class. "You might well find it useful to memorize that diagram," he said several times over the course of the week.

I have this "thing" about memorization. It cost me a couple of letter grades in chemistry, because I just never quite saw the point of memorizing a chart that I could just as easily hang on the wall over my desk and refer to it as needed. If you use something day in & day out, you will slowly memorize the useful bits and refer back to the rest, right? It's not laziness; it's just that I prefer to fill my limited number of active brains cells with useful things.

And so I looked at the diagram, allowed the concepts behind the diagram to fill some of my brain cells, and went to bed early (while my classmates were out cramming for the final. Yeah, sure: They were out being 21-year-olds.)

I finished the final in about an hour; call me an over-achiever. The "memorization' part was simply a matter of matching words to picture, rather than actually having to come up with the words from a blank slate. And so I was extremely glad I had not wasted a lot of time trying to memorize anything. The remainder of the test was fairly straightforward, with about 10 questions I had to answer with a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess).

In the end, I missed four, thus passing the course. Not bad for a gal without an engineering degree. My success was apparently of great interest to the other engineering instructors; it seems they'd never had a non-engineer in one of these classes before. And thus, my progress was a curiosity, like the dancing elephant: It's not so much that the elephant can dance well, but that it can dance at all. Happily, I managed to dance quite adequately, thus opening the doors for other non-engineers who might have some interest in these classes and for myself to expand into other Fundamentals.

The company does a cool thing with certificates for these classes. A photographer comes in one day during class and shoots a group photo, which then becomes the background for your certificate of completion. It's a cool thing, and I've hung it proudly on the whiteboard in my office. I'll look for a nice frame this weekend. Yeah, I'm certifiable... and certified.

And, dangit, I'm very proud that I took a step outside of my 'comfort zone' in the right brain to spend some time in the scary left brain. It was well worth the trip -- but I am very glad I don't have to live there all the time.

02 November 2006

Pushing and pulling

Another day of class is past, and I learn a little more every day. Some of what I learn is actually about XXX Engineering. Other educational lessons are about people, my employer's policies and what makes engineers 'tick.'

Fundamentals of XXX Engineering is just one small part of a series of courses my employer offers to its baby engineers. The gang of young-uns in my class are mostly fresh from university. They are, as I mentioned yesterday, from all over the world, including a few countries that did not yet exist when I was their age. (Scary)

They are part of my employer's effort to hire these kids out of school, before some competitor or big oil company notices that they are breathing. (The oil industry is a hot place to be right now.) Their studies are part of an 8-month "boot camp" of sorts, teaching them all about the different jobs they might do with my employer, and teaching them the basics of engineering for each of 10 or so various job categories.

The classes for each specialty comprise four days of instruction and one long final exam. On each instruction day after the first day, there is also a "quiz," so as of today we've had three tests, and tomorrow (Friday) we'll have our final exam. To "pass" the class, you must have either an 80% average on all four tests, or 80% on the final itself.

The foreign students note that if they fail two of these Fundamentals of XYZ Engineering courses, they are sent home & probably lose their jobs. So they are very intense about their tests. Furthermore, there is a rumor of a prize: If you get 100% on all four tests in a class, you get a jacket embroidered with the word "ACE." No one in this group has seen one, and several of the most competitive guys are extremely eager to be the first to earn one.

Many classmates -- expecially the non-native English speakers -- find the tests very difficult because the teacher has tried to be 'tricky' with the questions. He uses sentence structures like, "True or false: The bubbles in Coke are not a factor in pushing the straw out of the can." So you have to determine the truthiness or falsiness of a "not," which is hard even for native English speakers. (It's hard enough to do this stuff without some teacher messing with words just to try to confuse you, right?)

His standard answer to student queries about test questions all week has been, "What does the question say? Read it carefully." This, today, was his downfall as one word girl and some engineering guys all answered what the question asked, rather than what he 'meant' to ask....

Today's test assessed our ability to plug numbers into my employer's wicked-cool XXX modeling software and produce other numbers. Basically, one question asked, "if you stick a straw into a Coke bottle, how hard can you push on the straw before it bends?" The teacher wanted the answer to be a negative number beause we were pushing down; we argued that 'push' isn't the right technical term for what he wanted, so our positive answer was quite correct.

Anyway, the point is not that this silly argument 'raged' for 15 minutes of class time before we won it, but rather the fact that all of us who argued have 95+ averages in the class, and missing one question doesn't affect our 'grade' one whit. And there are no jackets on the line because everybody missed at least one question on the very first test. Go figure. And don't even try to suggest that we just like to argue. ;)

01 November 2006

School Daze

This week and next, I'm taking a class for work. It's a cool thing when your employer pays you to expand your mind. This week, the expansion is Fundamentals of XXX Engineering. The XXX is a useful and interesting oilfield technology that is a key part of my employer's business and which I write about pretty much every day but have not understood as well as I'd like.

So I'm in a classroom this week with 15 or so young engineers from around the world, and with widely varying command of the English language. I have a huge amount of respect for people who can do this sort of technical work and reading in a non-native language. I have enough trouble with it in my own language.

My last science class was about 1980. Go ahead and do the math there, if you can remember how: 2006 - 1980 = long enough to forget all the calculus you had to have to get through Intro to Physics. Now calculate the volume (in barrels) of fluid you'd need to fill a 4-1/2-in.-diameter, 9,000-ft-deep gas well (and that's the simplified well without all the other stuff inside of it). You now have some sense of my struggle this week. These equations are, as the instructor notes, "pretty basic math." Unfortunately, I have not used much math since college, except for the occasional glance at Quicken to see whether there is still money in my checking account. I mean, who remembers how to calculate the volume of a cylinder, except maybe Pepsi bottling engineers?

Classes this week run from 8:30 til whenever we're done, and all day long the instructor is stuffing our brains with information, explanations and oilfield stories. I'm technically auditing the course, so I don't have to take the daily tests -- but I do because I feel like tests are part of the learning process. For the "kids" in the class, their grades on the tests greatly affect their future with the company; for me, a grade is just an acknowledgement that yeah, ok, I get it. And yet, I stress over these things, just like I always did for 'real' tests. Go figure.

Amazingly, although I do nothing but sit on my butt all day long in the classroom (and eat too many cookies on our hourly breaks...), I am exhausted. My brain is unaccustomed to this level of workout, which means it's probably a good thing and a potential ward against senility (or a cause of senility, depending on how you look at it). However, I'm going to wait and sign up for Fundamentals of YYY Engineering after my brain recovers from this onslaught.

Next week, I have a management course: My employer is a "Seven Habits Company," so we all learn about Stephen Covey's theories on balancing life & work, etc. Compared with this week's crash course in "why you didn't finish that science degree you started," it should be a gas.

Speaking of gas, I'm procrastinating (ooh, baaaad thing according to 7 Habits) on my Engineering homework to determine whether XXX can plop a cement plug safely in that aforementioned gas well. Oh, did I forget to mention that every day after 8 hours of classroom instruction we also have reading & modeling homework? My brain hurts.

28 October 2006

A little visitor

Had a nice birthday dinner with mom & dad tonight, then went over to Dad's House o' Movies to watch a movie of my choosing. Birthday girl gets to pick.

Mom & I went this afternoon to run some errands (buy me birthday presents YAY!) and check out Blockbuster's selection. It reminded me why I rarely bother to go rent a movie. I would have liked to see Over the Hedge, but it was out of stock. The Break Up would also have been a good choice, but -- yeah you guessed it -- out of stock. By the time we were thinking about our fifth and sixth choice for movies, I thought, "This is dumb. Why not just look at something I already have at home?"

See, when I bought my (at the time) huge 52-in. tv, I went a little crazy and bought some movies. This would have been, oh, two years ago or so. And I still have not watched some of them. Like tonight's ultimate birthday movie choice: Gladiator.

