13 December 2007

The Naked Guy

Got up at the usual hour, dragged my sorry self out of bed, got ready for work, let the dog out into the backyard.... Everything is normal, and then I see the naked guy.

I can't be sure he's completely naked because he's on the other side of the fence, in my back-door neighbor's yard. He's at least not wearing a shirt, and it's only about 40 degrees out there. And he's decidedly not my neighbor, who is not tall enough to be viewed so plainly over the fence.

Obviously, I'm curious about this fella, who appears to be staring in the back door of the neighbor's house. My first thought is that he's a pervert, perpetrating a sex crime right there in my (well, almost) backyard. Then I wonder if he belongs there & I'm over-reacting like a nosy neighbor.

Either way, I wonder exactly what I'm supposed to do. I figure running out into my yard and yelling, "Hey, you pervert, get away from that door!" is probably not a good choice. I can't really see far enough, well enough, to decide whether he is a threat. However, before I get the phone out for a little 9-1-1 action, I figure I ought to be prepared to answer when the dispatcher asks, "What is your emergency?".

So I grab my trusty binoculars and try to look out the window in such a way that if the pervert turns his head, he can't see that I'm looking at him through binoculars. And that's when I see...

...that he is just a life-size mannequin standing on the back porch. I first saw him Monday morning. He's still there, freezing his sorry butt off out there. I'm awfully glad I took a moment to use the binocs before I sent some of Montgomery County's finest over there with guns drawn and adrenaline all rushing. I can just see the headline in the local paper on *that* police report:

Nosy neighbor reports peeping tom in neighbor's backyard. Officers respond to find that both she & the alleged perpetrator are BIG DUMMIES.

27 October 2007

Birthday fun

What I did on my (ahem) 24th birthday:
-- Went to the Apple store. Looked at iPod Touch, Looked at iPhone. Looked at iPod Touch again. Looked at iPhone again. Repeat until noon.
-- Ate lunch
-- Went home. Plugged new iPhone (happy birthday to me!) into the Mac and got her activated. WOOHOO!! Everything works and is oh so wonderful except -- the phone part. Gotta love A&T. Apparently they were messing with the network in Houston, or so the phone support bimbo informed me. I find on the Internet a solution & restart the 'network.' Phone works :)
-- Installed new Leopard operating system & iLife on the Mac. Smooth as glass.
-- Watched dad clean my gutters. Send iPhone photos of this to my brother in Brazil, via iPhone mail program. Happy birthday to me!
-- Ate pizza.
-- Texted brother & fiancee just to play with the iPhone.

It's cool. I'm *such* a geekette.

25 October 2007


I don't remember how I stumbled into it, but I've located yet another "Social Network," this one called LinkedIn. Call it Facebook for boring old grown-ups. That is to say, it is where I have found most of my current & former colleagues & friends. Unfortunately, it's boring. It's like going to a convention & having no fascinating speakers, no fun dinner parties, no drinks at the bar, just one enormous poster session of everybody's resumes. Yawn!

I suppose if I were looking for a job, it would be the hot ticket. If I were looking to hire someone, it might be the hot ticket, too. In fact, I think I found it because there was a post on one of my Facebook groups about a job opportunity available by visiting someone's LinkedIn profile. I wasn't interested in the job, but I was curious about LinkedIn. Go figure.

Anyway, it's sad to say that I have more 'connections' on LinkedIn after a couple of days than I do on Facebook after a couple of weeks. I believe this means I am old (sigh) How did that happen?

Facebook is more fun. My birthday is ... soon. I'll be 24. Again. One of these days, I'm going to get it right.

16 October 2007

I have my shots

I feel like I am a dog when I say that I went with my parents to get our shots yesterday. (I would have blogged immediately afterward, but Blogger was down...)

In another 9 days, I will be immune from Yellow Fever, one of those nasty mosquito-borne diseases that you only have to worry about in tropical climes. Houston is, apparently, not tropical enough. But some parts of Brazil are, which is why mom, dad & I paddled up through the wet weather yesterday to get Yellow Fever vaccinations. They are not required for the places we are headed, but they have been recommended. So we got 'em.

Unlike some shots (I think the flu shot may be one) where the nurse tries to jab the needle deep into a muscle, the Yellow Fever shot is subcutaneous -- just under the skin. Or so the nurse said as she looked at me, the brave one, going first. "It will bubble a bit," she added.

"Bubble?" I asked as she stuck the needle just under the skin of my forearm and started pushing the plunger.

"Bubble" was the perfect word for it. It was like a ripple as the fluid was injected in there, ripping one layer of skin from whatever skin is attached to under there. And thus, it did not feel great. But it was cool to see, and I was busily letting my eyes keep my brain from noticing the pain when dad suddenly spoke.

"Did you *watch*?!" His voice was a mixture of surprise, horror and respect.

"Of course I watched. It was totally cool," I responded. "Was I not supposed to watch?"

Mom, next up, responded. "I can assure you that I'm not going to watch."

In fact, mom looked completely away and winced. "It huuuurts!"

"It's like a bee sting," I offered helpfully.

"Big damn bee," mom responded tersely.

Dad avers that it did not hurt at all. He did not, however, watch the bubbling. He claims that once the needle was in, he watched it all, but by the time he turned his head, it was all over. Ask the nurse. She'll tell you.

And it did *not* hurt that much. But it itches like a sun-of-a-gun now.

13 October 2007

Is it me?

I'm struggling with the word "modest," myself. If you blog, can you really be said to be 'modest'?

Also, some 2/3 of all people who have visited the site have been paired with lions. Is this a statement about the kind of people who are on the "New Line Productions" e-mail list, or people who are interested in 'fantasy' type stories?

Edited: Hey, I just changed into a ferret!

09 October 2007

Friends & Twits

So how's this for irony in the digital age: My first 'friend' on Facebook is a neighbor. Sorta. Well, he lives in The Woodlands and has a dog, so I've probably actually at least seen him at a dog park. Or walking the dog. Or not. Anyway, he founded the Facebook "Pet Owners of The Woodlands" group, and after I posted a picture of Lakrids on there, this fella 'friended' me. I feel so (sniff) friendly!

