Sunday, December 30, 2007

The last few days

I have been taking a bit of a blogging break during the meat of the Christmas holiday festivities, so I apologize for the last of posts.

While visiting my family in Tifton, Lynda, the girls and I enjoyed several things that I will run through in rapid succession, thereby completely defeating the purpose of even writing about it in the first place. (Trust me that all of this deserves more thoughtful prose than I am putting forth.)
  1. I enjoyed helping Muleskinner work on his latest woodworking project/historical reclamation. He is repairing (basically rebuilding) an old mirror frame that is supposed to belong to our great grandmother. I did a lot of watching while he drilled, glued, clamped, talked. I enjoyed it immensely, reminding myself of the times when we were both younger and I watched him build model airplanes and rockets. He glued, cut, decaled, and I listened and watched.
  2. I hung out a bit with my other siblings and their children, but I especially enjoyed watching my kids play and talk with their cousins. I wish they got to interact with them more than once or twice a year, but it is what it is. They all got along well and I hope the family ties were strengthened somewhat.
  3. Sarah and Grace got to experience the joys of picking up and cracking pecans from Pappaw's yard. They found that they like the taste more than they thought they would . . . and my hopes that I might be able to start including pecans in the weekend pancakes increased.
  4. We enjoyed the antics of two dogs in and amongst the fifteen other family members.
  5. We ate many great meals fixed by Mom and by MA. Thanks for keeping our stomachs full!
  6. I played golf with Dad, MSqured, and EB, thereby justifying the hassle of finding a spot for the clubs in the back of the van. Surprisingly, I played pretty well considering I rarely play.
  7. Sarah and Grace got slightly more skilled on their bikes, thanks to 1) the bike-friendly street and church parking lot across from MA's home (our secondary base and the site of my family's nightly bunk-down) and 2) the bike-wise mechanical skill of EB. This also justified the hassle of finding room in the van for the transportation of bikes.
  8. On the last night, we all had a weenie roast in the back yard, complete with smores for desert and banjo and fiddle music courtesy of Muleskinner. Even though EB had a scooter mishap and injured his hand, it was (until then?) a nice night for all.
  9. Most of all, we enjoyed being together marvelling at the 70/80 degree temperatures, bright sunshine, and everything good about the family at holidays.

I am taking advantage of Dad's timely posting of pictures to give you a brief snapshot of many of the things and places that I've glanced over here. I'll add more thoughts of the last few days of travel and holiday fun in a later post.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I take it all back?

It's so much easier to travel than it is to host.

If your travelling, you've just got to show up and participate.

If you're hosting, you're cooking food for everyone, sleeping on floors, cleaning things up, buying extra food at the grocery store, keeping track of the time and the food schedule, keeping the peace.

If you're travelling, you're just eating the food, sleeping in someone else's nice bed, bringing the mess with you, NOT spending food on your own groceries.

THANKS to all of our hosts in our southern sojourn.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas time is here

I found out some disturbing stuff on Sunday night when we arrived in my hometown of Tifton, GA. Turns out the Ray Coniff album that I had written about recently and even featured (ironically) on my Christmas 2007 mix was NOT the craptacular singing group that my family made fun of when I was a youth.

It turns out, that group was "Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians." I hang my head in shame for getting it wrong. That makes me question so much of my childhood. . .


We've been in Tifton for about two days now. Mostly just hanging around. Muleskinner and I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" last night, a Christmas tradition that I am fairly certain is accurate. (No, I am sure that that much is true.)

We spent a quick visit in Waycross spending time with Lynda's brother's family. I greatly enjoyed some homemade Brunswick Stew from AT, and I scored the recipe as well. I'll post it for anyone who would like to give it a try. I might even bring some in to work or to the next party that I attend.

