Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Weekend Between Christmas and New Years

We're home now ... it took us about 9 hours of driving, some of it through some very thick fog on Friday, but driving through fog was a lot better than what the 17 (yes we counted) abandoned (and sometimes on their roofs) cars and 2 overturned semis ran into along the road on I-80 and I-35. Given the weather (blowing snow) that we dodged after leaving Peoria early on Monday, and what we dodged on the trip home (freezing rain/ice and snow), we timed our return home just right.

Adding to the discomfort was me coming down with an impending case of norovirus; Lauren had come down with it on Christmas Eve day, and sure enough, I started coming down with it on Friday, enough so that we toyed with stopping off along the route in the Amanas or in Des Moines if I couldn't make it home.

Fortunately, we didn't stop, and we pulled into Maryville roughly around 7:00 Friday evening. It was just in time, too, because I've spent the weekend recovering from the flu, and I'll probably ask to work from home tomorrow because of it. Lauren's on winter break right now, but she's been recovering a little bit as well.

All in all, it's been a great holiday so far (stomach flu and weather notwithstanding), and we each got a bit of what we wanted for gifts: iTunes gift cards (to lay in a stock of new apps to add to the collection I have when I finally get an iPhone), a nice sweater, and a handy travel tea mug with built-in strainer for me to use on my commute; CDs, an iTunes gift card, a nice spa kit, a small brooch, and, in a deferred birthday gift, a deep massage for Lauren at Starved Rock while we were there. For both of us, we also got a nice package of smoked salmon from Linda and Jim, my sis and brother-in-law living out in Oregon. We also got ourselves a "joint" gift earlier in December with the Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus DVD set off of Amazon.

I think, though, the best part about the holiday wasn't the gifts (nice as they were). The best part was reconnecting with friends and family through Christmas cards, phone calls, and visits; we're hoping that this continues on through the year. Oh yeah; if you are reading this and you didn't get a Christmas e-card from us, check your e-mail's inbox (or your junk mail or spam filter, if the note got caught there). We did send you an e-card ... trust us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where we're spending Christmas

Richard and I used to come out to north-central Illinois at Christmas to visit my parents, sister, and her family. However, with my mom (the matriarch) dying a year ago Tuesday, my father recuperating from open heart surgery with my sister's help, and nobody in my family feeling like hosting Christmas this year ...

Richard and I came out to LaSalle County anyhow! In my way, I honor my mother, who would not let quickly worsening health get in the way of her Christmas preparations.

A fireplace in the Great Hall, Starved Rock Lodge

This year, we decided to stay at Starved Rock Lodge, a massive example of National Park Service Rustic architecture built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Starved Rock State Park has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois, and the Lodge is the jewel in its crown.

I have cherished Starved Rock, and especially the Lodge, since my childhood, but I had never stayed overnight there.

Our room. Note the knotty pine.

The rooms in the "old" east wing are paneled in knotty pine and are small but cozy. Given the immense Great Hall with its massive stone fireplaces, the views of winter scenery from the windows, the Jacuzzi, sauna, and pool, the restaurant with its own blazing fireplace ... staying in the hotel room isn't necessary.

Blazing fireplace in the restaurant. I'd like footage of this for my personal Yule Log DVD.

Today, we'll eat brunch in the restaurant, and then drive the sleigh (Honda Fit) to Ottawa and Marseilles to greet family and deliver Christmas presents.

Happy Holidays, all!
-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, December 18, 2008


You may not be able to notice, but we upgraded the weblog this evening. I added a Twitter feed and changed the template to allow modular customizations. We lost the Weather Channel sidebar, but substituted a Google widget in its place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home Alone, Part 2

It's just me home alone this week. Lauren is currently in Peoria, IL, after flying out Monday for her dad's open-heart surgery. Fortunately, the surgery went off without complications, and he's now recovering.

I would be there with her, but due to a slip-up on someone else's part at work, I had to stay in the office (or, in this case, work from home due to the roads and winter weather), and work on a project with a next-week deadline. I'm hoping (weather permitting) to follow her up there on the weekend, where we'll head up to Ottawa/Marseilles and spend Christmas.

It hasn't been all bad. Staying home has let me catch up on a few things and take care of a few items heading into the trip and the holidays. Working from home is pretty good when I can get it (sleeping in until 7 rather than 5, and no 2-hour down, 2-hour back commute, are both things I could get used to). As long as the internet connection stays up, I've got groceries, and the freezing rain/possible ice storm tomorrow stays the heck away from Maryville, I'll be fine.

Even so, I do miss her. A lot.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hello from KC

Richard and I decided to do Thanksgiving
in KC this year-- in the interest of getting away and not having to cook turkey for two. We also wanted to see the Plaza lighting ceremony, and my iPhone needed fixing-- the Apple Store gave me a shiny new one.
Last night we ate at Eden Alley, a rather tasty vegetarian restaurant and ministry for Unity Temple. Unity is an interestingly syncretic religious movement out of KC.

Above is a pic from Eden Alley.
A Happy Thanksgiving to all and sundry reading this blog

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, November 17, 2008

And on Second Review ...

The official version of the trailer for the new Star Trek movie came out this week:

New Trailer

My first impressions so far (if you haven't seen it, SPOILER SPACE AHEAD):

You've been warned ...

1. I was almost tempted, upon seeing the new version of the Enterprise for the first time, to say "meh" (Kidding!) Seriously, I was almost tempted to put the photo up with an LOL caption on it titled "Epic Fail". It looks like the designer did a mashup of the movie Enterprise and the Enterprise-D from Next Generation, and then badly Photoshopped the secondary hull to draw attention away from the mashup.

Don't get me started on the warp engines, which have a distinct 50s-retro tailfin look to them. At least the designer didn't crib completely from a previous design (as what happened with the NX-01 from Enterprise). No, wait, what am I saying???

I'm hoping that during the course of the movie, everything below the saucer gets critically damaged so that by the end of the movie, it gets replaced with something that more closely matches the starship we grew up with. Or maybe it is an alternate timeline movie like we've been led to believe.

2. The scene in the hangar bay really had a Starship Troopers vibe to it.

3. Visually exciting (almost Speed Racer-ish) in intensity. But is there a story to it? In doing Speed Racer, you could see that the Wachowski's not only knew their story material, they RESPECTED it. I am hoping and praying that JJ Abrams knows enough, even if this is a reboot, to do the same.

4. Simon Pegg as Scotty: I'm wondering if his version of Scotty had already had Aldeberian whiskey (the infamous drink immortalized in the words "it's green" when asked what it was) in the trailer scene? He certainly seemed like he had a pretty good caffeine buzz or hyperactive streak going .....

5. Is it just me, but by presenting us with a much younger Kirk with a slightly different origin story, I think they've already sacrificed some interesting plot points from the original. In TOS, Kirk was a young starship captain (the youngest captain to command a starship, on record), but at least he had risen through the ranks and, when he was younger, survived two incidents (counting Tarsus Four and the cloud being that decimated the starship Farragut). See the TOS episodes "The Conscience of the King" and "Obsession" to know what I'm talking about.

In the new movie, he seems almost way too young to be a cadet, let alone captaining a starship, and there's no sense of how he got from being a deliquent to that captain. It's almost like he survives the Kobayashi Maru "no-win scenario" test and, as a reward, gets told he's getting a starship.

