Sunday, November 23, 2008

Preparing to Leave

Well, we're headed out tomorrow for mom's. While we're there, I'll only have access to a dial-up connection; so don't be surprised if next week is just as quiet as last week.

Poor Sweetie, he's actually feeling much better but he just can't seem to shake the cough and it's been keeping him awake at nights (me too, but I'm not as miserable). He's tried the Quils, both Day and Ny, and cough syrup, and lozenges, but he's still coughing. So today I tried looking up remedies online and found a doozy here, and they got it from Herbally Yours by Penny C. Royal, 3rd Edition. I had all the ingredients in my spice cupboard, so he decided it was worth a shot. It seems like it took 30 minutes to an hour to kick in, he's still coughing but the fitful bouts seem to have stopped:

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
Whisk together and take by the teaspoon-full. (He took 3 teaspoons of the stuff and said it tasted a bit like Tabasco sauce, but sweet.)

This weekend has been mostly about getting ready to go. Mom had a list of things for me to bring up to her, the biggest of which were some shelves from IKEA. We have two IKEA stores here in the Bay Area and these are the nearest stores to her. The shelves mom wants are only $25 each but apparently IKEA wanted over $200 to ship them to Oregon because they're over-sized packages. The challenge for me was figuring out how to fit them in the Subaru for the trip up. At 75" they fit, but just barely, and Sweetie will have to ride in the backseat on the way north. Love you mom.

Also on mom's list was some sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, and daikon radish sprouts. Because of all the Asian grocery stores here, we can get the oil and vinegar for way less than she can. And the diakon sprouts are something new. I'd tried them and told her about them, so she's curious to try some. I'm not sure if they're still in season. We'll stop at the vegetable stand on the way out of town and see if they still carry them. It's the only place I've ever seen them.

The last item on mom's list was my Christmas lights. They were hers to begin with and became mine with one of her moves. She has had some clear lights strung in a Japanese maple tree on her patio but they recently flickered their last. And since I don't decorate for Christmas (I can't see the point since we don't have children and we're always traveling to somewhere else for the holiday) she wanted them back.

I was positive I knew where I had those lights stored. Dead positive. So of course I waited until the night before we leave to go dig them out of the garage. Oh yeah, you guessed it. I can't find them. I've found every other ornament and Christmas related item I've ever owned, but the lights? Forgeddaboudit. I have this little voice whispering in the back of my mind that tells me I already gave them back to her when she lived in San Jose and needed to replace the lights on that patio.

Oh well, give it a month or so and all the holiday decorations will be on clearance anyhow. BTW, Target is a great place to go for marked down and clearance items and not just Christmas decorations either. I have it on good authority (my cousin's hubby works for them) that they do not return items to the warehouse from the stores, so they keep marking it down until it sells. If it doesn't sell, they give it to Goodwill.

With the economy being so tight and holiday shopping upon us, I thought you might find that tidbit useful. Oh, and not from my cousin's hubby, but most Target stores follow the same mark down schedule (your local store may be different so checking with an employee wouldn't hurt):

Monday - Kids Clothing and Electronics
Tuesday - Women's Clothing and Domestics
Wednesday - Men's Clothing, Toys, Health & Beauty
Thursday - Lingerie, Shoes, Housewares
Friday - Cosmetics, Housewares, Automotive

Also, all clearance items have orange tags. In the top right corner of each tag you'll see a number, 15A, 20A, this is the percentage the item has been marked down. So if you're on my list this year, don't be surprised if you find something from Target under the tree.

I'll probably have lots of shopping posts and tips as we head into the holidays because, you guessed it, I haven't started my shopping yet. Last year I was finished by Halloween, this year, oh well. We'll start with this one, if you have a kid on your list that loves to know how things work or is otherwise a bit geeky, any one of these 17 items (prices range from $15 to $150) might be just the ticket. Well, maybe not the cutesy guitar for Guitar Hero or the Darth Vader t-shirt, but the other 15 ideas sound good.

