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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Center of Attention

When I was going to grad school, there was sort of a quiet understanding that when you got your Ph.D., you would do some post-doctoral research, then you would take a sliver of what you learned from your post-doc research and use it to morph into a brand new academic researcher.  Although no one of any authority actually said so, you just knew that if you did something else, you would disappoint your graduate adviser.

No matter how you felt about your graduate adviser, no one wanted to disappoint them.

Now that I'm doing something else (and probably disappointing my graduate adviser--*I'm sorry.  Doctah Doctah!  I'm sorry*), the graduate school program from which I got my doctoral degree is at least exposing the current crop of PeeAychDee'ers-to-be to "alternative careers."  So, a handful of times in the last year I've been requested to about my job to fresh young minds.

This also, of course, means that I get to feed my ego.  I admit it; I'm vain and I like to impress smart people.

It's more than just preening, though.  I have a cool job.  I have a cool job that I can't even say I knew existed in any real sense before I started doing it.

It's truly a shame that I didn't know about it before I fell into it, really.  Not that I think it would have necessarily changed the course of my career or where I am, now.  But I wasn't the only one who felt a sense of almost-shame for wanting to do something other than the expected academic route.  The fact is, I'm not the only one that knew I was going to be bored to tears with a single research path, but I suspect that many of my classmates are still struggling with their career goals simply because they didn't realize that they could do something else.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one that snuck out.  There were three others at the career panel I participated in today that had cool (and I mean cool) "non-traditional" careers. 

When the panel host asked how we got into our careers, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they'd also fallen into their careers by simply knowing what they didn't want to do.  (There was a lot of nodding happening as we briefly explained how we ended up where we ended up.)  And I was glad that at least a good number of young adults soon to enter the scary "real" world with their graduate degrees would be aware that they, too, could do something unexpected and without shame. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Domestic Goddess

Kind of.  Not really.  But sometimes...

Once in a while, I get the notion that I want to do something homey.  Like cook.  Or iron.  Actually, forget the ironing.  I can't do that without making things worse.  I am a good cook, though, if I must say so, myself.  (My lovely boyfriend agrees, at least to my face.)

A few weeks ago, we were visiting my boyfriend's mom, who has grapevines trellised over her backyard fence.  She's been talking about getting the fence fixed, which means that the grapes must go.  I think it's tragic.

So, to console myself, I offered to harvest the abundance of concord grapes before *sigh* they are no more.

Approximately 10 pounds later, I have no idea what, exactly, I'm going to do with all of these grapes, which are characterized by an amazing flavor and an equally large seed in each one.  I froze some of them last year, but never got around to actually eating them.  This year, they sat in my fridge for a week and a half, threatening to shrivel up before I got to them.

I figured that the most practical thing would be to make jelly.

So, I presumed that I should cook them down.

But first...

Pick each.  And every.  One.  From their bunches.

Hours later (not too much of an exaggeration), I've got the grapes in a stock pot on low heat.  I allow them to cook, assuming that, like tomatoes, the skins will eventually fall off and you can either strain them out or they will disintegrate.  They don't disintegrate.  Or fall off.  Nor do the seeds go willingly from the flesh.  And when they've finished cooking down, you've got a mush of hotter-than-hell grape juice that smells delicious, but threatens to both scald and stain you (and every fiber of clothing you are wearing).

By the time this mash has cooled enough to maybe handle, it's really stinking late.  So, the grape mash goes into the fridge in the stock pot.

Step 2, the following day.  No time.

The day after that.  No time.

The day after that.  Ah, some time.  Run the grape mash through a strainer.  Which turns out to be very ineffective.  It actually requires pressing the grape mash against the strainer many, many, many times, only to be left with something that's still half grape juice, but refuses to be strained any further.  I find that squeezing the shit out of it by hand works, though.  And I even have enough foresight to wear some disposable gloves so as not to end up with purple hands.

The result...grape juice and what looks like bat guano, complete with seeds.  It's disappointingly little grape juice, too.

Grape guano.
Or, so I thought.

I find a recipe for easy jelly online (no, I didn't do that BEFORE I decided to do this), which calls for 3 cups of juice.  Check.  5 1/4 cups sugar (!).  Check.  And pectin.  Easy enough to get.  Cool!  I can do this!

I go to the store and purchase a dozen half pint jelly jars, some pectin, and canning equipment (a canning pot, tongs, jar grasper, jar opener, funnel, magnet...actually a pretty good setup, it turns out).  I come home and measure out my grape juice.  I have...12 cups of grape juice.  Shit.  I need more of...everything.

I go to the store and get more jars and pectin (regular instead of instant this time) and sugar.  Did you know that one 4-pound bag of sugar is actually about 9 cups?   ONLY 9 cups.  Then, I set to work.

Add pectin to grape juice, bring to boil, stir in sugar.  Whoah...  That's a lot of sugar.  This is going to require more jars.

I go to the store.  Get more jars.  And finishing jarring my grape jelly (after washing each jar by hand, then running through the dishwasher).  I even processed the jars.  Because there is no damned way we're eating 30 and 1/3 jars of jelly within 3 weeks.  And each and every one of those jars sealed!  (Hooray!  I wasn't entirely confident about this.)

It actually turned out quite good.  I just hope we don't get botulism.  Do you suppose I should hold off on giving any of it away?

Monday, October 3, 2011

I know interesting people

Stacked Blocks Baby Quilt in Gray and Pink
Beautiful quilt stolen from
Quilts By Jess' Etsy page.
There seems to be a flurry of creativity these days.  Maybe it's because of the economy--so many people who were laid off or had their retirements and salaries squeezed might have just decided that they should take the time to simply do stuff they enjoy.