OK, I know you're thinking like my mom, "Gladiator is sort of bloody for a birthday movie." But I can look past the blood because, nod with me ladies, Russell Crowe is a hottie. Sensitive, heroic, tragic, sweaty, manly hunk o' meat. Oh, and there's also some tasty little allegorical flourishes, something about a fella who is trying (badly) to follow in his daddy's footsteps but not noticing the masses slowly slipping away and hungry for a new hero....

Anyway, after a couple of hours of blood, gore and prurient hunkonomics, I came home to find a little black and white critter chasing me up the driveway, up the sidewalk, right to the front door. I RAN inside, thinking it was a skunk, probably rabid. But no, it was a little dog thing. Well, one of those small yapping things that people call dogs, but which are actually closer to cats than dogs. Being a total anti-small-dog person, I left it out on the porch. Then the angel voice whispered, "Do unto that doggie as you would have its owner do unto your dog if it ever digs a hole under the fence and runs around the neighborhood." (sigh)

So I brought it inside & it did have a tag. Now, understand, it's after 11 (not counting Daylight Savings change), but as before, I thought if my dog were missing & I had been looking for it for the last 3 hours, I'd be frantic and waiting by the phone. So I called the phone number on the tag. The woman who answers is at a party & can barely hear me. Better yet, it turns out that 1) she didn't know the dog was missing, 2) she is quite a ways away from here, and 3) the dog is supposed to be with her daughter, who is staying with her dad (this woman's ex) this weekend in my neighborhood. Oh boy. Anyway, someone will come for the dog.

A minute later, another little voice is calling me back. It's the daughter, and she is just in the next block so they will be at the house in 2 shakes. Everybody is very apologetic about bothering me, but meanwhile, Lakrids and this little cat-dog thing are scampering happily around the house as if they have been best pals forever. Lakrids is fairly fascinated that the other critter can jump basically straight up in the air without any running start. This earns the little dog thing the right to drink from Lakrids' water bowl. Soon thereafter, the gal shows up for the dog, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Except... Blogger doesn't seem to want to publish blog changes today. So You may not read this entry until next week. Ah well.

So many movies....

What a great list of movies we have on the list! The Martian notes that he has seen a number of them and has 'heard of' most. Some of them, I hadn't even heard of, so it will be fun to look them up.

The funny thing is that seeing the list was like seeing a list of favorite music. Just seeing/hearing/thinking the name of the movie (or song) evokes some memory of where you were, who you were when you first saw it, or how you felt after you saw it.

Some of those "Great American Movies" are films that I saw in history classes. The older movies made you *feel* something: Pride, often; shame, sometimes, or maybe just a wish that the world was not such a cruel place. Even when a movie ends with ET waving good-bye and promising he'll always he in a little boy's heart, you wish, you wish, you wish the world had not chased him away. You wish nobody ever had a reason to make American History X or Birth of a Nation. You wish the world were a different place. So we make movies where we may struggle a bit, and some may not live to see it, but in the end, everybody lives happily ever after.

I like our optimism.

Blockbuster has extended my "Rewards" membership for six months, free! Because I'm such a good customer (who has not rented a movie in ... a long time). This special add-on to a normal Blockbuster membership gets you one free movie a month and then some specials for rent-one-get-x-free and some other random, occasional discounts. When the Danish hordes descended on my house last summer, it was a great deal because everybody seemed to like to watch movies in the evenings. But I don't really watch all that many movies alone.

However, the 'media room' in mom & dad's new house, with its 92-in. high-definition monster screen and leather recliners with cup-holders, is pretty awesome. And as long as I bring over a new movie every time I visit, I might be able to avoid seeing "Top Gun" for the 200th time....

22 October 2006

Movies that Made Americans the Way We Are

You could argue that movies are the real Great American Medium. More than television, we export our movies around he globe, dubbed and subtitled into a gazillion languages and spreading American idiom and values (or lack thereof) to the world.

American movies are so ubiquitous in Europe that it always surprises me when The Martian has not seen some movie that I consider a classic that helped shape Americans into what we are. Upon consideration, it probably shouldn't surprise me because most of those 'classics' were made before we were born, or before cable TV and the media octopus had extended its international reach to every corner of the Earth.

This subject returned last week when mom and a couple of gals came over to (finally) see the house and then go out for dinner (cook? Oh no, not me). At dinner, one of the gals was talking about Old Yeller, and we had a small discussion about whether it's an appropriate movie for children. One of the gals said it teaches a lot about Americans: We can overcome losses and get on with our lives, start over. Just put your pain behind you and move on.

And so I brought it up with The Martian -- who had not seen the movie but sort of vaguely knew it was about a dog, and something bad happens to the dog. Thus was born the need for a List of Movies That Made Americans the Way We Are

The list started a few trips ago, when we saw The Wizard of Oz. I had not seen it for some decades, and, to be perfectly honest, does not age well against modern movies and special effects. I remember it as being awe-inspiring and scary, followed by bad dreams about flyng monkeys for weeks. But Dorothy was so brave and honest and true, and ah, there *is* no place like home.

The Unnamed Male Relative introduced The Martian to his second great American classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." There isgood George, taking care of people without a smidgen of greed in his soul, and yet the nasty, mean banker prospers. But in the end, George shows him: It's all about people. There's no place like home, after all. (Ignore the fact that nowadays George would still go to jail or at least be pilloried in the media and right-wing blogs. Similarly, think about "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in a modern context... Is the innocent "Happy Ending" extinct?)

Others on my list, which The Martian has already seen: Independence Day and its funny relative, Mars Attacks (American ingenuity always wins, yay us!); Citizen Kane (which neither of us particularly liked); and the original Psycho (don't want to think about the values we learned there...)

With The Martian heading here Dec. 15, it's time to start making a list of classics he should see in case of inclement weather. Old Yeller is on the list, as is a classic Daniel Boone film (a family thing because our ancestry charts go through Boone). He can't remember whether he's seen Miracle on 34th Street, so we'll probably catch that on TV.

As parameters for the list, let's aim for American movies -- e.g., Lord of the Rings could be considered a classic that teaches important values, but it's not very 'American.' Let's also aim for movies that are widely known: I'd argue that "Brother From Another Planet" *should* be a classic, but I don't know anybody else who has seen it, so it doesn't count. And finally, let's look for a variety of 'values' and time periods.

So... what does The Martian need to see to understand what makes us Americans??

16 October 2006

Weather Delay

The alarm clock woke me with one of those typical Houston weather forecasts today: Rain, street flooding, etc. The radar picture is bleak, and so I began the search for the two umbrellas I *know* I had at my previous house. I had found one a couple of weeks ago, and I remember thinking, "I should put this somewhere safe." I can't find it, which means I probably took it to the office and put it somewhere safe *there.* Which will not help me walk from the car to the office. (sigh) Thus, I'll wear my extremely lovely & fashionable (but amazingly waterproof) Gore-Tex to work today.

It's been raining off & on since yesterday, and overnight and this morning we have received some hella heavy rain. The very distressing thing about the rain is that it makes me close the Mini's top, and the Mini is really a topless kind of gal. Since I got her in May, I've driven with the top closed fewer than 10 times -- more like six. It was a very dry summer, and Mother Nature is apparently going to make it up by giving us a wet fall. I'm feeling good about having cleaned the gutters.

I leave the house for work at 7:00 a.m. Today I headed out at 6:55 a.m. to give me a few extra minutes for the rain. Before I put the convertible top up, I went out to empty a 10-in.-tall metal pot that's home to a couple of last year's poinsettia plants. Typically on a rainy day it fills with 1 to 2 in. of rain (because I am too lazy to drill holes in the bottom). I emptied it yesterday just before dinner. This morning it was full to overflowing.

While I was emptying the water, I saw some cars down on the neighborhood road where I turn to get out of my cul-de-sac. They seemed to be driving unusually slowly, and I was thinking negative thoughts about people who overcompensate for a little rain by driving so slowly.

