Monthly Archives: December 2010

It doesn’t mean what you think

Among the other joys of this holiday season comes the joy of discovery – my discovery that the accessories for a black powder rifle include a “nipple pick” and a “ball puller”. Yes, I am easily entertained.

It was a really good sale

Earth Shoe

I bought these shoes two or three weeks before Christmas. They’re Earth shoes and normally cost about $100 but I got them for $47 and change, which makes me feel slightly less guilty about buying shoes that I don’t, strictly speaking, need. But I’m glad I gave in to temptation. I love them. They’re very comfortable and I love the look. Aren’t they just the cutest! The socks (also very cute) were a Christmas gift from my wonderful sister-in-law.

These are my first pair of Earth shoes. I’m always skeptical about gimmicky features and claims, like the toe being 3.7 degrees higher than the heel, which is a big deal with Earth shoes, but I was also curious and always wanted a pair. I really love the look of these and, like I said, it was a really good sale so they are now on my feet and they feel great.

They’re also supposed to “help you burn more calories as you walk.” I am still skeptical about that claim but I’m definitely going to stop eating so much delicious, fattening food after New Years and if I lose a few pounds I’m perfectly willing to give all the credit to the shoes.

Now that I’ve tried and love one pair of Earth shoes, these are really tempting me. (One of the suede colors though, not the shiny ones) They’re adjustable so I could wear them around the house with socks now and barefoot later, which is something I had already been thinking about but I was thinking about Birkenstocks, or the cheap knock-offs they sell at Wal-mart every summer, but now I’m hooked on Earth shoes.

Awesome Cover

I want this book just for the cover. I’m not so interested in the subject matter. It’s probably interesting but it’s not something I would ever buy. I’d just love to have something with that cover laying around the house. At that price though, I would worry that it might be much less awesome in person.

The Mind is the First to Go

There was another “bit” that I had intended to put in the “Random Bits” post below but I forgot about it. I remembered it while I was laying in bed last night, just after I turned off the light. Well, guess what. This morning, again, I can’t remember what it was.

If I was a better blogger I could write a long, entertaining post about this but I’m having a hard time thinking of forgetting stuff as funny. I need to go to the store later to buy milk. On the way there I will probably think of something else I need and forget the milk.

Just Some Links

HaikuLeaks – Via Nag on the Lake who’s on a roll. Go check out her other recent posts.

No job too odd – Hmmm… that’s a claim that begs to be tested.

Old fashioned sci-fi Christmas – 1951-61 Galaxy magazine December covers. Awesome!

Interesting mailboxes

Happy Holidays – a great DRB collection of (mostly) Christmas images

60’s phone books – I was actually on the cover of a 60’s phone book. Well, the back of my head was on it. It was a picture of a little kiddie train at the zoo.

Riveted – jeans and other heavy duty clothing, plus vintage photos, ads and such

Frothing Mouse – a very nice, funny blog I came across a couple of days ago

Random Bits

*I actually stayed up and watched all of the Saints-Falcons game last night. That was the best game I’ve seen in a long time. Usually, I get impatient with defensive games but it was actually interesting enough that I didn’t just sit there for three hours thinking, “Sheesh! Somebody score already!” And the Saints won. Yay!

*With almost every sewing project completed (or every garment purchased) comes the realization that you need something new to go with it.

*Interesting thought: Maybe 4-12 year old kids just need a crapload of sugar and starch, biologically (and not only that but if there’s any ‘green stuff’ on or mixed in with or even near the rice, or noodles – or any kind of non-cheese-based sauce near it at all – this destroys the starchy nutritional value their young bodies need). That’s not true of course; our cravings evolved back when we didn’t have supermarkets full of starchy, sugary goodness; but maybe you could use that the next time an annoying nutritionista starts preaching about the evils of food that tastes good. (via)

*I think it was this blogger who called the week after Christmas “the quiet week at the bottom of the year,” or quoted someone else who called it that. I like that a lot. We can feel a little lost when we find ourselves with nothing to do after weeks of having too much to do and too much pressure from too many directions. Some people, suddenly having practically all the time in the world, spend too much of it thinking about the wrong things and they get depressed. We need to learn how to shift gears. Slow down, be calm, be happy. Do the things you’ve been wishing you had time for, or just enjoy being lazy for a change, and think happy thoughts. They come easily if you’ll just be quiet and let them in.

*This one’s a few weeks late. If you’re a fan of Mythbusters (and maybe even if you’re not) you already know that President Obama was on the show several weeks ago. First of all, so everyone will know where I’m coming from, I have to say that I like the president. I disagree with him sometimes and I don’t think he’s a great president but he’s a good president and I like him. So, now that that’s out of the way, on to the point.