Speaking of Star Wars, during my web surfing today I ran across an excerpt of Carrie Fisher's new autobiography Wishful Drinking here. I thought I would just skim through it, but I found myself really reading it. I like Star Wars and all, but I wouldn't call myself a "fan". I do like Carrie Fisher though. Wishful Drinking is due out on bookshelves December 2, but Amazon already has it in stock.

Last thing and then I better start dinner (we're having Kahlua pig fried rice and lots of fruit to clean out the fridge before we leave), I mentioned in yesterday's post that we're planning to do some casual house hunting while we're up north. Sweetie would really prefer a newer construction (10 years or newer), but we're willing to look at remodeled older homes.

One of the things we're noticing as we look is that, unless the developer left trees standing on the lot, very few of the newer homes have any mature trees. It's not as if this is a deal breaker, but trees absolutely add to your home's appeal and value. Not to mention the potential for saving you money while you still own the house and the environmental benefits of more trees. J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly talks more about the benefits of adding trees to your property.

Fall is the perfect time to plant a tree, but there is a lot to consider before you run out and purchase a tree. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation's database and try the advanced search.

You'll want to consider the soil on your property, vegetation zone and sun exposure; you'll want to determine how tall and wide you want the tree to be at maturity so you don't plant too close to your home or to power lines; you'll want to think about any leaves and seeds the tree may shed annually that will require clean up; you'll also want to consider the tree's root system among other things.

Some trees have tap roots that sink deep into the ground and other trees have shallow roots that spread out underground making it next to impossible to grow anything around them. The house mom purchased has trees of this last variety and since she's an avid gardener, it causes her no small amount of trouble.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, What a Week

But it's over and I'm done. It's officially vacation time. Woot! I brought work home with me, definitely not woot, but it's for Monday, 12/1, because I'll be working from home. Jury duty. Another not woot. It's my second call up this year because I had to defer the earlier one due to a funeral (obviously not mine).

So I'm mostly back to normal, normal for me anyhow. The digestive system kicked back into gear on Thursday and by Thursday night I was feeling pretty good. I still have some tenderness in the ribcage area where I supposedly bruised my pancreas and if that hasn't cleared up by the time we get back from vacation I'll be back at the doctor's. But dudes, that was seriously the worst case of food poisoning I think I've ever had. It even tops Thanksgiving 2000, and that was a doozy.

Unfortunately, Sweetie got sick with cold/flu just as I was getting better so we've still been taking things pretty easy around here. He said he was feeling a bit better today so I'm hoping he'll be even better on Saturday. It would suck to be out of commission two weekends in a row, and last weekend was b-e-a-utiful here. 80 degrees and sunny, sunny, sunny. Hard to believe it's late November.

So the vacation plan is to hit the open road on Monday and head straight for mom's house in Oregon. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. We'll head to Eugene and do some casual house hunting on Tuesday and do a little shopping (no sales tax in Oregon yo). Oh what's that you say, but all the good sales start on Friday? You won't catch me anywhere near a retail brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday. I won't do it and you can't make me. No way no how. I don't care how good the sale is. In fact, the better the sale, the more likely I am to give your store a wide berth. There is no material thing on this planet worth braving retail on Black Friday.

Anyhow, back to the Tuesday shopping. I think Sweetie is planning to get me my Christmas present early this year, actually, I know he is, because he told me. My digital camera took a dirt nap a few months ago and anytime I want to take photos I have to borrow his, download the photos to his laptop, then email them to mine. Oh, the horror, life is so rough, right? Anyhow, we'll be shopping for a camera.

I've also been thinking about replacing the laptop. I scrubbed a lot of programs off the hard drive and it helped a bit, but it's still incredibly slow compared to what it used to be. I've found it runs better if I power it off whenever I'm not actually using it. Waking it up after a "nap" is when it seems most sluggish. And the fan runs constantly from the moment I turn it on. I don't think I'll replace it this trip, but when I do I think it'll be with a desktop.

When I work from home I need to 10-key webpage node reference numbers a lot. No, really, a lot. I also need to use the number pad for diacritical marks (alt+0225 gets you an á, and alt+0241 gets you an ñ). On the laptop I need to copy paste these each time I need to use them because the numbers on the keyboard don't work for this for whatever reason. And when you're working on guidebooks to Latin America, that's a lot of copying and pasting. Thank goodness putting the guidebooks to Asia and places like Budapest online are way off in the future. At least I know the Spanish diacritic keystrokes by memory.