I've noticed amongst my friends some amazing talent flourishing.  Or, maybe, I'm just noticing it.

Actually, I've known I have some pretty cool friends for a while.  I thought I'd just take the time to brag.

One of my friends has been making quilts.  Making them like a madwoman.  Well, madwoman as in doing a lot of them, not that they look like Picasso's or anything.  She makes bright and beautiful baby blankets and larger bedding (, and then blogs about it (  What's even more cool is that she's a lawyer and a geek!

Another of my friends is another cool geek.  By day he does computery stuff (don't ask me what he does, he's a different kind of geek than I am, so I only really understand that he does computery stuff) at a large financial services company.  By night, he and some friends do a podcast on the latest technology, movies, games, etc. (  He also brews beer and mead (mmmm....mead....)

Then, there's my friend with an aquatic thumb--that's like a green thumb, but with fish, not plants.  But, that's not her only hobby.  She also raises and shows dalmatians (, and has probably the most well-behaved dogs I have ever met.  Most of her dals are liver spotted, which I had never seen before I met her.  Her dog, Argus, is even a national champion!  He qualified for and competed at Westminster this year.  How cool is that?
Check it out!

I have other cool friends, but I should probably leave some bragging for later.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some people should be beaten

I don't drive very often.  I'm quite proud of that fact.  Mostly, because I don't really enjoy driving all that much. Plus, it saves me money.  And I can read on the bus.  The police (and pretty much everyone else) kind of frown on doing that while driving.  (You hear that, Mr. Businessmanwhossoimportantthatthenewspapercantwait?)

I typically drive about once a week.  Lately, that once a week has been on Sundays, driving to work because I've been incredibly busy.  This doesn't generally make me happy, really.

Well, today I need to drive to work again.  I go down to the underground parking garage--the underground parking garage that I pay extra for the convenience and safety of it in my "luxury apartment complex"--and about 2 parking spots away, I press the button on my keyfob to unlock it.  It does.  I  hop in and stick my key in the ignition.

Then, I discover that there are things where they shouldn't be.  There are some stamps on the console just in front of my shifter.  There's a broken air freshener on the passenger side floor.  My phone charger is not in the center console but on the floor.


I remember that our apartment complex sent out an email a couple of days earlier saying that some people had their cars broken into and some stuff stolen.  Well, Saturday on the way out, my boyfriend and I drove by slowly to take a close gander at my car.  No broken windows, and I always lock my car.  I also never leave anything of value in it.

This morning, though, I'm suddenly not certain that I'd locked my car.  I had stopped by Wednesday morning to pull some marketing materials out of it from my trip to SD in order to bring them back to my office.  Everything was fine, then.

I hop out of my car and open my trunk.  Stuff that was normally at the very front of the trunk, nearest the back seat was pulled to the back of the trunk and rifled around.  OH, I was pissed.

I pull my car out and drive to the front of the building to give the office staff some whatfor.  Except they don't get there till noon on Sundays.  I. Have. To. Get. To. Work.

So, I take a quick trot back up to my apartment (after locking the car, of course), and ask my boyfriend when the last time he drove his "good" car.  About a week.  Did you check to make sure it hasn't been broken into?  Why....?  Mine was.

He comes out to check my car out and notices something that I hadn't...they'd punched my lock in and pulled my door handle partially out.

Now, I'm furious.

Yes, it's that dirty.  It gets driven maybe 1 time a week.
They had wrecked my barely valuable car even more, and they hadn't even taken anything.  Not the dollar I always keep in my center console for emergencies or the $3 worth of change there.  There was nothing other than maybe 15 or 20 cents missing from the ashtray.  Yet, I will have to repair my car or face the fact that it will be almost worthless for a trade and probably less secure because the handle is popped.

So, I get off to work almost an hour after I intended to, and I'm grumpy.  Really grumpy.  And I worked for 10 straight hours.  I could have come home an hour earlier.  But no.

Some people definitely need to be beaten.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lost touch

It's hard to keep track of people.  There are only so many meaningful relationships that anyone can keep track of, let alone nurture, and inevitably, you lose touch with one another.  It gets even harder when you move away or get a new job or start a relationship or a new family.

There are lots of people that I have lost touch with.  Classmates, distant relatives, friends.  It's almost always nice to bump into them and catch  up.  (Let's face it, sometimes it's not so nice to see how they've changed...or you have.)  There are people that you sometimes expect to run into when you go certain places.  There are people that you find in the most unexpected places or unexpected times.

Sometimes, there are times when you think of someone and you wonder where they are, and they somehow reappear, as if just thinking about them brought them back into existence.

Sometimes you think of them, then find they are gone, and it's too late to think of them earlier.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trend Micro Titanium Follow Up

They say you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.  Can you check out the other end?

I said I'd follow up in a couple of months following my less-than-stellar experience with the installation of Trend Micro Titanium.  Well, this is sooner than a couple of months.  Alas, it is to report that I have uninstalled it and its little dog Safe Sync, too.

As I reported before, I had gotten a year subscription to try from BzzAgent.  I had some reservations about removing a perfectly good computer security system, Microsoft Security Essentials, in order to simply install Trend Micro Titanium.  Then, the Safe Sync irritated me by overfilling my allotted sync space and popping up every few seconds until I forced Safe Sync to close.  Not good.

I figured I would ignore it, though, as long as it did its job.  Ok, so every time I restart my computer, Safe Sync would restart and tell me that I should buy more space.  Erk.  Ah well, I can turn that off.  So I did.

As long as I kept Safe Sync off, I was ok, right?  Wrong.  I came home the other day after a long drive from an out of town business trip.  I shuffle into my office to do some gaming before unpacking and going to bed.  At least I thought that's what I was going to do.

