Monday, July 24, 2006

A bit of weirdness

Of great importance to my happiness is having a good book to read, and something good to listen to in the car. The last is really the most important -- I have a long drive to work in the morning, and a long drive home, and if I have a good book to listen to, I look forward to the drive rather than dreading it.

I'm pretty picky about what I listen to. I find it's easier to read a book that might not be quite right -- you can skip over boring passages or icky ones, or do the speed reading thing where you just read down the middle of the page, but you can't really do that with an audio book. I quite often enjoy listening to the audio version of a book I've read -- for me, it's a much more intense experience -- I get a lot more out of an audio book because I find I listen to every word.

The last couple of books I listened to were Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult, and A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore. I had read, and enjoyed A Dirty Job, but I still enjoyed listening to it, maybe more so because I had read it. It's about a man--a secondhand store owner--whose wife dies shortly after giving birth to his daughter, and he has to get used to being a dad, a single dad, and at the same time, he starts having these weird experiences involving people dropping dead in front of him, and weird glowing objects in his store, and giant ravens . . .

Turns out, he's Death. Well, not the Death, as someone points out, but a Death -- or "Death Merchant." He and (he finds out) other secondhand dealers are charged with the responsibility of keeping the disembodied souls of the newly departed (those glowing objects) safe until their next owners claim them. It's a wonderful story, poignant and funny and suspenseful, but full of that Christopher Moore weirdness, of course. Well, yeah, "Death Merchants." And a used record dealer who is also a Death Merchant named Minty Fresh. (His mother named him after toothpaste.) Some really wonderful characters in this book.

The Jodi Picoult book, Second Glance, is a ghost story with several love stories woven through it. A man finds that he can't forgive himself for his fianceé's death -- she died in an automobile wreck and he couldn't save her -- so he tries to kill himself and join her in death, but he can't seem to accomplish it. In his quest for death, he joins up with some ghost hunters (he quickly tires of them and moves on), and finds that he may just have an uncanny ability to find them himself.

I loved this book. I had actually bought the book itself months ago because it sounded so intriguing, but I just couldn't get into it. But once I started listening to it, I could heardly bear to stop.

Right now I'm listening to Charlaine Harris' Definitely Dead, her latest Sookie Stackhouse mystery and, in my opinion, the best by far. Sookie, a smalltown waitress who happens to be telepathic, is so marvelously rendered that it seems impossible that she isn't really real. In this book, she's dating a were-tiger who sounds pretty irresistible -- Sookie always finds it easier to date "supes" (supernaturals) because she can't easily read their minds. Who would want to date a woman who knew your every thought? And vice versa.

Suspense, romance, mystery, thrills, vampires, weres, what's not to like?

Obviously, my taste in books is a little weird. My current book to read, as opposed to listen to, is Lawrence Block's Hit Parade, the latest book about John Keller, the dog loving, stamp collecting killer-for-hire. It's true, I find it hard to read anything without at least a little bit of weirdness.

Ooh, and I just read something else wonderful -- Curse of the Jade Dragon, by Yasmine Galenorn. This is part of a series about a woman who owns a tea shop and is considered the "town witch," although she isn't really anything of the sort -- she just has a close connection to the spirit world that she inherited from her grandmother. She comes into possession of a cursed object (the dragon, obviously), and things start going very, very wrong. It's a cozy, so everything turns out all right in the end, of course, but I thought it was extremely well written.

Okay, so I go for weeks with nothing, then three entries in one day . . . I guess I just have to get started.

Off to bed.

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In my garden

I went out this morning and took pictures of the backyard -- I was so proud of getting everything planted, I guess. And since we got a little rain last week, everything is looking green and pretty. I took these pictures at about 8:30 in the morning--this one of the birdbath, especially, shows how shady it is in the backyard. No wonder we can't grow grass. I've got a lot of ivy back there, and other kinds of groundcover; also a lot of herbs (mostly peppermint) and creeping charlie, which is a weed, but we won't speak of that.

Here's the little birdhouse that I made when I was a kid. I probably didn't really make it, just painted it, but each of us had one. It was blue at some point, but all the paint has worn off it by now. I probably should paint it again, but I kind of like the weathered look.

Flowers: a geranium and a gerbera daisy, a hosta in the front, and "live forever" in the ground next to the little stone girl that my mother-in-law gave me one year for Christmas. She gave me the birdbath, too. Behind the flowers is a big pot of anise hyssop.

This is the other side of the porch, with another gerbera daisy plant (though no flowers on this one at the moment), a pot of violets, a pot of chives in front, a small bush in the black pot (spirea? I can't remember), and the other plants that I brought from my mother's and have no idea what they are.