I also got 'poked' by a perfect stranger, which was worth a giggle. I poked her back. I hope that was the right thing to do heh.

My second friend is a real friend, albeit one from work and one who lives in Brazil. I wrote to him in Danish, saying my Danish is miles better than my Portuguese (I really gotta get back to those Rosetta Stone exercises before the Unnamed Male Relative's wedding in November.) My Brazilian friend doesn't speak Danish. So naturally, he wrote back in French. It's a fun world...

Meanwhile in real life, another friend from work (who happens to live in Kilgore, Texas) was in town yesterday to take a class, so we had dinner & the world's margaritas. He's the fella who -- oh my goodness, I never blogged about that adventure (#2 on this link). Briefly, he let me operate a piece of coveted machinery on a job site, which I will blog about another day. I giggled like a girl about being allowed to do this, and he & his cohorts were greatly amused. I've since made him famous in print, which made him smile.

All the while, people have been "tweeting" on Twitter. Feel free to call me a "twit" for falling into it, but it reminds me of the best part of old 1980s chatting, but even better -- because if you log off & go to sleep, all the messages from people overnight are there waiting for you in the morning.

It's a sickness. I think you either 'get' it or you don't. I'm not sure I 'get' it in the long term, but it's a giggle at the moment. There's something very amusing about the fact that my very first 'follower' was Robert Scoble.. If you don't know who that is, then you probably won't 'get' Twitter, anyway.

07 October 2007

Old People in Social Media

Egged on by something I read on the Internet recently, I decided to try some Social Media sites. I had already joined myRagan.com, a Social Media site for people in the communications industry, but I read something last week about MySpace and Facebook being useful 'networking tools' for grown-ups. So I thought, what the heck.

Understand that I have been "networking" online since about 1984, when I ran the Chameleon BBS here in Houston and "networked" with friends from across the metropolitan area . I also "networked" with people around the country to develop new applications/code for the particular brand of BBS software we used on our Apple II computers. We all used 300-baud modems and dialup, when "online chat" was typing, without avatars, graphical smilies, video, audio or anything else. Many of us could type faster than our modems could send/receive the data for realtime chat, and for the BBSes, many of us could read messages as fast as the modems could retrieve data.

But it turns out I am old & have no clue about how these new networks "work." First, it appears (to an old fart like me) that 99% of the users on these things are under 30. Oddly, so was I back when I started online networking. But more importantly, none of them are people I know -- or maybe I just can't find the people I know. So I have no "friends," which is just (pout) pathetic.

In the real world, when you move to a new place, you join some groups of like-minded people and you "make friends." So I started that this weekend. Joined some "groups" to see what happens. I've heard/read stories about so-called "creepers" who "friend" anyone and everyone in an effort to appear popular. (And thus, the perfectly nice noun, friend, becomes a verb.) There is some debate about whether this is a horrible breach of etiquette or enthusiastic extraversion. Until I figure it out, I'm not "friending" anyone, even if I think I may know them. But I did "poke" someone I'm *sure* I know, but now I'm not sure that was wise -- but I don't know because I'm old & out of it. I feel a bit like my parents must have felt when I started online chats in the 1980s: "Why don't you just pick up the phone?"

Anyway, this is me on Facebook. If you're not on facebook, that link won't take you anywhere. If you are, but you're not a friend, I don't know what you will see: maybe everything, maybe nothing? (The dog refuses to log on & find out.) I also made a MySpace account but I'm not going to do anything with that right now.

So give me a .... poke? I don't really have any idea what I'm talking about here.

(Addendum: I also joined Twitter, which I really don't understand. It's like a global chat room... Very interesting...)

05 September 2007

Neighborly update

The bad news: The rain destroyed Sunny's web, and she disappeared. The rain also did quite a number on the white spider's web. (I'm calling the white spider Luna.)

The good news: Luna rebuilt.

The bad news: It rained again.

The good news: Luna rebuilt again, and Sunny came back, but put her web in a different place (up in the trees, not quite as high as Luna's web, but also not across the sidewalk. And not as spectacular. I think Sunny is a bit depressed about the whole rebuilding thing.)

The even better news: There's a third one, another yellow face, in the backyard.

The worst news of all:
I went to shoot a portrait of the new spider and felt a familiar, unpleasant tingle on my toes. It suggested the spider's new name: Queen Elizabeth. She is surrounded by palace guards, having built her throne directly over a fire ant mound. Ow ow ow ow ow.

Ain't nature great?

03 September 2007

"Sunny" is back

Last one, I promise. A big thunder-boomer is about to smack the area. I'm afraid my new neighbors may lose their homes (cry).

Anyway, all this photography has been fun. It will be interesting (or sad) to see what the thunderstorm does to the webs. If the webs are destroyed, it will also be interesting (and fun) to see how long it takes for the spiders to rebuild (preferably not across the sidewalk...)

Lunch with the new neighbor

I went back out around noon to find Sunny missing from her web and the white spider happily welcoming some very unhappy critter to his (her?) web. I think it's a fly -- you can sort of see a wing in the green-background photo below. I came out while the white spider was busily preparing it for lunch. The web has a few good rips, but the spider doesn't seem to mind. I imagine it doing the equivalent of spider whistling while s/he works.

For what it's worth, the camera for all of these & most of the rest is a Panasonic DMC-FX07. Some of the shots in the other blog entries may have been taken with my Olympus C-50. The Olympus has a little more in the way of manual adjustments for f-stops, etc., but it's a bit older & has been dropped a few times, so it has "issues." I don't use the digital zoom on these cameras, so everything you see here is max 3x zoom.... so yes, I'm really close to the spiders.

More spiders

The morning visit with the new arachnid neighbor turned up the exciting development that there are, in fact, two new neighbors: the yellow one with the enormous web across the sidewalk (photo, right), and a white one with a smaller, more subdued web up near the roofline (photo, below). By "smaller" I mean it's only about 1 foot across. (The web, not the spider, heh!)

I've been shooting my new neighbors since dawn-ish and have discovered that my cheap, compact tripod is not quite up to the task of capturing spiders that live more than 4 feet off the ground. However, that's the beauty of digital photography: You can shoot 200 images, delete 190 of them and still feel good about your "skill."