My computer is in stasis, having tried to restart for some unknown reason.  Grr.  Reboot.  Check issues.  "Your computer has recovered from an unexpected crash."  Yeah, duh.  Why?  "Coreframeworkhost.exe crash dump."  What's that?  Google.  It's a Trend Micro program that makes Trend Micro programs work together.  Not cool.  Still, programs sometimes crash, right?  And it seems to be stable now that I've rebooted.

*grumble* No relaxing gaming before bed, though.

Tonight, my lovely boyfriend tries to download the latest update on our favorite online game, since I worked late and I might want to play the new expansion when I get home.  Aww.  Except that it won't update.  He suspects Trend Micro.  In the back of my mind, I do, too.

Still, I restart my computer.  Things seem to be working ok...  My taskbar's loading funky.  Grr.  Fine, I'll check Titanium.  Sure enough, it's dead.  It claims to have "caught 1 threat in the last month," but I can't expand it to find out what it is.  It's grey and dead, claiming that I need to restart my computer.  Uh.  I just did that.  Ok, fine.  I'll do it again, since I need to see if my taskbar can be fixed.

Nope.  Still weird.  And Trend Micro Titanium is still dead.

That's it.  Uninstall!

I uninstalled both the antivirus software and the Safe Sync.  I reinstalled Microsoft Security Essentials.  Viola!  All is right in the world.

Except that I have to re-download the game update that got interrupted by this whole mess.  I guess I get to go to bed sans relaxing gaming.  Computer security FAIL.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm famous

Yes, I'm famous.  Only nobody knows it.

The university where I got my undergraduate degree is a land grant university, which means that it was established to teach practical agriculture, science, and engineering.  To this day, it excels in each of those areas.

One of the best things, from the perspective of a student looking for that freshman 15, was that, as part of its agricultural teaching, it took dairy science very seriously.  That means, fresh cheese and ice cream.  I'm pretty sure that it makes some of the best ice cream ever created.  As you wandered through campus, you could (and still can) get a heaping bowl of ice cream made by students at the Dairy Bar for $1.  For that price, there was no such thing as a starving student.

Most of the ice cream flavors were pretty standard stuff--vanilla, cookies and cream, chocolate.  More exotic flavors, such as butter brickle, butter pecan, and strawberry cheesecake rotated on and off the menu.

Sometime during my senior year there, I stopped by for a bowl of ice cream and saw that they had a contest for a new flavor.  Being an avid Dairy Bar fan, I figured I could make a flavor that they couldn't refuse.  Even if it was only destined for a rotation or two on the menu.

I grabbed a contest form and my bowl of ice cream and meditated on one of those uncomfortable outdoor patio furniture chairs that leave diamond-shaped indentations on the back of your legs.

What would be a guaranteed winner?

Thinking outside the box was something that I could occasionally do, and it seemed to me that the flavor didn't matter.  It was the presentation that mattered.  And if I presented the flavor in a way no one could turn down without seeming almost unpatriotic...  Well, our mascot was plastered everywhere anyone might see should they momentarily be lacking school spirit.  A blue and yellow jackrabbit.

Have you ever had Jackrabbit ice cream?  It's lemon custard with blueberry swirls.  It's available year-round at the Dairy Bar.  And has been for the last 12 years.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


It seems like every time I turn my steering wheel to the west, the universe seems to know it. Or at least Mother Nature does.

Occasionally, I get the opportunity to travel to South Dakota for a meeting. Since someone needs to bring the marketing materials, and I'm not high falutin' enough to fly a measly 250 miles, I get to toss a box of highlighters bearing the firm name into my trunk and drive.

I'm not the kind of person who loves a good road trip. Especially if I have to drive. Alone. For 4.5 hours. Through an area in which one of the most interesting features is the endless occurrence if corn fields. And the wind is at a minimum speed of about mach 10.

Yes, almost every time I have to get behind the steering wheel to get to SoDak, it seems to be even windier than usual. And that's saying something in a state with nothing to stop the wind for about 500 miles except a bit of grass and about 3 trees.

This time, with the last several weeks being pretty dry, the corn (and everything else) was pretty dessicated.  As a result, the leaves were being stripped from the stalks and were drawn up into swirling columns every so often.

The grass seeds, too, were being ripped away by the wind, producing an effect that sounded like rain and looked like warp speed.

Overall, it was oddly entertaining to watch.

I might have gawked more if it wasn't so hard to drive 65+ miles per hour with your steering wheel cocked 20 degrees to the left.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm going to miss the cicadas

I've actually been missing them for a little while, already.

The thing about cicadas is that I associate them with the peak of summer, often when the oppressive heat and humidity presses down from every angle and you can't escape except into the air conditioning.  Well, some people think it's oppressive.

I don't.  I bask in high dew points and blazing sun.  I can't stand overly cooled grocery stores and restaurants.

I think I appreciate it so much more because I know that within 6 months, everything will be different.  Instead of inhaling the moisture and letting it circulate in eddies in your lungs, you inhale and ice crystals aggregate on the little hairs in your nose, causing you to cough and sputter if you should try to breathe so deeply.

I really hate being cold, and I know that when I hear the cicadas, I will be warm.  So, I will miss them.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Am a geek.  Ask any of my friends.  They'll tell you.

I drool over fun, geeky things, like the stuff on ThinkGeek (  One thing that's been on my wishlist for a while is Bucky Balls Magnetic Building Spheres (  I see myself building models of DNA and zinc-fingers, recreating the structures of amino acids, and maybe predicting the chemical structure of the next great antibiotic that will beat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Coincidentally, BzzAgent (I've written about BzzAgent before, here; will soon be kicking off a BzzCampaign with Bucky Balls Magnetic Building Spheres.  I so want to be included.  I would show off to my geeky friends, one of which even has his own podcast called The Geek Life (  I might even let them use my Bucky Balls.

