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|Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017|
|Adventures in Plumbing
Last Wednesday I was at the house, supervising the cleanup crew. Somehow they actually finished
that day but didn't bother to tell Warren or me until Thursday morning.
The insurance company put pressure on me to get a plumber out ASAP, so I spent half the day looking for a plumber. Oh what fun....
After getting treated like garbage by Plumber #1, I tried another company that was highly rated on both Yelp and Angie's List. Plumber #2 came by yesterday morning, looked in the crawlspace, decided they couldn't do the job because the space was too small, and left. The only bright spot was they didn't charge me for the visit.
I called Plumber #3. It turns out this was the company that redid the plumbing in Warren's house a few years ago. This was also the company the insurance people recommended. The guy came over, looked at things, and then broke everything down into what had to be done. The total: $7700. Yeouch. At least this
company was willing to let me pay it in three installments, giving me time to figure out where the rest of the money is going to come from.
This means I now get to decide whether I want to take a loan or a hardship withdrawal from my Lenovo 401k. I would normally prefer the withdrawal, but there's a little thingie in the laws that may make it better for me to take a long-term loan. Specifically, when you turn 59.5 years old, you can start sucking money out of your 401k with no penalties. I hit 59.5 years in 366 days
. If I take out a two year loan, I'll have payments under $200/month. I can handle that. Once I hit the one year mark, if I decide I would rather not pay back the rest of the loan, I can do so without incurring a penalty. This would be A Major Win.
I also realized it'd be best for me to wait till mid-month to take out that loan because I'll have a larger pool of cash I can withdraw. It may only be a couple of hundred dollars more, but it'd be nice to have it. I figure it'll pay off the rest of the plumbing and
a few bills I need to pay off.
Yesterday was Lady's 15th birthday. She got to eat "people food" all day. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, turkey Canadian bacon, grated cheddar, and spinach. Dinner was chorizo, with half an apple for dessert. This also had the advantage of stretching out her dog food supply one more day. I need to get her more food, but the pet store across the street didn't carry what I normally give her. The next closest thing there was overpriced. I have more food for her at home (I normally have a bag on "standby"), but I need to replace the "standby" bag anyway.
Meanwhile, I need to get my butt in gear soon. The hotel is doing its annual carpet shampooing, and since I thought I'd be checking out today, we set things up so I'd have it done at noon today. This means both Lady and I need to be Out Of The Room. It also means Lady might be going to my Toastmasters meeting tomorrow (that
building allows dogs).
The plumber also said it's going to take till at least Thursday to get done, and very nicely asked me to "clear a path to the master shower." Cleaning without water sucks. dimakoi
was nice enough to help me, making it go much faster than it would had it bee Just Me. I brought her back for free dinner at the hotel afterwards.
The extra days of plumbing means I've got a few more "fun filled" days of hotel stay in my immediate future. I keep telling myself "Free Breakfast! Free Breakfast! Free Breakfast!" My morning routine has radically changed. I crack my eyes open, and if it's early enough before 9am, I throw on whatever I wore the night before, walk across the hotel property to where they serve breakfast, then make my "course" through the buffet, starting with coffee, staking out a table, then getting everything else. Afterwards I go back to the room, sleep a bit, then do whatever I'm going to do with the day. Right now I'm obviously typing this instead of sleeping, but since I took half a day off Thursday, I felt I need to get an extra early start.
Still, I am really sleepy. Warren was here late last night futzing around on my computer. I couldn't rest because I charge my iPhone and iPad off that computer. Today I need to explain to him that when he's done, he needs to put the computer back on my night stand so I can charge my devices (I did have a USB charger, but it recently broke). This meant I had to go to breakfast without my iPhone, which had me unnerved. No, I'm not "addicted" to it. It's just that ever since someone broke into my dorm room in NYC while I was in bed, I have not felt comfortable unless I had a phone within arm's reach (as I did that day in NYC, where I was able to call for help).
Anyhow, I'm rambling. Sometimes writing in LJ helps me "warm up" for work, but today I'm just spewing stream-of-consciousness because I'm too groggy to think straight. I'd normally take a nap, but again, I have to be ready to go in less than two hours. Current Mood: groggy
|Tuesday, November 24th, 2015|
|Greetings from the Upper Berth
I am situated in my pull-down upper berth in our sleeper car. It is really tiny and downright cramped in here, but Amtrak has ways of dealing with that kind of thing.
The train is currently in the Emeryville station. dimakoi
says it's supposed to have arrived in Emeryville around two hours ago, which means we're two hours behind. I guess that's par for the course.
Next to my bed is a sort of mesh basket-thing that functions as a night table. I have my watch, phone, and iPad in it, and I'll likely put the computer there when I'm ready to sleep.
This is definitely an adventure. They are much more self-service than airplanes, but on the other hand, you don't have the security theatre of the airports and you do
have things like a shower and room to walk around.
One of my friends suggested I go to the club car and get something alcoholic to drink, but there's enough movement that I think I'd get really nauseous if I did. I suspect a lower floor room would be more stable, but dimakoi
wanted an upper floor room because all of the between-car traveling is done on the upper floor.
I am amazed at how quiet these mini-rooms are, especially considering their (lack of) size. We aren't hearing anyone else in the hall, and hopefully they're not hearing us.
Anyhow, it's about time for me to wind down and sleep. They start serving breakfast at 6:30am(!). Current Mood: contemplative
Later today I am going on my first-ever overnight train trip.dimakoi
and I are taking a sleeper car from San Jose to Albany, OR. We'll be spending Thanksgiving weekend with her mother and sister.