I don’t care you are, being on Mythbusters is cool. The chance to personally request a myth to be busted is an opportunity not to be wasted. So when our president had this opportunity what did he do? He requested that they try again on a a myth that they had already busted twice. Come on, Mr. President. That was lame.

Still, I’m glad he was on the show and praised it for making science fun.

Gifts

I’m not going to list all of my Christmas gifts. They were all good. I didn’t get anything that made me go, “Uh… what?” But I don’t want to bore you* so just a few of the highlights…

Weather station

This, as you can see, is an electronic weather station. This panel communicates wirelessly with the other half of it which sits outside gathering the weather data. That’s a white plastic thing that’s shaped vaguely similar to the engineering section of the starship Enterprise, with a wind speed thing on top and a wind direction vane on the bottom.

My husband accused me of being “obsessed” with the weather. Well, I’m not. Or I wasn’t but I guess I am now. This gadget is fun and addictive. I can’t quit looking at it. And I’ve already learned something. I’ve learned that a five mile per hour wind is a bit windier than I thought. I’m not the only one who is “obsessed” though – the other two human members of the household also seem to find it rather interesting.

.

Rooster mug

This mug was a gift from my brother. Our tastes and attitudes are so extremely different it’s hard to believe we’re related at all but he usually does okay with picking gifts and this one’s a big hit. I love that particular shade of green. I didn’t even notice at first that the chicken is green too. It seems to work – like there really should be green chickens. The whole thing – the picture, the colors – are cheerful but calm. Normally, I use my Christmas mugs until New Years Day or even a few days later but I’ve already started using this one.

Another gift from my husband was two albums by the Trans Siberian Orchestra, which is not an orchestra at all, it’s a band. My musical tastes are broad but complicated so buying me CDs that are not on my Amazon wish list is risky so I was a little worried when I saw the small package under the tree that was obviously CDs. But I like these! They are rock operas. Sort of a mix of rock and classical with a bit of Broadway thrown in. It’s not the sort of music I want to listen to all the time but these albums add a nice bit of variety to my collection.

First, my favorite of the two, is Beethoven’s Last Night (story) The other is a two disc set, Night Castle, of which I have only listened to the first disc so far. I guess this one’s supposed to be a fairly big deal. It has its own website. (very cool)

*Yeah right. I’ll probably continue to bore you with Christmas stuff until at least the middle of January.

Lazy a Little Longer

I have been chided for neglecting this blog. I was actually thinking about posting something yesterday but what I had in mind would have involved uploading pictures and for some reason that simple task seemed like too much bother. Maybe later.

We had our usual “merry little Christmas” which, as usual, involved eating too much. You know… a few days before Christmas I commented somewhere, on one of those “things to never give as Christmas gifts” posts, in disagreement with the post, that food makes excellent gifts because it never ends up forgotten in the darkest corner of the closet. Well, I would like to slightly revise my opinion on that. I still think food makes excellent gifts but perhaps something other than candy, nuts and fruit. Not that candy, nuts and fruit don’t make good gifts, it’s just that everyone who gives food gives candy, nuts and fruit. Or at least that’s what I was thinking yesterday after eating way too much candy and nuts on the two days before but now that the candy’s gone I’m thinking I wouldn’t have minded if one or two more people had given candy.

Oh well. Should I start my diet tomorrow or wait until the new year?

Inside the Wrappings

For years when I was a little kid I was a huge fan of Ann Landers. Often, being a typical know-it-all kid, I thought I could give much better advice. In fact, I really thought I could be good at it and wanted to have my own advice column when I grew up. Many times though, I thought she was brilliant and I loved when she really slammed someone who desperately needed a good chewing out.

I remember one letter written by a woman who was apparently highly upset that a relative of hers (daughter-in-law maybe?) wrapped Christmas gifts very poorly, in her opinion, and to her this was absolutely horrible, was a sign of laziness, lack of good breeding, lack of caring for one’s family and just generally ruined the entire holiday. I can’t remember the details, rather more the impression I got from it. Of course Ann put the woman in her place, as she always did so well.

I hope no one ever judges my gifts, and the feelings behind them, by the wrappings. I do enjoy wrapping gifts and I put some effort into it but I am rarely able to make them look neat and perfect. Well, never perfect but on rare occasions fairly neat. I prefer papers with an old-fashioned, traditional look, though sometimes I buy shiny, metallic wrap. I usually don’t use bows. They make packages look pretty and festive but they also make stacking them under the tree a little more difficult. The bows just get crushed.