Better yet!  I am a geek at work, too.  It's encouraged.  As a patent agent, I get to see all kinds of biotechy/chemically inventions all the time.  I could keep my Bucky Balls on my desk and use them to build models of my clients' inventions.  Ohh.  That would make the patent attorneys jealous.

BzzAgent, please include me in this campaign.  How many people can honestly say that they can use a geeky toy like Bucky Balls professionally?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


While it's a bit invigorating to have that snap in the air, it's too early for the weather we've had the past few days.  I can smell the fall in the air, and I can almost taste the way the air is dehumidified by the frost.  I'm not ready for the winter, and the fall always precedes the winter.

Even though it was a roller coaster of a summer, weather-wise, there were certainly some glorious days and I will miss them.  I know that some people absolutely despised the hot humid weather that never seemed to let up in July, but I was in my element.  I managed to get a little bit of a tan and even spent some time in the pool.

Besides being a harbinger of Fall, the bringer of Winter, this early cold snap has put the kabosh on my hopes for a marvelous tomato season.

All these veggies came this week from my CSA,
Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm
I have subscribed to a local CSA (community supported agriculture farm) for the last three years in order to get a fresh supply of organically grown veggies throughout the summer and into fall.  I get all kinds of beautiful veggies, but my greatest excitement is the heirloom tomatoes.  *drool*  Two years ago, I could hardly carry my box of veggies home each week for several weeks because of the tomatoes alone.  Red ones, pink ones, yellow ones, and even green ones.  So sweet and tomato-y.  I finally had to break down and get them all out of the fridge because I couldn't keep up.  I made a tomato sauce with them.  Oh boy was that nice as the snow began to fall and I could put home made tomato sauce into chili and spaghetti.

The last two years have been almost a bust.  The tomatoes have been fantastic, but the pickings slim.

Still, you have to rejoice in a beautiful tomato, no matter how scarce.  

Yes.  It's yellow.
And watermelon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Steam is King!

When I was a kid, I lived in a small town.  A very small town.  Population-not-exceeding-120 small town.

When I grew up, I escaped that small town to move to a big city with lots of career opportunities and entertainment and culture.

Well, kind of.

The only thing that ever happened in my small town was a Threshing Bee.  Sounds pretty small town, doesn't it?  It is.  But, honestly, it's one of the things I really love about that small town, still.

In this small town, during the Threshing Bee (pronounced "Thrashing Bee" in this small town), people sit patiently to watch a two hour parade of tractors and old cars.

Not a John Deere, but someone loves it, anyway.
In this small town, during the Threshing Bee, the local 4H chapter raises money by selling lunch to dusty folks who've spent the morning talking about the weather, the beautiful John Deere, and the upcoming harvest.  The lunch consists of ham, canned corn, wet potatoes au gratin, a white dinner roll, all you can drink lemonade, and slices of fresh tomato and cucumber.

Oh, and home made pie.  Real home made pie.  Even rhubarb pie, which makes no excuse for its tartness with the addition of apologetic strawberries.

In this small town, people pile on wooden bleachers to watch people compete to see whose tractor can pull the most.
This tractor tried to get away.
You can tell it's feral by the flames.

There is a craft building full of handmade quilts on one side, and various antique household items on the other.  There is a toy building with toys you might find some version of 50 years ago or today.  There is an old one-room school house, complete with desks, books, and a school marm.

Here and there you can find pictures of this small town when it wasn't so small.  When it had a Main Street full of store fronts, an opera house, and a Waldorf.

I try, once a year, to escape being grown up in the city to the small town during the Threshing Bee.  To see the town, to see the people, and to see the spectacle that is the Threshing Bee.

Especially the steam engines.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If looks could...

Make people leave me the hell alone, I would use them all the time.

My mom always told me that I have a look that I give people when I'm particularly perturbed that could peel paint.  I, myself, have never seen it, but it must be somewhat effective because it seems to stop people in their tracks.

The other day after work, I'm waiting for the bus, as I do daily.  As I'm waiting, I am approached by a man saying "can you spare a quarter?  I need to catch a bus to [I have no idea where the fuck he said he wants to go because I've heard these two sentences innumerable times and I know damned well that he's just bothering people for change.]"  I give my standard response "I don't carry any cash."  Usually, that's enough.  And usually, I'm not on the phone.

This time, though, I AM on the phone talking to my mother.  I'm polite enough to respond, placing my hand over the receiver, and talking just loud enough for him to hear.

And this time, it's NOT enough.  The guy asks me again.  I tip my head and glare, then point to the phone, and mouth "seriously?"  The guy's eyes widen and he covers his mouth, makes a gesture of apology, and can't move away fast enough.

I'll have to keep that in my arsenal.

That being said, this guy was just some kid/young adult doing what others do, not because they're mentally ill or homeless, or truly desperate.  I think it's mostly because someone needs to spank them for intentionally taking advantage of the good will of others when they have the ability to provide for themselves.

Not everyone is so "lucky."  There are a lot of people who have taken up harassing commuters and city visitors who need something other than discipline.  These people need support and systemic change.  These are the kind of people that current political trends are trying to sweep under the carpet, pretending they don't exist or that their lives aren't affected by the short-sighted policy lawmakers make.  These are the kind of people who, with one misstep on their part or ours as a society, appear on the streets to make your experience at the opera or a baseball game uncomfortable.

Fortunately, thoughtful policy can help get some, if not many, of these people back into stable lives.  And back out of your hair.  (Proof: While the former is more important, the latter is, unfortunately, what most people care about.