Last night on Christmas Eve, we attended the local Episcopal church for a Visit from St. Nicholas and Christmas Eve service. It turned out to be an odd convergence of our recent religious past. We found that the Episcopal church was currently without a permanent priest and the supply priest from Albany was none other than the priest that ran the church Lynda and I attended when in college over in Statesboro, and he was the priest that (along with Lynda's dad) officiated at our wedding. Add to that the fact that, since it was Christmas Eve and a "children's service" St. Nicholas came by to give a brief historical sermon about the religious underpinnings of Santa Claus. That might not be that unusual, except that the first church that Lynda and I attended when we moved to Ohio was named St. Nicholas of Myra, the very same historical figure that was visiting the children that night. We had a good time catching up with Fr. RD and Z, his wife. They were both important figures in our young adult lives and it was great to see them again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

On the Road Again

Greetings from Blue Ridge, Georgia!

We drove from C-bus down to Blue Ridge, Georgia yesterday afternoon/evening. Lynda and I worked the morning hours and left a bit after lunch time. We had a bit of a struggle getting the suitcases, stuffed animals, girls bicycles, my golf clubs, Graces' new Baby Alive, some Christmas presents, snacks, drinks, DVDs, and books and activity workbooks in the van, but we found room for it all plus the all-important iPod. So, we were definitely entertained.

(I pack like Christopher Columbus--minimum needed to fit in a small space. Lynda packs like NASA--multiple redundancies and backups. I imagine that Columbus thought to himself: "I don't care how many cities are going to be named after me, the Santa Maria is pretty damned small and I don't want to be tripping on that extra barrel of salted cod all the way across the Atlantic!" Whereas Lynda thinks, "What if the the oxygen scrubbers go down? We'll need an extra filter, no, better make that TWO filters and the housing and some panty hose and a vacuum pump in case we need to construct a third scrubber if the two extra fail." Case in point--I packed four DVDs for the kids; Lynda added six more.)

The drive went well and the van came through like a champ again. It really is comfortable and I find it a very accommodating vehicle for interstate driving. I recommend it to everyone with the propensity to carry lots of stuff and people around with them when they hit the road.

I'm trying to remember the most interesting part of the 10-plus hour drive, and you know, my sleepy brain just isn't reminding me of anything. I knew I should have been taking notes as we went. As it is, this entry isn't worth much since it is lacking in the satisfying details that make all useful travel journals worth writing about. I mean, no one would have read Hemingway's travel books if he described it something like:

"We left that morning and made an easy journey from home to our destination. Nothing of any importance happened, really."

Boring as that is, it captures the Interstate travelling experience pretty well. The real fun doesn't occur until you swing off the exit ramps and hit the state highways. Take last night for instance. Driving east in northern Georgia doesn't lend itself to lots of four-lane highways, and the part of the trip where you have to pay the most attention is the part of the trip where you are the most tired. Nothing unusual did happen, but while we twisted and turned our way through the roads that take you up and down the Appalachian foothills between Dalton and Chatsworth, you do have to slow yourself down and pay attention. The fog thickened, the girls woke up (and Grace threatened to get car sick), and I worried about deer.

I found myself trying to remember the name of some strange Bigfoot-like creature that my siblings and I would joke about while we drove similar N. Georgia roads when camping as kids. It was something with skunk in the name, but I couldn't remember the rest--skunkfox, skunkbear, skunkwolf? None of those are right and I'm not giving you enough context to really understand what I'm talking about. I'll consult with MSquared, Muleskinner, and MA to see if they can remember.

Until next entry . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas doin's

I will never be a successful, recognized, known blogger for the simple fact that I don't have the stamina to maintain the expected blogging lifestyle.

To be a good blogger that lots of people flock to, you've got to keep churning out the content, day in and day out, day after day, thought after thought, item after item. It's got to be tiring, don't you think?

Take me for instance.

This is the time of year where I might actually have stuff going on, events and parties to go to, people outside of my immediate circle off wife and children that I could interact with, have a beer with, find out something interest. You know, generate a little dialogue and create some content.

And, in fact, I did do just that last night. The family went over to a friend's house in our old neck of the woods on the west side and we had the annual Christmas meal and Ornament Exchange. It's always a good time, especially when we start stealing ornaments from each other. Lynda and I always think it's a successful evening when we come away with another snowman ornament for our snowman themed tree. (The one illustrated above is not the one we got this year.) Plus, the various participants in this party are our old church friends and godparents for Sarah and Grace, so they are getting presents from all of them (Christmas #1).