A professional photographer friend of mine says he hates digital photography for that reason. Once upon a time, an amateur had almost no chance of getting a good shot because they were always afraid of wasting film. Now... I can shoot more than 1,000 6-megapixel images onto my 4-GB memory card. So what if I shoot 25 pictures of the same spider? Surely, one will be in focus! And I might actually get a well-framed shot by accident!

(at right, the yellow spider's web across the front walk) Anyway, I was out there this morning shooting close-up portraits of the yellow spider (named Sunny after my car, for her charming disposition and her big smiles for the camera), with the camera on the tripod about 3 inches from the web. I was merrily snapping along when a wasp hit the web and scared the daylights out of me. Sunny was not happy at the intrusion either, as I think the web is made to capture smaller prey, like mosquitos (which is why I like having it there!) It was one of those "little seen in nature" events and it didn't take long enough to get the camera re-focused -- the wasp got away cleanly (perhaps with a bit of a fright), and the web was no worse for wear.

(Above, the backside of the yellow spider) My human neighbor came out in the yard later, and mentioned having seen us in the front yard the night before. I explained about my new pets (heh) and he came over to take a look. He is not a big fan of spiders, having walked into too many such webs strug across his own front walk. (Been there, done that. You wonder for days afterward whether you still have a spider living in your hair...) But he admitted he'd never noticed how beautiful the webs are, and said he appreciated my letting him meet the new neighbors -- from a distance. And he was glad they are at *my* house rather than his. Heh!

I shot a gazillion photos, and I put the best of them on Shutterfly. (below, yellow spider's web from the back, showing the "warning stripes" at the edges of the web -- the curved "dotted line" on the right side. According to one of the Web sites I read last night, the warning stripes may be designed to keep birds from smacking the web and tearing it to smithereens.)

02 September 2007

New neighbor

A couple of families have moved into the rental houses on my street, but the coolest new neighbor lives in my own yard. A member of gasteracantha cancriformis seems to have built a new living space across my front walkway, which may or may not be the best idea s/he ever had.

G. cancriformis, as you may guess, is a spider. The "cancri" part of its name comes from the fact that the spider has what appears to be a 'crab' body. I know this because mom & dad & I went out to photograph the spider & its enormous web earlier this evening with little success. It was dark, and we're not exactly professionals at this. (I'll try again in the morning....)

The one photo that did sort of come out is shown above, a very close-up of the spider in the center of its amazing web. The web itself is a couple of feet across and dotted with brilliant white streaks. It's truly a work of art that I hope to be able to share.

Until I saw the photo all cropped for show & tell, I thought we were dealing with one of the much larger Texas banana spiders (Argiope aurantia), but those are much larger and scarier than this little guy/gal. Anyway, this one is plenty big enough.

I'll try in the morning for some better shots of the beautiful web. I picked up a few hints off the Web (Google: "how to photograph spider webs").

By the way, these spiders apparently come in a variety of colors. I'm not sure why this one has chosen to match my lovely yellow Mini heh

06 August 2007

Tiny neighborhood, big excitement

There is nothing more guaranteed to generate excitement in an ex-reporter (that is, me) than coming home to see 37 sheriff cars at the corner of her little dead-end street.

My first instinct was that 37 cop cars was a bit "overkill" for one tiny out-of-date registration on the Mini Cooper. And I can explain that, anyway.

But no, it turns out another house on the corner had been vacant for some weeks this summer, and some clever local teen-agers found out that if one of them crawled in through the doggie door, they had a vacant house to party in to their heart's content. (Note to self: No matter how much the dog begs, we will never, ever have a doggie door.)

So, for several weeks, the local kiddies have been partying up a storm in the house. They might even be partying still, if they had not decided to hold some street races Saturday night (where was I, sleeping???), thus making a neighbor suspicious. The neighbor took license numbers, and called the sheriff, who sent a posse out to round up the brats.

I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. I got this much of the rumor in 2 minutes from one neighbor..... I am sure there are even better stories just waiting to be discovered!!

20 July 2007


Because I have been a member over at Dogster (well, the dog has...), Shutterfly recently sent me a code for a free 8x10 memory book. You can build any book you want from your own photos, various different photo layouts, add captions, etc. It was fun and easy to build, even with all my special tweaks (they have a 'standard template' for a pets book, but of course I can't do anything the "standard" way.

Anyway, I got the book today in the mail -- it's great fun! For those of you who can't come & see the in-person thing, I'm told that you can view it online. I'm also told that you don't have to be a member of Shutterfly to look. [But if you are mom & dad, and you're only out of town for a couple of weeks, you should just wait and look at it when you can see the real hardcover book!!]

This is 100 times easier than real scrapbooking, but considerably less "creative" overall. Did I mention that I did the whole book in just a few hours? It usually takes me a few hours to do just one scrapbook page, by the time I'm done stamping, embellishing, journaling and all that nonsense. And I think I could embellish these pages just fine if I wanted to do all that work....

Oh yes, this is a fun thing!

26 June 2007

To See or Not to See

I had Lasik some years ago on my left eye. As a child, I had a bit of a lazy eye -- the left one wandered a bit. As a result, the left eye was much weaker than the right, which was just slightly nearsighted. I wore glasses & contacts for years, and then I was convinced to try the laser surgery.

Unlike many people, I had a bad experience with it. I had terrible, awful dry eye after the procedure, and I never felt my vision was as good as it had been with glasses. This was partly the result of the dryness. The layer of fluid is a lens, of a sort. But it was never bad enough to go back to glasses or contact lenses -- just something to squint through.

Last year, I went to an ophthalmologist, who said that in his opinion, my vision was still not bad enough to warrant glasses. In addition, my nearsightedness has delayed the onset of presbyopia -- the need for bifocals. So I happily continued my squinting.

Well, I'm tired of squinting. So I went to a "therapeutic optometrist" today. I'm not sure how a "therapeutic optometrist" is different fom a plain old optometrist, but this place was on my insurance company's list of preferred vision care providers, so that's where I went.