Thus, I jumped in Sunny, closed her top and headed out into the wilds. About two houses down (literally) the street, I saw why everybody was driving so slowly. The intersection is a bit flooded. Up-over-the-curbs flooded. Up-higher-than-the-Mini-wishes-to-swim-today flooded. Put-the-Mini-in-reverse-and-go-back-to-the-warm-dry-house flooded.

When I lived in Arizona, we had gully-washer storms during "monsoon season." They would come out of nowhere and dump some ungodly amount of water in a short time, creating some heavy flooding that would go away after an hour or so. Everybody with a brain knew not to drive onto a flooded section of road, because you never quite knew how deep it might be. And yet, every rain storm, there would be footage of a brave rescue of some moron from the car they drove into a flooded road section because they could not wait 60 minutes for the water to go down.

The fun thing you learn about Arizona, tho, is that they turn around and mail those idiots a bill for the cost of the rescue. I love that: You were stupid? You pay for it. Then maybe you won't do it again, and maybe you will tell your dumb friends not to do it, either.

My momma didn't raise no dummies. Thus, it is 7:35 and I'm still home, waiting for the water in the street to get below the Mini's bumper.

Addendum: We had a lull in the rain just after I finished writing. By 8, the street was clear, so I got out just fine. I hope I can get home.... Oh, and my office is a ghost town: They can't get through the flooded streets!

08 October 2006

Minding the Gutter

Since I moved in here, I have been pretty sure that my neighbor on one side has his 'mind in the gutter' altogether too much. I don't mean he's a dirty old man, but rather that he seems to be on his roof twice a month cleaning the pine needles & leaves off the shingles & out of the gutters. I've surmised that he likes it up there because it gives him a good view of everybody else's backyard, but he does always seem to be actively working and not just spying when he's up there.

I moved here because I love the trees, but I do appreciate the downside of trees, especially in fall. When we did the inspection on the house, it was clear that the gutters needed some attention, but I didn't think they were so bad as to require 'cleaning the gutters' as a condition of moving in. And they were not a high priority fix, which is why I ignored them until yesterday.

We finally have a real fall weekend here, with low temperatures in the low 60s and highs 'just' in the mid-80s and humidity around 50% (compared with the usual mid-90s and 90%. This may sound like 'summer' to those in heat-challenged climates, but trust me, it's quite cool here, which has the added value of keeping the skeeters away.

So after totally wearing out the dog, I decided cleaning the gutters would be a good, useful activity that would allow me to continue to enjoy the great day. I grabbed the ladder, some gloves and a determined look, and headed up onto the roof.

I'm not afraid of heights/ladders, but that transition from the ladder onto the roof is a mental challenge. I also don't much like critters crawling on me or goo on my hands. But hey, I dug in.

Having never done this before, I don't know how much gunk accumulates in an average gutter per year, but if what I found was a mere year's worth of gunk, then I begin to understand my fastidious neighbor. Because I'm pretty sure that water has not actually flowed in any of these gutters at least since I bought the house and probably much longer than that.

That said, I have a wonderful pile of the most gorgeous mulch any gardener ever made. Because essentially, the gutters were a long, tubular compost heap.

I also have a new appreciation for the guys who do this for a living. Although I did not encounter any crawling critters, I did have to sidle up some fairly steep -- even for Monkey Girl here -- roof sections to clean off accumulations on the shingles. I also had to engineer a solution to reach the gutters on the front of the house, since the gorgeous landscaping & huge tree/bush things pretty much don't leave a lot of room for such plebian concerns as ladders and gutter cleaning. (This would be, I think, the reason those front gutters were totally packed with silt: Nobody could get to them.)

01 October 2006

Science Update + Bonus Adventure

OK, its a little blurry and sort of dark, but you can see the aftermath of the convertible experiment. I tried taking a couple of those shots where you just hold the camera in front of your face and hope for the best, but the flash was so bright you couldn't even see there was sunburn.

The most surprising development of the experiment is that I have not peeled. Based on extensive experimental evidencew from my childhood, I expected that to start pretty much immediately. Apparently old skin reacts differently to such abuse?

Nearly as surprising: Much of the burned area is still tender four days later. (pout) The edge of my neck itches/burns like crazy, and the formerly very white insides of my arms still sting quite a bit. But mostly the burn has turned into what appears to be a very dark tan. Go figure.

Today's bonus adventure, though, was not sunburn-related. I opened the door to let the dog in after her morning toilette, and a little toad decided to come along. Brave dog that she is, Lakrids looked up at me and said, "Uh, is that a toy or is it something scary? I'm not touching it until it stops bouncing around and lets me sniff its butt." After one trip around the kitchen island, the poor little amphibian decided he would accept my kind offer of a ride on the kitchen spatula back out into the rainforest/backyard.

The little visitor and my reaction to him (it must be a male, barging in where he is not wanted...) made me think about critter-visitors, in general. I'm very gentle with lizards & toads because I think of them as bug-eaters. I am not at all gentle or patient with Periplaneta americana or her annoying relatives.

(Note: See on that photo where it purports to show you 'actual size' at about 1-3/4 inches? In real life when they are staring you down from a corner of the bathroom floor, they are about 6 inches long with scary fangs dripping poison and blood from their previous victims. This may be a brain-induced exaggeration, but I'm pretty sure all female Texans see exactly the same thing in that situation; even my female Texan dog will not go near a roach in defensive stance.)

With frogs & lizards, I have a sort of "live & let live" philosophy. Same with spiders. If they don't crawl on me, they are free to go about their skeeter-eating. (Even in Arizona, where the spiders are as big as your head, occasionally eat small children & can poison you with a sidelong glance, I never had a problem with them.) But with roaches, there is but one possible philosopy: Live & Let Flip-Flop. The flip-flop is not only a fine utilitarian shoe, but since I typically have at least one pair in any given room of the house, they also are useful and produce a very satisfying *SPLUT* when they contact a cockroach body at an appropriately high rate of impact.

But we had no roaches today, just a cute, scared little toad, who is now back in the yard -- or perhaps by now already a little brunch-bite for some big bird. (sigh)

27 September 2006

Convertible Science

Let's have a little science experiment, shall we? Let's mix a business trip to San Antonio with a Mini Cooper convertible, warm weather and clear skies. Add one idiot behind the wheel, crank up the iPod, and have her leave San Antonio to return to Houston at 11 a.m. so she is in the bright sunshine for the entire peak UV time of day. Got the scenario? Notice anything important missing from our experiment, like, maybe, sunscreen?

Now, let's theorize about the results of this experiment. Which of the following will result:
a) Sunburn
b) Severe sunburn
c) Extremely painful sunburn
d) Extremely attractive raccoon-eye sunburn pattern on nose/cheeks
e) High likelihood of future peeling and itching
f) All of the above


28 August 2006

Newsy Chat

The work on the house continues with new draperies in the living room and a huge load of junk... i mean useful stuff foisted off.... i mean 'donated' to Freecyclers in the area here.

Meanwhile, I have had some spare time & found that I really like to comment on blogs that talk about news stories. So I thought, "why wait for someone else to blog the good stories?" Thus, Smukke-Speak was born.

I'll continue to post here about 'adventures' and my personal life. But my thoughts on what's happening out in the crazy world... that's all for Smukke-Speak.

10 August 2006

Makin' dough

Once upon a time, I bought my dad a bread-making machine. I thought he might enjoy having a gadget that did something fun & easy. As I understand it, he used it 2-3 times, then set it in a corner to gather dust. Now, mom & dad have sold their house in preparation of moving into a new one they're building, and they are trying to be good about throwing away stuff they have not used in more than 10 years. Thus, the bread machine has come to be at my house.

Calling a device a "bread machine" makes it sound as foolproof and easy as a "coffee machine" or a "vending machine." You put something in the machine, and you get some other intended thing out of the machine.

Unfortunately, the bread machine is not a coffee machine. If you put the ingredients in it and set the timer so you have hot, homemade bread first thing in the morning, you may well wake up with an overwhelming smell of oh so ymmy bread, only to find that what is in the bread machine is a lump of bread-like stone.