But Christmas #1 can only mean one thing . . . the annual invasion of plastic, cardboard, and other detritus that is guaranteed to make Surly Burb irritable and cause his blood pressure to rise. I thought about it during the drive home in the car, the collection of boxes, tissue paper, twisty things, molded plastic, etc. that would clutter up the house and make things look frightful.

I was distracted from these depressing thoughts once when we turned into our neighborhood and I started paying attention to the decorative lights all around. We don't have lots of lights up, even in our most expansive years (which this is not). The last several years, we have had the snowman tree (with white lights) in the front room visible through the front windows of the house. Out front in the yard, we usually put some icicle lights around the porch area and maybe some net lighting in the small bushes around the tree in the front yard. That's it, but I would actually prefer to add some icicle lights to the eves, creating that snow effect. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much not allowed by Lynda to get up on a ladder and attempt to hand stuff like that, for fear of falling and dying (which would tend to put a damper on the holidays). And this year, the nets lights quit working so, we have even less lights than normal--and compared to a few of our neighbors, we've got nothing.

The point is, I wish we had a bit more in the way of decorations, but what do you get without becoming trashy? And what about buying new lights to replace the ones that blinked out since last year? I guess I could look into (for next year) the new-style LED Christmas lights, but those things are kind of freaky. They emit a strange, alien-like glow with a halo around them that just doesn't say Christmas. As other bloggers have said, in ten years, we won't blink an eye when confronted with the LED lights hard glow. But right now we still see the old electric bulb lights with a fondness for the cold warmth that says tradition.

Once we got home from the Party (with a new snowman), we got the kids to bed and I got started wrapping presents. We are leaving for the Christmas trip to Georgia on Friday, so we were going to have Christmas #2 here at the house on Thursday afternoon. But we hadn't wrapped anything up--it was all sitting in the basement. After a few hours of wrapping while listening to podcasts, the gifts were suitably festive and placed under the tree. "Santa's" gifts were also wrapped but were going to stay hidden.

This morning the girls immediately saw the placed gifts and were excited. But they knew that Santa wasn't coming until later. So, no opening of presents occurred this morning. When we all got home from work and had eaten dinner tonight, Lynda and I realized the flaw in our plans. If Santa was coming tonight (Wednesday night once the kids were asleep) how could the girls wake up on Thursday, see the additional Santa presents, and then get ready for school as if nothing had occurred?

So, Christmas #2 became Christmas #2a: The Intimate Family Opening. The girls opened and played with the items that we had purchased for them and Lynda and I opened out gifts from each other. (More on THAT below.)

By allowing this tonight, we of course also allowed that tomorrow morning would be Christmas #2b: The Santa Experience. Tomorrow morning, the girls get to opening a few more gifts and exclaim in wonder at the nibbled carrots, eaten cookies, and drunken (?) milk.

Frankly, that is one of the serious problems with traveling to see family for Christmas. By the time we arrive in Georgia, our kids will have experienced 2.5, almost 3 Christmas events. When they get to Lynda's parents home near Ellijay, they'll have Christmas #3. When we drive to Lynda's brother's place in Waycross for the day, it'll be Christmas #4. When we settle in my hometown for several days we'll have Christmas #5. It's frankly a bit ridiculous and it simultaneously reinforces the notion that Christmas is all about gifts while diluting the specialness of those gifts. One option is to stay here for Christmas Day and travel later, but that would only cut out 0.5 Christmas Events. We could, alternatively, stay here throughout the Christmas season, but that's tantamount to crazy talk and would guarantee that we would see none of my family at all during Christmas, since they simply don't travel here. (But I'm being peevish. Sorry.)

Now, back to Christmas #2a. I got Lynda to items--both sort of practical things. The first was a cookbook and the second was a replacement bag for her use when transporting papers and book from the office to home. (She had completely worn out the last one she had.) But the real story here is the cookbook.

I was meaning to replace the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that we've had for many, many years and was so well-used that the binding had cracked and pages were falling out. When I went to the bookstore with Sarah to buy the new one, I could not remember the name of the book, so I told the clerk I was looking for the one with the red and white checkerboard cover. They acted as if they immediately knew what I was looking for and pointed me to The Joy of Cooking. It was a classic; that much I knew, but it didn't have the cover that I remembered in my head. Oh well, I thought, it's a new edition after all. Covers are changed. We bought it and I wrapped it up and put it under the tree.