Sometimes I wrap oddly shaped items as is but I prefer to use boxes so everything is as easy to wrap as possible and comes out looking reasonably neat and rectangular just like on a greeting card. I buy a few gift boxes but I mostly use whatever I have on hand. I use all kinds of boxes. A few times, when desperate for something to wrap a small gift in, I’ve even used match boxes and macaroni and cheese boxes and the like. I wonder what the aforementioned stuffy old biddy would have thought of that. This year I didn’t have many boxes saved. The mail order companies have been shipping most stuff in large envelopes and heavy duty plastic bags lately and this leaves me with fewer nice, free gift boxes.

Today I wrapped the last of the Christmas gifts. They’re all under the tree except for those we’re going to haul over to the relatives on Christmas Eve. Some of those are in fancy little gift bags. Those are nice for when you’re just going to hand something to someone and they’re going to open it immediately.

It’s funny how Christmas has changed for me. I was like any other kid – eagerly looking forward to Christmas morning, so desperate for the day to finally arrive I thought I would burst. This continued even into adulthood but sometime along the way I changed and now I spend almost no time thinking about what I want or what I might get. Of course I’m sure I would be sad if I got nothing because then I would feel like nobody cared but I’m not at all concerned about what I’m getting. In the days leading up to Christmas what I am most looking forward to is seeing my family open their gifts – seeing their surprised, and hopefully happy, faces. I enjoyed the shopping, now I’m enjoying looking at the shiny, colorful, somewhat sloppily wrapped packages under the tree and I’m looking forward to the smiles and laughter. That’s what makes a perfect Christmas.

Random Linkage

Clever ad

Christmas decorations – Ah the Christmas season, when we can fill our yards full of all kinds of tacky-looking crap and the neighbors can’t say anything that won’t make them look like Scrooge.

“Divine Intervention” – 6 historic battles that were decided by weather and other natural phenomena

The Tolkien Sarcasm Page – a list of Tolkien humor links. I like the Art Gallery

German Vintage Science Fiction Posters

True American Dog – a blog featuring odd and amusing Photoshopped images.

A Klingon Christmas Carol – [facepalm]

The mysterious red bees of NYC

~E Made This! – a sewing blog

Hemiola07’s Blog – a music blog focused on historically informed performance

Kathy’s Quilts – a quilting blog of course; I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this one or not.

Fancy Notions – another nice blog

Pinterest“a place to catalog the things you love.” Not sure. At first glance it appears to be a social networking site based on favorite things. Might be fun. (via)

Modernist architecture china – ugly dishes

Christmas Arrangements

You will almost always find me in the “Don’t Screw With Christmas Songs!” camp but, I have to confess my weakness, I often find odd instrumental arrangements of Christmas music irresistible. I usually don’t like instrumental arrangements of Carol of the Bells – it’s all about the singing, you know – but this is very nice. It’s followed by God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, also nice but I don’t like it as well. Still too hooked on this recording, I suppose.

Update: Oops, almost forgot. Nice a cappella version here. Strange… those are not the lyrics I remember.

Update II: More about Carol of the Bells. The lyrics in the third box are the way I remember it. I didn’t know until now that they aren’t the original. Whatever you grow up hearing will always feel like the original though.

Living Lines

I’ve never responded well to deadlines. If the time until the deadline is measured in weeks it’s okay. It’s practically theoretical. But as the time grows short I, more and more, feel like saying, “Screw this; I will not be a slave to a calendar.”

In the late 80s thru early 90s I worked at a job where every week there was an ever increasing level of panic over things that absolutely must be done before close of business Friday or else life as we know it would cease to exist, or some such dire threat. Invariably, when you finally finished the task and proudly and with much relief presented it to your manager, you would find that he didn’t care anymore. And if you didn’t finish it? He didn’t care. “Oh, Monday or Tuesday will be fine. Not a problem. Have a nice weekend.” This experience contributed greatly to my tendency to not take deadlines seriously.

Nowdays my deadlines are mostly self-imposed. They’re not even deadlines, really. They’re living lines. I move them around to whenever I need them to be. Once in a while there’s one that can’t be moved – like Christmas. I’m done with gift shopping but I still have things to do and it’s just a week and a day away and it’s starting to feel like that dreaded thing – a deadline! But then I think, What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t get everything done?” and realize that the answer is, “Nothing.” Nothing bad will happen if I don’t get everything done.

But I do think I will get everything done. I just have to resist the temptation to drop everything and say, “Screw this; I will not be a slave to a calendar.”