So, when you're counting your pennies and asking whether what you spend in taxes is money well spent, if you don't think about the good you can do for that individual suffering from schizophrenia on the street, at least think of the freedom you have from walking in those painfully high-heeled shoes too quickly because you want to get past that dirty-looking panhandler as quickly as possible.

Then, vote accordingly.

Friday, September 9, 2011


The pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

If I am watching a movie or TV and my boyfriend isn't in the room and he hears me laugh, he automatically assumes that someone in the movie or TV show got hurt.  Heh.  He's usually right.

Being a science geek and a sadist, I've come up with this math problem:

If an up escalator has a slope of 30 degrees and a hight of 16 feet, and a person on the escalator weighs 150 pounds, at what point on the escalator does the person have to clutz out for me to enjoy watching their sorry ass fall down forever? How clumsy do they have to be? Keep in mind that gravity has a constant acceleration of 32.2 ft/s^2.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Electrocuting the Cats

Well, not exactly.  At least not fatally.  You see, my cats, especially the trickster Coyote, are bad.  Bad cats.  Every surface, particularly the counter, is fair game to them.  No matter how I've tried to deter them.  Loud noise, water spray, canisters of air, motion sensors spraying canisters of air, time outs.  Nothing works for very long.

The loud noises do nothing at all.  I'm pretty sure this proves that they're not really cats.  They don't startle.  Not very often, anyway, and not due to loud noises.  They simply look at us as if to say "yeah, I'd like to see you get off your ass and do something about it."

Water spray.  They laugh at water spray.  Sure, they stop.  Briefly.  Then clean themselves and go back to marauding on the counter.  The only good news is that the dishes are often almost clean before they get put into the dishwasher.

Canisters of air?  Eh.  They're scary, but you have to actually be around to catch them doing shit before they're effective.  And even then, they're temporary.

Canisters of air run off of a motion sensor?  Yes, they exist.  They do work...until the air runs out.  Then they're not so scary that the cats aren't willing to at least test them.  The problem is, I have two versions.  One version simply sprays air.  This is only semi-effective and the air cans are expensive.  The other version sprays air and beeps.  This one is more effective, but the air cans are holy hell expensive and only available online.  Grr.  Plus, you can only invest $40-$50 apiece before canister refills so many times and the cats know this.  Two motion sensor air sprayers leave the coverage of various surfaces somewhat thin.  Oh, and they work almost as effectively to scare humans.

Time outs?  Uh huh.  "meowmeowmeow *scratchscratchscratch* meowmeowmeow *scratchscratchscratch*" ad nauseum.  Once you open the door, while they don't exactly make a beeline to bad stuff, they don't take many detours.

So, I think we're down to the last electrified mat.  It's SUPPOSED to be a permanent deterrent.  We'll see...

Scat Mat

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Wine Club" and Kindles

I'm a member of a book club.  I love to read.  This book club is better than just a book club, though, because we drink wine.  I love wine.  And even better yet, this book club is full of fabulous ladies at various stages of their lives and careers with all the perspectives that come with them.  It's filled with former and present coworkers, neighbors, mothers, brides, sisters, and friends.  I love them all!

We talk a lot, we drink a lot, and sometimes we even discuss books a lot.  We respect everyone else and so we respect everyone else's books and everyone else's opinions on the books. And when we're done discussing the books, we bond.

There are so many "best things" about this book club.  Probably the best thing I can think of is the bonding time with other women that once a month.  For some, it's a way to find a new book they wouldn't have otherwise read and to see what someone else thought.  For some, it's a way to have some adult conversation without the kids or the spouse.  And for some, it's a source of life lessons and first-hand advice from someone with a different perspective or experience.

One of my favorite experiences in the book club is when the woman who hosts the book club secretly informed us that her mother, who is also a book club member, would be having a major birthday and invited us all to the surprise party.

We, of course, felt like we should help celebrate with a gift.  Knowing that her mother was never really interested in reading before joining book club and has since discovered the joys of reading, if not simply the joys of a girls night out once a month, we felt that we should signify our love of her with a gift that reflected our role in her life and her role in ours.

I suggested a Kindle.

Surprisingly, it didn't take much convincing.  Although her mother could take or leave most technology, it was pretty universally agreed that the Kindle would be a great gift because it's simple, it's light, it doesn't require lots of book shelves, and the text can be adjusted to get around any issues with small print.

It was up to me to do the research, so I did.  As I did the research, I was even more convinced that it was the right choice.

(And I was convinced that I wanted one, too.)

Upon finishing my research, we pooled our money together and bought her the Kindle DX with a 9.7" display (

All in secret during our monthly club meetings with her present.

The surprise was a success.  And so was the Kindle!  She uses it for all the books for which a Kindle version is available.

After all of this, I find myself finding more and more reasons to get one for myself.  Of course, the 4 bookcases full of books is a great incentive!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dr. appointment--for your car

I occasionally get an interesting Bzz Campaign from BzzAgent, where I get to try new stuff in exchange for talking about said new stuff.  This time, I joined the CarMD Bzz Campaign.

Now, I have an aging American vehicle.  It's still in good shape, and with the exception of having to replace the camshaft timing sensor (which was a painful, miserable fix, but I did it myself for only a few dollars), it's been pretty trouble free.  Of course, as I've mentioned, it's only got 70k miles on it and it's pushing 11 years old.

Still, even at relatively low mileage, things start dying simply due to age, and I don't have a ton of spare cash to throw at my car should she take an unexpected nosedive.

One thing that I've learned about cars is that knowledge is the best discount you can get on repairs.