I wonder how they're going to explain the age differential, let alone the scene where Kirk sees the Enterprise being built prior to entering Starfleet?

6. One thing they did get right: casting Zach Quinto as Spock. The look is right, and the delivery is right. The guy appears to be channeling Leonard Nimoy. It's eerie.

I've heard since then that the idea of the movie is that the original Trek timeline as we know it has been demolished, due to the use of time-travel and history being changed, and that what we will get is a timeline that is "close to the original as possible", but not quite.

Didn't Berman and Braga try this with Enterprise and fail miserably? Just wondering.

Anyway, it's just a few thoughts moving forward. I suspect that more will come out the closer we get to the release date, and I'll be standing in line at the local theater come May when it comes out.

Just please change the ship so that it's closer to the original. That's all. Kthxbye.

More Cognitive Dissonance This Weekend

It's a Division II playoff game between my former alma mater (well, one of them), as the Bearcats take on Pitt State. Here in Maryville. And we have tickets!!!

No driving down to KC for this one.

I must admit that the game should be interesting. I mean, Pitt has already lost to the 'Cats once this fall ... will this weekend be the 2nd time around? We'll find out this weekend.

EDIT 1: I've been "outed" as a Bearcat fan. Lauren and I were in Jock's Nitch this morning prior to the game, while on our way to the Bookstop (our local coffeehouse/antique store/used bookstore), and the owner of the Jock's Nitch chain (who had probably seen me in at the store at the Pittsburg mall and knew I was a Pitt grad), came up and good-naturedly asked me why I wasn't in Pitt crimson-and-gold? So the truth is out here in Maryville.

GAME NOTES EDIT: This game was a lot closer than expected: Pitt brought their A game, and we didn't. Even so, we were leading 31-13 at the half, but in the second half, Pitt reeled off a couple of touchdowns and managed to take the lead with a minute left to play. Of course, it didn't help that our normally solid defense simply couldn't stop the Pitt offense in the third quarter and the officiating in the game was quite possibly the worst (and blatantly one-sided) officiating we had ever seen from a referee crew, even to the point that Coach Mel, normally a very mild-mannered man, was chewing out the line judge over the spate of bad calls and missed calls, which included:

1)Multiple missed chop block and block in the back calls.
2)A ruled touchdown for Pitt by the back judge when nor the Pitt player or the ball broke the plane of the goal line and said player had been clearly stood up within a foot of the goal line. It was painfully obvious to everyone that it was a bad call.
3)Multiple lenient ball spots in favor of Pitt.
4)A couple of very questionable calls in the first half where Pitt receivers caught the ball out of bounds 2 or three times but were ruled in bounds.

Unfortunately, Div II playoffs do not feature replay, although they should feature vision checks for the refs in future years. I hope that in the future, we refuse to have a crew from that conference here ever again.

In the end, it came down in part to penalties called and not called, turnovers, and passing; NW got at least 10 defensive points off of Pitt turnovers early in the game, and Pitt committed a couple of really bad fouls early on. What sealed it, however, was the last drive at the end of the game. Joel Osborn became the hero of the day by throwing a drive (and game) -saving pass on 4th and 10, with 20 seconds left to go, to bring NW down to the 20, followed by a toss into the end-zone for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 38-35.

The defense then managed to force a 4 and out in the last few seconds, we got the ball back on downs, and the clock expired.

So, I'm glad we went, and it's rather sad: my alma mater played their hearts out, but Pitt lost, and the Bearcats move on to next week's game against Abilene Christian, the team that gave us our only loss during the season.

Given that Abilene scored 93 points in their 2nd round game to beat a West Texas A&M team that put up a more than respectable 68 points (almost a basketball score), I think we're going into next week's game as very questionable underdogs. I hope that the 'Cats win, and make it to the finals for a rematch against Grand Valley State, but it may take a few miracles from the 'Cats for that one.


According to the AP, Harper-Collins has chosen to include the word "meh" in the next iteration of the Collins English Dictionary.


In all seriousness, should we care that this is about to become a word?

"Meh". Probably not.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

November Weekend

This feels rather strange. Usually, I'm mowing the lawn and we're doing the household chores that get pushed to the weekend, or we're either out of town for a weekend in KC visiting friends, doing something (like our regular RenFaire trip), or we're at the Northwest home football game (they won the conference again and we'll find out what the playoff picture looks like tomorrow). Or I'm putting in work hours (which, technically, I am today, as I'm downloading and listening to a couple of podcasts for "professional development") and doing laundry, while Lauren rests (or, for this weekend, recuperates from sinus problems).

It's actually been quite awhile since either of us have had the time to actually sit down and blog.

Since then, the world has changed: The elections are over, and after the weeks of discussing, volunteering (we spent Labor Day Weekend canvassing in town), and watching the election results at the Hangar with the rest of the watch party, it's done. We've given Obama his chance, hoping for change and better leadership than we've had the last eight years.

It's been an interesting few months of change for ourselves as well: reconnecting with old college friends in KC (and also seeing some friends drop off the radar due to new developments in their lives, such as new relationships). We're also making plans for the holidays (Illinois again, to visit with Lauren's family for Christmas, though we will be staying at the Starved Rock Lodge, rather than staying with our usual hosts at the Brightwood Inn).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night

We're at the local Election Night party at the Hangar, watching the results on the big screen.

We voted earlier in the morning when the polls opened (for Obama, of course).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sorry It's Been Awhile

Sorry it's been awhile between posts. Between the job and commute and the semester for Lauren, we're lucky to have time to check email after dinner. We'll write more, we promise .... As soon as we can find the time.

Posted with LifeCast

Thursday, September 11, 2008

45 is the new 30

It's my birthday today -- and I'm obviously not shy about my age. Of course, that might be because I've never really felt old. Actually, I feel younger as I get older. When I was younger, I felt like I carried all the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Then, as I got older, I realized that there were many things I had no power to do anything about. I couldn't end the nuclear arms race or cure cancer.

Knowing there is very little I have control over is extremely liberating. It turns out that all I can do is to leave this world kinder and cleaner than I found it. Just like in Girl Scouts.

I'm thinking about this because today is the 7th anniversary of 9/11. To Americans, no explanation is necessary -- my birthdate is shorthand for terrorism and tragedy. The media headlines at the time screamed, "should we be more scared?" as if fear could somehow prevent another tragedy. When I truly realized that I had no control over what terrorists in another country (or my own) choose to do, my fear dissolved.

All I can do is leave my little corner of the world a little kinder than I found it.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Knew It Would Happen

Getting old, that is .... I'm 39 and almost to 40 in December. I get NO sympathy from my wife about it, by the way.

I've been noticing within the last week that I've been experiencing some near-vision focusing jumps ... nothing serious, but certainly a problem for what I do for a living (technical writing and editing), and I had also noticed that as of late, my night vision, which used to be really, really good, was starting to degrade a little bit. Given I commute to my job and on most days, I'm driving there right at dawn or (especially later in the fall) near dusk or right around dark, I chalked it up to age.

It turns out I was partially right. There's a specific vision problem brought on my excessive computer use called (ta-da!) Computer Vision Syndrome. You really see it in jobs where you have excessive (heavy) computer work or stare at a screen for hours, such as technical editing.