From another angle:

The shepherd's crook holds an old tin birdfeeder filled with niger seed for the finches. A close-up showing the sweet cast iron bird on top:

While I was downloading the pictures from the camera, I found some of the cats that I hadn't taken off. Here's one of Pye taking a bath in my chair, with the throw draped over it. Dinah likes to lie in my chair with the cover over her, and Pye will invariably lie on top of her. In this case, though, Dinah had already left when Pye appropriated the chair. I thought the green coverlet made a nice backdrop for her.

And a couple of the kitties in the front window:

I just loved the light in this one:

Sharon commented in the previous entry that she'd like to see pictures of the hatrack and the sock I'm knitting. Here's the hatrack:

As I mentioned, it was a $1.60 purchase from the Hobby Lobby summer clearance aisle. The "hooks" are pink ceramic flowers:

I'm still knitting the same Opal Petticoat sock I've been carrying around for months:

I wasn't happy with the heel that I first knit, so I ended up ripping it out and re-knitting it. Actually, I think I ripped it out twice. I usually make a perfect heel, but it had been awhile since I'd made one, and I wasn't happy with the attempt. This one isn't perfect, but it's not bad.

The sock is languishing on my Vera Bradley tote. I bought it with some birthday money last fall, and took a long time selecting the pattern, which is "Emily." Of course -- this goes without saying -- once I'd picked the pattern I loved, they almost immediately discontinued it.

Since then, I've bought a few matching pieces on eBay when they've been affordable--one was a wonderful laptop bag. I read somewhere that it isn't really a good idea to carry a laptop in a bag that looks like a laptop bag, and when I saw this quilted one, I got it. It's the perfect travel bag, with room for the laptop, and room for magazines or books--I couldn't really fit anything else in my regular laptop bag, so I always end up carrying it plus something else. Anyway, I'll enjoy it, and it matches my other stuff.

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Change of plans

When I went out to visit my parents several weeks ago, I came home with a flat of plants for the backyard--a couple of moonflower plants, some ornamental grass, chives, and several plants that I don't now remember what they were. It's been so dreadfully hot here, and I've been so busy, that I hadn't got around to planting them. I had put them on the back porch and just kept watering them in their temporary pots, and feeling guilty.

The last couple of days it's finally cooled off a little (it's been in the 80's rather than in the 100's), so I got up a little early on Sunday morning and went out and planted everything. It may be too late for some of them--the striped ornamental grass looks a little sad--but I think it will probably perk up in a few days. My backyard is getting a little jungly--I've never really been able to keep a manicured lawn back there because there are so many trees that the grass won't grow very well--but I kind of like it that way. Or at least I tell myself that I do . . .

In addition to planting the flowers, I filled the birdfeeders, put up a hat rack (a $1.60 bargain shelf find at Hobby Lobby), did laundry, vacuumed, did about eight hours of work (I needed a bit of a headstart for work today), read a book (Free Gift With Purchase, by Jean Godfrey-June), knitted a few rows on my current sock, painted my toenails, and bought new underwear. So all-in-all, a pretty productive weekend.

For the last week or so, the big lighted signs on the highway have been warning me that starting today the highway that I take to work is going to be closed. Everyone was talking about it at work last week, and my dad called last night to remind me -- he'd seen it on the news.

I get on I-35 a mile or so from my house, and from there it's a straight shot all the way downtown, until I zip off a couple of blocks from the office. Apparently it's now going to be closed for FIVE MONTHS. Now, I think that the place where it's closed is actually slightly past where I normally get off, so it's theoretically possible that I could just proceed as normal and everything would be fine. But if everyone else thinks the same thing, it could be a pretty ugly logjam right around there.

So we had maps out at work last week, and were plotting various other ways to get to work. I know there are other ways to go, but none as easy as the one I take--I don't have to think about it, I just turn on the radio and listen to my audio book, and I don't have to make any turns or anything the whole way. Well, maybe it's good to shake things up a bit.

I guess I'd better go find out.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006


Talk about your freakouts! Man. I can't think of the last time I felt like I did tonight.

I've been working on a website for a client; the site is supposed to be handed over tomorrow. It's written in .jsp, which I don't really know, but I can fake it for the main part of the site. There were some backend apps, though, that I couldn't write, and an admin tool for updating the info. We hired a programmer to do those parts freelance, and he's been working nights and weekends to get it finished for us, since he also has a day job.

Tonight he asked me if I could do something on the site, and then he took off to run an errand. I made my change, and then was uploading the file to the server. I went to the website to refresh the page and see how my change looked, but it wasn't there. I refreshed a couple of times, then checked the server, and discovered that I had uploaded the wrong file, and had accidentally overwritten something else.

And when I went back to the site, the admin tool was totally broken.

Bob said he didn't think he'd ever heard me use such bad language, or so many in a row, or for so long a period. I couldn't sit still; I got up and paced, and pulled my hair, and Pyewacket ran up and bit my ankles. For some reason, it upsets her when I'm upset -- she's done it before. Bob had to put her in the bathroom, because I couldn't settle down. I just thought, oh my God, oh my God, what am I going to do?? I knew he could fix it, but would he have to stay up all night to do it?