"Yeast," mom tells me, "is the culprit."

Bread is not coffee. It is not chocolate chip cookies, and it is definitely not a frozen chicken pot pie that you can pop in the microwave for 5 minutes & eat up. That's because it contains yeast, a mystical substance that thinks I keep my house too warm and Houston, in general, is too humid. Only under exactly perfect conditions will it deign to rise, and then only if you praise it lavishly for doing so. Thus, forget about letting it stew all night alone.

As with most good stories, this one is a bit of an exaggeration. My first loaf of bread from The Thing was small but tasted pretty darned good. The loaf that's in there now smells like heaven but doesn't appear to have risen worth beans. In another hour, I will know whether I have a rock or a loaf of yummy-bread.

The way I see it, the bread machine is just a technological reminder that we are somehow less capable than our forebears. My great-great-great-etc grandmothers baked bread in ordinary ovens. Or over campfires. Or on rocks. They gave birth without epidurals, and they washed clothes in the river. I have a "bread machine," a grocery store full of fresh live yeast packets, yeast boosters and 'bread mix" boxes. I live in an air-conditioned house with electricity and running water. But I can't make the lazy dang yeast rise up off the couch.

The bread does smell good, tho. Mmmmmmm!

ADDENDUM: The photo is the actual bread. It did rise into a happy little loaflet and it is not hard as a rock. Whaddya know? My ancestresses got nuthin' on me!

06 August 2006

Tax-Free Chaos

This weekend is Tax-Free Weekend in Texas. Apparently this happens every first weekend in August, as the state graciously agrees not to collect sales tax on clothing to encourage parents to boost the economy by buying new school duds for the kiddies. Most stores add to the savings (and the lure to the mall) by putting everything on sale.

The nice thing is that it applies to parents & even singles like me. The catch is, that you have to get up at 0-dark-thirty if you want to avoid the chaos of a million mommies with 2.3 unleashed kids each.

So I was at the mall early enough that there were still parking spots in my 'favorite' parking section. I have a Speed-Shopping technique that basically involves taking one of everything presentable, and trying it on. I'm very happy to say that none of the stories I shopped today had any crazy ideas about "limit x items per fitting room," because there's pretty much no way I could have accommodated that sort of limit in my Speed-Shopping technique.

The technique usually results in purchasing about half of what you try on, because that's about the fraction that actually looks as good on a lumpy human being as it does on a hanger. Having arrived at the store fairly early, I managed to get checked out with no line, no waiting. (Cha-ching! There goes $300.) However, I had such a large bag of goodies that I didn't want to carry it over to the next store in the mall, so I went out to the car in the now-full parking lot where a line of cars followed me as I walked, hoping to snag my parking spot. But I wasn't leaving... just loading the trunk...

At the next store, I managed to find another pile of "needed" clothes; then I found a lovely Brighton belt (ok, that one was a special treat). At one store I tried on a lot but bought nothing because I could not justify buying any $89 items (not on sale!) when I had just filled my bags with complete outfits for less than that. Plus, some of their cutest items were more than $100 -- thus not qualifying for the tax-free deal. Go figure: I'm a cheapskate! Anyway, I'll watch for those items now in the store's outlet.

I have promised myself that the result of this trip will be a closet-cleaning of all the stuff that I have moved 2x from New York and then Phoenix because "I might need it in my next real job." Mom brilliantly points out that in Houston it's unlikely I will need the 30 heavy wool sweaters that I have stubbornly refused to give up "because I love them." And since I have not had to wear a suit for any reason since I started here, I can probably Freecycle most of those, even tho they are "pretty" and "expensive to replace."

Anybody have any other favorite excuses for not getting rid of stuff that you have not worn for 10 years? heh

By the way, my maid, Ruby (the Roomba), has vacuumed 2 rooms of the house while I've been writing this. Seriously, I love this thing.

01 August 2006

Just a small brag

I'm vacuuming my excellent new floor & rugs while I am typing this. Or, rather, my Roomba is vacuuming while I type. This morning, it did one half of the wood floor space while I was in the shower. Now it's doing the rest. This is the coolest toy EVER.

I'm thinking that maybe my Roomba needs a name. Feel free to offer ideas. Meanwhile, I realize I have never offered up a photo of my not-so-new Mini Cooper (purchased in May -- oh it's ancient, right?) and so ... here she is. She does have her personalized license plates now: Sunny 6. (Texas only lets you have six characters, and someone already had just plain "Sunny.' Go figure. One of these days if she can stay clean long enough, I need to take a picture of her with the plates. The problem with keeping her clean is that Mini brake dust is apparently extremely attracted to Mini wheels, and they are always dirty, dirty, dirty!

Here's another view of Sunny with all her Mini pals, at a Houston Mini Motorists' Society meeting at a go-kart track. The place was very cool & let us drive our Minis in for photos before we did some good, competitive karting. Did I not ever write about how much fun we had there? (It would have been fun even if I had not won my races...)

30 July 2006


Fireplace and reading room with old floor

Fireplace and reading room while they are still working

Fireplace and reading room after mom & the dog have gotten comfortable with the new floor & rug!

TV space & cool front window with the old floor

TV space and cool front window with the new floor & rug

When I look at these pictures in the preview mode of blogger, I realize it's hard to see the difference in colors between the floors. The old floor was very light and didn't look very much like "wood"; this is more rich & cherry-stained with more realistic graining and wood color variations. Maybe this photo shows it best, although I didn't copy over a similar one of the 'before':

Entry to the house with the new, darker floor

I'm thrilled with it :) I'm still mad at Home Depot for making me wait two months for it without any communication, but I'm happy that it's finally in. The installers that Home Depot subcontracted did a great job & were very professional, and that part, at least, went great.

29 July 2006

I have a Floor!!!!

Without some photographic explanation, you will not understand how excited I am about having my new floor installed. Therefore, I open with the part that makes you say, "And you paid money for that house?!" Yes, the floor was a mess. The previous owner had installed it in hopes that it would gussy up the place for sale. Bummer that -- should have actually followed the installation instructions. (The empty boxes are there to keep the dog's paws & my toes from getting pinched between the pieces of laminate. Nice, eh?)

I won't go into the specifics of the problems, but suffice it to say that the floor was a mess. Not only that, but it was ... cheap. The seller did offer to have it repaired, but I said oh no, you just discount the house & then I can install what *I* want. So that's how it happened that I've been waiting since the end of May to have a floor.

On Friday morning, the guys from Sunshine Flooring -- subcontractors for Home Depot -- showed up to rip out the nasty, cheap laminate and install my pretty new floor (still laminate, but pretty and definitely not cheap). I was at work during this segment of the festivities, but mom reports that they had a jolly old time tearing it out.

What you really want to know is, is the new stuff beautiful?? Well, of course it is. More pix to come.

25 July 2006

Floor update

The delivery dude for Home Depot showed up with a load of flooring on Saturday morning. (Not exactly between noon and dark, but I'm ok with it because it's HERE!) Unfortunately, it looked as if part of the delivery had not arrived.

I called Monday to find out about the missing stuff and scheduling the install, and I got more run-around: "Well, we can't even think about scheduling installation until we know you have everything. But the person who is in charge of deliveries is busy loading a truck so I will have to call you back." (sigh) No one called on Monday.

However, apparently on Tuesday morning they called mom (she thinks they like her local phone number better than my metro-Phoenix area code) to talk about the delivery and convince 'me' that I got everything. It's all there, inside those boxes somewhere, they assured mom.

So she had to come over to the house to look. Part of it she found, and part she did not find so she called them back -- and they hung up on her three times. This, of course, made her very, very happy, and she stormed off to the store to speak to a human. At the store, a human showed her what the 'missing' parts looked like, and yes, of course they were all mixed in with other parts that looked just like them.

So, with everything confirmed, mom managed to get a human being to actualy commit to coming to the house on Friday to rip out this nasty mess of improperly installed (by the previous owner) cheap flooring and come back Saturday to install my gorgeous new, sweet-looking floor.