Given the symptoms, it was time to stop in and talk to the eye doc about my options. Lauren has already made the jump to bifocals ... was it time for me as well?

Not really ... the doc doesn't want to go that far. Instead, I'm going with a pair of reading glasses.

Why is it that I suddenly feel like Jim Kirk around the time of Wrath of Khan? "Well, Bones, these are ... charming." I'm sure this will be the same experience for me. I hope.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My 3-Day Blog (Cheshirekitty speaks)

You can catch up to my training and fundraising efforts for the 2009 Chicago Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk here

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Toy

Today I FINALLY got my iPhone. What a neat little toy!

Meanwhile, Richard is playing with his (formerly my) iPod Touch that I won in a raffle. He's wanting me to win an iPhone for him now...yeah, riiiight.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Testing a new mobile blogging app for the iPod/iPhone called Cellspin. Hoping to get both pics and text in the same post...

Lazy Sunday

It's a lazy Sunday here in Maryville, punctuated by a couple of noteworthy items:
1)We did the now-traditional office cleaning ritual that for Woodgie marks the unofficial start of the fall school year. Her classes are set up, and apart from the first week's meetings the last week of August, she's ready to go.
2)The weather has been a bit muggy; we may actually get stormed on this afternoon/evening.
3)The house is filled with the wonderful smell of baking chocolate chip cookies: two of our teams at work are having a grill out at our project manager's house in Liberty, so I'm bringing my world-famous decadant chocolate-chip cheesecake recipe: it's actually a cheat out of the Mr. Food cookbook, which wraps a basic cheesecake (egg, vanilla, cream cheese, sugar) layer between two layers of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough (if you want to add insult to injury, or at least spike your blood sugar, top it with chocolate syrup). The first time I made this and brought it to the college library I worked as as an undergrad, I left it the morning before I went to class. By the time I got back to start my shift at 11, half of it was gone! So, it's been a never-fail recipe for me.
4)But the really big news is that Woodgie's iPhone has shipped, so sometime this week, she will be the proud owner of an iPhone 3G (and I get to inherit her iPod Touch in the process).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BSG/Band of Brothers

Just had to toss this in:

Being a fan of both Battlestar Galactica and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, I ran across this on YouTube today:

It's a fan-made title sequence mash-up which I thought was very well done (just ignore the typos).

In doing a Google search later, I ran across a link to two more mashup videos, brought to you on this posting on the acclaimed BSG-news and info weblog Galactica Sitrep.

At least, they are supposed to be there: the post itself is blank, probably due to firewall/anti-virus issues, so if someone looks at this and can get to the links, let me know how they were :-).

For a small bit of trivia, Jamie Bamber (Apollo) in BSG played a small role in Band of Brothers, so there's a small connection between the two shows.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Testing, Testing

I'm testing an iPod/iphone app called LifeCast to see if it will talk to Blogger. More later on how I intend to use it...

Posted with LifeCast

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back From Vacation

Oh, boy. It's been a few weeks since I've last posted. Frankly, we've just been too busy to post very much (although Cheshirewoodgie, aka Lauren) has been exploring the Apple iPhone App Store, loading her iPod Touch (which I'll eventually inherit) with apps. She's testing an iPhone application (see above) to let us make blog postings (and post photos) on the road. For this, two things have to happen: 1)The app has to be updated to work with Flickr, so we can upload photos, and 2) Her back-ordered iPhone with camera has to come in.

Since we were out of town during the Friday iPhone launch, "Look, woodgie, there's an AT&T store!" was one of my teases, while "I want my #$#$#$=!!! iPhone" was one of her regular comments. Now that the phone's been ordered (and is on back-order, with the 2nd million customers who didn't get theirs in the first run on Friday), it's down to, "it's still on back-order" grumble, grumble, grumble.

So, last week, we headed out to Blacksburg/Christiansburg, VA, where we went to help Lauren's friend and colleague Ceclia Hayhoe celebrate her 60th birthday and her tenure approval at Virginia Tech. We'll have pictures from the week, as soon as Cecila's daughter, Janice, has her pictures developed from that weekend.

Where to start?

The trip itself was fine, although we discovered that we were going to be in for an interesting flight when our outgoing flight from KC to O'Hare was delayed, first by heavy winds at O'Hare, and then by the approach radar at O'Hare temporarily going out (where were the backups???). Note that I had flown a few weeks ago to Richmond for my work-related trip, and that trip was very uneventful, but given that TSA had upgraded the threat level to Orange the day of our trip, the staffers working our check-in seemed very harried and tense ... I don't blame them. Depending on the airline, it's hard enough to fly these days without being inconvenienced in some fashion, and lumping on a higher security alert than normal only added to that.

Still, we made it through to O'Hare, only to find out that, once again, my bad weather average in flying through there struck yet again: we were concerned we were going to miss our outgoing flight to Roanoke, and we did ... after a round of Thursday-evening lake-effect storms, our flight was delayed. Then delayed again. Then delayed once more around 9:30 pm, when it was canceled.

Fortunately, we made it to a customer service station before the bad lines formed, got rebooked for the 6:00 am flight, and then set off to find a hotel, with Lauren wishing that O'Hare would upgrade their signage for directing people from terminals to hotel shuttlebus stops. Even so, we managed to get to our shuttlebus and off to a nearby Marriott.

The following morning's flight was uneventful, and we made it into Roanoke in good time, snagged our rental, and were soon tooling down I-81 toward Blacksburg/Christiansburg. I must admit, being from a very flat portion of Southeast Kansas, I've never experienced actual mountains up close until then. I was like "wow ....", and my wife, who had lived in upstate New York for awhile near the Catskills, was like "What??? It's just mountains." When we have pictures back from the trip, there should be a pic of us standing at a nice overlook near the Blue Ridge Mountains, somewhere close to the former home of Confederate calvary leader Jeb Stuart.

Since we had been delayed Thursday, we were concerned that we were going to miss the events Janice had organized, but we made it to Cecila's house in time to join them for a trip into the mountains to Floyd, VA and the nearby shops and wineries, including Chateau Morrisette (home to the Black Dog and Our Dog Blue vintages), and to Villa Appalaccia, an up-and-coming small winery down the road. After checking out their shop and having lunch at Chateau Morrisette's wonderful restaurant, we had time for a winery tour and tasting. Later that evening, we stopped off in Floyd itself to visit the Floyd Country Store, which features a century-old tradition of live bluegrass music every Friday night on its performance stage. Prior to that, a stop at a local antique store led to Lauren's find of the trip: an authentic Victorian-era blouse which she hopes will form the basis of a Victorian Christmas set.

Saturday morning, we were left on our own until the party at the Inn at Virginia Tech (located off their alumni center), so we journeyed into Blacksburg to check out the Saturday morning farmers market, and from there, onto the Virginia Tech campus to tour the Smithfield Plantation. Admittedly, Lauren isn't a student of military history, so she was afraid that this was going to be a Civil War-battlefield-esque experience. Instead, we both enjoyed a Revolutionary War-era Southern plantation with a lot of home-life "how they lived in that era" history, which we both like to experience. What really got her attention was the garden spaces; I think she actually knew more about what they had in their gardens and why they had them then some of the interpreters that day.