I learned this with Delilah, my old '85 Buick Park Avenue.  Now, SHE was high maintenance. I wish I had known more about Delilah.  It would have been great to know exactly what was wrong with her, then at least know what it SHOULD cost to fix her at a mechanic, if not actually fix her myself.  It would have saved me a lot of pain and anguish as a poor (female) college student with an aging, eccentric car.

That's where CarMD comes in.  For $119, you get a car computer reader, something that you can get for a price as low as $27.  Of course, $27 does not guarantee that it will work with your car.  The model I found for $27 (plus shipping) stated that it may not work with a list of several vehicles, mostly imports.  The CarMD reader will work on all OBDII vehicles--almost all gasoline-powered vehicles made since 1996.

The CarMD reader is easy to use, too.  I plugged it into my car's reader port (under the dash on the Intrepid), and turned the key to the "on" (not "start") position, and waited for 4 quick beeps.  It took about 30-45 seconds.  Then, I turned the key to off, and unplugged the reader from my car.  Analysis done.

A nice thing about the CarMD reader is that, once it's done reading, one of three LED lights will light up.  A green light means that you can probably skip hooking up to your home computer because your car's computer is reporting no issues.  A yellow light indicates that there is a pending problem or your car's diagnostic monitors have not run all of their tests--you might want to check into that.  A red light means that your car requires service.  Mine was green.

Here's the best part.  For the $119 you spend on CarMD, you don't just get the reader.  You get a plain English explanation of what the car codes that your car's computer reports to the reader means.  The CarMD reader, once the software is installed on your computer, and the reader subsequently plugged in, will communicate the information to your home computer and the CarMD website.  From there, you can find out what a code means, potentially diagnose the problem, find out what can be done to fix it, and get cost estimates for repair.

Or, use it to check a car before you buy it.  You just need to have the VIN for any vehicle you want to get a diagnostic on (up to 3 cars can be registered for up to 6 monthly online diagnostics).  Of course, if you get a green light, you don't actually have to run a diagnostic.  Freebie!!

There is an additional option that you can subscribe to for just under $30 that gets you a few more things, including technical service bulletins for your registered cars.

You can read about CarMD on their website  In addition, feel free to visit this website to get $30 off the CarMD system (limited time offer)  Or, you can try to win a CarMD tool on the CarMD Facebook page

Monday, September 5, 2011

I love the RenFest

Specifically, I love dressing up to go to the Renaissance Festival.  If you ever get a chance to go as a "civilian" and then in Ren garb, you'll know why.  You get treated as a completely different person when you're in velvet and brocade.

Today, we went to the Renaissance Festival.  My guy was dressed in regular clothes, since we have not yet put together a costume for him.  I was dressed in a gorgeous red getup made by Sandy at M'Lord and Tailors.  I was asked if I was the queen by one little boy.  I was asked to have my photograph taken by a man with a very nice camera (maybe I'll find myself on one of the RenFest photo pages).  I was addressed by 3 women in matching dresses offering to buff my cleavage.  I was told that my dress was beautiful/gorgeous/pretty countless times.  And I was even called a weapon of mass seduction and threatened to be wrapped in duct tape.

The only thing I hate about going to the RenFest dressed up is that you're kind of expected to talk in some olde English accent.  Uh.  I suck at that.  So I talk plainly or not at all.

Poor Brandon, in his plainclothes, got called a liability, a peasant, and lucky.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A camera in the bathroom

No, it's not what you're thinking, pervert.  Really.

So, of my two cats, Coyote is a joker.  This morning, after I took my shower, Coyote meows and jumps between the shower curtains.  So I call to her.  She hops into the wet tub and wanders around and jumps back out.  She soon jumps back onto the edge of the tub as I'm wrapping my hair in a towel and donning my robe, and gets between the curtain.  So I call her in, again.  She hops in, as she often does, then does the stretchpickmeup move.

So, I pick her up.

She purrs and wriggles and then climbs onto my shoulders.  That's usually Gandalf's move, but ok.

So, I begin petting her and she insists on being petted at both ends, wrapping her tail around my face.  Hehe.  I do so, then open the curtain and sit down at the edge of the tub.  She eventually slinks into my lap and stretches out, purring loudly.  I oblige by scritching her and petting her.  I'm in no hurry.

Then, back up on my shoulders.  Except this time, she sits on her haunches right behind my neck so I have to crane my head forward and then she rests her upper body on top of my head.  Boy, did I wish I had a camera.  She starts to pretend to bite the towel on my head, first one side, then the other.  She then discovers that a bit of hair is peeking out from under my towel and starts "combing" it with her claws and teeth, careful not to scratch my neck.  When she's done, she "brrrs" and takes off, out of the bathroom.


I'm pretty sure that she wishes she liked water.  Sometimes she gets into the tub after I've taken a bath.  And before I've drained it.

Coyote with skinny wet legs after wandering in the bath tub.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Phishing goes mobile

I think everyone's gotten an email about how your bank account has been closed or how your PayPal account has been hacked or how your eBay account has had unauthorized usage.  We've been taught not to follow those links in our emails or provide any essential information because it's probably a hoax, and you would have been duped into giving scam artists all the information they need to bleed your bank account dry.

Well, today I get a phone call on my cell phone from a phone number that registers as 49 on the caller ID (how does anyone get around caller ID these days?).  I answer the phone, and get an automated message saying that my debit card has been inactivated and that I should push 1 to get it reactivated.  Uh...this is new.  I hesitate, unwilling to push 1, but thinking that the message might repeat.  Then I think, "of course it's not going to repeat, the recording sounded like it was pirated from maybe 10 other recorded messages and pasted together.  They were lucky to get it in English."  Of course, it also occurs to me that there's little I can do about a call without caller ID or anything else to pass on to the police.