If you haven't been to the eye doctor for a while, it's worth a trip just to see all the cool toys. Among the video games we played was one that measures your peripheral vision. You click a mouse every time you see a flash of light. After a while, you begin to wonder whether you're seeing new flashes of white light or ghosts from the previous flash of white light. Very fun. I wonder if they are measuring reaction time as much as they are measuring peripheral vision.... I didn't get a prize, but the nice young doc also didn't try to talk me out of driving home...

Anyway, the doc was a nice fella who said I don't need a very strong prescription, but he could certainly understand if I'm tired of squinting and particularly have trouble driving at night. (I actually don't have any more trouble driving at night than I do during the day, but then, I don't drive at night very often. The problem is reading street signs or anything else more than 3 feet from my face -- day or night.) Anyway he was sympathetic to my desire to see clearly at distance. He did warn me, however, that if I get glasses for distance, I should always take them off to read. He even showed me why. Very instructive.

And so the optical dispenser gals, a couple of cute 20-somethings with little nose pierces, helped me pick out some new driving & movie-watching glasses. (What's weird is that one had her pierce on the left nostril & one had it on the right. It felt wrong, like something was out of sync.) I believe they helped me pick out something stylish and yet not ridiculous for a person my age....

Now, we wait. Seven to 10 more days of squinting.

22 June 2007

Drip, drip, drip

Went to dinner with mom & dad tonight at Macaroni Grill. Last time I was there, it was with visitors from Denmark, and they were not impressed. I'm guessing tonight was our last visit for another five years or so until mom forgets that we had dinner in the rain even though we were sitting inside....

Oh yes, it was raining outside, but the roof leaks. And the leaks dripped where? On our table. Or rather, on mom & I. All through dinner I kept noticing occasional water splooshes on my arm, but I didn't think anything of it. Then suddenly, mom pushes away from the table and says, "Are we done? Because I'm gettting wet."

Dad, being an extrovert, calls the waiter over to say, "You might want to let someone know that the roof is leaking here on this table." And the waiter (and then the Maitre'd) is dumb enough to say, "We know."

So.... they knew the roof leaked over that table, but they seated people there anyway? Brilliant. The stupid thing was admitting it. A smart person would have said, "Oh, really? Dang. I better tell a manager. Thanks for bringing that to our attention." Then you walk away, snickering, but you at least have done a public relations turn and appeared to be concerned about your patrons' comfort and (frankly) the sanitation standards of your business. Instead, they said, "Yeah, we knew you'd get dripped on all through your meal, and we know the drips go through the roof, the insulation, probablly all kinds of nasty roach poop and whatever, but we don't care because we already *got* your business."

I promised mom I would blog about the experience. Mom said, and I think she is brilliant, "I'll blog with my feet."

21 June 2007

Dating update

A while back, I joined in one of the Internet's most painful trends: online dating. I tried two services -- Match.com and eHarmony.

Match.com is straightforward: Look at pictures, read about someone & decide whether to send an e-mail that the other person won't respond to (because they decided not to pay for the service). eHarmony purports to have a "scientific approach": They make you suffer through a long personality test & then match you with people who never respond (because they decided not to pay for the service).

For the three months I was a paying member of these illustrious services, I met two people worth dating. One petered out after a few dates because he did not know when to shut up. You see, guys, no matter how brilliant and all-knowing you may be, the woman you are with might -- just might -- know more than you about one tiny, itsy-bitsy small subject. If you refuse to acknowledge this, you are effectively kissing off your chance of a goodnight kiss. Or a handshake. It's called "respect." I'm pretty sure that word is still in the dictionary, but maybe I'm old-school.

The second petered out before we even met because, well, because he knew my ex. Go figure. My ex lives in New York. What are the odds that an engineer living in Houston metro, would know people I knew when I was married and living in upstate NY? Small world. I'm not sure what it says about my ability to avoid making the same mistakes over & over.

I still have my Match.com account, although I no longer pay for it, so I have 'hidden' myself so men don't fall hopelessly in lust only to be disappointed when they get no response (because you can only respond if you pay, and most "men" would not be worth $20 to exchange the two or three e-mails typically required to determine they are actually pigs). But Match.com still e-mails me once a week with "my matches."

Yesterday, for the first time, they matched me with someone from work. Someone totally, absolutely, impossibly wrong. In fairness, Match.com said he was only a 74% match. But still.

On a recent (May!) business trip, which I meant to blog, I dragged along a professional photographer to shoot a zillion pictures of my colleagues working in the field. It was a fun trip, and I still mean to write about it one of these days. But the relevant thing here is that the photographer, who is kind of cute and very fun, is also single and pointed out a FREE online dating site: Plenty Of Fish. So I signed up -- what the heck, right?

The thing about a free online dating site is that it's free. So there are all kinds of morons on there, including (I think -- I hope) 13-year-olds posing as 45-year-olds. If these men really are 45, there are a lot of reasons why they are divorced/separated/single. Example from a recent chat:

Man: Hi my name is Xxxxx.
Me: My brother's name is Xxxxx. You're not him are you? Because that would be really embarrassing.
Man: Ha no im not ur brother but r u feelin naughty?

(sigh) I mean, it's not even *video* chatting for heaven's sake.

Anyway, in two months of Fishing, I haven't caught anything worth keeping -- but hey, it's *free.* And I haven't given up yet.

14 May 2007

Catching up (again)

1) I passed the class. The math was hard, but I made the world's most awesome spreadsheet to do all the calculations for me, so I was golden. How can it be that a person who is so very nervous about doing math can get such a high level of entertainment from writing super complex Excel equations? Go figure.

2) I went out into the field again last week and had a great time. I'll probably blog more about it one of these days....

3) It was 95 degrees and sunny when I left work today and 73 degrees and absolutely *pouring* rain when I got home. What a difference 13 miles makes. Naturally the top was down. I was a little damp when I pulled into the garage. Laughing my butt off, but damp (i.e., very wet) nonetheless.

16 April 2007

Geeking out again

As I did last November, I'm taking an engineering course for work.

