Friday, November 28, 2008

Getting my game on

As if training for a marathon I began a daily regimen of blogging. How can I be a writer if I don't write, right? The daily grind is not for the faint-hearted. You'd better be writing because you love writing. If you're escaping the real-world, the blog-world isn't different enough. Sometimes it's lonely here, sometimes I misunderstand others, and sometimes I'm misunderstood. I've found some lovely people I admire tremendously. I've seen good blogging and I've seen bad blogging. I'm still learning, growing, maturing.

As part of my training, I've invested in additional research. I noticed that a few of the folks I adore have been critiqued by Ask And Ye Shall Receive. Today I spent some time reviewing the reviews and studying what does or doesn't work. The FAQ page was especially helpful. Also, there's a review that provides tips, but the tips are buried in the midst of a ripping critique. The comments that follow (including lots of witty repartee by the ring of reviewers) are a study in psyche.

The kicker is the "How to Blog" post by Tony Pierce (a FAQ referral). The post is from June '04 and I guess it's so good they haven't thought to confirm that it follows its own recommended guidelines. This advice may be questionable as the advisor disregards his own advice. Too circular?

"10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real." (look up "youre". Blogger doesn't catch it with spellcheck, but that doesn't make it right. Apostrophe's appear to be optional in Tony's post. And "similarilly" somehow escaped his spellchecker as well).
"25. dont use your real name" (blog credited to Tony Pierce)
And a final comment: "if you're going to ripoff/mimic/be inspired by one blogger make it raymi, shes perfect." Raymi disregards most of the sage advice given by Tony and the ring of rippin' reviewers. Most of the panned blogs were lambasted for punctuation, grammer, and/or other bastardization of the English language. Maybe the point is that you can make up for some sins by being stellar in content. Tony is (or was) the LA Times Blogs editor, so his suggestions should not be dismissed too quickly.

All in all I found some very useful suggestions and hopefully I can self-correct by learning from others. Eventually I will submit one or both of my blogs for the brutally honest feedback I can expect (and would accept no less).


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Buried deep within my memory

I was 16 and it was the summer of '81. I was working two jobs: mornings at one pool giving "water babies" swim lessons and afternoons/evenings at another pool as a lifeguard. The neighborhoods I worked in were middle- to upper-middle class. I spent all day, almost every day, in a Speedo style swim suit. I ate a can of tuna-in-water, a tomato and air-popped popcorn every day. That was it. I took up jogging. Living in a swimsuit is a great motivator for weight loss. By mid-summer I was tanned and thin and looking good. At least by Glamour standards. But what did I know? I was 16.

One evening, late in the summer, the pool where I lifeguarded had an after-hours party for the staff. There was an 18 year old boy there - a guest of another lifeguard. We hit it off and spent most of the evening chatting and flirting. I was very flattered to be getting that kind of attention. I definitely wasn't used to it. I remember thinking "He's so cute! And of all the girls here, he's interested in me!"

Looking back, I can't remember the details, but for some reason we both went to my house after the party. I parked in the driveway behind the house and he parked on the street in front of our neighbor's house. I passed through the house and told my parents I was going to his car to look at his car stereo. They asked questions, but I blew them off as only a 16YO can. It seems like it must have been around 11pm.

We sat in his car for a while chatting. Eventually we kissed. Then, he wanted more. But I didn't. We wrestled for a while and he taught me several submission techniques that would have made any bully proud. I thought I was strong. I was someone who did her own thing. I was a leader not a follower. Every time I tried to get out of the car he hurt me. Eventually I did what he wanted. And he let me go. Actually...he walked me to the door and kissed me. I was sick to my stomach. I had his stink on me and I wanted to shower for a week. I wanted to be left alone for a year. My head was reeling. I hadn't had a drop to drink but I might as well have. I was numb.

When I went inside (was it 1am? 2am?), my parents and older sister were waiting. Why was my sister allowed to wait up and be a part of that scene? I believe if she hadn't been there I might have told my parents but she was, and I didn't. They grounded me and I went to my room. It was a while before the story came out.