Believe it? I guess we will find out this weekend!

21 July 2006

Let's get ready to Roooomba!!

The dog thinks it is a scary space alien, but I find the Roomba just way too much fun. How can you not love a vacuum cleaner that 1) works by itself while you play comptuer games, paint the bedroom, sew a table skirt, create a scrapbook page, play with the dog, etc., and 2) Even gets underneath the furniture where the icky bugs and dust bunnies hide??

So far so good on the picking up dog hair, etc.; I did already empty the cassette twice but in fairness to the machine, it's (ahem) been a while since I vacuumed in here.

By the way, there is news on the new flooring front: It's supposed to be delivered tomorrow "between noon and dark." No word on installation, but since the flooring has to sit & stew in my typically humid Houston-area home for at least 72 hours, I can still hope to have a new floor sometime next week -- and maybe to unpack all the living/dining room boxes before August (maybe). [Note in lower picture of Roomba under the furniture that it is still wrapped in plastic, waiting for the new floor before we unwrap.]

One of these days I need to remember to take some pictures of the bad spots on the old floor. Not sure how I'm gonna do that, but it needs doing.

20 July 2006

Woot! It's a Roomba!

OK, I was wandering around the Houston Chronicle website the other day and stumbled across a tech blog that talked about a website called Woot. Best I can describe it is "think Fry's Electronics with only one item per day."

Anyway, the item for that day was a Roomba. It's a little robotic vacuum thing that -- as with Woot, I've heard about, read about and considered but never bought. Well, what caught my attention this time were two reviews of the thing: One said it's great for people with dogs because it picked up dog hair like mad. The other said it's great for hardwood and laminate floors. I got that.... And the price was right... so I Wooted!

My Roomba arrived today and because it's electronic you know the drill: Plug it in for XX hours before first use. So it's charging. Tomorrow before I go to work, I get to see if it makes the dog totally nuts. Oh and also whether it does a good job of cleaning.

17 July 2006

Pix of the Renovation!


Master Bedroom, looking toward Master Bathroom
The "after" wall color is more correct on the photos below. You know how the camera flash & other stuff affects the color of the image...


Master Bedroom looking away from the Master Bathroom
(what you can't see in the "before" photo are the spots where the home seller tried to 'touch up' the walls to cover nail holes... with the wrong color paint.)

.. ..
Master Bathroom

New draperies (sorry, I didn't take any Before photos but they were PINK -- EEK!)
Master Bathroom..............Master Bedroom

Mom on ladder, sponge-painting the bathroom

Stuff before I paint

I have one more small section of painting to finish (up in the soffit, ugh!), but before I do that, I just need to clear my brain a bit:

-- I don't understand why everybody is so annoyed with iTunes. I have it, and I listen to music purchased through iTunes all the time, in my car even. One way to do this is the way that Apple most wishes us to do so: buy an iPod. I have one and an FM transmitter gizmo that lets me listen to music through my normal car radio. The transmittter works better in the Mini than it did in the Camaro, either because of the location of the antenna or the age of the vehicle... Anyway, I could also buy an adapter for my car radio to plug the iPod right in as if it were a multi-CD box, but since the FM transmitter works great, I haven't bothered to do that -- yet. Another way to listen to my iTunes-purchased music in my car is -- duh -- burn a CD. That would make it just like every other music-purchase service on the planet. If I prefered to use some other means of listening to my music -- say, some off-brand mp3 player, I could even (gasp) rip the CD I burned from iTunes, and have perfectly usable mp3 files. Some wag will suggest that they can tell the difference between first- and second-generation copies of the music. I say those people who can tell the difference probably are not shopping on iTunes to get music all squished by Apple's proprietary compression scheme. So can someone explain what's the fuss here?

-- The US Surgeon General has finally noted something that children of smokers have known since forever: second-hand smoke makes people sick. Oh, and I saw another smoking-related story today about how quitting smoking can relieve symptoms of asthma. I'm sorry but I don't see how this could possibly be news to anyone. What I really want to know is, we have a dangerous DRUG that obviously harms people's health, and yet, we do not include it on our list of controlled substances. I don't get it. No, I do get it, but to me, the arguments for keeping cigarettes legal are very much the same as the ones for letting illegal aliens stay in the US: It would be too hard to stop it now that it's happening, so we will just talk about it a lot and hope it goes away. Right.

-- CNN Money says The Woodlands, TX, is #73 in the Best Places to Live. Their #1 choice, some place in Colorado, has crime statistics suggesting that just thinking about the city gets you robbed. How is that good?? Apparently people are willing to have a high likelihood of becoming a crime statistic, in return for a 15-minute commute. I don't get it, myself.

-- When I am done with this last dab of painting, I would like to go see Johnny Depp prance around in a pirate costume. Who's with me??

16 July 2006

Paint and microwaves (no, not together)

In the master bedroom, Wall #1, behind the bed, is the colored wall -- blue. It's done and looks fabulous. Covering up the small section of Granite was no problem. The other walls will be the same color as the background color of the master bath walls (yellowish), and I should get a couple of those done today. Maybe all, but...

This house is perfect for me because it has a very small kitchen. To me, 'kitchen' is wasted square footage. When I was looking at new construction, I joked with a builder about whether he had any floor plans with no kitchen, just a microwave built in to the TV cabinet somewhere. He said I was not the first person to ask for something like that, but the problem is that mortgage companies are weird about 'resale' and don't think there's a big enough market for homes with no kitchen. Go figure.

Anyway, the stupid microwave that came with the house is officially non-working. Oh, it pretends to work. Lights come on, it makes noise, the turntable turns, but ain't no cookin' being done. Last night for dinner I made one of my famous Marie Callendar Chicken Pot pies. They are a staple of my diet for more than 10 years I think, and so it's like rote to hit the 5 min button, then eat. Last night after five mins my pie was still frozen in the middle. After 7 it was barely thawed. This morning, my warmed up coffee is almost warm-ish so I've made another whole pot of hot, fresh coffee.


The annoying thing is that the home warranty thing that the seller bought among the various closing goodies covers microwaves -- but only built-ins. Apparently the built-in one long since expired, and the one left behind is just a countertop model crammed in the built-in space.

Now the crazy part. Microwaves are like $50. (OK, microwaves that will last longer than the 45 days I've been in the house are more than that.) And I don't cook. But I got spoiled when I was in NY because the ex won a GE Advantium in some online contest. The Advantium is a combination convection(?)/microwave thing that make the most perfect chicken pot pies you can ever have. Naturally, the Advantium costs more than $50. The only thing that might save me some money here is the fact that I think the Advantium is too wide for the built-in space. I'll have to go look at them today. I don't mind pulling my dinner from the freezer every day but I do prefer to warm it up a bit first.

15 July 2006

No Floor; No Surprise

No reader who has ever done home improvements will be surprised to hear that the floor did not arrive on Friday. Nor will it be a surprise that as of Thursday afternoon, it had not yet left the warehouse. (sigh) Maybe, they say, next Friday? I am hoping to have it before Christmas, but I'm not holding my breath. Meanwhile, the dog thinks the gaps in the existing floor are great places to hide her toys.

The bathroom looks GREAT, which means I suppose I should get off my butt and figure out how to re-size pictures on the Mac. Or install the new hard drive in the PC, but that just seems like so much frustration (reloading the OS? EEK! ) when I still have a whole room to paint. I may try to do that later after I get a coat of some paint on the wall in there.

Off to paint. There's a story about Lowe's "Granite" paint but I'll just summarize it by saying if you are not 100% sure you want it on your wall, don't do it, because once it's there, it is never coming off. Well, I *was* 100% sure, but then when I saw it... well, you know. At least I only did a small section up on the corner of the soffit. I am hoping the new normal paint will cover or that the shadows in the soffit will sort of make you wonder exactly what DID happen up there...

10 July 2006

Did I say rag rolling?