As I prepare for this trip, I have started realizing how ill-equipped California living has made me for spending time in colder climates (ones that have real
seasons). We're expecting weather around 48F (around 4C) during the day and 32F (0C) at night. Silicon Valley, by comparison, is around 72F (22C) during the day and around 59F (15C) at night. We only have two "seasons" -- wet and dry.
I haven't been to a true winter climate in many years. Even New Jersey in November wasn't all that frigid. I am trying to locate the boots, long underwear, and winter gloves I haven't worn in years (in some cases, decades
). I've written up my packing list.
I will miss my annual Indian food pilgrimage, but at least we'll be going out for dinner, which means I don't have to eat turkey. (I've already checked the menu of where we'll be eating.) I won't be able to take Lady because Amtrak doesn't allow dogs (sigh), but I'll likely be reinforcing the training of dimakoi
's sister's standard poodle (which, thankfully is not
named "Peppy"). I especially want lots of layers because I expect to be doing lots of dog walking (something I don't get to do with She Who Does Not Like To Be Walked).
I will also be doing some cooking, much to the relief of dimakoi
's sister, who was afraid she'd be spending all weekend cooking for us. I don't usually get to cook for an "audience," so I am very much looking forward to this.
There isn't a lot to do in Lebanon, OR, but I figure I'm fried enough that I won't care.
Now if I could just calm down enough to sleep....
|Monday, September 14th, 2015|
Last night I went to services. I was looking forward to going this morning, but I had too much paperwork to fill out for my podiatrist appointment this afternoon.
What am I talking about? A week and a half ago, one of my toes suddenly hurt a lot and was purple and swollen. My internist put me on a regimen of Keflex and said "If it isn't better by Tuesday, you need to see a podiatrist," and gave me a referral.
The Keflex got rid of most of the infection, but the tip of the toe was still red and hurt like all getout, so I called the podiatrist. The first opening was today, right after services.
After filling out four pages of questions about my medical history, I journeyed out to the doctor. His assistant took a bunch of x-rays of my feet. I was also asked to bring whatever shoes I normally wear. The good news:
- The podiatrist said, "The problem is definitely not your shoes!"
- He also said, "You are definitely not going to lose your toe."
The culprit was an ingrown toenail. He said the typical treatment is an in-office surgical procedure. He said he could do it right away, but I could not go back to work. If I couldn't abide by that, he said I could schedule it for another day.
Given that I wasn't working today, this was a no-brainer. Of course
I had the procedure done today! He didn't think I would be able to get back into my shoes, but I wore my one-size-too-big Reebok sneakers Just In Case, and I had no problem. I was sent home with instructions and a few Vicodins. Oh fun.
At least I already have a bed wedge in place for my sore, heavily bandaged foot, and I can work from my bed tomorrow, so I'm all set.
|Sunday, September 13th, 2015|
I've been doing research on mattresses. Whenever I'm buying something major (and even when buying something minor), I do research. Lots
of research. Here's what I've learned:( More than you've ever wanted to know about mattresses...Collapse )
Mattresses come in several types:
- inner spring
There aren't many "plain inner spring" mattresses around, and they aren't as good as they used to be.
- memory foam
Folks either love or hate the stuff. I fall into the latter category.
Most of today's mattresses seem to fall into this category, even those that are billed as "inner spring." The ones with a little bit of padding are mostly padded with memory foam. I find I can deal with a small amount of memory foam, as long as I don't sink into the mattress.
We're not talking about those inflatable "guest room" mattresses; it's the euphemism for "Sleep Number" beds. I was favorably impressed with the Sleep Number bed, but it costs around three times as much as a hybrid.
These tend to mostly be futon mattresses. Like memory foam, folks either love or hate 'em.
- water Not so popular any more, waterbeds are heavy, and every time you or someone else moves, the entire bed rocks. If you're prone to motion sickness (as I am), a waterbed is A Bad Idea.
- futon Folks either love or hate futons. I find them uncomfortable, and I don't need to constantly fold and unfold my bed.
Since I've settled on something with an inner spring, I've learned a lot more about the category:
- Today's mattresses are designed not to be flipped.
My current mattress is more than 25 years old. It lasted as long as it did because I regularly flipped and rotated it. The current generation of mattresses have built-in obsolescence. My research says that a mattress is likely to last more than ten years, but there's no way I'll get 20 good years out of a mattress again ever.
- Mattress prices are way higher than they were in 1987.
I expected inflation, but instead the prices have tripled since then! No longer can you get away with shelling out $450 and getting the top-of-the-line mattress.
- Comparison shopping is difficult.
I've decided on a high-end Sealy Posturepedic Plus. Some mattress companies, such as Sealy, have different names at different stores for what is essentially the same mattress. The only way you can tell whether you're comparing apples to apples, so to speak, is by coil count, padding type, and firmness level. I've found two sites helpful for some of this:I especially like Sleep Like the Dead's "Mattresses and Sex Comparison" for its entertainment value.
- Mattress warranties are at best good for ten years.
The manufacturer will support the thing for ten years without the warranty being prorated, but the policy on how you'd "return" the warrantied mattress varies from store to store. For example, Costco's return policy is much more liberal than Sleep Train's, but Sleep Train will pick up the stuff, whereas Costco expects you to bring it in.
- Double-check everything each salesperson tells you.