Tonight, Lynda opened it and was very glad to receive a new cookbook. She's ready to get rid of the beaten-up, old one. While the girls were playing with new playdoh, I began flipping through The Joy of Cooking, convinced still that this was, indeed, the same cookbook that I had set out to find. To convince myself, I flipped to the Meat section, to check out the meatloaf recipe that we've used many times before. I was satisfied by what I found and just kept on flipping. Sure, I found some strange stuff here and there was was a bit odd, but I reassured myself that it was simply recipes we'd never wanted/needed to try before.

Cooking brains isn't that unusual. Just the other day I was telling coworkers that I'd actually smelled animal brains heated up with a laboratory probe once, and it smelled surprisingly good. I'm not saying I'd eat the stuff or even know how to procure the items in question but it wasn't too bad.

And then I hit on this page:

Suddenly, this was looking less like a cookbook and more like a survival guide written by Bear Grylls. If I ever find myself in need of knowing how to skin a rabbit, I hope I have this cookbook handy. But, it's not just the rabbit, which is a legitimate source of meat that, while a bit unusual, isn't out of the question. It's the illustration on the recto page (that's right page to you) that made me begin to doubt my original bookstore purchase.

I don't EVER recall the old cookbook showing you the proper way to skin a squirrel (!!), but I do appreciate the handy tip showing how a nice sturdy booted foot on the tail helps shed the tree rat of its skin.

So, yeah, I bought the wrong cookbook, something I have since confirmed by locating the original, dog-eared Better Homes and Gardens version. I guess I can take The Joy of Cooking back, but I sure hate to give up such nice blog fodder. Who knows what I might discover on the next page? And imagine what might happen if I started cooking some of this stuff? THOSE would be interesting posts indeed.

Christmas #2 has been interesting so far.

Bring on Christmases #s 3-5!!

Sarah's Beautiful Books

Sarah has a blog . . . have I told you that?

She wanted to create one a few months ago and I showed her how to set something up. I swear I didn't push for it and I don't pester her to write on it.

(You can see from this link that she doesn't go on it excessively, which I think is a good thing.)

She does the typing, with the exception of 1) the "Enchanted" movie review and 2) the most recent post, "Winter Wonderland"--which was originally a handwritten story that includes some illustrations that I may scan in later. I felt it was too long for her to type in alone.

Anyway, I've placed a link to it in my own list of sites in the right sidebar. If she places anything especially interesting over there, I'll probably mention it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Trees are deadly

Not since J.R.R. Tolkien, or Canadian power trio Rush, have trees been seen as anything but leaky oxygen factories.

Environmentalists love them, sometimes chaining themselves to them in solidarity.

But did you know that trees are speculated by some to be stone cold killers?

Some say it's true.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Here they come a-caroling

Tonight we went to church for the Christmas children's "pageant." I put that in quotation marks because this is not the typical manger play. In what I feel was a good move, the organizer decided to simplify things by just getting the kids to learn some traditional religious carols and we all sang together, then had cookies and cocoa.

One additional nice touch was that in between each carol, the kids read little historical vignettes about when the carol was first written or the circumstance behind the writing. Sarah got to read one of the parts. I think she did a great job. Though the quality of my camera-produced video isn't very good, you can also see Grace singing along on the right side of the stage (Stage Left is, I think the technical term?). She got to carry a lantern in, which she was very excited about.

I'll apologize in advance for the singing that you'll probably pick up. I was trying to sing quietly, but we parents wanted to participate in solidarity with the kids--especiall since they were trying to sing from memory and we had printed words.

(The kids were wearing hats and gloves not because the heat wasn't working, but because we were trying to mimicking carolers walking around at night.)

Collecting up the random bits

I've had several different things on my mind lately--not of them particularly important things mind you, just things.