We tried it, and we didn't like the way it looked. So we sponged instead. It's a lot of work but it looks soooo much better!

We also didn't finish the bathroom, but we can see the end of the tunnel.

Now, there's a story about the floor. It's bad. The first time I came into the house I said "No, not this house. The floor is a mess, and I hate the wallpaper in the bathroom." But Mom can see past these things and realized that the house, itself was ok, and we could do these little cosmetic projects like painting walls, planting some flowers, and installing a new floor. So the old improperly installed laminate was slated to go away. We visited the flooring folks at Home Depot and Lowe's. At Lowe's, the flooring guy was too busy chatting with a fellow employee and their flooring samples were inadequate for our needs. At Home Depot, the flooring guy knew the difference between different laminates, explained why this one is $x per square foot and that one is $X+Y, and basically sold me on his ability to do Customer Service.

Stupid me.

This occurred some six weeks ago, in the last week of May, when I closed on the house and the flooring that we thought we might be able to simply 'repair' was clearly irreparable. Home Depot sent a guy right out, measured, gave me an estimate near what I expected (slightly more than the discount the home-seller gave us for repairing the icky floor), and I said 'do it.' A day later, they called to say the floor had to be back-ordered so it might be 4-6 weeks. Would that be ok?

A smart person would have seen the writing on the wall... But no. I said no worries, and started counting the weeks. At four weeks, June 26, I called and they said the estimated delivery date was July 3. Woohoo! I was excited to get the now really messed up floor outta here. But no. I called on July 3, and mysteriously the estimated delivery date had been moved to July 9. No worries, that would be six weeks...

Called today, July 10, to find out what's up. "Uh," says the Home Depot flooring guy, "the computer says it's supposed to be here yesterday. Since we don't take deliveries on Sundays it should be here any day now."

"Here's the deal, Sparky." I replied. "You guys have been putting me off for two weeks already with your 'should be' nonsense. This time you are going to find out exactly where my floor is and when it's coming to my house, ok?"

"Uh... it's going to take me a while to track it down. I'll call you back."

Unbelievably, he did. "Uh, here's the deal," said Sparky the Floor Guy. "We got six cases of the flooring on Thursday but the other 30-something are missing, so we are going to have to re-order. I think we can have it by Friday."

(Go ahead and do the math: I have been waiting for this special, back-ordered floor for six weeks but now if they order it on Monday, they can get it by Friday...)

"OK, once again, Sparky buddy, I'm not paying for 'thinking' here. What I want to know is, when will the floor be in my house?" [For those not familiar with laminates, the stuff has to sit in your house to acclimate for 3 days before they install it, so it gets all humidified and doesn't buckle when it retains moisture later. Thus, delivery + at least 3 days is when I get a new floor, assuming they can rip out the old crap and install the new in one day.]

"Well, if it comes on Friday, and you know it could get lost again, but if it comes on Friday then we can schedule the delivery, but it would take a special OK to get it delivered on the weekend, and I can't authorize that."

"Well, Sparky, I'm in a feisty mood so how about you put me on the phone with someone who CAN authorize a weekend delivery?"

(Hold music...) "Hi, this is Teresa. Sparky filled me in on some basics about your floor. We're going to re-order it and then it could be here as early as Friday. Then we can schedule a delivery and installation ok?"

"Well, Teresa, here's my problem. I'm guessing that if the floor arrives on Friday you aren't going to be able to turn it around and get it to my house until, what, Monday? or later?"

"Uh, yeah kinda. Well, you know we can't really schedule a delivery until we have the product in."

"I do understand that Teresa, ol' pal. Here's what I want you to know. You knew on Thursday -- that is, three days ago, that you did't get all the flooring in. But it didn't occur to anybody in the store to re-order the missing stuff until I called to ask you where the heck is my floor. So I hope you can understand I'm a bit upset about your level of customer service, first of all for not calling me on Thursday to let me know part of it was in, and second for not immediately ordering it so it could get here sooner. Are you getting this?"

"Um well see, when orders come in, they get checked and then if it's just a partial order it goes in a bin and ..."

"Teresa, hon, you're not hearing me. I don't care how it works. I do care about communication with a customer who has spent $10k in your store in the last month and needs to still do a lot more work on her new 15-year-old house. Does this mean anything to you?"

"Sure. We will call you when the flooring comes in, which is what we would have done when it all came in, anyway."

"OK, you're still not hearing me on the 'when it comes in' thing. See, if it doesn't come in Friday, you had better be on the phone to me, telling me that you are tracking its GPS coordinates, and you know exactly when it will arrive there and, based on that, when you can deliver it to my house. Does this sound reasonable to you?"

"So you want someone to call you on Friday?"


But no, that's not all...

Several hours later, I get another Home Depot call. I think this is the person who took the initial order: "Hi, I just got back into the office after being away for a week and a half, and I see on your file that you wanted someone to call you."

(sigh) I run through the situation, including the two initial calls when I was told two different delivery dates. Then I learn the real kicker of the story:

"Well, we got the flooring in a couple of weeks ago, but it was the wrong color so we had to re-order it."

"I don't suppose it occurred to anybody at that time to call and let me know."

"I don't see anything on the file saying we did that."

"No, I know you didn't. In fact, not only did you not call and tell me it was delayed, but the two bozos that I spoke to on June 26 and July 3 lied about the delivery date."

"Well, we don't usually track this sort of thing. See, we just schedule it when it comes in."

"OK, well, I am glad to have had this experience because it will save me a lot of aggravation in the future. Other home improvement stores may not be any better on this, but they can't be any worse. I can't wait to hear from you on Friday."

09 July 2006

Fun with Paint

As with any older house (15 years old), this one is not perfect. It is getting closer to perfection, thanks to my mom & I and a pile of cash, but it's a lot of work.

The guest bath, for example, was a fairly putrid blue when I moved in. Mom fixed that within the first days of moving in by painting it a cheerful, bright, sunny yellow. (She also replaced the nasty padded toilet seat cover. Do people actually use those things? They just feel so icky. Toilet seats should be hard and cool, not soft and warm. Yuck.)

Mom also took care of re-painting the laundry room a lovely sand color, and putting up a cute wallpaper border in there. It's cute, not icky, I swear. Anyway, that all happened before the washer/dryer/space shuttle arrived, so that's not today's project...

More recently, we have been attacking the master bathroom. It's a fairly large space, and somebody filled the walls with a busy 1980s Waverly sort of wallpaper. It's something that might work in a smaller space or as an accent on one wall of a bigger room, but egads, it was overwhelming in my poor master bath. So began project number 4: Wallpaper-be-gone.

If anybody out there is thinking about removing their own wallpaper, STOP. It took us the better part of a week to remove two walls of this very-well-stuck wallpaper using chemical wallpaper remover (bad idea) and finaly the old tried-and-true steamer. Bored with the process and facing quite a lot more wallpaper to remove, we decided to paint over the rest of it.

Mom found some magic primer that sticks to anything, including this coated wallpaper, to leave it water-wet so the latex paint sticks. Yesterday we put on the first coat of the real paint, and it will need one more coat to cover the stupid dark blue flowers of the wallpaper (grrr) and then we will rag-roll a coat of glaze on it. (More on that in a minute)

The last time I painted anything, I used a Wagner Power-Roller on a biiiig empty wall. Thus, painting was fun and sort of mindless. Fast-forward from then (~1983?) to now, painting a bathroom. The thing about bathrooms is that they are full of stuff you can't just paint over: mirrors, medicine cabinets, bathtub spouts, toilets, etc. Furthermore, this room has 13-foot ceilings and a large soffet, which means I'm up and down a big ladder much more than any monkey ever wanted to climb.

I've also managed to back into the paint at least once, and paint my hands, toes and arms a couple of times. In the competition for 'most body parts painted,' mom is running a close second; I have at least managed to keep it out of my hair...

That said, after one coat, I'm breathing a sigh of relief that the busy busy wallpaper is mostly disappeared. It's all worth it.