Some salespeople are honest; some are sleazy. If the salesperson tries to goad you away from the mattress you want onto one that doesn't work for you, write them off. If a salesperson blatantly lies to your face, such as telling you their "store brand" mattress is "equivalent" to the mattress you want (which they don't carry or don't have on the floor), write them off. If a salesperson won't let you test out a mattress or boxspring in the showroom, don't buy from them.
- If you find The Right Mattress, consider layaway if you can't afford to buy it right away.
Mattress models change every year. The one you liked today might not be available in a few months, so if you find The Right Mattress, it's a worthwhile investment.
- You're going to be sleeping on this thing for the next decade or so.
The money you spend on a better mattress will return in the forms of better health, better alertness, less back pain, and fewer visits to doctors, chiropractors, and massage therapists.
At this point I've come down to two mattresses in what may or may not be two different stores. The guy at the newer Sleep Train in Milpitas told me that his store had been "Mattress Discounters," but that the chain had been bought by Sleep Train. The Mountain View Mattress Discounters store still bears the name "Mattress Discounters," so I want to visit both the Mountain View "Mattress Discounters" and "Sleep Train" stores to see whether this was true just for Milpitas or whether the whole "Mattress Discounters" chain is disappearing. (If the latter, and if the "Mattress Discounters" store has a "going out of business" sale, I might want to take advantage of it.)
As you can see, it's confusing, and I want to make The Right Decision.
|Saturday, March 28th, 2015|
I love researching my family tree. I was very close to all four of my grandparents, so for me it's a case of looking up stuff about people I adored. Every once in a while I check Ancestry.com to see if there's anything new.
Yesterday it felt like I hit the motherlode. Specifically, they now have Pennsylvania Death Certificates online from 1906 through the end of 1963. Since most of my mother's family and a few of Dad's relatives lived and died in PA, this was a treasure trove.
I now have maiden names for my great-grandparents on my mother's side. Unfortunately, trying to tell which
"John" and "Anna" Petro were my great-great grandparents is dicey at best, especially since they were already married when they came over from Austria-Hungary (now Slovakia).
A little over a year ago I exchanged email with someone who had my entire maternal grandfather's family tree, in humungous detail, in his tree. I couldn't tell whether he was related to me through my Grandpop's mother or father because I saw both last names in his tree. After more examination last night, I realized why: My Grandpop and this guy's grandmother were double-cousins
! His great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's older brother, and his great-grandmother was my great-grandfather's younger sister. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com doesn't handle double-cousins properly. Instead of showing the family trees double-linking, it shows the married siblings of his parents separately with separate branches.
What will be interesting is to see when he uploads more digitized photos of his family. I am very curious now to see whether his mother's family looks a lot like my mother's family.
Now I get to anxiously wait till they upload more PA death certificates. I am eagerly waiting for 1966, when my great-uncle Sam died, so I can see my Egyptian great-grandmother's name in writing. They didn't just have the data; they had the actual images, so I could verify that I was indeed looking at the right certificates. One of the fields is for the person "reporting" the death -- usually a family member -- and in every case I saw the name of someone I recognized. Needless to say, I'll be spending time this weekend further filling out family trees! W00t!!!
They also have more phone directories uploaded. Looking at one from 1933, I can see that whenever my Mom's maternal grandfather gave info for it, all his kids (and his brother-in-law) were still living under his roof. I know that later in 1933 a couple of them had moved in with Mom and her parents. Mom was especially close to them, and I suspect that had something to do with it. Back then, everyone
who might be living in a household was listed, along with their occupation, whether they were a renter or a homeowner, and in some cases their marital status. In some cases they even listed the name of a widow's late husband!
|Wednesday, March 12th, 2014|
|Ripped off by Bank of America
I have been a Bank of America customer since 1981. I have had an Alaska Airlines Debit Card through them for several years.
A couple of weeks ago I tried to use my card at Myrtle's Lodge, owned by Fenton's in Oakland, right after I ate there with my fiancé and his cousin. My charge was declined by the bank even though the money was in the account. When I checked my account online, it showed the two declined charges as having gone through -- and since I saw the denials, I knew it wasn't the cashier's doing.
The next day I spoke on the phone with someone and explained that yes, those were legitimate charge attempts by me and no, they should not be processed because you denied them.
Monday I tried to get gas at Costco. My ATM/Visa didn't work. WTF????? I checked and yes, the money was there.
I called Bank of America yesterday, found out that some idiot had mistakenly closed my account and that they had sent me a "new" card, and that it was not an Alaska Airlines Debit Card because the Alaska Airlines program is going away at the end of May. I demanded that the old card be reinstated (I never asked for it to be closed; I have had the card the whole time!!!) and that the new card be closed. After several escalations, I was told it was enabled and that I would be able to continue accruing miles through the end of May.
Today I decided to test this by making a small charge. It got denied. This time I tried an online chat so I'd have a paper trail.
After several escalations, the person told me that my "new" card (that I never asked for and wanted turned off) would not
accrue Alaska Airlines miles, "apologized" for the screwup, and gave me a useless number at Alaska Airlines to call. My chat window then hung (I presume the guy at the other end didn't want to escalate it and did this on purpose) so I couldn't reply.
I am furious. I have been ripped off, and I am ready to take my business elsewhere unless someone at Bank of America
fixes this and soon.
|Wednesday, November 27th, 2013|
|Meyer Lemon Microwaved Mug Cake recipe
It's Sugar-Free! It's Gluten-Free! It's Kosher! It's Vegetarian!