Dudes, I'm on vacation! How did you get me monologuing about work? That's enough of that.

So between Sweetie and all the people that've been sick at work, I thought I'd check the Google flu tracker and see what the flu trends are. If our little corner of Berkeley is any indicator, the Bay Area should be royal blue on this map. But then again, they're making their map based on search terms, not actual medical data.

Ze Frank launched another photo project following the election for blue and red voters to share messages with each other. It's interesting and just made me feel good about all of it now that the campaigning is over. Then again, almost all Ze's stuff makes me feels good. Especially the duckies.

So Blackwater has been back in the news. In case you've been hiding under a bush since the war in Iraq began, Blackwater is a U.S.-based private security contractor and they're the largest security contractor operating in Iraq. So far they've been the biggest winner of State Department security contracts. Yes, Cheney has ties to them. Anyhow, there have been stories in the past about how Blackwater handles operations, how their security efforts conflict and interfere with our Armed Forces efforts, and even cases where Blackwater operatives have killed our troops in friendly-fire. So now we're learning that weapons shipped to Iraq by Blackwater have found their way to the black market. And again, no charges have been filed.

Two funnies and then I hit the hay.

For all the cat lovers out there, How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You.

And, if you live in the Americas and have ever felt somewhat disoriented, this may have something to do with it. (Save it for future reference when you're trying to explain to someone why you're not one of those people with a good "sense of direction".)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The One Where We Learn About the Morphine

Dudes, I so totally had plans to blog my butt off this weekend but after this morning's trip to the ER I'm not quite feeling up to snuff.

So we've been having sales conference at work all week, which usually means lots of people in and out of the office, and lots of catered meals. On Wednesday, there was this fritatta thing, that was actually quite tasty.

On Friday I found out that lots of people had been hit with a bout of food poisoning from it on Thursday. So, I'm thinking it's Friday right, I should be good. Oh hell no.

We went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant Friday night with one of the folks out from the New York office. Left the restaurant around 9:30pm, got back to the house around 10:15 and proceeded to start puking my brains out.

So for me food poisoning normally involves expelling everything from both, ahem, avenues and then I'll be fine. But by the time 3:30am rolled around and I was still waking up every 20 minutes or so so I could continue "expelling" I told Sweetie I wasn't going to be able to stop and I was too dehydrated and we needed to get to the hospital.

I gotta say, I love Kaiser. The only two trips I've ever needed to make to their ER have been handled swiftly. I've been to other provider ERs where we've had to wait upwards of 5 hours to be seen. I know it all depends on how busy they are when you show up, but still, they've been awesome. Still peeves me that work doesn't offer us a Kaiser option. So until they tell me I can't (oh, which apparently might be Jan. 1, 2009), I'll stay on Sweetie's policy as a Domestic Partner.

So the Dr came in to see me and asked about stomach pain, which was when I told it him it wasn't so much my stomach as my diaphragm. He started poking around, dude I hate the poking part, which set off another bout of vomiting followed by a dash to the toilet. Dr says, yeah it's your diaphragm (that's what I said), but you've also got something going on with your pancreas there (oh). So we'll be giving you something to stop the vomiting, morphine for the pain, Imodium for the diarrhea, and hook you up to a bag of fluids.

Dudes, when the nurse says, "Now you may feel a little dizzy and leaden," she's not kidding. I have a couple issues with her IV placement skills, but I appreciated the morphine warning.

So by the time we left, I was chugging down water and was begging for more. I'm still just on fluids, but I might try a piece of toast or crackers for dinner. I just jumped online to let y'all know what's up and to email my dinner mates from last night to see if they had any issues. Since we all shared family style I can try to narrow it down to either dinner or that fritatta from Wednesday. I still find it hard to believe that my metabolism is so slow I wouldn't get sick for two full days, but you never know.