That led us into the birthday celebration: held in one of the Inn's conference/banquet rooms, it was a very informal occasion, with "fun stations" to do scrapbook pages for a book for Cecila, a cariacture artist, who did cariacture pictures of all of us (the originals will go into the scrapbook, while we'll be provided with digital copies for ourselves), fun food (veggie burgers, hot dogs, and sides, plus the makings for root beer/cream soda floats), and a wandering magician/card artist/balloon-maker. Needless to say, everyone had a wonderful time.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Apologies for Being Absent

My apologies for being absent (and for not doing things like moderating comments), but both of us have been either absent or busy ... me, absent last week to Richmond, VA, on a software conversion trip, and Lauren, off to the wedding of our former minister, Fr. Mike Kyle's, wedding, followed by lots of teaching/weeding/sleeping.

As I mentioned, I was off in Richmond, VA for a week, on a client experience trip (read: software conversion) that my employer requires us to do every year. I figured that I wouldn't have very much time for sight-seeing, but Sunday evening, I discovered that me and seven other coworkers would be assigned to work 12 hour night shifts from 7 pm-7 am. Although I did sacrifice some sleep, I was able to sight-see a little bit in the daytime ... as a Civil War/history buff, it was a pleasure to see the American Civil War Center, located on the site of the former Tredegar Iron Works, the Virginia Historical Society, St. John's Episcopal Church, the site where Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Give me liberty" speech, and, although I wasn't aware of it at the time, actually stand on the site where Virginians ratified the US Constitution (West Hospital, part of the VCU Health System, now sits where this occurred). I also toured Maymont, an historic, Tudor-style home which now stands as a Victorian-era museum and garden estate.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Should We Start Building An Ark?

Just a quick update for the weekend: Lauren's prepping for her second summer class and I'm prepping for my work trip to Richmond, VA next weekend, where I'll be with a team doing a software conversion from next Sunday to the following Saturday.

Given the storms we've had the last few days (complete with storms since Thursday, local flooding, and now a new storm watch today), and the local flooding, we're both wondering if we should be building an ark. At the least, we ought to start moving faster on plans to build a full basement, given we dodged a bullet Thursday night: we spent a half-hour in the small storm shelter we do have waiting out a tornado warning (and wondering why the town didn't blow the sirens even though NWS had called an alert for the entire county???)

In any event, we came pretty close to having a tornado in town; at about 8:30 pm, we saw the alert, called our neighbor with a full basement only to discover that she wasn't home, decided to get together some bare minimum survival items (windbreakers, water bottles, lantern/flashlight, phone (so I could keep up with the alerts and radar), laptops, and a bottle of wine and corkscrew (just in case it was going to be a VERY long night)), and headed down to our storm cellar. As I pulled the doors closed, I turned to see the beginnings of a funnel cloud (not sure if it was a cold-air funnel or an actual tornado) start to form from the cloud base down towards the ground. Even though it was south of town and heading away from our area, needless to say, I slammed the door shut and prayed that we weren't going to do a Wizard of Oz imitation.

Fortunately, the storm was moving fast enough that the funnel didn't develop any real rotation, didn't touch down, and dissipated as the front moved on. Even so, we didn't get much sleep that night; I stayed up until 11:00 until the tornado watch expired, and after that, I asked Lauren if we could purchase a weather radio with an alert that will wake us if we get warnings overnight, and she agreed.

EDIT: The weather radio came in today (6/9), and it's already coming in handy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

200th Post

Would you believe that this is the 200th post of the Cozy Kitty's Weblog? I wasn't sure that we would have enough to write about, but it seems that journaling about our lives in Maryville, MO and our travels has gotten us to 200 posts for now. Who knows how much more we can write about!

This weekend found us in Lauren's home area of Marseilles/Ottawa, IL for a Memorial Day weekend gathering. The gathering was a follow-on memorial/family wake for Lauren's mom on Saturday afternoon and a good grill-out later on, as well as being a good couple of days off for both of us. Lauren also got to do some garden refreshing in the family herb garden in the back yard.

We stayed at our now-standby bed and breakfast, the Brightwood Inn, spent time with the family on both Saturday and Sunday, and got in a couple of days of good trail walking at Matthiessen State Park Saturday morning and on the Ottawa stretch of the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail on Sunday. One of these days, we hope to do the entire canal trail, once we're in shape to do it. We also did some wine tasting Saturday morning as well and had dinner at Starved Rock Lodge Sunday evening.

When Lauren's mom passed away, the last thing she said to us was that we should both "go out and have some fun". I think she would have approved of this weekend.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh Deer!

We had a good weekend ... to a point. Ever since I moved down to Des Moines, I had been hoping to get Lauren to go up to the Downtown Farmer's Market on some Saturday morning. This weekend, with it being rainy and the lawn work mainly done (except for mowing), we headed up for that and also to reconnect with friends we hadn't seen in awhile.

We sampled some of the usual Farmer's Market fare, $1 eggrolls, and Chef Steve's Kabab's, and we also found a wonderful terra cotta cat which will find a home in the kitty garden. During the day, we were able to do some gourmet grocery shopping, and we also managed to meet with Janet at the Riverfront Y, Laura at the Art Center over dessert, and Bethany at Namaste, a small hole-in-the-wall Indian grocery and up and coming Indian restaurant, for dinner.

All in all, it was a very nice day ... except for the deer that we hit on the way home, which is why I'm working from home today and taking the car over to the body shop for an estimate. It wasn't bad damage: just a bent hood and possibly a front bumper cover (we think). Thankfully, neither of us were hurt. As a co-worker pointed out: "cars can be fixed".

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sleepy Weekend

Unlike the last few weekends, we've decided to slow things down a little bit.

For me, it's no taxes to rush getting done. No work assignments needed "right this minute". I can't even do any WBT/CBT work because the company's learning management system is still being upgraded.

For Lauren, her Spring semester is over. Finals are done, her grades are in, and apart from attending graduation this afternoon and some interview meetings on Tuesday and Friday, she now has a week off to rest, garden, and get ready for her first summer class. That, and play with her new iPod Touch, which she won in a raffle earlier this week.

Due to the weather, we really can't do very much to the lawn or garden this weekend, apart from a little bit of weeding: it's too wet to mulch, although Lauren might have a few things she wants to plant. So we got up early this morning, had breakfast at Hy-Vee, and then made the rounds of the city-wide garage sales, which are usually prevalent around graduation.

Oh, there are a few things we could do: while Lauren is at graduation, I'm going to buy some fresh paint brushes and get the front porch floor repainted, so it should last for awhile. And do laundry. I might even get around to cleaning the house.

If the weather stays nice towards later this evening, I think we're going to toss some wood on the fire pit, get out the lawn chairs, and do some hot dogs, salads, and s'mores later on. It's casual, and low-input, which really sounds good to me.

EDIT: I didn't get around to the painting or the laundry or the cleaning. Instead, I spent a half-hour or so trying to get the mower (the one we had brought to the True Value for service) to start, in preparation for the first mowing of the season. Needless to say, it's going back to the True Value tomorrow with a polite "did you happen to do a test start and run before you told us it was finished?"