Ultimately, I count my blessings. I am lucky. Others are far less fortunate than I.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Better Things - The Kinks

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
I know that better things are on the way.

It's really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

I know you've got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.

Photos by 14-yr-old "T". It brought on a moment of retro.

And because it made me laugh and cry:

This song transcends generations. This is not "T", but it's the best I could find on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Word of Warning

During my list trip to Malaysia I went for a long walk on a Sunday afternoon. This sign gave me pause. It seemed like a safe-enough neighborhood, but I guess you never know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I want my camera with me at all times

I've mentioned missed opportunities, so I won't elaborate other than to say...I missed another one because I didn't have my camera with me. Hubby and I went to Academy and after we got out of the car he did a double-take at the truck next to us.
"I guess this guy's been hunting."

So I sneak a peak and sure enough... In the bed of this pickup-truck is the head of a deer. Or more accurately, the head of a buck. Unless does have antlers. I'm not expert, and the "telling" parts were not in evidence. The head jutted out of an empty (well, mostly empty) bag of potting soil.

And, as I mentioned, I had no camera with me. I thought about buying a disposable camera, but the guy was gone when we got back out to our car, so that's a moot point.

In the absence of an actual photo, I thought I'd share the following tale:

"A lady told of a man driving down the interstate with a dog hanging on to the tailgate for dear life. She said if he hadn't been going so fast in the other direction she would have tried to stop him. A few weeks later her son saw this truck at the Bass Pro Shop! It's a taxidermist! THIS IS REALLY IN DAPHNE ALABAMA !"

I can't speak to the voracity of the story but a picture's worth 1,000 words, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Outrageously Expensive Sunglasses

Before I begin, I should mention a few things that are relevant:

1) I am cheap. I do not easily part with hard-earned money.

2) I am even more reluctant to spend money on myself. I come from generations of female martyrs.

3) An expensive luxury item???? For myself???? Are you insane???



If these are looking like Walgreen's clip-ons over a pair of specs, then the sparkle isn't masking reality.

The new shades (GUCCI for cryin' out loud!) were purchased in the morning on the day I was told of my lay-off/transition to a new job. And what I love is that my reaction (when I was told), for just a flicker, was "at least I'll be looking stylish in my new shades". Whoo-wah for me! Every now and then, we just gotta shake it and know we're worth it.

This pair of sunglasses cost more than what I'd spent on all prior shades combined. Because I'm an engineer, I'm frugal, and I'm practical: it is worth mentioning that they are great! They fit close to my face so I'm squint-free. The tint is light enough that I can wear them inside without looking like I need a white cane. They fit well-enough that I can wear them like a head-band when I'm shopping (I've lost 2 pairs of Rx shades in stores!! Stolen within minutes of realizing they were no longer tucked in my collar). Ok. Nuff about shades.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Revenge of the belled cat

Al has made clear his opinion of the new bell. He is not a fan. I have explained to him "I am not the one! I did not choose this path! I was okay with trapping your wild a@@ inside for the winter." However, in fairness to my loving hubby, who is currently tearing out and rebuilding our pond and therefore traipsing in and out of the house, trapping the wild a@@ inside is no small feat. And since he has to also deal with the "prizes" which Al brings in, I defer to his judgment on the best recourse for The Killer Cat.

Meanwhile, I am getting the teenager looks from Al. Malevolent, baleful "I hate you" stares, as if this is somehow my doing. And this morning....this morning he artfully jingled and jangled at every turn for about 30 minutes until I finally, finally rolled out of bed and greeted the day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Because I'm a geek

My sister's most recent post included the image shown below:

This post is entirely based on my itch to determine whether you can click to look inside. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The cat has been belled

Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.) Fables.The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Belling the Cat

LONG ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. “You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood.”

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:


If you find a way to bell the cat and a little bell doesn't do the job, get a bigger bell. The critters who visit our yard have an advocate in my loving hubby. Alabaster has been belled. We'll see if this cuts down on the "offerings".


Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Alabaster story: the tale of the critter

If you read my last post, you might be left wondering if the killer cat knows no bounds. I've wondered about it myself. I can tell you that there are limits to the critters he will tackle. Here's the story:

Last Monday I was up early, ready to start my new job. When, during the course of my usual routine, I went to let Al out....I discovered chaos in our sunroom. A 7 ft plant was knocked over, among other obvious disarray. The room stank. There was poop everywhere! Silly as it seems now, I was eyeing the cat wondering what had possessed him.
What is not obvious is how skittish Al was acting. And he was very much interested in something under the fallen plant. I'm not at my most alert at this early hour so it took me several cups of coffee and trips to the sun room to study the situation and conclude that whatever had done all of this damage was still in the sun room. Apparently something was in the room when I locked up before bed Sunday night.
I started to investigate using my super spy equipment - putting the camera on the floor to take pictures under the furniture, etc. to look in hard-to-reach spaces without actually having to put my face in the line of attack in case the critter freaked when we saw each other.
Finally I found him! The raccoon had snuggled himself into the space between the screen and the sunroom wall. By now, my loving hubby was up and I brought him into the action. He got one of our live traps (the one that has an entrance AND an exit - I've always wondered about that) and a broom and proceeded to shoo the 'coon out from behind the screen and into the trap.
The raccoon got it half right. He went into the trap and out the other side, ran across the room and disappeared into the catfood bin (the one with the poop on top) that happened to be empty.
And here's the raccoon stupefied by the series of events that led to this predicament. No matter how bad a day you're having, it probably won't include getting trapped in a catfood bin. I have an entire other set of photos of hubby's efforts to get the 'coon out of the catfood bin and into the other live trap (that doesn't have an exit), but I missed the funniest one of him holding the catfood bin upside down over the trap with the raccoon hanging on for dear life. I was laughing too hard. In the end, he hauled off the critter in the bin (handed off to animal control).

Some of you may want to yell at me for having such a lovely back yard that hosts so many critters, and expecting them to know to stay out of my sunroom. The rules are clearly posted in the yard, and all guests are expected to comply. Everyone is welcome to come and visit, but don't run around knocking over plants and pooping everywhere!

Oh- and the critter under the fallen plant, the one that Al kept pestering me about? It turned out to be an itty-bitty lizard.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

One Photo Op I'm glad to have missed

In case you haven't met him, this is Alabaster.

Alabaster, aka Al, has many nicknames. I often refer to him as my lapdog because of his tendency to follow me around and to want to sit on my lap, no matter what. The latest addition to his aliases is "The Killer Cat". As in "What are we going to do about the killer cat?" This was the greeting from my husband yesterday morning. My husband was greeted by the photo op I'm glad to have missed. Apparently after I let Al out for his morning constitutional he caught a rabbit. Well, he is a cat. Last weekend, the inevitable happened. Even though I had told Al I didn't ever, ever, ever want him to harm a cardinal, he brought one into the house. We released the young female (I think she was one of the siblings I've been keeping an eye on) with a damaged wing and thigh/leg. At this point, her whereabouts and state-of-being are unknown.

Later that day, I went out to journal. I needed some time to mourn and ponder. I've been watching this family of cardinals all summer. I've noted parallels in the drama of child-rearing. Not to say my kids are birds, but sometimes they are a bit flighty. When I went out to my quiet area in the far back part of the yard, I found Al lurking, patiently waiting....

I don't know exactly how long I was out there, but I got up several times and took pictures, wandered in and out and around...and through it all Al lurked. "I could stay here forever."

Yesterday morning was the 2nd time in a week my husband removed wildlife from our front living room. I didn't get a picture of the cardinal because the drama played out very quickly ("Honey, I think Al's caught something!" Then a quick capture/release.) I don't think my husband's as attached to the birds as I am. The bunny, though...that's another story. Plus, he indicated it had been a massacre. I know there were little tufts of bunny fur in evidence.

And no...there won't be pictures posted. Is it too late to make Al an indoor cat?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I wish I could take a picture

There have been many times (since I've begun to post regularly) that I've thought "I wish I could take a picture of that." When we were in PA, there was a street sign that said "High DUI Crash Area". That would have made for a fun post.