Better yet, it comes together in less than five minutes!
Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Microwaved Mug Cake
.75 c almond flour or almond meal
4 T sugar substitute equivalent (I used six packets of Splenda)
Zest and juice of one Meyer Lemon
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 T unsalted butter, melted (if you use salted butter, obviously omit the pinch of salt)
1 large egg, lightly beaten or 1/4 c "egg product"
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk the almond flour, sugar substitute, Meyer Lemon zest, baking powder, and salt.
Add the Meyer Lemon juice, melted butter, and egg. Stir until well combined.
Divide the batter between two microwave-safe mugs, and microwave each separately for 1:20.
If desired, top with whipped cream. Current Mood: accomplished
|Sunday, November 24th, 2013|
|That Nasty-Ass Thanksgiving Banquet
I was watching the so-called "Food Network Live" event this morning, only to find out that it wasn't "live" but had been pre-taped the day before. The special is usually entertaining to watch because it's one of the few times you get to see some of these food experts interacting in the same room in real time. This year's main four were especially entertaining because Giada DeLaurentiis and Ina Garten come to the table (figuratively and literally) from very different places than Bobby Flay and Alton Brown (who could turn a piece of lint into something entertaining). After a while, though, I found the level of enthusiasm over the Thanksgiving food really annoying, and I had to turn it off.
Every year we Americans get bombarded by all kinds of media pushing upon us this particular banquet of weird foods that we don't eat the rest of the year. The menu usually contains something along the lines of:
- roasted turkey
- stuffing or "dressing" (the same thing, but not stuck inside the bird)
- cranberry sauce
- string bean casserole
- mashed potatoes
- sweet potato casserole
- dinner rolls
- pumpkin pie
I never understood why we had to eat this food on this day. First of all, every piece of information we have suggests that the first Thanksgiving dinner had none
of these at the table. Second, if these foods were all so wonderful, we'd eat them all the time.
The only one of the "dinner" foods that I like is the stuffing, but that is not
a meal. I am okay with pumpkin pie, but it's not my favorite food. I have never been a big fan of pie crust and would happily eat pie fillings without it. When I was little I loathed
pie because it involved this fatty, starchy, flavorless stuff. If someone had put streusel crumbs on top instead of pie crust underneath, I'd have eaten the stuff in a heartbeat. I have always loathed turkey. It has a nasty taste that chicken doesn't have. It's not the size of the bird, either; capon doesn't taste nasty. I will only eat turkey if my taste buds can't tell that it's turkey. I'll eat turkey bologna (the stuff with all the nasty-ass chemicals in it), for example, because it tastes like regular bologna but without the indigestion or the calories. (I can't stand the Whole Foods version because it tastes like turkey with bologna flavoring added.)
Then there are all the foods that mess with my reactive hypoglycemia. I never liked sweet potato casserole. For years I thought I didn't like sweet potatoes. Nope. It's all the sugar and marshmallows that's added to the potatoes that I dislike. Sweet potatoes border on cloyingly sweet to my tastebuds in the first place. Adding marhsmallows is...disgusting. I've never been big on marhsmallows by themselves; it's like eating a mixture of flour-covered gelatin and sugar. I never liked the mouth-feel of Jell-o in the first place. Adding sugar to something that's already sweet is at best, redundant and at worst, painful.
Cranberry sauce is one of the more pointless items on the table. It has three things going against it:
- It's sickeningly sweet.
- It's bitter.
- It has the consistency of Jell-o or jelly.
Why on earth would someone want to eat a foul-tasting piece of fowl with bitter jelly?
Then there's the string bean casserole. How many ways can one dish land me in the emergency room? In this case, at least two:
- I'm allergic to string beans/green beans. At best I get really nauseous. At worst I barf. Big time.
- I am even more allergic to mushrooms. That Cream of Mushroom soup will land me in the emergency room in no time flat. While it would get me out of the rest of the meal, hospitals aren't my idea of a fun place to hang out.
Then there's the mashed potatoes. I loathe the gooey, pasty texture of mashed potatoes. I like potatoes. I don't like eating paste. I like my potatoes to have texture
. I like to bite into them. When Mom would swap out the mashed potatoes for twice-baked, that would add one item I could eat besides stuffing. Granted, stuffing and potatoes do not make a meal, but at least the twice-baked ones had skins.
The stuffing itself could even pose a problem. Mom used to put ground-up mushrooms in her stuffing. When my mushroom allergy manifested itself, I couldn't even eat that
until she finally started making a batch without the damned fungi. I couldn't taste the difference without the mushrooms anyway.
As for the dinner rolls, they were nothing to get excited about. I've never been a big bread eater. Mom made bread nearly every day anyway, and the stuff she made was way more exciting than dinner rolls. Again, bread and butter by themselves are no meal -- especially white bread.
Then there's the pumpkin pie. I have nothing against pumpkin. I like pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and so forth. I like pumpkin pie filling. I could do without the crust. When I was little I wouldn't eat pie at all because I disliked the crust so much. I'm still not fond of pie crust, but I'll eat it. (I feel the same way about burgers.)
My mother used to make and host The Family Dinner. She'd start preparations of the "appetizers" (the foods folks ingested all day before the official "dinner" started), side dishes, and desserts for days in advance. These were okay. Mom could tell I was "growing up" when I started asserting my own culinary viewpoint on some of those, such as the time she and I made different versions of guacamole and let my aunt and cousins "vote" on which was better (mine won; Mom's contained mayonnaise
!). My grandmom (Mom's mother) was sensitive enough to my dislike of the foods at the table that she started making at least one "alternative" dish a year. Sometimes it was lasagna. Sometimes it was spanakopita. At least once it was quiche. I was always grateful for that dish because it made the actual meal palatable for me.