Amazon bought J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard. It doesn't seem that there are plans to publish the book for mass sales, but at least Amazon is providing a webpage that shows views of the book itself and gives some brief reviews of the myths within. There are a great many comments from many visitors, and while I'm a Rowling/Potter fan, I agree that sometimes the Rowling hoopla can seem to be a bit too much. The Soetheby's video message from Rowling to "the owner" is kind of creepy in it fetishism of the book--the guy stroking it with his gloves hands, the reverent holding, the oh-so-careful opening!

I have some thoughts about recent J.J. Abrams projects here. The Omnimedia post is complete with lots of relevant links and even videos. Read and enjoy.

I've also got another review and my thoughts on Phillip Pullman/The Golden Compass over on Omnimedia.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Mix 2007

I have put together a mix of "eclectic" Christmas songs that has been spinning in my iTunes for days now. It is a very unusual collection, something that I started compiling mostly as a joke, but I've found that I like it more and more. The original intent of this was to be pretty irreverent towards the Christmas song genre (as you'll soon see), and I think I succeeded pretty well. Too bad all of you can't hear them as you read this.

Track 1--Here We Come A-Caroling, The Ray Conniff Singers (1965).
I know that I have told stories about the place that the Ray Conniff Singers holds in my own familial Christmas lore. Imagine Lawrence Welk-style Christmas squareness and you're getting the right idea.

Favorite lyric:
"We are not daily beggars out to beg from door-to-door/We're the Conniff Singers, whom you have heard before. Love and Joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas too . . ."

Track 2--Drop the Needle, It's Christmas, Dumbledore (2005).
Here is where the original intent of this Christmas mix begins to become apparent. This song was originally found on A Magical Christmas of Magic, a Christmas album put out by Harry and the Potters, a Wizard Rock band. You might not give a flying fig about HP and all of his adventures, but this is a catchy tune that suggests what it might be like if the Hogwarts headmaster decided to get down at the Yule Ball.

Favorite lyric: "Voldemort's back, but he's got no style. Dumbledore's here to drive the girls wild. On the dance floor no one's better, everybody wants to party with the Master. My Christmas rule is to rid the world of evil; let me hear 'Ooh!' from all the party people!"

Track 3--We're Going to the Country, Sufjan Stevens (2006).
I picked up the Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas album last year and really enjoy its country-fried spin on familiar Christmas tunes and hymns, along with some songs of Stevens own creation. (I think.) This song isn't "funny" per se, but I like it's sense of "otherness."

Favorite element: The mixture of banjo and sleigh bells.

Track 4--Skating, Vince Guaraldi Trio (?).
One of the musical interludes from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, one of the definitive holiday TV shows of the last fifty years. My brother MSquared compiled his own Christmas mix several years ago to give to each of us and this and other songs from the VGT were prominently featured.

Favorite element: Syncopated piano beats and a brushed snare drum.

Track 5--The Sweater Song, The Hermione/Crookshanks Experience (2007).
No, it's not the Weezer song of the same name. This song is another Wizard Rock song from the recently released charity album Jingle Spells.It imagines what Hermione wants most of all for Christmas. (If you would like to purchase this album--all of the proceeds go to Book Aid International--you can now download it from iTunes. Just hit the iTunes site and search for Jingle Spells.)

Favorite lyric: "It's just a measly sweater, easy enough to have done. Ron Weasley, get your mom to make me one."

Track 6--Come on! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance! Sufjan Stevens (2006).
This song, in typical Sufjan style, has a very repetitive rhythm to it. Some people (like Lynda for instance) find that insufferable. I think it adds a musical tension to the song. (And don't more Christmas songs need tension?)

Favorite lyric: "Santa is here/Sleigh bells are ringing/21 elves/they are all singing/K-Mart is closed/So is the bakery/Everyone's home/watching TV."

Track 7--Joy to the World The Ray Conniff Singers (1965).
Pretty straightforward song, the one everyone knows and cherishes. But what makes this one indelible is the doo-wop beat that the Conniff Singers present. Can you swing and be square at the same time? (The answer here is . . . emphatically . . YES!)

Favorite moment: One minute and 45 seconds into the song, a female back up singer has a sort of religious/choral orgasm. It has made me laugh every year for 30 plus years.