New Blog Friends

I’ve been neglecting to upload an updated version of my links page for quite some time now. I frequently make changes, then upload whenever I get around to it. And to anyone out there who is thinking of telling me that there is a better way, thanks but I love my simple, old-fashioned, scriptless HTML page and I’ll give it up when they pry it from my cold, dead virtual hands. So to speak.

Anyway, I can’t even remember all the additions and deletions I’ve made since the last time I uploaded it but I do want to make a point of mentioning three of the most recent. Nicole of Autumn People (Love that name!) has been commenting here and I’ve been visiting her blog for several weeks. David of Third World County recently found me and has been doing a lot of commenting. Thanks!

And thanks to LeeAnn for linking to the awesome Creepy Animals. How can we ever imagine what aliens might look like when animals that exist right here on Earth are weirder than anything the most brilliant minds could ever make up?

A word about my categories, in case anyone’s wondering – Blogs are really hard to categorize. Most will fit into two or more categories. Sometimes I think about giving up and just putting everything in one long alphabetical list but the categories, even though they probably don’t make much sense to anyone but me, help me find the blogs I’m looking for. I’m even considering further complicating things by adding a category or two. As for where your blog ended up on the list, it has as much, or more, to do with how I think about your blog as what it’s really about. Or, sometimes, I just really can’t decide and stick it in the “All Around” category. But there’s no ranking. They’re all good.

Movie: Knowing

WARNING: SPOILER

Back on December 4th, in our hotel room in Branson, I was channel surfing and stopped when I saw Nicholas Cage and a young boy staring at several glowy aliens. I soon realized that I was seeing the end of what looked like a very good movie. Later I figured out that the name of the movie was Knowing and I knew I wanted to see it even though it had been “spoiled” and last night I got to see the whole thing. I was not disappointed. In spite of having already seen the ending, I thought it was a great movie and didn’t feel that it had been all that badly spoiled. But I don’t want to spoil it for you so if you don’t want to read a spoiler stop reading now. Watch the trailer instead.

* * *

At the beginning of Knowing an elementary school class opens a time capsule buried fifty years earlier by another class at the same school. Inside are letters from the students in the earlier class. Each of the kids in the current class is given one of the letters. One boy, Caleb, gets a page full of apparently random numbers. The other kids think it’s “boring” but Caleb wants to know what it means.

His father, a widowed astronomy professor, played by Nicholas Cage, dismisses it at first but then starts looking at it and discovers that the numbers are the dates of disasters and the numbers of victims. And there are three that have not happened yet. Caleb starts hearing whispering voices and seeing mysterious men watching him from the shadows. Caleb and his dad meet up with the daughter of the girl who wrote the numbers – and her daughter who is, conveniently, the same age as Caleb – and together try to figure out what’s up with the numbers and the mysterious strangers.

I think this is a very good movie and I’m surprised that it’s not more popular. I’m not sure how much seeing the ending first might have changed the way I saw it. We are used to movies in which the hero saves the day in the end, no matter how impossible the situation. That didn’t happen in this movie. But were there subtle clues? Might I have realized at some point that this wasn’t going to end with everyone dancing a happy dance? I think that’s likely.

Overall, I think the movie was well done and well acted. I especially want to praise the very effective use of the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony near the beginning and again at the end. But I can’t say it was perfect. You can probably find plenty to pick on in this movie if you’re the type who’s more inclined to nit pick than to just sit back and enjoy the ride. To start with, if the aliens had known about the coming disaster for fifty years how come they could only save two children? And why the f**k couldn’t Dad have come along too? Would that really have been so impossible for powerful, glowy aliens who can whisper to you inside your head? I don’t think so.

One more thing, about the movie itself, I think they could have done a better job on the CGI for the planet they dumped the kids on, but overall, really, really good movie.

Random Linkage

The butler did it. – Or did he?

A little wire, a little imagination…

Myke Amend – Steampunk and fantasy art. Has some nice skins for phones and laptops.

Victorian Star Trek – Several cool images. I think Scotty is my favorite. The one with Chekov and Sulu is rather memorable too. Scroll on down for some fun with Chewbacca and more.

More great steampunk art – Beautiful desktop backgrounds

Wallbase – … and even more backgrounds

Megastructures – Speculative engineering

Waiting Again

I’m not superstitious. Really, I’m not. But sometimes it is very hard to remain “not superstitious” when it is so obvious that The Universe does things specifically to cause me the greatest possible inconvenience.