Every year, the extended family would trek for miles to Mom's house for this. For me, that
was the part that made this dinner tolerable. Yes, I don't just love
my relatives, I like
them. I tried to "like" football because I noticed that if you were watching football, you didn't have to do any of the "housework." As much as I loathe housework, I strongly preferred (and still do) conversing with people I cared about to yelling at a bunch of strangers doing stuff I don't care about. My brother somehow managed to disappear so he wouldn't have to watch football or hang out with us. The football watchers interacted with the TV instead of each other.
Eventually it came time to set the tables. Yes, tables
. I did
family, didn't I? The typical crowd was anywhere from 20-40 people. As the dinners got bigger, Mom started putting the food in one place and the seating in another. When the "kids" started having kids, we had to merge the "kids" table with the "grownup" table. The "good" china and "good" silverware were used. After the main course, the non-football-watchers cleared the table. The part that forever tainted this nasty-ass banquet for me came next: Cleanup.
Mom would fill the sink with what I can only describe as "hot, soapy yick
." The "yick" was a mixture of the hot water, all the dirty dishes and flatware (all of which had to be washed by hand
), and the assorted detritus that came off them. As if being subjected to a meal full of foods I mostly either couldn't eat (such as the string bean casserole) or couldn't stand (everything but the stuffing) wasn't bad enough, I had to deal with The Slimy Tub of Yick. One or both of my grandmothers would take pity on me and take over, and then Mom would snarl at me to go "push them away" and go back to it, and we'd usually "strike a compromise" where they washed and I dried.
Grandmom passed away when I was 21. Nanny (my paternal grandmother) passed away when I was 31. The month after Nanny died, Mom was diagnosed with cancer two days before Thanksgiving and was in no emotional shape to do The Dinner, so Dad took the entire extended family out to dinner. We all got stuck eating The Nasty-Ass Thanksgiving Food at its most traditional (that meant I had stuffing for dinner), but at least there was no Slimy Tub of Yick afterwards, so it was an even trade-off.
The year after that, Dad was dying and couldn't eat. It was really hard watching him watch everyone else eat when he was stuck with his NG tube and ice chips. He wanted to be with the rest of us, so he hung out at the table anyway. When it came time to deal with the Slimy Tub of Yick, there was no one to spell me, but my Aunt Charlotte came over to help dry the dishes. My only "respite" was when my dog whined in a way that made it obvious to everyone that I "had" to "take [her] outside." Good Doggie.
The year after that there was no Dad and there were no grandmothers. Mom had passed off parts of the dinner to other relatives, which meant that the food was more "traditional." There was a little bit of non-mushroomed stuffing for me. There was dessert, but since my hypoglycemia was not fully under control, I had to forego most of it. I had to clean up, but there was nobody to relieve me from the Slimy Tub of Yick. Even Fuzzball couldn't help me because Mom realized that all I had to do was open the back door, shove her out, and close it. The day after Thanksgiving was Dad's (gravestone) unveiling, which meant that there were fewer relatives at the dinner because they were instead coming down for that. We had all this food I loathed sitting around the house. I was so miserable that visit that I swore I wouldn't put myself through that again -- and I haven't.
Until the last few years, I've worked broadcasting jobs on Thanksgiving, and then celebrated pilgrims and Indians by leading a pilgrimage to an Indian buffet. I like
it that way. I get to do what I
like to do, I enable other folks to do what they
like to do, I get to eat foods I actually like
, and there's no Slimy Tub of Yick. I've put in for a couple of broadcasting jobs this year, but it's probably too late this year for me to get anything even for Christmas. I would have applied sooner, but given my ankle and the surgeries, I wanted to be sure I was in good enough shape to work before applying for it. Oh well. Current Mood: cynical
|Tuesday, November 19th, 2013|
|Chocolate Craving: Solved
The newest culinary "fad" seems to be microwaved cupcakes -- as in microwaving a cake in a mug. I was craving something warm and chocolatey this evening (so much that even unsweetened cocoa powder tasted good to me!), so I experimented with this and came up with the following recipe:
Sugar-Free Microwaved Chocolate Cup Cake
3 T cocoa powder
4 T Bisquick (baking mix)
4 T (or equivalent) Splenda
2 T butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T milk
In a large mug, combine the cocoa powder, Bisquick, and Splenda.
Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, and milk; mix with a fork until most of the lumps are out (it's okay to have a few lumps; they'll "bake" out).
Microwave for 2-3 minutes, checking after 2 minutes. The cake will be a little bit moist and fudgey in the middle.
Eat and enjoy! Current Mood: satisfied
|Thursday, September 5th, 2013|
|How do we encourage fandom?
Every year it comes up: Why aren't we seeing more younger fen at Worldcon (or any of the many other regional general SF cons)?
I remember seeing panels titled "The Greying of Fandom" back when I first got into fandom. It seemed like practically all
my friends were into fandom. Many of my co-workers were also fannish. As the years have gone by, the folks I befriended when I started attending cons have remained friends and have grown older with me. Some of them have died; others have GAFIAted. It seems like cons were bigger years ago; that's because they were
. A typical Westercon used to attract anywhere from 1800 to 2300 people. Nowadays we're lucky if we go above 700 (this year's did). Worldcon attendance is also down.