Still, the evening went great. I started the fire pit at about 6, got out the lawn chairs, and we grilled while Lauren surfed for iPod Touch accessories from the iPod. After that, Lauren did a bit of weeding while I tended the fire, and we rounded off the evening with a small amount of Stone Hill Winery's cream sherry. No, I wasn't a Boy Scout growing up. Or even a Girl Scout. But I made sure that the remaining embers were taken care of.

EDIT #2: We did get the mower dropped off and I did get the painting and the laundry done on Sunday.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Busy Weekend

Another busy weekend of working on the house: it actually stayed nice enough that we were able to get some work done in the yard, including the following:

1. The garage, which is older than our house, is now clean enough to walk into for the first time since I moved down here. While it's not suitable for putting a car in, it's still sturdy enough for stowing the mower and various/sundry gardening and lawn tools.

2. We cleaned off both the front porch and the back porch ... of course, this sets up another house project in repainting the floor of the front porch; it was last painted when I first moved down here, but that's been two years ago.

3. We finally cleared the last of our branch and grass pile from the winter, burning a couple of wheelbarrows' worth in the firepit.

We were also asked to do some raking and lawn work at our church, so we spent a bit of time over there, too.

All in all, we're glad that the weather has warmed up ... although looking at the forecast, there is a slight chance of a wintery mix tomorrow morning ... and we're almost to May.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gardening again (More Cheshirekitty)

I meant to blog on last Friday's Tree Planting at the campus, and I will soon (when I get a copy of myself and two of my students posing with our tree, ankle-deep in mud).

We've been busy doing more garden prep. Last weekend, we bordered the now-enlarged moon garden, and it's been re-rototilled, and waits for its white datura and moonflower and jasmine and woodland tobacco. The peas are popping up in the peas/tomato/eggplant/pepper/basil garden, and I saw the first of the radishes in the root garden. I'm hoping the new seedlings I just saw are rampion and not lamb's quarter, but that's hopeful thinking.

Last night, I was trying out a new gadget in the daylily/daffodil garden -- a dandelion zapper you mount on the end of a power drill. I don't know if it's any more effective to drill the leaves off than it is to try to pull the dandelion out, but it's infinitely more satisfying. I suspect I'll have to re-drill a few times before those dandelions are so demoralized as to quit growing.

I was visited by a hummingbird hawk moth as I drilled, and he hovered around my knees getting drunk on daffodil nectar. He was almost close enough to pet, although he didn't seem receptive to that. If I were my sister, I would have taken an award-winning picture of him, but I'm not a photographer. It was enough to watch him impersonate a hummingbird

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Paper and Pencil Campus -- Cheshirekitty speaks

I work at Northwest Missouri State University, known as "The Electronic Campus" since 1986, when we were the first university in the US with a comprehensive networked campus. We pride ourselves on how "wired" our campus is. Students can register for classes online, check grades in most of their classes online, and even finish one or two of our degree programs online. So what happens when the university's servers go offline?

Nothing. A whole LOT of nothing.

The entire university community was without email, where many timely announcements are normally made. (And obviously, sending an email to everyone to let them know how long the outage would last was out of the question.) Students could not sign on to computers in the computer labs even if they simply wanted to use Word, because signing on was dependent on getting onto the network. One student's laptop was stuck in a perpetual cycle of trying to download the latest Vista upgrade -- because he could not access the Web, the computer could chug hopelessly, then shut itself down repeatedly. Professors could not enter grades or accept homework from the course management software. One colleague, who had just returned from a conference, could not access her Outlook calendar -- and therefore did not know when or even if she had appointments or meetings today.

In my first class of the day, there were to be student presentations -- but the group of students had saved their presentation on "student storage", which can only be accessed through the server.

A rumor had circulated that the reason for the power surges that downed the servers was the Dierks Bentley concert held at Bearcat Stadium last night, but this was just local urban legend. Bentley's road crew came with their own generators, which were powerful enough that his sound check interrupted my 9 AM class yesterday (all the way across campus, I may add). Had the rumor been true, it would have given the Northwest Missourian a great headline: "Dierks Bentley Throttles Campus Internet".

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How does our garden grow? (Cheshirekitty speaks)

Last night, much of our garden almost was a loss!

We came home from dinner and I went to check the greenhouse. My tomatoes and eggplant on the bottom shelf were thirstier than I had thought -- they were dry and very wilted. In addition, the lemon catnip (for the kitty garden, of course) looked downright shriveled. So I panicked, and mourned, and watered and watered.

The next morning, one Thai eggplant has lost one leaf. There were a few leaves wilted on the Cherokee Purple and Coyote (white cherry) tomatoes. One of the Cherokees lost the top of its stem but is still nearly a foot tall. I may have to pot up the Coyote in hanging baskets and bring them in at night, because they're too tall for the greenhouse and starting to flower.

And the lemon catnip? It doesn't even look like it had been thirsty a day in its life.

All in all, it's been a good year for the greenhouse. I'm almost ready to outgrow it, which means ... nothing until we can afford or build a bigger one.

In the raised beds, the lettuces and greens are growing slowly, the peas are finally starting to show themselves -- and so are a gazillion baby weeds that are probably lamb's quarters. I will get at those with a scuffle hoe while they're still only mildly annoying. (Except for the lettuce garden, where I will leave them go, pick while young, and stir-fry with the rapa I have in there. Despite the above link characterizing lamb's quarters as bland, they're actually a lot like spinach, only better!)

In other garden news, the pussy toes are surviving their transplanting into the kitty garden, and hopefully they will spread and be fuzzy. The daffodils are starting to bloom, and other plants are coming up. There are mystery seedlings in a couple places -- in the bird feeder garden, they're hopefully either sweet violet or wintergreen; in the herb garden, they're hopefully either dwarf winter savory or thyme.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Gardening ...

After church this morning, we stopped off at Ali's bakery for coffee ... according to Lauren, if he's offering free coffee, it means he wants advice on something. However, he was too busy to ask, and instead, we shared a good conversation with a fellow professor at the college and her husband, who I may have recruited (or at least tempted to apply) for a tech writing slot at my current company.

After that, we had thought that I would finish off the last of the taxes (the one attendant schedule and one additional form we needed to file), and then we would go to the contra dance at the Presbyterian Church (the husband of the aforementioned professor is the caller), as we thought that it might be too cold this afternoon to work on the lawn and garden. To be honest, it was a bit brisk, but it stayed warm enough that we could trench, edge, and start planting on the "Kitty garden" ... something that's been in planning since last year. Now it will be a work in progress as we plant more, add a couple more paving stones for steps, and add some kitty-themed decorations.

That said, I've gone back to doing a little more on the taxes, while Lauren's resting from the gardening. A little later, I'm going to attempt some Thai black pepper pork for dinner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Taking a Break From All Your Worries ...

Yeah, I know, it's shameless of me to borrow a riff from both Cheers and Battlestar Galactica, but hey, if BSG can borrow a riff from Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix in their previous season's finale, so can I.

I'm taking a small break from doing our taxes. Yes, I know, it's pushing the edge on the deadline, but we wanted to make sure we had enough money to cover our payments ... we weren't exactly sure how much the new job and the marriage would impact our taxes, but now we know: we owed just a little bit more than we did last year, and we're probably not getting a refund. However, we will get the tax relief rebate later this year, which will help a lot and will likely go toward debt reduction.