I need to go to town. I have to go to town. Not going today is not an option. Just ask my cats. And yet, I cannot go because I have to wait on the cable guy to come replace the fracking cable box – again! I could live without TV for a day or two but this is the day they said he would come so I have to stay here and wait. I will end up finally going to town this evening when it’s cold and dark and the traffic and the crowds are the most suckiest. I could have gone at, say, 10:00am and been back in time and not missed the cable guy but then I didn’t know that.

This will be the third or fourth time they’ve replaced the cable box. I’ve lost count. Message to my cable company: Buy some new equipment instead of just continually recycling the same old pieces of crap that keep breaking! I’m paying you enough every month you should be able to do that.

UPDATE: The cable guy finally came at about 3:00 yesterday afternoon. Temporary fix. They are out of DVRs so he replaced it with a basic cable box. We can watch TV but we can’t record stuff and we don’t have HD until he comes back and brings us a DVR. We also, temporarily, have HBO, Showtime and Encore for no extra charge. I hope we don’t get used to that.

297

To me, the most impressive of Brett Favre’s records and statistics is his consecutive starts. To play every game for nineteen years takes a lot of dedication, stamina and more than a little luck. I was excited about the likelihood that Favre would reach that magic round number 300 this year but, sadly, the streak has ended at 297.

While it makes me a little sad that it’s over, I also feel a sense of relaxing of tension. For the last couple of years it seems like there’s been a near weekly drama regarding the continuation of Favre’s starts. Every time he has gotten bruised or shaken up there has been, understandably, a great deal of hand-wringing – “Oh no! Is the streak finally over? Will he play next week?” Well, now we know the final number – 297.

It’s been a great run, Brett. We love you; we’ll miss you, but please, when this season’s over, go home and play with your grandchildren.

Party Rules

Here’s more proof that New Yorkers really need to get over themselves (via) *

HER studio apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is just shy of 400 square feet, barely enough room for an Ikea open-shelf bookcase, a chocolate-brown tufted couch, a full-size bed and her brindle-coated Shih Tzu, Charlie.

So when Claudia Argiro, 33, gave a holiday party last Saturday night, she pared down her guest list to about two dozen of her closest friends, hid the TV behind an industrial column wrapped with holiday lights and turned the media console into a bar.

But one thing she had to have was a bartender.

[…]

“In my opinion, if you don’t have a bartender at your party, you’re a loser,” said Dustin Terry, who lives a floor below Ms. Argiro and said his job was to get models and Saudi royalty into hot clubs. “The bartender brings class and sophistication.”

“If you can’t afford to hire a bartender,” he added, “you shouldn’t be having a party.”

There’s a lot more but I couldn’t get past that point. “If you can’t afford to hire a bartender you shouldn’t be having a party”?! Really?! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. What about all the perfectly splendid parties where there isn’t even any alcohol? I suppose we should hire bartenders to serve pop, lemonade and ice tea.

But anyone can play this Party Rules game so here are my rules.

1. There must be a minimum of 25 square feet of party space for each person at the party, including yourself. Note, that is a minimum and would be considered an excessively crowded party. You really should allow much more space than that.

2. If you live in an apartment you should never have parties. Small gatherings that end at 9:00pm are permissible as long as you only invite people who are quiet and well behaved. No alcohol should be served because this might cause your guests to become noisy. Music must be limited to very quiet background music.

3. No professionals (bartenders, caterers) should be involved. Show your guests that you care enough about them to do the work yourself, you lazy yuppie!

Ridiculous? Unreasonable? Why, these rules work perfectly well for me so they certainly should apply to everyone, right? If you can’t follow them you shouldn’t be having parties. Seriously, I really wish I could present my rules to Ms. Argiro and her neighbor. It wouldn’t do any good. They would laugh; they would insist that I just don’t understand. When you live in “The Center of the Universe” it must be hard to see anything outside of that tiny, deceptively bright region of space.

* UPDATE: In this case, “New Yorkers” refers to New York City dwellers of course, not those nice, perfectly normal, pie-eating, overalls-wearing upstate New Yorkers.

Thar She Blows!

If you watched NFL football yesterday you probably saw the Vikings stadium roof collapse. If not, go watch it. It’s rather spectacular. Fortunately no one got hurt so we can sit here and watch it over and over again and go, “Wow, look at that!” without feeling too guilty about it.

They must have been expecting it to have caught it on camera. Or do they normally leave cameras running all night? At the time it happened the game had already been postponed.

UPDATE: The Metrodome roof has collapsed (or deflated) five times. (via) Funny… the Packers have never had that problem.