I should be doing my homework now, bu I'm writing about it instead. Good attitude, right? heh. Turns out the homework includes reading the first three chapters of a book written by a colleague who recently left the company. And I've read/written/edited on this technology in the past, so the reading is no problem. But I never had to actually *do* the calculations before, and I have this *thing* about math.

As with the first course I took, my classmates are mostly young, recent graduates of engineering programs. We have an interesting mix of engineers, which simply points to the shortage of qualified petroleum engineers. We have mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, manufacturing engineers, industrial engineers, civil engineers.... and me, of course.

I'm always the odd gal in these classes, first because I'm old enough to be my classmates' mom, and second because I'm not an engineer. There are two other gals in the class, both Americans (in contrast with the gals in my first class, one each from Russia & Colombia). The instructor already picked me out as the idiot... (sigh) I think it's the big hair, but it could be the "Corporate" in my job description. I am very worried about the math, so I don't mind, really. No, I lied. I hate to be labeled "big dummy from corporate" every time I walk into one of these classes. So ok I just have to keep proving myself. I can do that. I can do this. (repeat)

That said, we started the class with a pre-test, an embarrassing examination of what we already know about the subject at hand. Having read about it, I knew more than most, which isn't saying much. I had the second highest grade in the class, and I got a 33. That's why we're in the class, I suppose. But the pre-test was closed book, and the real tests will be open-book. I can do *anything* with an open book.

Anyway, on day 1, I have already learned 100 useful facts and concepts, so it's all good. More to come. I have to do homework now....

23 March 2007

Fun with Engineers

Earlier this week, an acquaintance sent me a bevy of fun engineer jokes ("A doctor, an engineer and a priest are playing golf..."), and I had a good giggle. Of course, we have all seen these jokes innumerable times, but they are still funny every time I see them because they are just so *true.*

Example: Engineer Bob sees Engineer Dave on a new bicycle and asks, "Hey nice bike, where did you get it?" Engineer Dave recounts the story: This woman was riding the bike down the sidewalk, and as she got close to me, she stopped, jumped off the bike, ripped her clothes off and said, "Take what you want." Engineer Bob nods & says, "Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn't have fit you anyway."

If you know a lot of engineers, you know why that's funny. And you will understand the irony of the following event occurring on a day when I knew I was going to spend the whole day in an engineering forum: I had a Great Hair Day.

Ladies, you know what I mean. There are bad hair days (a lot) and good hair days (occasionally), and once in a Blue Moon, a Great Hair Day. I wasted mine on a room full of engineers. (That's a slight exaggeration. It is not politically correct to mention this, but the engineers from Latin America *all* made a special point to introduce themselves. It is not my fault that some people fit their stereotypes.)

The forum was quite good, and I learned some important things. And some of the engineers I was meeting for the first time wondered aloud whether the forum discussion was too complicated for me. (sigh)

The nice thing about an engineering conference is that when they have bathroom breaks, there is never, ever a line for the ladies' room.

18 March 2007

Me & memes

A meme is technically a "unit of cultural information" that can propagate from one mind to another. In the Blogsphere, this typically occurs when someone posts a concept & others pick up on it. There are whole blogs & Web sites out there dedicated to creating blog memes -- questionnaires, topics for blogular discussion, photo subjects for the week, etc.

I'm not a big fan of memes because they usually lack context. Someone from outside of my world is going to suggest a topic that may or may not fit into the context of my life. For example, this weekend, Patrick's Weekender asks about childhood, cartoons & television.

I'm not a big TV person, and I was not 'raised by the TV" as some kids are. My favorite cartoon as a kid was Speed Racer (big surprise, right?). My brother & I would get home from elementary school, make a peanut butter & jelly sandwitch (oh, to have that metabolism again), and plop ourselves in front of Speed Racer before getting on with our childish lives. I can remember the house, the television, the mess in the kitchen, everything. Whether it's a 'real' memory is another question, entirely.

The other questions on Patrick's list didn't do much for me, until I ran over to Wil's Daily Snooze blog to see what's new. There I saw that his Sesame Street character is Cookie Monster, and I thought, "yeah, that fits." Out of curiosity, I memed and (of course) the answer is perfect:

You Are Ernie

Playful and childlike, you are everyone's favorite friend - even if your goofy antics get annoying at times.

You are usually feeling: Amused - you are very easily entertained

You are famous for: Always making people smile. From your silly songs to your wild pranks, you keep things fun.

How you life your life: With ease. Life is only difficult when your friends won't play with you!

Shall I sing the song for you? "Rubber duckie, you're the one; you make bathtime lots of fun. Rubber duckie I'm awfully fond of you! Bo-do-do-de-o." That's plenty. If I sing the rest of the verses you will know I am certifiable.

One last meme, this one from Unconscious Mutterings, again via Wil. UM posts 10 words a week, and bloggers are supposed to respond with the first words that come to mind for each word. Easy enough:

  1. San Francisco :: my heart

  2. Sadness :: tears

  3. Spirits :: ghosts

  4. Harriet :: ozzy

  5. State :: frantic

  6. John :: Bigboote (I'll explain this one so you don't have me committted)

  7. Offense :: lineman

  8. TImeless :: ancient

  9. Account :: payable (another one that needs explaining)

  10. Refuse :: stubborn

John Bigboote is a character, an alien, in Buckaroo Bonzai, a classic awful bad comedic science finction romp. All of the aliens' first names are "John" and some have outrageous last names. This one is particualrly memorable because he is constantly reminding people that it's pronounced "Big-boo-TAY!"

Accounts payable only comes to mind today because I watched Office Space this weekend (on a date!) for the millionth time. You'd think I would know the movie backwards & forwards, but this viewing was the first time I understood what the annoying secretary is squeaking out when she answers the phone: "Corporate Accounts Payable..."

14 March 2007

Ha! Ha?

I like to laugh. I'm just a happy, laughing kind of person. I laugh in the face of adversity, and sometimes I laugh aloud at a funny idea that pops into my head when no one else is around. Some would say this makes me psychotic. I can't help it: I'm just a laugher.

That's why an article from yesterday's New York Times is just so disturbing. Seems you are only "supposed" to laugh at those who are above you in status and not at those who are below. And if you're a woman that pretty much means you are allowed to laugh at everything.