I don't quite remember my exit instructions from the Dr, I know I'm supposed to continue to pay attention to the pancreas area if the tenderness doesn't go away, but beyond that I don't know. Really, really shouldn't be giving instructions to me, or asking me to read the informational hand outs, or signing credit card bills after a shot of morphine. Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Snip, Snip and Link, Link

So I finally made it out to get get my hair cut. I hate going and I always put it off longer than I should. But it was a such a beautiful day today that I decided to walk to the salon and do the deed. Nothing new. Same style, only shorter. But it felt good to get out and stretch my legs in the sunshine.

Sweetie got an invitation to shop a special sale at Best Buy that's supposedly closed to the general public. Only "premiere" club members have been invited. So he wants to head over there at 8:30 tonight. I can't think of anything we need, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll leave empty handed. I think Sweetie mostly wants to check out what one of these closed events is all about, me, I'm skeptical of the whole "exclusive" thing.

On to the links.

I read this short article about flu shots today. I'd never heard of the herd immunity concept. I usually avoid flu shots. Maybe I need to rethink that, though I'm not typically in any herd situations other than the cube farm.

I spent some time on the web looking at state voter maps by county after the election, mostly looking at California and my home state of Oregon. In the process I found a couple interesting maps interpreting voting patterns. This one supposedly shows what the vote would have looked like if left just to the 18 - 29 year-old demographic. I have no idea what the source for the data is on that. Honestly, that much blue scares me.

Here's another map I find far more interesting (and probably more reliable too). I like how they distort the map into a cartogram to more accurately depict population and electoral influence. I especially like the map where they break the results down by county and then use purple to represent voter percentages. Visually, it makes the nation seem much less divided.

I spent some time on the WSJ site today. I found this story on the trajectory of the Republican party's swing from intellectual (1970s) to anti-intellectual (today) particularly interesting. I wasn't old enough in the 70s to pay any particular attention to politics.

I also read this interview with newly appointed Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel. I was a little concerned that Emanuel would pull the administration to the left, but from his comments here, it sounds like they'll really be trying to hold the center. That makes me feel a bit better given the sentiments I expressed earlier.

Flailing in the Rain

It's been a quiet Sunday so far, full of dryer sheets, bleach, and detergent. Sunday is typically laundry day for me and I'm getting after it with a vengeance.

I've already put the sheets back on the bed and when I did I added a blanket. We're not quite ready to close the sliding glass door in the bedroom all the way yet, but apparently it's fall and we need the second blanket.

On the subject of fall and colder weather, we had our first real rainstorm of the season last weekend and I discovered (again) that the majority of my shoes are open toed. So we hit the shoe store.
I bought a pair of these:

And a pair of these to keep under my desk at work. Except I started wearing them last night in place of my house slippers. They definitely keep my toes warm. I may have to put these on my holiday wish list so I'll have a second pair for the house.

The shoes weren't our main reason for heading out yesterday. We wanted to go to Lowe's and get the new light fixture for the second bathroom since Sweetie is just about ready to start working there. On the way to the store I needed to run my windshield wipers. They were working fine. And then they weren't.

Let me tell you, it is scary to be driving on a 4-lane highway in the rain next to a big rig and have your wipers fail. We took the next exit and immediately called Dad. (Because Dad has always been my go to for mechanical problem.) So as I thought, Dad said check the fuse (sometimes you just need that extra nudge to let you know you're headed in the right direction).

We checked the fuse. It was fine. So then we called the dealer. My car is not under warranty any longer (5 years/60,000 miles ran out at about 3 years and 3 months), but Subaru has great customer service and will generally help you try to troubleshoot the problem. So this tech says the wiper motor probably burned out. Hmmm, but the back wipers are still working. So that doesn't sound right to me.

Anyhow, we decided that since we were already at Lowe's to go ahead and get what we came for and wait out the cloudburst then head home. On the way home, it started raining again. I tried the wipers; They didn't work. I tried the wipers again; They worked! Oooookay. Now what.

I don't want to second guess this, but I also don't want to be heading up to Mom's house in Oregon for Thanksgiving and have the wipers poop out again. 'Cause that was just no fun. So we called Dad again.