So, I call my bank to see what they know about this.  "All of our agents are currently busy.  The wait is currently more than 10 minutes.  Please wait and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."  *boring music*  Waitwaitwait.  *boring music*

Well, crap, I'll look online.  I can do that while I listen to boring music.  Sure enough, this very phone call has been reported to various credit unions.  But not a single hit anywhere near the top of the Google search from a big bank.  I bank at a big bank.  Surely this can't be only a small bank issue.  Or maybe only the small banks (and the Better Business Bureau) care enough to put something online.  *hang up on big bank's boring music*

Or maybe individuals are actually targeted by their phone numbers and the scam artists have moved on to larger bank customers.  I certainly hope this call was random and not that Verizon's sold my phone number or some sales clerk slaving away at some thankless retail job isn't collecting phone numbers...  I must remember to be nice next time I shop at Macy's.

Moral of the story, NEVER blindly follow instructions from an unsolicited communication regarding your finances, regardless of how you were contacted.  And if you do press 1, for God's sake, don't give them your account or Social Security number!  Oh, and maybe it's time to switch to a small bank.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I've got cobwebs in my car.  Yeah, that's how much I drive it.  There are 3 or 4 strands of it connecting the steering wheel column to the dash.  As I'm driving to pick my farm share vegetables (community supported agriculture is great, by the way--I get my veggies from Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm, I'm pondering the webbing.  It's been there for several weeks, now, but I haven't seen the spider that made them.  So, I wonder if it's dead.  I think about how the spider had entered my car at some point, maybe when I had my door open, and thought "hey, nice place, I'll stick around" (spiders have low standards).  Then the spider begins to make a web, laying down some strands, checking out the new place, and discovering that it's desolate.  The door opens maybe twice a week, and never lets in bugs because the door is almost always opened indoors.  The spider is devastated and gives up on the web, knowing that it's just going to starve anyway.

I feel pretty bad for this spider as I'm driving along.  I feel a bit guilty for advertising my car as a great place to live, even though I probably wasn't even the one that let him in because he probably simply snuck in via the door frame because the door seals are going to hell.  But I'm a tad depressed anyway.

Then I see a mosquito buzzing around in my windshield.  And I feel a little less guilty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zoom Zoom!

I've been doing car research and even test drove some cars, lately.  No, I'm not getting a car any time soon--too many big bills, lately.  Plus, my car is still going strong.  I'm just getting the itch to put myself into more a feel for what I might get should my car croak.

Anyway, so I'm looking for a compact or subcompact.  It's a far cry from my full-sized 2001 giant-assed American Dodge Intrepid.  I love my Intrepid, but there are only so many times you can try to park that thing and scrape the crap out of it because it's too big and your parking spot in the garage is too small before you start thinking of reversing the size discrepancy.  Besides, I don't drive so much or haul so much crap that I really need a car that big.  And she's 10 full years old with only about 70k on her--she's not getting any more valuable for trade, and I'm just waiting for those miles to be worth diddly squat when something major breaks simply due to age.

So, we randomly go out test driving this last weekend.  That's kind of fun!  Well, mostly.  The first place we went to was a Ford dealership because I'm enamored of the Fiesta.  All they have on the lot is a manual transmission.  In grey.  Ok, but why in the HELL would you only keep one in stock.  In manual.  In grey?  I mean, the whole point of these things is that they are cute-as-hell in obnoxious green and fun-as-hell in Ford's new American (old European) automatic.  Sheesh.  And THEN, we get down to what I really want.  The salesman, up to this point, did all the right things.  Made eye contact with me instead of talking to my guy, asked me what I'm interested in instead of my guy, etc.  So we start talking about price points for an order-in.  Pretty much the same as if it had been on the lot (except who wants the one on the lot?  That's why it's still there.  Duh.)  Cool.  Features?  Oh, I pretty much want everything.  Top price is still pretty affordable.  Color?  Obnoxious green.  Or maybe yellow.  Anything but black.  I have a problem with black cars.  Since I can't see the contours on the body (not that it really applies to the itty bitty Fiesta, but pretty much all sedans, otherwise), I can't tell most black cars from the next.  The salesman replies...get this..."kind of like how all Asian people look alike.  Hehe.  Not that I'm racist."  Yeaahhhh.  Thankfully, the next Ford dealership not only had an automatic, but had one in obnoxious green!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security Part I

I'm a BzzAgent.  I've been a member of an online word of mouth website called BzzAgent for several years.  Basically, in return for creating word of mouth, I get to try stuff.  The latest stuff includes Trend Micro Titanium, a suite of computer security software that's designed to protect your computer from viruses, maximize your computer's performance, back up your essential files, and generally make your online experience safer.  As a BzzAgent, I get to try it out for a year.

First  Before I decided to try it out, I thought to myself "what's wrong with what I've got?"  That is, I had the free Windows Security Essentials on my computer.  I had started using it the moment I installed Windows 7 on my computer.  Well, maybe not the moment, but shortly thereafter.  Seemed to be working alright.  No bugs that I knew of.  But, hey, for nearly $60 a year ($80 for 3 computers), Titanium should be good, right?  At least better than free.  So, I did a bit of research on reviews.  Not so stellar.  It seems that the professionals that test these things gave Titanium great marks for ease of use, but dismal ones on the actual ability to keep viruses out.  Ooh.

Still, I figured that they were comparing paid subscription software to paid subscription software, so it wouldn't hurt to try it.  Besides, I'd have Microsoft Essentials to back it up, right?  Nope.  The first thing that it does when you install it is tell you that Microsoft Essentials (and I presume any other security software) has to go.  Erk.  Ooookaaayyyy.  I said I'd try it.