I don't like to think some poor self-image is what makes me laugh. When I laugh out loud at the dog pushing her ball through her tunnel in the backyard, am I somehow projecting that I'm inferior to the dog? Or is it possible that I actually get some joy out of seeing such unhibited play? When I laugh at an engineer telling an autobiographical story that he clearly means to be funny, am I sending a signal that he's a superior, or am I laughing because 1) I understand what happened and commiserate with his stuation, 2) I bet it was not even a little bit funny at the time, 3) I think he wants me to laugh rather than insult him, and 4) in hindsight and with proper comedic timing and his great accent, it's a giggle.

Not to be outdone by the muffin 'joke' that leads the NYT story (and no, I didn't laugh but I felt I was supposed to want to laugh), I will tell you the engineer's story that made my eyes water with laughing so hard. You can judge for yourself: Is it funny?

"I'll tell you, ma'am, we ran that [oilfield equipment] in the hole, and we did [the work we needed to do] just as perfect as anything. The customer was happy, I was happy, and we were doing great. Then this total idiot of an engineer -- and I can say that about him because I happen to know him reeeeeeeal well -- tells the operator ok, this is going so great, we can just crank it up a notch while we're pulling out of the hole. (pause) You know, he only took it up maybe 5 or 10 feet per minute. (pause) Damn if we didn't get that sucker stuck in the damn well."

Are you laughing? OK, it's not as funny on this end, either, as I'm typing it. I swear it was hilarious at the time.

Anyway, I don't buy the "superiority" argument. I prefer the argument presented in Comment #7 on the NYT reporter's blog about that story.

13 March 2007

No gain?

It's now two days since the 2:08, and I have not had any pain. If you live by the 'no pain/no gain" rule, then I wasted two hours of my Sunday, but two hours of sunshine is always good. Unless you live by the 'avoid sun or die of skin cancer" rule, in which case I really had a bad Sunday.

The ankles, in particular, didn't care one whit about the bike ride. In fact, riding a bike is the one exercise that my doctor actually recommended if I felt a need to sweat. It's non-weight-bearing and really has very limited ankle movement (some, but nothing like the elliptical machine), so as far as the ankles are concerned, the bike ride was a non-event.

I'm thinking about getting a new seat, and sometimes I think about getting a new bike. Then I look at the bike and the seat and think, "You have a perfectly good seat on a perfectly good bike. And you have another bike in the corner over there. Stop this nonsense immediately." The practical Smukke is not nearly as much fun as the silly Smukke, but she does have a nice house.

Bike #2 is a mountain bike. The ex & I bought a pair of these one year as an anniversary gift. I rode mine once & realized I hate mountain biking. I rode it a few more times after that but I really do not like being out of control, having roots, ruts and gravel grabbing my wheel & trying to tip me over, and having constant threats of pain & worse. When I was explaining this to my boss at the office today, he pretty much summed up the mountain bike experience: "If you aren't bleeding when you get home, you didn't have fun."

The bike is a few years older than the snazzy, shiny thing on the Trek site, and it's bright yellow. It's actually not bad for geocaching because it does allow you to follow nice trails off into recreational areas where geocachers like to hide things. However, it's not nearly as much fun in a daily basis as a road bike, which can take you to the grocery store for milk, the library for a new load of books, or over to mom & dad's with the paper.

My road bike is a sweetheart, but she's a hybrid road/touring bike, a Trek 400. When I went to look for a link, I found it under "vintage steel road bikes." (sigh). I bought her in the late 1980s when I was living in NJ and needed to replace my 9000-lb Sears monster. She has ridden innumerable centuries (100 miles in a day), one double century (200 miles in a day) and across the US (LA to Boston, but no, not in a day). She's a hard worker, is happy to carry panniers (which I use almost all the time to carry stuff) and has no problems. She is not as shiny as she once was, and she is not a color I would choose on purpose, but I can't really justify replacing her.

11 March 2007


That's how long the computer says I rode my bike today.

It was a perfect day for a ride. I started off with the foolish notion of riding down to my office & back, just to see how long it would take and determine whether the roads were relatively bike-friendly. My normal driving route is 13 miles and definitely *not* bike-friendly: skinny, two lane roads with no shoulder & lots of trucks. So I had this plan to go a different way.

I actually started off going that way, but I went to mom & dad's instead, a little 6-mile jaunt. There, I sat on the couch, blabbed with mom (who was fixin' to go play golf) & sucked down a bottle of water. When I left, I meant to loop around by the new Wal*Mart and back home, but it was a nice day. So I did the stupid thing & rode all the way to the office :)

The relatively bike-friendly one-way route is just shy of 15 miles, which is pretty much an hour in each direction. Or, according to the bike computer, one hour and one minute there & one hour and not quite eight minutes home. Aside from being tired on the ride home, there was a headwind for the last seven-ish painful miles. (whine whine whine)

The headwind is one of those 'matter of perspective' things. The trees aren't moving, so it's hard to say "oh yes, it's windy." But the weather page says we have a 10 mph wind. When you are on a bike, pedaling your brains out to achieve an average speed of 15 mph, that 10 mph wind is a brick wall. The nice thing about a good wind is that The Woodlands has lots of big fountains in ponds alongside the road. When it's windy, the fountains spray water all over hot, sweaty, tired cyclists, making them smile. (The fact that the water in those ponds is sort of yucky is another matter entirely.)

The other thing that is a 'matter of perspective' on a bike is the definition of 'hill.' For example, when I left my house, my street was flat. When I got home, after 2 hours on the bike, it was entirely uphill, including the driveway. Go ahead and laugh if you are from NJ or upstate NY or any other place with real hills, but for those who think of southeast Texas as flat, you may see it differently from a skinny, hard bicycle seat.

Parts that are going to be complaining tomorrow: butt (already complaining), neck (already complaining), hands (a little whiny), thighs (not complaining yet, but extremely likely tomorrow).

10 March 2007

Aliens among us

First came the weeds.