It would seem something is not making a good connection somewhere between the wiper motor and the fuse box. I'm not terribly mechanically inclined. I tend to favor the demolition side of these things. But I think I'll need to tuck my head up under the dash and take a look. Dad said he had this happen once with one of his cars. He could never find the problem and it never presented itself after the first time. That's what I'm hoping for.

Friday, November 7, 2008

When Is a Majority Not a Majority

Now that the elation of Election Day has faded, things are calming down and I've had a moment to take a closer look at what I'm feeling, and I have to say I am hopeful for the future of America.

I have no illusions that the next 4 years will be perfect or that our nation will be miraculously healed. But I do believe 44 will strive for balance. I'm concerned about the huge Dem wins in Congress and hopeful that 44 will be able to set the agenda for them, and that he will quash any legislation coming through that is way too far left. There must be balance, and if Congress can't find it I can almost guarantee the Dems will lose all the seats they've gained in the next election.

That said, I can't remember a time when I felt this energized about the possibilities. The 1994 Rep. "Contract with America" was a moment (when the Dem-controlled Congress couldn't find the middle), but it can't compare to how I feel now.

I feel like I've been in hunker down, assume the position, and wait it out mode since 2002. There's a glimmer that this long, barren winter of the Bush administration is coming to a close, and I'm optimistic for the blooms of spring. Crappe, I think I just waxed poetic or something.

Then there's the whole Proposition 8 debacle in California right now. Essentially an initiative was placed on the ballot calling for an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. I have to say I really just don't care who decides to take up a domestic relationship with whom as long as they're both consenting adults. But we sure as heck shouldn't be messing with the constitution. Not for this.

The constitution is there to define the government's relationship to the people being governed. It is not intended to instruct the people on what is and isn't acceptable. And really, should a simple majority be all that's required to amend a document of this importance?

I also think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether; Marriage is not a secular event. The government should only be regulating Civil Unions for both hetero and homosexual couples. Leave the marriage issue up to each couple's individual faith. Many cultures and countries already do this. There's the official civil ceremony with all the paperwork, then there's the religious ceremony with umpteen friends and family to witness before god.

I am pleased that it appears Prop. 11 passed, which amends the state constitution to remove the responsibility for redistricting legislative districts from the seated legislature and give it to a new commission. Politicians should protect their positions by doing their jobs, not by gerrymandering. However, even though I fully support this initiative, I still do not think that the voters should be able to amend the state constitution with a simple majority.

WARNING: Math and Statistics Ahead

So Prop. 8 wins with 52.5% and Prop. 11 wins with 50.6% of the vote. A majority right? Wrong. It would be if every eligible voter cast a ballot, but they don't.

The stats aren't in yet for 2008, but in the 2004 presidential election, California had a turnout rate of 59.6% and assuming 2008 will be similar, that means that 52.5% and 50.6% of the 59.6% are deciding to amend the constitution for 100%.

In California that means that roughly 7,955,000 - 8,254,000, or approximately 30% of the population, are deciding to change the government's relationship to the 26,380,000 people it governs. And that, folks, is why I don't believe constitutional amendments should even be put to popular vote in the first place, and why I don't believe they should be passed by simple majority.

Before I get to the links, a word of warning. I've dug up a different html code for links and from here on out they should open in a new browser window. Unless I forget to use the new code or just get lazy. :)

So just a few links before I head to bed. This article by Chris Jones at Esquire sums up pretty well my conflicted feelings about John McCain the man, and John McCain the politician.

I couldn't read this bit of geek humor straight through without doubling up with laughter at least a couple times. If you've ever been a part of a tabletop RPG group, this is for you. If you haven't, but you've been in a relationship with someone who has, you'll probably still get it. If you don't fall into either of those groups, you probably have a life and have better things to do than read that link.

And lastly, completely unrelated to politics, if you've ever wondered how shopping carts, specifically the shopping cart you're using, got so messed up, watch this video. In honor of my cart while grocery shopping last night. The video also does double duty as an excellent instructional tool on inertia and Newton's First Law of Motion.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Syndrome

So a strange thing happened at the office today... It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn't it. But really, the whole day was weird.