Next: The master bedroom. This one should go much faster. Famous last words, right?

15 June 2006

Ear Infection

The sweet little dog has an ear infection. A yeast infection, of all things, from swimming in grandpa's pool. Apparently a dog's ear is a similar environment to other places that can harbor such infections. Go figure.

Anyway, the vet sent me home with one enormous bottle of goo, one small tube of other goo and an instruction sheet. The instructions tell me to simply fill the dog's ear canal with goo from the bottle, massage it around for five minutes or so, then use cotton balls to muck out the now loose/icky goo in the ear canal. Follow that, it says, with a 'small amount' of goo from the squeeze tube, which is apparently steroids & medicine.

"You might," the vet added in a verbal aside, "want to do it outside."

What the vet failed to mention is that the dog will not only hate this, but consider it a personal attack as savage as if you had clubbed her with the bottle instead of just squirting a bit into the ear canal.

The dog is resting up from the wrestling match. I think I won, but I'm not sure. I hope the goo from the big bottle does not kill grass, because it is ALL over the back yard.

14 June 2006

First load

My new washer & dryer arrived today. In the words of mom, who was here to accept the delivery, "The space shuttle has landed."

Mom got a high-tech, high-efficiency LG washer/dryer last year, and I was there to do the first load of laundry in her new machine as soon as the Home Depot techs finished installing it. So it was only fitting that she was there today to greet the Home Depot guys and do the first load in my new GE space shuttle. Er, washer/dryer.

I paid twice as much for the washer as I would have paid for a plain old boring washing machine that does not light up like the space shuttle cockpit or spit water economically from hidden hydro-ports and use oh so much less electricity. But I think someone who purports to be a liberal tree-hugger should be buying EnergyStar products. Then, as I started researching washer/dryers, I wondered why the dryers are not labeled as EnergyStars. Then I realized that if I was *really* a tree-hugger, I would hang my laundry to dry. Eek! So ok, I'm a tree-hugger when it is convenient. (I think The Woodlands has deed restrictions against hanging your laundry outside. That's my excuse, anyway.)

I agonized over getting pedestals for the things, but in the end the marketers convinced me that I would like the 'dump all your laundry in the drawer first thing in the morning, and the machine sorts it all, then washes, dries and folds them while you're at work' option.

OK, it's a dream. But I'd pay extra for that.

13 June 2006


Smart people buy houses with automatic sprinklers, all set up and aiming in exactly the most efficient places possible to create a lush, green, happily watered lawn and lovely, happy flowers.

Crazy people (pointing to myself) spend an hour a week trying some new configuration of three sprinkler options, hoping to be able to water at least 80 percent of the grass without totally soaking the driveway, street and oh of course the neighborhood mailbox. My guess is that my neighbors will wonder why the eccentric new lady watered their mail. (sigh)

I have this fear, see? I'm not great with grass. I kill it just by looking at it. My dog kills it by peeing on it. And I don't think my neighbors will be terribly excited if my yard looks like a dried up brown patch of weeds after not even a month of my 'care.'

So I'm probably overdoing it to avoid screwing up. I can't help it. Blame it on my genes.

Anyway, the grass looks very happy & wet, so it's all good. Now, don't even start on how I'm only supposed to water in the morning, because that's just not going to happen.

12 June 2006

Heat and Chores

Having lived in Phoenix for a couple of years, I like to brag to Texans that their heat is puny compared with the 115-degree scorchers that suck the life right out of your lungs in Phoenix.

Today I'm happy to admit that 97 degrees is plenty hot, thanks.

One of my chores* on Sunday was to plant some flowers in the expansive front landscaping area at the new house. I felt pretty good about making about 40 holes in the dirt before noon. Then this afternoon I walked from one building to another in my office complex at the peak heat of the day and saw the landscaping crews planting about 100x as many flowers in the open spaces between buildings. My hat is off to those guys.

*Chores = things homeowners do every single freakin' day that renters never thought about. Or if they thought about it, they laughed and said, "I don't have to do that. Let the landlord do it if he wants it done." Oddly enough, even though I pay the mortgage company my 'rent' for the house now, they don't seem inclined to come and do any chores. Go figure.

11 June 2006

Catching Up

Every day or two I think, "Hey, I ought to blog about xxxx." Then I remember that I have not blogged in months, and maybe I won't remember how, or I'll have to spent too much time on this just to catch up...

Excuses, excuses. Here's what's happened since I fell off the Earth in January:

-- Work is great. If I could have written my own job description, it would be this job. It is especially nice to have a 13-mile commute on all back roads with no traffic. Yippee!!

-- The Camaro has gone into foster care, possibly adoption to new handlers. I traded him in on... wait for it... a new Mini Cooper. Yellow, convertible. I always wanted a convertible, and now that I live in a place of eternal summer, I deserve this. In some future blog I will debate whether I have been a good girl to deserve such a fun car or a naughty girl to deserve a car that demands to be driven topless even when it is 97 degrees (F) and 97% humidity. Either way, I am loving it.

-- The wonderful two-story townhouse I had been renting since last summer now has new inhabitants; I have (gasp) bought a house. It's a cute one-story house with huge trees in an established neighborhood, and it is almost exactly (within 0.1 miles) the same distance from work as the townhouse.

--The dog is loving her new backyard with trees & more space to romp. The house is also witin walking distance of one of The Woodlands' great dog parks, if only it were not 97 degrees and 97% humidity.

Pix to come. I moved on 3 June and have not yet managed to hook up the PC for a number of reasons (redoing the flooring shortly, PC hard drive kablooie, dearth of cable/ethernet outlets in old house, etc.) I'm working on the Mac but iPhoto is apparently not equipped to resize photos for the Web (how dumb is that?) and Picasa is not available for the Mac (grrr).

17 January 2006

Ugh, commuting!

For those readers who are not American, I should mention that Monday -- my first day at the new job -- was a sort of half holiday in the US. It's the day we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, and it's a federal holiday, a bank holiday but a fairly optional holiday otherwise.

This is important to know because my commute on Monday took 45 minutes. Today, Tuesday, not a holiday in any way, shape or form, the very same commute took 1 hour, 10 minutes. This with some 50-ish percent of the trip on a tollroad, which costs $1 for the privilege of sitting in bumper-to-bumper automotive mess.

Oh yes, I'm very excited about this development.

I need a new podcast that just repeats over & over: "Your job will be just 13 miles away in a few weeks. You can do this until then. No, really, it won't kill you. Your blood pressure may rise, and you may become a screaming maniac, but you can survive it."


There was also drama at work today. My boss's boss, who actually helped arrange my interview at the last minute, announced he is retiring. In 2 weeks. The communications staff was stunned, and it's unclear what will happen to that position... whether it will be filled or we will be shuffled off to report to some other department, or report directly to the VP.

Gotta love a job that starts with no computer (still! -- but i might have one on Friday) an office full of other people's crap, and managerial drama. Woot!!

Don't have to love the commute tho, grrr! (only a few weeks. you can do this. really, you can!)

16 January 2006

I Survived!

Made it through the first day at the new job without falling asleep at my desk, but of course there's a story or two...

This morning I started to tell you about how cool it was to have the coffee all made for me when I got up in the morning to go to the new job. I did manage to remember to actually bring the last cup of coffee in the car with me, and managed to drive to work without spilling it all down the front of my clothes (my favorite 'stupid humans' trick).

Upon my arrival at the building, I realized I had not asked where I should park, so I grabbed a visitor spot and calmly walked to the end of the hall where the Communications Services offices are. There, I found out that you need an access card to get through any of the doors. So... walked back to the front desk to explain the situation. She called my new boss, he confirmed that I'm a real new employee, and she gave me a temporary card and showed me where I should (and should not) park.

This time, I actually got into the office, where I found my new work space, which apparently once was filled to bursting with 'stuff' and now is only halfway filled with 'stuff' that would go into a storage closet if only they had one. (Sigh)

The good news: I have a desk, a phone and a tape dispenser. The bad news: no computer, no tape, no stapler. [I list the latter item for "Office Space" afficionados.)