Track 8--O Holey Night Ministry of Magic (2007).
Now, here is a thing of satirical beauty. Imagine, if you will, what might happen if you take the imminently sacred song "O Holy Night" and recast it to be a meditation on what happened to George Weasley's ear in
Chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Favorite lyric: "I'm falling off/my broom, and I can't hear/out of my left side./It all went black, as it became/the night I lost my ear/O Holey Night."

Track 9--Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time Sufjan Stevens (2006).
Here's a Christmas song with a driving rock n' roll beat! It provides a nice contrast to the actual lyricism of Ministry of Magic's "O Holey Night."

Favorite element: I don't exactly know what it is, but there is some keyboard-like instrument that has been distorted (sort of like listening underwater) that separates the verses. I dig it.

Track 10--The Twelve Days of Wizard Christmas
Gred and Forge (2007).
It's yet another rewriting of that venerable old Christmas tune. You'll either like this or you won't. I have no way of persuading you.

Favorite lyric: "On the sixth day of Christmas, Lockhart gave to me, six signed portraits . . . etc."

Track 11--Do They Know It's Christmas Band Aid (2001).
Yes, it's THAT song. The one where Bono "thanks God it's them, instead of Yooooouuuuu!" This is a Modern Classic that recalls a certain moment in people's lives. It's not, at all, my favorite song in the Christmas genre, but it seemed to fit the snarky tone behind this particular Christmas mix. Forgive me if you hate this song beyond all reason. (Apparently, you can't get an individual download of this song from iTunes these days. You can purchase the entire Now! That's What I Call Christmas album that it is compiled on, but I got the hook up from my professional DJ brother-in-law.)

Favorite lyric/moment: Bono has his own sort of musical/empathetic orgasm, as described above.

Track 12--Oh! Christmas Tree
The Whomping Willows (2007).
If you are in a Wizard Rock band called the Whomping Willows (named after the semi-sentient, cranky tree of the same name that pummels anything that gets close to it), and your "shtick" is that you--the human singer named Matt--is regularly possessed by the spirit of said tree to sing songs, what OTHER Christmas song would you care to sing? But wait! Don't sing when you rap badly! YES!!

Favorite lyric: "The Giant Squid is a hit with all the ladies. He'll get more groupies than Sebastian Bach did in the Eighties."

Track 13--O Tannenbaum The Ray Conniff Singers (1965).
Yep, they're back again, this time attempting to wipe out the Tannenbaum rap of the previous track with an uber-traditional version of the old German favorite that mixes English lyrics, German lyrics, and only Ray Conniff knows what else.

Favorite moment: Near the end of the song, the Singers fortissimo it up another notch, to really bring Tree-lovin' home in a big way. You'll never look at that blinking thing in the corner of your living room the same way again.

Track 14--Christmas With the Weasleys (Or What You Will)
The Remus Lupins (2007).
My favorite Wizard Rock singer helps bring this mix closer to an end with another fond look at everyone's favorite wizarding family.

Favorite moment: It wouldn't be a Remus Lupins song without a sing-along at the end: "This Christmas, let's make love last . . . the whole year."

Track 15--Linus and Lucy The Vince Guaraldi Trio (?).
Another shout out to Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. This is the song that the kids keep breaking out into dance with while Charlie/then Lucy are trying to direct the Christmas pageant. Try NOT to tap your feet to this one.

Favorite moment: Other than imagining the various "signature dances" of the Peanuts gang, I love when Schroeder's main piano line shifts into the more improvisational, jazzy interludes throughout the song.

Track 16--That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! Sufjan Stevens (2006).
Here's hoping you won't be saying this after listening to these songs. But, it seemed the best title to place here at the end, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Favorite lyric: I don't have one yet. I'll keep listening . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm never taking a day off again

I took today off to try and burn the leftover vacation days from 2006 that I didn't use this past year.

And I can tell you now that I'm not going to be doing that again.

What do you do on your days off? Do you relax? Catch up on a book that you've been meaning to read? Go see a movie that you missed? Plan a lunch with a friend you don't see very often?

Well, here's what I've done with my day off so far today.

1. I slept in about thirty minutes later than normal but I still had to make sure the kids were getting ready to go and everything. Lynda is still working too hard all the time and she's going to be working tonight, so I need to be here to keep up with the kids and pick them up this afternoon.