Taxes normally wouldn't be a problem, but it seems like I've rarely had a case where I could use tax prep software, due to changing situations that the software couldn't handle correctly or due to farm payment income or something that the software didn't quite process correctly. And don't get me started on e-filing. I'm in IT, and I work in the security arena, so if you think I'm going to trust my electronic personal data to the IRS, think again :-).

On one hand, I am proud knowing that I've done my taxes myself either by hand or with the assistance of tax software every year since I started filing. On the other, I wish that my former state of residence would have gotten on the ball and updated their PDF fill-in forms so that you could actually SAVE the darn things rather than have to re-do the entire form to do a correction.

And on other fronts, this morning was a series of errand runs: I found it rather amusing to be taking the mower in for annual service while it was snowing outside. It didn't stick, but it snowed from about 8ish this morning until around 2. After that, it was off to the store for some gardening/landscaping supplies, and then to the post office to get birthday gifts for my niece and nephew into the mail.

So for now, I'm working on the numbers for the Iowa return, Lauren's making coffee after taking a winter nap (she'd rather be gardening), and the laundry is being done as well.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Morgan Spurlock

This has been a busy weekend here in the 'ville.

Friday night and most of Saturday found us doing yard work: moving brush pile items from the ice storm to the curb for pick up next week, when the city will be sending around pickup crews, re-edging most of the gardens, adding more rock to finish the newly rebuilt watercourse, and some assorted plantings (as well as a quick trip Saturday afternoon to St. Joe for some rock, since the local Earl May garden shop closed up their Maryville branch, forcing us to go to the one down the road). Add to that doing taxes and the laundry, and we're both tired.

But we've also had a moment of celebrity this weekend. I'm blogging this from the auditorium on campus, where indie documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, 30 Days, Where Is Osama Bin Laden?) is about to speak.


Lauren and I have never laughed so hard for so long ... Morgan Spurlock is GENIUS!

Unassuming, humble, but funny as hell, the writer/producer/star of Super Size Me! reminded all of us that careers don't happen overnight: telling us his story, Morgan related how he'd graduated from the NYC Film School after countless rejections from the UCLA film program, and how he had happened to graduate in the same class as M. Night Shamalayan ("you may have heard of him"), before becoming a runner/gofer for Tribeca Films (Martin Scorcese's studio) and later working as an intern on The Professional with Luc-Besson. After a short acting career (including the mental ward aide who is assisting Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) during the first part of Terminator 2 (who knew???)), Spurlock then became a live media spokesperson for Sony and later a producer of promotional films for Sony before developing a web-based show for MTV.

He then laid out the story of Super Size Me! Spurlock related that he had come up with what a friend and fellow producer called "the worst good idea" that Spurlock had ever had over a Thanksgiving, where after watching a news report about the two girls who were suing McDonald's restaurants as the cause of their weight gain, he decided to do a movie about the fast food industry and McDonald's in particular. He noted that he did it using $50,000 he had in hand (despite being in extreme credit debt), plus a cashed in annuity from his grandparents, and how he went from relative obscurity to overnight success at Sundance almost a year and a day after finishing the film.

Mixing that in with funny movie related tidbits: "America's number one steakhouse is Australian (Outback)", and that your average Bloomin' Onion appetizer has roughly 2,500 calories, Spurlock managed to convey that, jokes aside, the fast food lifestyle is unhealthy (even though he sometimes causes his vegan wife issues as he admits to still liking a good burger ... the kind you get from a local diner).

Following his talk, he opened the floor to questions, which ranged from the silly "want to come to our place for a beer bash afterward?" to the serious "how has becoming a father affected your work?"

The questions, and the evening, ended all too soon, but it was a great evening nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Every family has one

...this is what my sister always said about me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Going Out Like a Lion ...

It's the last Sunday of the month here in the 'ville, and we just got back from Kansas City, where Cheshirewoodgie and I spent a weekend with part two of our wedding anniversary celebration.

Friday found us staying at the Plaza Marriott, with an excellent view of the Kansas City Plaza. Woodgie spent a bit of Friday walking the Plaza and stopping at a gourmet cheese shop, Better Cheddar, while I was at work, and then after meeting up at the hotel, we discovered quite possibly the best Indian restaurant in KC (almost as good as, and probably better than, gasp!, our previous fave, Swagat). The restaurant, Korma Sutra (the name a play on a certain, ahem, book of Indian origin), has two locations, one of which is in the historic Westport area in KC.

We had their combination platter, featuring a dizzying array of dishes, including a free first order of papadam (lentil wafer) for an appetizer, followed by chicken samosas, a sublime coconut soup, bowls of a just-right spicy lamb saag and chicken tika masala served with a generous helping of basamati rice, two kinds of naan (regular and onion), and for dessert, galub jamin and cubes of frozen mango ice cream (which appeared to be frozen cubes of mango rose lassi).

Honestly, calling Korma Sutra a "better" restaurant than Swagat does a disservice to the latter. We both attempted to determine what the difference was. To be honest, we think it's that the style of Korma Sutra's cuisine was a little spicer, with the flavors bolder and more traditional, while Swagat's items are very good but a little too "Americanized" in contrast.

Needless to say, we left happy. And quite full.

Saturday found us with Lauren's friend Jenny touring the KC Home and Garden Show at the Bartle Hall Convention Center, which is turning into an annual pilgrimage for us. As always, we spent the afternoon wishing we had more home space, and thinking of ideas for things to do to our home. If anything, I know that should we ever win the Powerball lottery, that we are getting Viking appliances ... actually, we would settle for a Viking range; Lauren's heart has been set on an Aga , but from what we understand, using one requires changing your whole style of cooking to accomodate it ;-).

We had planned to head down to Union Station this afternoon (Sunday) to catch the KC Rail Experience and Science City exhibits, but we were a little bit worn down after the previous two days. The party next door to our room kept us up for a bit, so we were both a bit tired. At first, we had headed off to the hotel's hot tub in hopes that by the time we got back to our room, the party would have moved down to Westport, but the neighbors continued rowdiness required a small call to the desk due to the excessive noise and alcohol consumption. We'll save Union Station for a later day.

Instead of doing Union Station, we journeyed over to Cho Ga, our favorite Korean restaurant over on Metcalf Ave., with a prior stop at a Whole Foods (actually, a Wild Oats that is transitioning), for our foodie fix; neither one of us had ever been to one before, as we don't live in an area large enough to support one, so it was a treat for both of us.

So that ended part two of our anniversary ... not sure yet what we'll do for next year, but we hope it is just as entertaining.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More work update:

Did a little kitchen cleaning
Fixed the dust vac holder in the kitchen that was threatening to fall off the wall
Graded five issues papers
Got the root bed and the bean pole ready for planting
Pulled more weeds
Transplanted a bunch of pepper plants into bigger pots
Oh, yeah, and I napped.

And this is my vacation. Wow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Garden work update (more Cheshirekitty)

Update: Today's tasks done:

1) Made the frame for the hay bale gardens smaller so it sits on top of the hay bales.
2) Dug two bushels of dirt/compost (some frozen) from the composter and put in hay bale garden.
3) Moved the composter. This sounds like it should have been easy, but see 2).
4) Fixed the antique bed frame, which consisted of moving the mattress and box spring and reattaching the board which holds the slats in, this time using longer screws.