I usually vote by absentee ballot, and I usually drop off my ballot in person at my polling station on election day. You see, I like being able to consult various sources and make my decisions at my leisure, but I also like being part of the political process on election day. In fact, while I was in college I used to work the polls. I highly recommend the experience.

But since I've become a 9 to 5er, I pretty much just stick to the voting. In past years, I arrive at my polling station (an elementary school), walk in, and drop off my ballot. That simple.

This year, it took me 15 minutes just to find a place to park. I walked up to the polling room and stood in a line that stretched around the school. As I was standing in line, I noticed that they (whoever "they" are) were busing people to the polling station. I mean, wow. I never noticed this in previous years. Being little miss Suzie Sunshine, I assume they were busing people regardless of how they intended to vote.

Luckily for me, a poll worker came out and scanned the line for people holding absentee ballots and we were able to walk on in and drop off the goods. While it felt awesome to vote (it's always a rush, because dudes, I take this stuff seriously), I felt a little guilty passing up all the people waiting in line. (Okay, I'll admit it, it was a little like what I imagine celebrities experience when they're whisked past the line to get in to whatever it is everyone else is waiting for. So yeah, that part felt good.)

We live in a neighborhood with a high percentage of immigrants and first generations and it really showed as I walked past the line. I may complain about the somewhat fluid rules of the road in my neighborhood, but my god that was a wonderful sight. Partly to know that far more of my neighbors are actually eligible to vote (i.e., not here illegally) than I previously thought, but mostly because we live in a place where that is even possible at all.

So the weird thing at the office. One friend at the office emailed and asked how we usually handle book donations. (We're a book publisher and we often donate books from previous seasons when we need to make room on the book shelves for new titles.) She said she was feeling overwhelmed and just need to clean out her office and clear some space to work.

Another co-worker walked into my cube carrying a manuscript I'd loaned to her some weeks back as an editorial guide. She said, she need to tidy up an make some space in her cube.

It seemed like everywhere I turned people were nesting, cleaning, rearranging, organizing, purging, and just generally putting things in order. Is it a coincidence that it also happens to be the most historic presidential election in most of our lifetimes? I don't think so. Regardless of who wins (it's Obama by the way, not that that's news to most people at this point) I think people are just ready for a new beginning and subconsciously or not they're symbolically making space for it by cleaning up the areas they have the most direct control over.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Post-Party Halloween Update

So the office Halloween party was fun. I don't think I got more than 30 minutes worth of work done the entire day. But then again, I don't really think we were expected to. So, are you ready for it?

I got lots of great comments on my costume, but the cleavage had me self-conscious all day long. As you can see, I kept holding up the book I was supposed to be dressed as in front of the deepest portion of the plunge. There are probably better photos of it (the costume, not the cleavage) out there, but this was the best one on my camera at the end of the day.

I knew when I was making it that I wouldn't be able to sit at my desk with the tail feathers on. What I didn't anticipate was not being able to walk through doorways, or hallways, or in large rooms crowded with Halloween revelers. So this peacock was strutting sideways most of the day.
Oh, and don't even ask about the logistics involved with using the restroom stalls. As one person commented when I took off the tail feathers for a bathroom break, "You've been plucked!"


It's a minor thing, but it made me feel good. The recipe for Chayote and Sausage Stew that I posted here I also put on I was hoping to get a nutritional analysis since they do that for all their recipes, but apparently they only do the analysis for recipes that are published for public use.

Well, I got the notice today that they tested out my recipe and chose to publish it. So, if you're at all interested in seeing the nitty gritty on fat, fiber, and other things, check it out here. Details are listed in the far right column about halfway down the page.

There are several things I like about the AllRecipes site. Once you set up a profile, you can save recipes to your "recipe box," which can then be sorted however you desire. You can also rate and comment on recipes after you've tried them. The comments I read from other people who've tried a recipe are often invaluable. When you see 8 people who say the recipe was too sweet or salty, I know before I even try the recipe that I should alter the sugar or salt. Another piece I like is the shopping lists. You can select the recipes you want to shop for and it will automatically compile it all onto a list. Then you can edit your list to include items not in the recipes, like garbage bags. It's still a clunky feature, so I don't use it very often but it's pretty cool.