What isn't clear, however, is whether we're attracting fewer younger folks, fewer folks in general, folks are losing interest, or we're alienating potential repeat members. I've seen evidence of all of these. The question is why
are SF con membership counts dwindling? I'm going to throw out some hypotheses for debate based on my observations.
- We're attracting fewer younger folks.
Part of this is due to changes in tastes amongst the younger generation. I look at my niece as the kind of typical fannish-oriented young adult we want to attract. She already attends media cons and anime cons. She likes to read, she likes to cosplay, she likes the Elizabethan era (she's working Pennsylvania Rennfaire this summer), she likes video games, and she likes SF TV shows and movies. What I don't know is what would get her to check out a general SF con. As far as I can tell, her local friends don't hit general SF cons, either. When she's done with Rennfaire, I intend to ask her what she and her friends look for in a con just as a random sampling.
- We're attracting fewer folks in general.
There are multiple reasons for this:
- The economy sucks. Many folks are either unemployed or underemployed. When it's a choice between paying rent or going to a con, rent generally wins.
- School starts earlier. This is more true for Worldcon than other cons, but most fen value education more than con attendance. There are a few who can balance the two, but when going to a con means missing school, parents are less likely to come if they can't take their kids. If one parents goes, the other has to stay home.
- Cons cost more than they used to. Facilities cost more. Hotels cost more. So does college tuition.
Perhaps what we need is a Student/hardship membership rate that's half the regular rate. To be eligible, someone would have to present a valid student ID or some proof of lack of income at the time of purchase. So what if it's a student ID that's going to have expired by the time the con rolls around? Students have bigger college loans, too. If they can start attending when they're part of the working world, they're more likely to be hooked. Yes, there will probably be forgeries. So be it. The same folks that might forge a student ID are the ones who would forge a con ID badge, so at least we'd be getting some money from them.
- Folks are getting ill and dying. Death happens. It sucks. I can think of many folks I used to see at cons in my age bracket who are either dead or not up to attending. There's not much we can do about this beyond encouraging our fellow fen to be more active and eat healthier. Even with a "perfect" lifestyle, some folks get sick and die. My father was the only one in our family who was always "normal" weight and who exercised regularly. When he was my age, he was dying from colon cancer.
- Folks are losing interest.
To some extent, this is a normal part of human growth. Sometimes what interests us at one age no longer interests us at another age. I have friends who have mastered musical instruments and then put them down, never to touch them again. There are more than one areas of fandom, so it's not like you have to keep doing the same thing over and over. On the other hand, sometimes folks feel like outsiders because they haven't kept up with reading SF or watching SF TV or movies. We need to make sure that these folks know that they're still welcome. These are the ones we want to not lose. At the same time, we don't want to seem "evangelistic" when it comes to selling a con to someone, because that can be just as off-putting. Some folks don't go to some cons because the fannish activities they enjoy aren't encouraged. Someone who likes to filk isn't going to want to go to a con that doesn't have a place for filking, just as someone who likes to game won't want to go to a con that doesn't have gaming. If someone is looking for regency dancing and doesn't find it because it's not there, they might not bother coming back.
- We're alienating potential repeat members. We need to find ways to make new members feel like "one of the gang from the moment we see them, especially young adults. This year at the BayCon hiss-and-purr session we heard someone complaining about "young punks crashing our party." As the discussion went on, it turned out the "young punks" were legitimate, paying BayCon members, well-behaved, and just dressed in a way that somehow offended the person complaining. hazelchaz was sitting next to me and rephrased it to me. "He's complaining that some young, well-mannered, legitimate BayCon attendees dressed like punks were attending his party. If most of the folks are that way, no wonder young fen don't feel welcome!" He was right.
|Friday, December 7th, 2012|
IBM just emailed me an offer letter!!!
[insert virtual happy dance here]
Now all I have to do is find out when I start!
|Tuesday, November 13th, 2012|
|Knee-ouch (or "cooking in invalid mode")
My right leg has been getting stronger since I started physical therapy, but my knee has been getting bigger
and has been hurting a lot during the week. Last Friday I saw my orthopedist, and at the recommendation of my physical therapists, I got cortisone injections into the bad knee.
When injecting, my doctor found that there was very little fluid. Instead, I've got really badly inflamed tissue, or as he put it, "Those must be pretty bad contusions." Unfortunately, it's supposed to take around a week before the injection fully helps. Meanwhile, I am in massive pain. It is sapping my energy. I am doing my physical therapy leg exercises despite this, and I am somehow managing to get work done despite this (being able to work while lying in bed with my knee propped up helps). Still, it's frustrating. I'm told that if I don't show major improvement soon, the next step might be surgery. This scares the heck out of me.
I am at the stage where I'm not only bugged by the pain, but also by my inability to do things that I enjoy doing, such as cooking and sewing. I tried making pancakes a couple of weekends ago, and my knee never recovered from all the standing. I'm trying to come up with creative ways to cook, and my success has been limited. Basically, if I have to do too much prep or too much nonstop cooking, I'm hosed. What I have
made, just to give you an idea of my creativity level:
- Collard greens
Take pre-cut, pre-washed bag of collard greens. Slightly open the bag in which they came, and nuke for 5 minutes. Add around 1/4 cup of bacon bits, a few dashes of sea salt, and a drop or two of Dave's Insanity hot sauce. Mix well, and nuke again for two minutes. Mix again and enjoy.