Oh, am I sore!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break Work (Cheshirekitty speaks)

Well, my spring break was going to be all about home and garden (although there are a couple dozen papers I need to grade as well), and so far, it has been pretty productive:

Saturday: Gingercat (Richard) and I rototilled the kitty garden and made a bigger border around the moon garden, replaced the trellis that had been taken out by the drunk driver last November, cut down the tall grasses by the fence, and tore out the entire pond and watercourse liner because there was a leak in the pond. Oh, yes, and ordered new pond and watercourse liners with geotextile underlay so that there's less of a chance of a rock or tree root tearing holes through the EPDM rubber.

Sunday: Easter. Recovered from Saturday's work.

Today: I got the last bale of hay or straw or something from a freecycler down in Savannah and made a frame so I can plant root crops. Because it's probably hay instead of straw, I am afraid there could be some weed seeds and the like to tussle with. Oh, well. And I need to cut the frame a bit smaller so it sits on top of the lopsided bales.
I also fixed two kitchen drawers and a porch railing, pumped out the mudhole that used to be my pond, put together four vine ladders for the raised beds, set up my worm bin, and even got a nap in. I tried to dismantle and move my compost bin that's full of too much dirt and not enough compost (from throwing sod into it), but the soil inside it is still frozen and it's going nowhere. Oh, yeah, I also washed dishes and cleaned litterboxes, but that's normal chores.

Tomorrow, I hope to put up the tomato ladders and plant peas around them, start a few more herbs in the greenhouse (holy basil, yarrow, Japanese parsley), throw some seeds on the ground outside (sweet violet and johnny jump-up), and remove a couple inches off the frame for the hay bale garden.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We forgot to tell you -- it's been a year! (Cheshirekitty speaks)

On Monday, Gingerkitty and I had our first anniversary. Yes, it's been a year, and yes, we were married on St. Patrick's Day. Well, actually, it was the first day of my spring break, and it just happened to be St. Pat's. (Richard has gotten used to my life being determined by the academic calendar: "We can't DO anything this weekend because the new freshmen are coming in!" and the like).

We celebrated by going to the local "nice restaurant", followed by my homemade Irish Coffee with freshly roasted/ground beans and Jameson's.

Here's a pic of the newlywed couple we were last year:

AW, Cats Are GOOD For You!

In today's Kansas City Star:

According to a study by the American Stroke Association, non-cat owners appear to have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from a heart attack than cat owners. They don't know if there is a correlation between cat ownership and heart health or not, if there is a correlation between the health practices of cat owners vs. non-cat owners, or what the connection is.

Maybe it's the purring.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Various and Sundry Items ....

Sigh ... it's the middle of March here in the 'ville, and winter is still sticking around for a little while longer. Lauren (aka Cheshirewoodgie) is feeling a little bit tummy-ish this evening after lunch at the local Italian restaurant (the food was as excellent as always, but there may have been a bit too much garlic in the oil which came with the excellent bread rolls, so she's sacked out early). It's okay; she needs the rest, especially after the road trip down to Savannah (MO) to pick up a couple of rotten hay bales she picked up off of Freecycle in order to do some root gardening.

We also looked at a nice house which is up for sale near Savannah, as we've been discussing what to do in the long-term for housing space. We've both realized that when Lauren bought our house, she didn't have concerns about the amount of living space: she was the only person living in it, and she had 3 cats, one of whom was an outdoor cat that spent a lot of her days outside. Now that I've moved in with my stuff, we've realized that it's cozy, and certainly comfortable for the most part (thanks to the house's amazing TARDIS-like qualities), but we're a little cramped in a few ways with two people and four indoor cats, we're short on storage space, feeling the pinch of a small kitchen, and wishing that we had more space for hobbies or additional bedroom space so we could put family up on visits. I think we both looked at the situation and realized that while a move to the house we were looking at would save me a half hour each way (or an hour a day) on the commute, the prospect of owning a 5-bedroom, 4-bath house is a bit daunting. So now we're making up a list of things we'd like to do to this house in terms of expansion (now if we only had the money!)

Meanwhile, Lauren's back to bed now, and that leaves me with a little time this evening to blog. A few highlights from the last couple of weeks going into April:

  1. I finished my semi-annual review (my first) at my new job. The managers are pretty pleased with me so far, and it looks promising from here. As I noted to Cheshirewoodgie, I'm VERY relieved to get past this milestone.
  2. It's banquet season at the college. Last Wednesday was the faculty HR banquet, with tenure awards. Cheshirewoodgie got a very nice ice cream and cake spoon and turner set with the Northwest logo (it's apparently a standard) for 10 years of service. Tomorrow afternoon, one of the sororities has put her up for a teaching award, and there is a reception after church for this. Then Wednesday, it's the departmental banquet. In addition, there were two annual student dinners: the annual international student banquet and the annual foreign language department/club banquet. Then today, we discovered that Lauren has won another service award, the Tower Award that has eluded her for the last few years, so we'll have yet another banquet on April 1st when she is presented with that. The challenge through all of this? Enjoying the food without letting it go to our waists.
  3. We're heading into the last month of the Spring semester, and by mid-May, Lauren will probably be recuperating from what that entails, including finals week. And then the road-trips begin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Green Things! (Another Cheshirekitty post)

Today, I saw the first signs of spring in the yard. It was 60 degrees out, so I decided after work to do a couple early spring tasks: pumping the nasty water out of the mini-pond where I managed to freeze my fishies last winter, and clearing some stuff off the herb garden to see what grew there.

The first thing I did to the pond was pull off the remaining ice, and then I scooped out the four dead shubunkin and one dead frog that were floating on the top. (Resolution: Place the pond warmer BEFORE four inches of ice have formed on the pond.) Then I ran the pump unattached to the filter until there's only about two inches of mud and leaves and brackish water at the bottom. That will be sucked out sometime in the next two weeks with a shop vac, and the algae that has grown on the pump will be removed.

While pumping the water out, I noticed that the watercress in the "stream" (external filter output spilling back into the mini-pond) was beginning to wake up -- and there's so much of it, and so much root mass, that you can no longer see the EPDM rubber that makes up the stream. The stream will be full of watercress and some Vietnamese coriander, and there will be a floating pot of water spinach in the pond itself. I also want to try growing some chufa (tiger nut or rush nut) -- although it's supposedly good food for wildlife, what I'm trying for is a crop of tiger nuts to make Spanish horchata (orxata in Catalan) with. Mexican rice horchata is NOT the same. Not at all the same.

I then went to the herb garden. Tarragon, oregano and curly mint are starting to wake up, as are the salad burnets. I discovered that I had missed transplanting some baby saffron crocus corms, and moved the little grassy-topped bulblets closer to the porch so they'd survive worse winters than this one (they're zone 6, but growing close to the house on the south side). The thymes and even the hyssop seem to have survived the winter; it's too early to call on the sage. I expect all the mints (contained in root-binding pots, of course) to survive, and the Profusion sorrel is coming up yet again -- it's come up during every warm patch only to get frostbitten and wither back.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Kittens! Kittens!

No, we don't have any new kittens. With four cats in the house, any more kittens would put me into the category of "Crazy old cat lady". But the Gingerkitty keeps sending me pics of every cat offered on Cerner Ebay.