The stuff that Houstonians call grass is considered a 'weed' in anyplace that has real grass. I grew up with "real grass" in the Midwest, and I am pretty sure we did everything in our power to kill any St. Augustine 'grass' that came anywhere near the state of Illinois. We did it with weed killers: chemicals designed specifically to kill "alien plant species" and thicken up the good grasses.

Here in Houston, we thicken up this alleged grass and kill the even more annoying alien plant species. It is a miracle of chemistry that we can be so plant-specific about our killing, but then again, the Perm-O-Green folks just gave me an estimate today so we may find out next week that they just arbitrarily kill everything plant-like in the yard. This would probably not be the end of the world, since I'm fairly sure that more than 70% of the green stuff out there is non-grass. Scary.

Perm-O-Green promises only to kill the evil aliens that lurk among the St. Augustine, not the stuff that has taken over the front garden. So I spent this lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon yanking things out by the roots (and no, I don't mean gray hairs). The front garden now looks much better, but the Perm-O-Green guy said it badly needs a layer of mulch. The Mini is not particularly good at carrying such things, so it will wait until I can find new yard guys.

Because, you see, my yard guys are a different kind of aliens. There is no way (cough) for me to know whether they are legal or illegal aliens, but they are definitely not from 'around here.' Anyway, they last came in October, and they do not apepar to be coming back anytime soon. Meanwhile, the yard is looking a bit shaggy. I'd love to hire a neighborhood kid, but I have never seen one mowing in my neighborhood. Buying a lawnmower is, of course, totally out of the question. For now...

And then there is the final kind of alien, which is the little dog who I found in my backyard Thursday morning. I went out to encourage Lakrids to return to the house so I could go to work, and there she was, looking at this little brown alien. Seems Scooby (the neighbor's adorable, sweet white dog) has dug a hole under the fence, but he's still a little too large to get through it. Instead, Cowboy (the neighbor's annoying little yapping brown thing) squeezes through. Heh. The neighbor came over today to apologize & say they're fixing the hole. Heh. Naughty dogs are so cute when they are somebody else's !!

07 March 2007

People Who Matter

As I was fixin' to shut down my computer at work today, I got an e-mail that made me sad. One of my favorite work colleagues has resigned.

There are very few people whose resignations would make such a powerful impact on my day. This person's kindness, patience and general professional values made him one of my favorite internal customers. He challenged me, believed in me, pushed me to try things I didn't think I could do. He was affirming when affirmation was called for, and corrected me when I needed correction. I like to think I made his life a little easier for the last year, and maybe I did, since he sent me a note apart from any general announcement to 'everybody'.

I love my job, and I enjoy working with a number of my "internal customers" who respect my skills and praise my work. But I'll still miss this one engineer who did so much to make me -- an outsider in so many senses of the word -- feel like a valuable member of his team.

The oil industry is booming, and we're suffering, like many companies, with painful losses of good people to customers, competitors, startups & consultants. Seems this fella is going to do consulting. He will be great; he's a brilliant guy. I hope it makes him happy & affords him some time to enjoy the sunshine.

21 February 2007


The ankles are fine, says me. I don't need to spend $xx to have a medical doctor tell me that I'm healed. I jumped on the elliptical machine for 10 minutes on Monday night and 20 minutes last night. I am fine, just fine.

Oh, sure, I still feel twinges. Sure, my ankles are still a little larger than normal. But I'm fine. Today I even parked in the normal parking lot, walked the half mile (<-- exaggeration alert) to my building and took the stairs up to my third-floor office.

In short, it was a normal day. It was even a fairly normal weather day, with temps back near 80 (79 and sunny on my way home, according to the car's thermometer) and loads of sunshine. It's the kind of day that we are due after two days of working out inside.

The dog is panting her tongue out, having just come in from a fine romp around the backyard with her favorite ball. If she gets her breath back before dark, we'll go back out there for a few more minutes later on, just to make sure we've maximized her potential energy release.

No news on the dating front. I wish I could help you live more vicariously but there is just not much to say. I'm frustrated by guys who are 47 - 52 and only interested in women 28 - 35. I am frustrated by guys who never respond. I am frustrated by guys who play games with names & photos to see which version of themselves attracts the best fish.

There's a great Tim Allen routine that pretty much sums up my PMS-laden frustrations at the moment: "Men are pigs."

I vaguely remember that this is one reason why I've never been much into 'dating.'

11 February 2007

Dating & the Internet

I've started dating again, and by 'again,' I mean for the first time in forever. I was married for 10 years, and even when the ex & I were dating, we lived 3-ish hours apart, so calling it 'dating' is a bit of a stretch. (Had we 'dated' each other while we were married, we might have managed to stay together, but that's another story.) After the marriage fell apart, I met a Martian on the Internet, and he was (is) sweet but on a different continent with no eagerness to relocate. Again, not much 'dating' going on there, although we had some fun 'virtual dates' and some great vacations.

Now I've signed up at an Internet matching service that attempts to pair you off with nearby 'like-minded' people of the opposite sex, for purposes of 'dating,' however one might define that word.

I have been underwhelmed thus far. We can start with the 300-pound guys who list themselves as 'average build.' Or the men who post photos of their younger selves, or some male model they found on the Internet. I'd be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt about having 'nice personalities' if they did not blatantly lie just to get attention. I am told that women do the same thing, and it flummoxes me. I don't see the point in 'attracting' someone who might very well run away as soon as he sees the rather average-looking, no-makeup, no-nonsense 40-something gal who gets out of the Mini Cooper at the designated date-meeting spot.

Responses from this Internet dating service fall into a few categories that seem to reflect the general state of the singles universe:

-- Illiterate morons, sex fiends and potential axe murderers: "hey bab u luk gud u want 2 hook up b4 da game im in woodlands 2 call my cell netime xxx-xxx-xxxx" [Seriously, this e-mail message arrived a couple of hours before the Super Bowl, supposedly from a 47-year-old professional man.]

-- Non-US citizens seeking green cards and financial scamulation: "Hello, you seem like a smart and beautiful American woman with compassion to those less fortunate than you. I am a well-educated Nigerian man who...." [I'm told that the guys get the same from Russian women.]