I got to meet the office gal who hands out the permanent access cards, and most of my immediate co-workers. The boss also took me to lunch (Chinese) to meet a freelancer who does the layout for the company publication that I'll be editing. Then we drove up to the company's new building, where we will be moving in February or March.

I think I mentioned that my commute now is about 40 miles because 'you can't get there from here.' Well, when we were done touring the new office space (wow!) and meeting some folks at the nearby Tech Center, I drove direclty home and found out that when we move to the new building, my commute will be 13 miles, about 20 minutes. YAAAHOO!

Apparently everyone else in my department lives south of the current office, so the move will considerably lengthen their commutes. They are not as wildly excited about the move as I am.

The boss says my computer has all the approvals it needs, but there is some IT delay. If it doesn't come tomorrow, he has a contingency plan -- or I'll have another day to read in my messy office. Somehow a messy office is not as endearing when it's not MY mess.

One final note: I have never worked full-time since I have had the dog, so it was touch-and-go on how she would deal with me being gone all day. It apears she slept all day rather than eating my couch, so I suppose I should finish writing and play with her now as a reward :)

New Job Day!

I start my new job today. I've had a week at home to get myself and the dog accustomed to going to bed early and getting up in the morning.

Naturally, I could not sleep last night. Oh, sure I got a few winks, but last week I had no trouble at all falling asleep at 10 & waking at 5:30 without an alarm. Today, I was still looking at the clock at 4:30, and I almost threw the phone across the room when its alarm went off at 6:15.

"The phone?" you ask. Well, I have this great Sony alarm clock, with about 500 buttons on it, and you can preset different wake-up times for every day of the week & weekend. But I can't remember a) how to turn set it, b) how to turn it on, or c) how to shut it off after it knocks me out of bed. I mean, it's been basically four and a half years since I last used an alarm. I will have to find the manual for the thing one of these days; until then, I have a cell phone with a cheerful morning wake-up song.

When I moved to Houston, one of the items that did not survive the journey in the truck from Arizona was my poor old coffee machine. It was yer basic Mr. Coffee, so I was hoping to upgrade anyway. The Martian bought me, as a housewarming gift, a new cool coffee maker that has a timer on it. That's not the greatest invention ever.

I'd write more but the clock says it's time to make sure the dog has done all her business, finish getting dressed, and head out into traffic for what is to be my daily commute. You know I'll have more stories about that...

08 January 2006

Back home (whew!)

There is something very soothing about sleeping in your own bed, with your own pillow, after three weeks on 'vacation.'

It's also quite nice to choose clothes from the closet instead of a suitcase. I could go on, but you get the idea. I love to travel, but I also love to come home.

I'll talk about the trip & show pictures from the Billund Airport another time, but for now I need to tell you about Bluetooth.

The Martian gave me a new keyboard/mouse for Christmas, and it's all bluetooth. While I was in Denmark, I was using it on the Mac without most of its fun special features because it doesn't come with mac drivers. Now it's home & installed on the PC with full functionality, and wow! There are almost enough buttons on the mouse that I can do without a keyboard ;)

But the keyboard has its own functionality, including little preset buttons for common tasks and a nice zoom/volume control bar, and an LCD screen that shows what song is playing on iTunes, current time/temperature (how do it know?) and whether someone is trying to reach me via MSN Messenger.

Plus, now that I have 'Bluetooth' on the PC, I thought it would be fun to see what other gadgets I could attach to my already-too-big geek network. [Oh yes, the geek-meter is always pegged at this house. Where else can you find a house networked with three Windows PCs, a Mac, three printers, and the assorted stuff -- including the CNC sewing machine -- that attaches to each of these things.... and only one person living there?]

Your basic Bluetooth geek probably has a Bluetooth phone so they can sync their address books with their PC (?), maybe a Bluetooth headset so they can talk hands-free on their Bluetooth phone in their Bluetooth-enabled car (e.g., Mom's Lexus!); and maybe a Bluetooth handheld thingie to sync whatever one puts on such a device.

An Internet search turns up ever more entertaining things, however. For example, Toshiba expands the Bluetooth geekdom into the home with a Bluetooth microwave oven, refrigerator and washer/dryer. Yes, really!

A geek like me can appreciate the concept of syncing my grocery shopping list from the empty fridge to the PC or a PDA to carry to the store. But the microwave and washer/dryer?

"OK, I'm leaving work now, so start cooking that frozen food I left in the microwave all day"? I don't think so. Now, if the microwave can talk to the fridge & automatically grab the food out of the freezer, we might be talking about a useful device.

And unless the washing machine can flip clothes from washer to dryer and then fold them & pick up another load, I don't see the point of that one, either.

Anyway, I'm having a great time with this new toy and getting used to all the fun new buttons on the new mouse. And now I have a spare keyboard, which means (of course) that I have to buy another PC, right? hehehehehehe

03 January 2006

Godt Nytår

SneThe title of this one is my attempt to hide my late New Year's greetings by speaking Danish. It will take you so long to figure out that it says "Good Newyear," you won't notice it's a few days late. That's the theory, anyway.

As promised, here are some pictures of the snow we got here in Denmark while mom, dad & my poor dog have been suffering with high 70s and low humidity back home in Texas.

The first snow day was fun for me because of the drifts; it reminded me of my kid days back in Chicago, where you could get 2 inches of snow and have a 30-foot drift blocking the garage doors. OK that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there's a reason for that city's nickname. I opened the back door of the house here to take some pictures, found a drift up to my waist against the door, and decided pictures could wait until the wind was gone. Meanwhile, the wind had left the whole courtyard of the house (between the house & the barns) almost bare of snow in the middle, with high drifts at the edges.

churchWe went for a nice walk yesterday, and I got this fine picture of the great little Danish church up the street from The Martian's place. I say 'up the street' and I mean 'up'; I always forget between trips how hilly this area is. The glaciers carved up the place a bit.

For New Year's Eve, we went to a party at the home of one of the guys who came to stay at my house last summer. Carsten is a nut, and the party was made more fun by the fact that he had to work all day and half of the evening. He does something with a shipping company, planning and executing the loading & unloading of ships. If a huge ship comes in on New Year's Eve, you don't ask the captain to park there for the evening while you go play with your pals.

funThus, the first guests to arrive found an empty house and a large sack of decorations sitting on the coffee table. (Rub hands together, use evil grin). What could be more fun than making a huge mess of someone else's house? hehehe. We were very thorough; we even decorated the inside of the refrigerator. I'm pretty sure there are some streamers Carsten will not find until he moves out of the house.

The food arrived as we were finishing with the decorations; actually, some other guests had stopped at the caterer to pick it up. Carsten came shortly after that, but still had to shower and change into nice clothes. What a nut!

leap!A Danish New Year's Eve party follows a general schedule: At 6, everyone gathers around the tv to watch the queen's annual speech. Then you can eat, eat, eat -- the Danish national pastime. There is much toasting and laughing, some silly hats and party games. Then everyone gathers around the TV again to see "The 90-Year-Old Woman." It's a German comedy duo, performing in English, with Danish subtitles. How it became a staple of Danish New Year's no one knows. But there it is.

Near midnight, the guests climb onto the furniture so that at the stroke of midnight they can LEAP into the new year. They then leap into their winter coats and other warm stuff, to go out and see the fireworks.

hat finaleFireworks are legal for all here, so rather than having one centralized fireworks display choreographed to music by some professional outfit, you have the exuberance of 5 million inhabitants whose goal is to have some fun and maybe outdo the guy next door. The upshot (heh) is that you have fireworks basically anywhere you care to look, for much longer than even the best American displays I've ever seen. (Danish dogs must really hate New Year's Eve.)

The Martian took some great video of the fireworks but I can't get it uploaded just yet. It may have to wait until I get home. Anyway, a good time was had by all!