The Houston airport provided a plethora of photo-ops....all missed opportunities. I'm not a paparazzo. It's awkward to blatantly take pictures of oddballs people that I might consider post-worthy. Especially if I'm in the company of my "What are you doing?" loving-hubby.

Mostly I am not quite quick enough, or I don't have my camera with me. At the moment, I'm distracting myself in a meeting. Here I am in my new role (which is really my old role, new company), representing my new company, with about 30 folks from my old company, most of whom are head-down in their notebook computers or nodding off, reviewing action items and assigning owners. I just set myself up in Facebook so I can IM my team members. The first pleasant surprise was that my cousin was listed as one of the thousands of folks I might be interested in contacting! I'm not sure if that was just an amazing coincidence or if Facebook is magical. Divine intervention? I wish I'd could have taken a picture of my own reaction. And that, my friends, is a first.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free to good home

I suppose it is a perfectly fine mug. It is well insulated. Under normal, non-traveling-in-the-car conditions, it is probably an outstanding mug. Only slightly likely to tip over because of the narrow base. The base is not actually narrow enough to fit into a cup holder in your car. The base tapers so if you're stupid unfortunate enough to try to drive with the mug between your legs, should you shift gears or otherwise put the squeeze on the mug, it will pop up. Which *might* lead to a lap full of hot tea. Very hot tea.
NOTE: There is a handy-dandy feature that allows you the perception of closing the lid, cutting off the flow of hot tea. This is for looks only. In practice, the hot tea will freely flow, independent of the position of the lid.
OK, I have to confess - after I took the pictures I threw the mug away.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mrs. G, where are you?

Mr. G is moonlighting (apparently).

It seems I've heard mention that Mr. G is quite the gourmand when it comes to things Italian. I don't remember the details, but that's what came to mind when I saw Mr. G's Pizzeria.

I took these pictures while killing a few hours in Bryan, Texas.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pass It On

On my parenting blog, I've been touching on the "Pass It On" theme, and I have more to say...but it will have to wait. I'm harvesting zinnia seeds and I want to know if there are any takers out there. This a hardy flock that defies negligence. Although by all accounts they should only grow 3 feet tall, this seems to only apply to seeds planted in the shade. In full sun - we're getting 7+ foot tall plants/flowers.

If you are interested at all, please let me know. You can e-mail me with your snail-mailing address and a) I promise I will not stalk you b) I promise I will not share with telemarketers and c) I promise to send you an envelope filled with zinnia seeds. These will be provided at no cost to you! No gimmick - I really love flowers and have enjoyed hosting the butterflies, and would love to share.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

On Reading: Although I regret being harsh in my criticism of Cryptonomicon, I don't regret putting the book down. The irony that I was "let go" "laid off" "terminated" affected by a "Reduction In Force" the day I posted "I am not a quitter" is not lost on me. I've known for a while that my employer would have to give me the boot as I was too stubborn or lazy to quit and go through the job hunt. I didn't expect my ex-employer to be so good as to "transition" me to my next job. I am. Since I put down Crypto, I read Compulsion, by Kellerman. I'm about to start Left Behind by LeHaye/Jenkins. I suspect that with the job transition, I will be blessed with more time to read and to write.

On Writing: I was humbled by the extensive rewrite of my story for Guideposts. The key takeaways for future submissions are to include dialogue and to be artful in the telling. My submission was a linear chronology of events. I definitely need to exercise my dialogue muscles. I will continue my discipline of daily posts. Perhaps I can find more opportunities to slip dialogue into my blog. More importantly, I believe in new beginnings and clearly I'm in a time of change and renewal. Monday I'll be relocating my cube to a lab (one floor up). I'm still not clear on the details or scope of my assignment. I do know that it will be a while before the new gig hits the level of "demanding" that typified the old gig. Seems like it's time to do more than blog.

On Arithmetic: If I write a page a day, 7 days a week, in 52 weeks I should have a 364 page novel. Or maybe 52 short stories. I have ideas for both. I have the support of my family. I have access to the tools I need. It's just a matter of math. And discipline. And commitment. And determination.