I was just frantic.

I tried to sit down and knit, but my hands were shaking too bad.

So I just sat in front of the computer and waited for him to come back. When he did, it turned out that he did have a backup, but more importantly, I hadn't done anything at all. The file I had overwritten was unimportant, an old template. The site was broken because of a bug that just coincidentally happened at the same time that I was uploading my file. When Bob came in while I was talking to the programmer, he said I looked demented. I said I was trying to decide if I was going to cry from relief.

What an adrenaline rush. My God.

And on top of a week that's been more or less all frenzy, all the time.

I'm going to bed now.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dental, and other, adventures

I don't think I mentioned that Dinah had to have dental surgery, too, this week. I had taken her in the weekend before last for her bi-monthly anal gland expression, and while she was there, the vet looked at her teeth and said that she really needed to have something done. Every time I take them in, he says they need to have their teeth cleaned, but I just say, yeah, yeah, I know, and don't do anything about it. For one thing, it's tremendously expensive, because they have to put them under to do it.

Usually both of the cats let him mess with them and, while it doesn't make them happy, of course, they don't put up a fuss. But this time, when he just barely touched her gum, she struggled and jerked, and would have bitten him if his assistant hadn't a good hold on her. So I said, okay, let's do it, and made an appointment to take her in this morning.

And maybe I was feeling sympathetic because of my own tooth pain.

So I took her in early this morning and picked her up tonight, and wrote a check in an amount that Bob said I shouldn't divulge, because people would think we were insane (or that he was, I guess) to pay so much for a medical procedure on a cat. I disagree, though. I think people (or at least I do) would think he was compassionate. I do believe that when you take an animal into your home, you take responsibility for them, and you don't get rid of them when they become inconvenient or expensive (within reason, of course).

It seemed like this would be a good thing to do for her, and I think it will make her feel better. One of the signs of painful teeth, he said, was finding that the cat had vomited food that obviously hadn't been digested or chewed at all, and we've been seeing that, so I do think we had some concrete evidence that she needed it.

In any event, it's done, and hopefully she'll feel better.

Yesterday just wasn't a good day. I was thinking about having to get up early and get Dinah to the vet by 7:00 (I always hate to get up early), and thinking about having to leave work early to pick her up, and having to pay so much money. And then I called CompUSA to ask them about my computer; I'd waited until Wednesday to call, giving them a few days after the promised week, and taking into account the holiday.

It turned out that it hadn't even been looked at. It had been there 11 days. Turns out that the Mac technician had been on vacation. I don't have anything against someone taking vacation; everyone needs time off. What I object to is that no one bothered to tell me. And, when I called, the technician tried a hard sell on me to buy an external drive to back up my data on, without even looking at the computer or having any idea whether it would be necessary.

I realize that it's my responsibility to back up my data, not theirs, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. He said that if I wanted a data back-up, I would have to purchase an 80 GB drive, which would be $100, plus a case for it, at $35. When I asked him if he couldn't just back it up to a drive that they had, and then restore it, he said yes, that that would be $70, and that they really recommend buying the external drive because then the customer (that would be me), has the ability to do their own backups in the future.

It felt like he was "teaching me a lesson," and I didn't like that. I also didn't like the fact that he said he would have to do the back-up first, before he did anything else, and that basically he wouldn't touch it unless I told him that I would either purchase the backup, or give him the okay to erase everything on the computer. When I took it in, I talked to the department manager, who said that it might be a simple hardware issue, in which case the necessity of doing an OS reinstall wouldn't come up. He said he would put a note on the paperwork that if a reinstall became necessary, the tech would call me and I could decide whether I wanted to pay for a backup.

Anyway, I just didn't like the attitude of the guy, and I wasn't pleased with them sitting on the repair for nearly two weeks, so after I thought about it, I called them back and said to please not do anything, that I was going to come in and pick it up and take it somewhere else (the Apple store). The only reason I didn't take it there originally was that CompUSA was closer. A bad decision, I now see, two weeks later.

When I went to the vet's office to pick up Dinah tonight, the vet came out and talked to me about her surgery and what we need to do for her, and we got to talking about dentistry in general, my recent dental experience, and his. He said that he had recently had a porcelain filling to replace an old amalgam one, and he said that the porcelain was thicker, and it changed his bite, causing his jaw to hurt.

When he said that, a lightbulb went on over my head. My tooth/mouth has been feeling fine when I get up in the morning, and I feel pretty good all day, but by the time I'm heading home, my jaw is aching. I just realized that it must be because I'm trying not to chew on the "bad" side; I'm favoring it, and obviously that means that I'm holding my jaw differently, thus pain at the end of the day. I guess I'll just have to live with it for a few more days until I feel comfortable putting pressure on the spot where the tooth used to be, but at least now it makes sense.

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