2. I got the girls ready to go and they were off to their various schools by 8:30. But as I was getting out the door, I synched up my iPod, anticipating my next destination--the auto shop (more on that in a few minutes). I figured I could while away my time in the waiting room listening to the latest podcasts. I already had the grocery list in my pocket for after leaving the auto shop. (Sounds like fun already, huh?) But, as I was leaving the door remember, I finished synching the iPod, swung down the lid to the laptop and hear a crunching. Huh? Wonder what that was? Oh, the little plastic cover that fits over the end of my cord that connects the iPod to the USB port was still inside the laptop and got sandwiched. Sounded bad, but oh well, it looks alright and I've got to get Grace to daycare and get to the shop. If I get there early, I might not have to wait too long.

3. Got to the auto shop by 9 am. All I want to do is get my tires aligned, since they've been pulling and making noise. I know already that the tires are old and will need to be replaced soon, but I think I've got some more thousand miles to go on that and this isn't the main vehicle anymore.

Turns out I'll have to wait awhile. Well, not perfect, but it is a day off and I don't have other absolute plans. I've got the iPod and I grab a chair and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . Should've had breakfast this morning. Wait . . . wish I could leave but I don't have the cell phone . . . wait. Man, my shoulder blade is hurting. Wait . . .

Finally, a bit after noon, I get the news. The alignment was pretty bad and needed correcting. But the tires are really worn and should be replaced soon. The guy gives me a quote and I'll take it under advisement . . . and compare prices first. But can it wait until after Christmas and bills? Probably, since we don't drive this car everywhere. As long as there isn't LOTS of snow . . . well, we'll see.

4. Get home at 12:30 hungry for lunch. Begin heating up some leftover stew and wonder about the rest of the afternoon. I've got until 3:30 and haven't gotten the groceries yet. I still need to make a doctor's appointment (maybe I'll swing by the office when I head out for groceries). But now I'm eating stew and wondering what's up on the internet. Swing up the laptop and get a smack of bad news.

Remember the crunching sound earlier in the morning? Well, that plastic doodad messed up my laptop screen pretty bad. It looks like someone broke an ink pen on the screen, smudging at the bottom and several nice stress lines spreading all the way up the screen on the right third. sigh

When will THAT get fixed? Who knows.

5. So, to recap. Spent all morning sitting to get expensive news on the car (is there any other kind?). Back hurts, Still have to get groceries. Computer screwed up. And (to be honest) I probably need to do some work-at-home this afternoon.

Days off SUCK!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Help someone today--come shovel my driveway!

The first snow of the winter came last night.

I've already shoveled the driveway and was immediately reminded what a fruitless task it is, because the half that I started on was already becoming dusted again when I finished. When I go outside in a bit to take the girls to school, I'm sure to be dismayed by the healthy layer of snow that will have already accumulated in the last hour and a half.

The girls are outside enjoying it now. They talk of snowmen, snowballs . . . but the snow isn't really that deep. It's enough to make things pretty, and that's always a good thing.

As you might have read from yesterday's post (scroll down to read), today is Darfur Fast. The idea is to fast from a single (or multiple) luxuries during this day, calculate what money you have saved, and donate to the refugees in Darfur, to help keep them safe and to make steps to end what is happening there.

I don't drink Starbucks on a regular basis and my main indulgence during a regular workday is buying lunch rather than packing or maybe buying a candy bar or a coke in the afternoon. But, adding those things up equals about $7.00. I can easily donate that, and this small amount of money can make a difference--especially if it is multiplied by many well-meaning people. I thought about calculating the amount of gas I use to go to work, the amount of soap and toothpaste and orange juice and milk and breakfast, etc. that I might use and then adding that total. (I figured that would be better than NOT using soap and toothpaste this morning.) But, I'll just add some more money to my donation.

If you want to help, you can read more information about Darfur Fast here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Darfur Fast is tomorrow!

I'm very late hearing about this cause (and I heard about it through Pottercast, which partnered with the HP Alliance to raise money to help stop the violence in Darfur), but I'm going to do my best to participate in the Darfur Fast tomorrow, December 5th.

You can read about what Darfur Fast is by clicking here.