- Taro in coconut milk
Take pre-peeled, vacuum-packed taro root. Nuke for around 10 minutes or until softened. Cut into chunks (1/2" to 1"), and mix in a microwave-safe dish with a can of reduced-fat coconut milk and 1/2 cup of Splenda (you could use sugar, but I don't dare). Cover and nuke again for 5-10 minutes. Makes a tasty, nourishing dessert or snack that can be eaten hot or cold. (This would be much better if I cut the taro when raw and boiled it in the coconut milk, but that's more prep than I'm up to doing...sigh.)
- Corn on the cob
Take fresh, unhusked cob of corn. Put into microwave oven and nuke for around 6 minutes. Peel off husk and silk (it comes off easily), add butter or margarine and salt, and enjoy.
- Peanut butter cup toast
Toast bread. Top with peanut butter, around 1-2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 packet of Splenda. Swirl while still warm.
- English muffin pizzas
Toast a split/sliced English muffin. Squirt on pizza sauce, and sprinkle on pre-grated mozzarella and parmesan, romano, or asiago. Sprinkle on oregano and some crushed pepper. Nuke till the cheese melts.
- Cannoli/Blintz filling
To ricotta or cottage cheese, add vanilla bean paste and Splenda. For cannoli filling, add a little milk to the ricotta to make it creamier; to the cottage cheese, add cinnamon.
Coming up when I am able to tolerate straight sitting for longer: Cheater's Cannoli. Current Mood: determined
|Sunday, September 30th, 2012|
|Remembering Why I Have a Dog
Thursday night I couldn't sleep because I was crying from missing Lady so much.
Last night I decided that I'd try picking her up from Warren's and see how it went over a weekend. I am now able to bend enough to pick up her food and water bowls and wee-wee pads, which was the minimum I needed to be able to do to take care of her.
This morning I had an uncontrollable smile on my face as I reached over and petted the soft, fluffy mound of cottony, white doggie fur that is Lady.
We're having a heat wave, so this evening I pulled out a frozen doggie treat I had stashed away for such an occasion and put it on a paper plate by her dog food. What does she do? Takes the frozen bone off the plate and carries it into my bed
. I tried taking her frozen prize (a bone-shaped icy block of whatever) back to its spot on the plate by her food, and she immediately took it back onto the bed, this
time cuddling up next to me, putting it on my pillow. I was laughing hysterically by this time. As soon as she stopped licking it, I tossed it off the bed and onto some papers on the floor. This
time she took the hint.
She is now happily going at her frozen bone-thing, and I'm in bed with some iced decaf and an ice pack on my bad knee. All is good at home. Current Mood: amused
|Monday, September 24th, 2012|
|Kitchen cupboard meme
: Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, underline the ones you use at least once a month, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of.
I wonder how many pasta machines
, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers
, sandwich makers, pastry brushes
, cheese boards, cheese knives
, crepe makers, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, pie funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers
, martini glasses, tea strainers
, bamboo steamers
, pizza stones, coffee grinders
, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers
, slow cookers
, spaetzle makers
, cookie presses
, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers
, fondue sets, healthy-grills
, home smokers, tempura sets, tortilla presses
, electric whisks, cherry stoners, sugar thermometers, food processors
, stand mixers
, mincers, bacon presses, bacon slicers, mouli mills, cake testers
, gratin dishes, apple corers
, mango stoners
and sets of kebab skewers languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.
In my case I use nearly all the devices I've purchased. The breadmaker came from Mom's house when she was cleaning it out years ago. I haven't used my bamboo steamer mostly because I haven't been able to find
it since my move (it and the breadmaker are somewhere in my storage room, along with my yogurt maker...sigh).
Right now I'm not doing much cooking because I can't stand long enough to do anything real and because my dishwasher is broken (which means I have to stand to clean up after I cook). I enjoy cooking and even have a few devices that I use often enough that aren't on this list, such as a pizza maker with a built-in stone (it makes wonderful 12" pizzas and piadines), a stick blender, a separate coffee grinder for spices, and a full-size salad spinner (great for cleaning greens). Current Mood: amused
|Thursday, April 5th, 2012|
|Internet feed fixed and more good news
Last night I set up tethering on my iPhone so I could get work done while I had to wait for the guy from Comcast to fix things. It was faster and more reliable than Google's free wifi. It's also expensive, so I will see about canceling it when I'm sure I won't need it.
The Comcast repair guy showed up a little after 2pm; apparently someone doing the dispatching decided I wasn't there and had told him not to come for my noon-2pm time slot, but this got resolved when I called at 1:55pm going "Where's my technician?"
As required, he had to check all my in-house connectors and then the feed coming into the house. As I had already figured out, there was no Internet signal coming in. I don't know how he figured it out, but three houses down
someone had put a hardware filter on the line that blocked the Internet signal. He of course removed it, and my Internet service came back. What neither of us could figure out is why
someone put a filter on the main feed rather than the feed going to the house that wasn't supposed to get Internet access.
Before that I had a follow-up appointment with my gynecologist. ( Results behind the cut-tag.Collapse ) Current Mood: relieved
|Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012|
|Comcast sucketh again
I have no cable modem signal coming into my house. Comcast thinks it's my cable modem, but I tried plugging another cable modem in and it still got no signal.
I told Comcast support that there was no cable signal coming into my house. They were nice, but they didn't seem to be able to figure out that there was no signal coming in.
This means that until my modem situation is fixed, I cannot get onto the Internet from home, save for a few posts from my iPhone.