So, I install it.  It IS easy!  And it doesn't take up much room because, unlike older versions of the software (but like pretty much everyone else nowadays), it doesn't require that you download all the latest virus definitions.  It's all on "the cloouuuudddd."  I'm not really ok with keeping most important personal stuff on the cloud, but virus definitions are fine.

Once installed, I thought I'd check to see how dirty my computer is.  Start scan....whoah!  Results already?  Oh yeah, the reviews did give it high marks for being quick.  And it found...nothing.  Computer's clean.  Well, at least I know that Microsoft Essentials was doing its job.

Next, I thought I'd take advantage of the 10 gig of free backup space using the SafeSync program that comes with Titanium Maximum Security.  Documents folder.  Check.  Photos.  Check.  Music folder.  Check. and a half to wait.  Ok.  10 gigs is a lot of memory, and I don't have a screaming fast connection.  BUT!  10 gigs really isn't that much memory, and when I notice the message Titanium is giving me the next day, I realize I've managed to upload all of my documents folder, all of my photos folder, and only some of my music.  Hrm.  Well, it tells me that if I click on this message, I can get more space.  So, I click on the message, which doesn't bring me to getting more space, but brings me to the upload status.  Which is flashing between showing me how much of the listed files I've managed to upload and telling me that I've run out of room.  Oh!  There's a button on the bottom that looks like it might take me to where I might get more space.  Yup!  $50 for 20 more gigs?  Holy shit!  That's a lot of money for RENTING extra space.  Forget that.  I've got a Passport external hard drive.  I'll just back the rest of it up like I always do (when I remember).  Now, how do I get the message to keep popping up?  Click.  There.  Wait, no.  Click.  Good.  Gone.  Nope....  Click!  DAMMIT!!!  How do I get it to go away?  I finally outsmart it and shut the SafeSync program down.  By right clicking on the program window at the bottom of my screen because I couldn't find an option in the open window.  Grr.

Ok.  So, I've just installed it and it's irritated the crap out of me.  But since the SafeSync incident, it's been quietly running in the background.  No slowdowns and no obvious blips.  That's good. install the Mobile Security on my Android phone or not?  I'll think about it.  In the meanwhile, I'll see how it actually works and follow up in a few months.

In the meanwhile, feel free to try it at a discount.  Use the code "BZZ30" at or use this coupon at Best Buy to get $30 off.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Things I've learned about my cat

I have two cats, Gandalf and Coyote.    (Yes, he's grey.  They both are.)  They're brother and sister, about a year and a half old.  The boy cat is very sweet and a little bit dumb--and very expensive.  He has been the most problem prone cat I've ever had.  In the year that I've had him, he's been lame (we have no idea what he did), constipated all the way from the front to the back (again, we have no idea what he did), and had one bastard of a urinary tract problem, costing thousands of dollars.  It's a good thing we love him.

The urinary tract problem was so bad that he ended up having surgery to widen his urethra by removing extra bits (ouch!) and rerouting the exit.  For the last week and a half, the poor thing has had his butt shaved poodle-style, stitches closing up the old opening and holding the new one open (and, oddly, some extras to give him a "butt tuck" on one side), has had to learn to squat like a girl, and to keep him from picking the stitches out, has had to wear a cone collar.

What have I learned from him, then?

First, a cat can single-handedly rearrange your life.  Over the month he suffered from his urinary tract issues, we made, on average, 2 trips a week to the vet--over half of those trips were emergency vet trips.  That meant going to work later than usual, leaving work earlier than usual, staying up later than usual, and getting up earlier than usual.  One trip to the emergency vet had us coming home after 2 am.  And we wouldn't have done it any other way.

Second, a cat won't get a job, no matter how much they owe you.

Third, a cat that loves to groom himself goes through various stages of grieving when he can't groom himself.  I'm just as anxious for that collar to come off as he is.

Fourth, a cat with a collar shakes his head a lot.  At least this one does.  He shakes it so hard that he nearly knocks himself over.  I wondered if his neck was sore because of this, which lead me to learning number five.

Fifth, a cat with a sore neck loves to get massaged.  He nearly passes out when I massage his neck.  And he smiles.

Sixth, a cat that looks pathetic will see how much he can get away with.  "Mom, I'm sick.  I'm going to get up on the counter and get into your food.  But it's ok now because I'm sick."  AAAGH!  He's been a monster.  Plus, the collar makes him clumsy and he knocks more shit over than usual.

Seventh, a cat with a cone on its head discovers that the covers no longer touch his face when he gets under them.  Ever since he's been home, he's been sleeping under the covers with us.  It's cute.  Until you can't sleep because you can't move, or your afraid you'll roll over on him, or he decides he wants you to pet him (that cone hurts when he head butts you in the face), or you want some privacy.

Eighth, a kind of dumb cat isn't as dumb as he pretends to be.  See point six.  Also, since he can't groom himself, he's taken to making us do it.  He licks our fingers and then bumps them with his nose to get us to pet his face and ears--like when he does it himself.  User.  Still, his own spit is the only allowable cleaner.  He won't let me use the cat grooming wipes I bought specifically for this purpose.

Finally, a cat, no matter how much they cost, is worth it.

Let the randomness begin.

This being my first post on my first real blog, let me begin by introducing myself.  Kind of.  Nevermind.  You can read about me in the "About Ghost and Dragon" section on the left side of this blog.  Hopefully, my blog will be more interesting.

I intend this blog to be about what I find interesting in any given day.  The post will probably be based on something I read, tried, experienced or heard that day.  It will probably be somewhat geeky.  I'll include commentary on the news, reviews on products and/or books, or just some words on a particular experience.  You probably won't read about Lady Gaga here.