-- Guys who have trouble maintaining communication past the first e-mail. [Typically, the first e-mail indicates he has read something about me, usually asking for details about something in my Profile. I respond and ask 1-2 questions about him. He answers the questions and hits the send key. No lines of conversation remain open, so I guess we're done. Intentional? I don't think so. If the guy is a spectacularly good match otherwise, I might try to keep the conversation open myself, but so far it has not seemed to be worth the trouble.]

-- Guys who are fun to talk to, literate, clever, funny, nice, etc.

I have shared lots of e-mails, a few phone calls and two dates with a guy from category 4. Last night, I mentioned that I blog, and he said, "You aren't blogging about me, are you?" He was, at once, saying, "I value my privacy" but also asking, "If you did, would you say nice things?" So I'm not blogging about him, but he is nice.

I'm happy to be flexible about the definition of "date." So far, as you might expect, the largest component of it seems to be talking/listening. Last night we went to a pool hall & just never got around to embarrassing ourselves by actually shooting pool. We blabbed & enjoyed watching some kids ("kid' = anyone younger than us) playing 8-ball. The kids were talented & I have not been near a pool table in 20+ years, so I had little incentive to pick up a stick. Plus, one kid was so talented he could smoke + shoot + talk on his cell phone, which prompted several fun lines of conversation.

The concept of 'dating' also opens the possibility of dating more than one person at a time. I understand that a gal can have guy friends & guy dates, but I don't grok how you can juggle more than one guy date without one of them moving quickly into the 'friend' category. This is currently an academic question, but I welcome insights on the topic.

I look forward to seeing how this Internet matching is going to work. Meanwhile, Mom suggested trying a different matching service that one of her friends used to meet her current spouse. These services are not cheap, and this second one is less cheap than the first. I balk at the idea of paying for cable TV, an always-on entertainment channel. These services want $30-ish/month to introduce me to axe murderers, sex fiends and illiterate morons, with the dubiously entertaining e-mails coming at someone else's leisure. I'm not sure it's worth it, but.... I have had two nice dates that I would not have had otherwise.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences with these services & the 'value calculation' for continuing to subscribe. If you haven't found enough value in the first month, do they get enough new members to make it worth trying a second month?

04 February 2007

Laughter and joy

I always thought having one dog was fun. Now, I'm thinking two dogs is the key to weight loss through laughter.

Lakrids is an "only dog." So maybe she is a little bit spoiled and selfish. In particular, she does not like to share her ball. This morning, she and Little Guy were out in the yard, and she was being a brat. But Little Guy wanted to play. So she'd be chasing her ball, all intense with her Professional Soccer Dog demeanor, showing Little Guy how it's done and guarding the ball from him, and he would just come up behind her & bite her butt. Not a mean bite, but just a little nip like a little brother who wants to play with his bratty big sister. I was laughing so hard I was crying. I think I pulled a muscle in my smile.

Little Guy is camera-shy. He does the cutest things, and then as soon as I pick up the camera he wanders off, like, "Oh no no no, I don't do pictures." Lakrids is the opposite. She sits like a lump until the camera comes out, and then she begins to show off. This photo is part of the Battle for Mom's Lap. One minute before this photo was taken, both dogs were perched photo-perfectly, two front paws up on each leg, happy to share the space. As soon as the camera came out, Lakrids had to be ON my lap, and Little Guy had to be off. It's a giggle.

Repeat after me: I don't *need* another dog. My neighbors had better get home soon.

UPDATE: They got home. Little Guy does belong next door. But I think we'll have some play dates :)

03 February 2007

Life update

Dogs playingThe 'boot' is off, YAY! Doc says I am healing well, but I have a few weeks before I can run, jump, use the elliptical machine or basically do anything else fun or healthy. The ankles are still very swollen (and not very pretty), and there's a bit of an ache most of the time, but the doc says I should just get used to that because it's going to be around for a while. Great, eh?

I took in another stray dog today. I think he belongs to the neighbor, although I'm not sure how he got out of the fence, and they're not home to confirm that they are missing him. He's a cute little guy and very affectionate, so his owners had better find him soon because I don't *need* another dog.

Lakrids sort of enjoys having another dog to play with. The two of them romped around the yard for an hour or two this afternoon, and I loved watching them play. Then I gave the little visitor a bath because he was a bit stinky. While I'm writing this, they are both trying to get on my lap. But I don't *need* another dog. One pest is enough!!

11 January 2007

X-ray says....

.... that I'm healing up just fine & won't need any hardware surgically screwed into my bones. *phew!*

Doc also wants me to "wean" off the crutches, which means start trying to get around with just one crutch, then just walk in the boot. In 14 days, I am to be hobbling around without crutches. Meanwhile, I'm allowed to drive, even the manual transmission Mini, as long as the boot doesn't get in the way of the pedals.

Why is it that hearing these words from the Doc makes it *poof* ok to do this stuff? One second after mom dropped me in my driveway, I was in my garage trying out the clutch pedal, then taking the Mini for a spin around the block. An hour earlier, if you had suggested that I do such a thing, I'd have thought you were trying to kill me. Go figure.

I did use both crutches today, until I got home. I figure it makes no sense to hurt myself at work & not be able to drive home. But now that I'm here, I left one crutch at the back door. But after only dealing with the dog & dinner, I'm fixin' to go fetch it. No use overdoing it. But I'm not going to be sorry to see the crutches go back into the closet (forever).

This morning, I picked up a temporary handicap tag so I don't have to hobble the half mile from the parking lot to my office. Instead, I walk about 5 steps. Opening doors is still an interesting issue. Doors are not my friend. The bathroom door at work, in particular, weighs about 20 tons and has a very tight return spring. It has tried to kill me or at least knock down a crutch a number of times, but so far I have managed to sneak past it. The car door also likes to snap at my boot.

Regardless, I'm still me: It was not raining on the way home from work, so the top was down. I'm ok with driving, although I would not wish to take a long road trip or sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for any period of time.

Mom & dad had a nice giggle at my expense the other night. Mom drove me to the doctor's office Wednesday afternoon. Apparently it tickles my parents to no end that at their age, they are still taking their child to the doctor, rather than the reverse. I suppose at some level I'm tickled, too.