Posted via LiveJournal.app. Current Mood: annoyed
|Saturday, November 26th, 2011|
I currently have a "dumb" phone that's on its last legs. I'm looking at upgrading to either an iPhone 4S or a Samsung Galaxy. My service provider is AT&T, and yes, I'm way overdue for my upgrade. Here's what I care about:
- Ease of use.
I expect there to be a learning curve, especially since I'll no longer be able to dial by feel. Which is easier to use as a phone, including the speaker feature?
- Searching while talking.
Can I look up stuff on my smartphone while I'm talking on it? If so, how awkward is it?
- PDA functionality.
Let me be blunt: I Miss My Palm Zire 72. I want to be able to use my smartphone as a calendar, alarm clock with customized alarms, and as a list-tracker. Do either have apps that can do this? My iPod Touch's alarm clock is way too soft to wake me up; I've heard the iPhone is way better this way, though. I have no experience with the Android platform.
- Available apps.
What's out there for each platform? I know I can run apps on an iPhone that'll save me money (which will help offset the monthly data fee). Do these exist for the Android?
Can I upgrade the hardware or software at all? The iPhone appears to be software upgradeable but not hardware upgradeable, while the Galaxy appears to be the other way around. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.
- Battery life.
How do they compare?
I'm going to have to pay for a measured service plan no matter how I roll it, so how easy is it to use either one as a MiFi hotspot? Yes, this is very important to me.
- "Regret factor."
Will I still feel good about this phone a year from now? I like buying tech gear that's going to last me a while and keep me happy, which means I tend to go for the top of the line.
- Other stuff.
Since I don't have a smartphone, I don't know what I'm missing or what to look for beyond what I've mentioned.
So...which is better, and why? Current Mood: curious
|Saturday, November 12th, 2011|
I just learned about the sudden death of keristor
a few hours ago. I am in shock.
I first met Chris Croughton at my first full Worldcon, Magicon, in Orlando in '91. I enjoyed hanging with him at cons where we were both in attendance. He was friendly, fun, and someone I always looked forward to seeing. I also chatted quite a bit with him online (the two of us both being tech-geeks and around the same age). I remember how he beamed when he accepted his Filk Hall of Fame award when he was at FKO with the N'Early Music Consort. He later told me about how hard it was not to "burst out" to anyone about it.
I enjoyed his cheerfulness, his knowledge, and most of all, his sense of humor.
Damn. Current Mood: sad
|Wednesday, October 12th, 2011|
|Lots of little things have been going on
In a nutshell:
- Paul Metz's memorial, followed by a double birthday party.
Can we say "emotional see-saw?" I offered to speak (I knew him a long time, got to watch him grow up, and I'm a "professional voice"). I was fried after that. dimakoi and I carpooled, shlepping from one affair to the other. We got out of the memorial later than planned because we kept running into folks we hadn't seen in ages and who we missed. When we finally got to the party, I was too tired to change into something more appropriate for the party (Hawaiian themed), even with Hawaiian shirts lying in front of me. I needed the party after the memorial, but I was frazzled.
- Steve Jobs died.
If I said I was surprised by this, I'd be lying through my teeth. It was a case of deja vu for me because my father lost his fight with cancer within a month of being told he had to sell his dental practice. Like Steve Jobs, Dad was a workaholic. Dad was also 56 when he died.
As for Steve, I didn't really know him, but I met him on a couple of occasions and even got to chat with him briefly. He was very nice to me, although I suspected it was partly because I was one of the few reporters who wasn't asking a question that showed a lack of understanding about computers. (For the record, I asked about the pronunciation of his name; back then, you'd hear it as both "johbs" and "jahbs," and I cared enough to get it right.)
- I made plane and car rental arrangements to go to New Jersey next month.
I'm visiting my relatives for the first time in 3 1/2 years. Am I nervous? A little. Am I looking forward to it? Yeah. When my cousins and I get together, we kind of fall into place as if we hadn't been apart. I'm going to my cousin Sophie's Bat Mitzvah, and as usual, I've been searching for the right fabric. At the Fabric Outlet in San Francisco I found a knit ultrasuede in a smoky blue and pale pink that's sort of smudged and swirled almost like a tie-dye. It's color-appropriate for my palette and for the time of year (November). Better yet, it was 40% off! I wanted to make something with a little stretch because I expect to gain weight before the affair. I'll have been at my mother's house (aka The House Of Food) for two days, and Mom will likely want to feed me 3 1/2 years of home cooking in less than a week. Mom is starting to fill her two refrigerators and full-sized freezer with stuff she knows I'll want to consume.
Btw, I'm flying into Philadelphia, so if any of you want me to shlep a care package from the Silicon Valley to your kid going to school out there (I'm not naming names, but you know who you are), please let me know. I'm taking two large suitcases, and I plan on filling one with stuff that isn't coming back with me.
- My energy is slowly coming back.
Once the clostridium difficile infection left my body, it was as if someone stopped sucking out my energy with a hypodermic needle. This Is Good. Sometimes I am exhausted after work, but I kick ass when I'm on the clock.
- My kitchen appliances are all dying at once.
Before I spend my work money on anything fun, I need a new refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. If I had the $$$ I'd get a dual-fuel range, but I don't, so I'm going with the cheapest electric non-flat-top stove I can stand. I've been researching this, but any additional input is welcomed.
Compared to some of the stuff other folks I know are going through (esp. my fiancé), my life has been pleasantly dull for a change. Current Mood: tired