So, to satisfy his kitty cravings, I found the following weblog:
Itty-bitty Kitty Committee. It's enough to satisfy anyone's cute floofy kitten cravings.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We Just Had to Laugh at This One

Last night, I was following a web link off a food blog, and ran into this site:

Needless to say, we were both laughing, in between wondering why we hadn't found the site last year for our own wedding (hint: the ATV bride and groom cake topper was a hoot).

Monday, March 03, 2008

Not Much of Anything Going On ...

Looking back on the last couple of posts, you're probably thinking: "don't these people do ANYTHING?" To be honest, there have been a couple of things getting in the way of that as of late:

1. Both of us are working now: last year about this time, we had time to go do things, because despite the effort involved in getting ready for the wedding, we had time to go do things as I wasn't employed until April, and even after that, my shift work ended at 3, meaning I could rest after work, clean up, and we still had most of an evening left if we wanted to go somewhere. Now, I'm lucky if I get home between 6:30 and 7:00, so the commute means that I not only have less time to do things, but I have even less time to blog than usual.

2. The weather: I hate to admit it, but I used to love winter. Last year wasn't that bad, and despite the zinger of a late frost that almost killed off Lauren's roses and a lot of our outdoor plants and trees, we were still able to start gardening by now. After this past winter, with two ice storms, one of which about finished off our lawn, and more below zero days than I can count, my love of the season has greatly diminished. Now, I'd say that I like fall better.

Today has been a good change of pace. Due to the weather and the roads, I worked from home, which means I'm now home and comfy on the couch (with the kittehs all curled up next to me) at the decent hour of 5:00 rather than the usual, where I would just now be leaving KC with a near-2 hour commute ahead of me. EDIT: Now it's a little later, and Lauren has joined me, but she's feeling a little bit wug, so she's heading back to bed.

That now leaves me time to actually surf the interwebs and write a blog post.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday To You! And Other Events ....

Okay, we know that we haven't posted in a long while, but it's been pretty crazy-busy, between work (mid-term time for Lauren), and work (ramp-up to being productive after training). Between dodging the winter weather and bad drivers, it's been a challenge simply getting up in the morning to make the near-2 hour commute down to KC and back. But it's been worth it; the new job is going wonderfully, and it's nice to finally be with a company that appreciates my skills.

So, in the meantime, what's happening with us? Well, we're planning to travel and simply do things, because March will bring with it our one year wedding anniversary. Hard to believe that a year ago, we were ramping up to March 17th, planning, sending invites, picking colors, setting up the hotel and venues. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

Anyway, we're not going very far, unlike a certain fellow friend and blogger who is going to India for 3 weeks. No, our trips will be a bit shorter this year: in April, we are looking at a weekend trip to Kirksville, MO for an SCA event (we're not members, but we thought it sounded cool to go to, so we're going), and then in May, we plan on heading up to Illinois around Memorial Day, where we'll do an outdoor memorial (now that it's warmer) for Pat, Lauren's mom. Somewhere in there, we hope to spend a weekend in KC to celebrate our anniversary.

Finally, in July, we are planning to go out to Blacksburg, VA, as a longtime friend of Lauren's is celebrating her 60th birthday and possibly (she should know by then) getting tenure from Virginia Tech, her current college. That will mean a trip out and back; due to the smaller size of the nearest airport at Roanoke, 3/4ths of it will be on regional jet (cramped, but reasonably priced). Still, it will be worth it; we hope to do some historical sightseeing and some local winery research, as well as the birthday and tenure celebration.

Speaking of birthdays, it was almost a year ago that we adopted Snowball, following the demise of Kitty. Here's a pic taken the day after we adopted her:

She has grown considerably, so we thought we would post a picture of her now:

The concensus is that she's a little odd looking in some ways, but she's still the sweetest kitteh we've owned in a long time.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Okay, So I'm a Little Disappointed ....

Given the announcement a couple of days ago that, in the reshuffling of release dates following the writer's strike resolution, Paramount has pushed back the release date for the next Star Trek movie to May of 2009, rather than Christmas of this year, it means one less movie to look forward to, and it is a little disappointing.

However, I am hoping that with the writer's strike resolved, that this means Abrams will have extra time for polish, (including updating any potential rough spots with the script, more time for VFX, and more time in the editing bays), so that the movie has a better chance of succeeding at the box office.

And I also hope that this means we will get a final last half of the season for Battlestar Galactica, and a well thought-out end to the series as well.

Still, there is still a lot to look forward to this year. Earlier this week, I was able to catch the just-released trailer for Indiana Jones 4, and it looks great (although it is disconcerting to see Ford as Indy at the actor's current age). Oh well ... to quote Indy from the original Raiders: "It's not the years, it's the mileage."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chocolate Festival

Today marked an annual Maryville tradition. As a fundraiser for the local Presbyterian Church's food kitchen, the women of the church put on a chocolate festival right before Valentine's Day. In the week before it, they make enough chocolate to rival Willy Wonka, producing everything from cakes to pies to chocolate covered cherries to brownies to cookies ... you name it, they have it for sale.

For a donation, you can also sample plated samples of their wares, as well as hot chocolate, chocolate-flavored coffee, chocolate-flavored tea (this year a chocolate raspberry combination), and, of course, melty chocolate from a chocolate fountain.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Quick Restaurant Note

Tonight we had dinner at Napoli's, a new Italian restaurant in town that replaced two former Mexican restaurants (and before it, a Country Kitchen) in the location adjoining the local Comfort Inn. Since it opened, the parking lot has been packed, so I convinced Lauren that we ought to try it out.

What we found was a place that serves very reasonably priced, very authentic Italian cuisine. Lauren had the Chicken Lemon (kind of like a Chicken Piccata), while I had their "works" spaghetti: meatballs, mushrooms, meat sauce, and Italian sausage (which also provided the seasoning). That was topped off with a stuffed dessert cannoli cream, which we split.

As I remarked to my wife as we left, "now if we could only get a decent Indian restaurant in town, we'd be in great shape" (Fuji, in St. Joseph, covers Japanese cuisine pretty well).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

It's Nice to Know Even the Forecaster Can Be Wrong ....

We weren't supposed to get snow today ... mostly freezing fog. However, the conditions have changed enough that we're getting snow this afternoon. Unlike most of the snow we've gotten so far this winter, which has been of the "small flakes or small flakes mixed with freezing precipitation" variety, we've been getting big, fluffy flakes of of the winter wonderland variety instead.

It's almost enough to make me like winter again.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Strange Dreams, etc.

Sorry about the lack of recent posting, but the last couple of days have been rather hectic for both of us. Monday found Lauren headed to Jefferson City with two busloads of students for Child Advocacy Day at the Missouri Statehouse. Although we hadn't planned on it, the timing was such that the bus dropped her off at Hazel's, a longtime independent coffeeshop in St. Joe, and I was able to leave work, head up to St. Joe, and pick her up to take her to dinner that evening.

The remainder of the week went by rather rapidly, or at least it's gone that way because of the below zero wind-chills, which have done much to encourage getting home as quickly as possible and making one's way straight to bed. Of course, that gets interesting when you start having strange dreams: in my case, one night I'd concocted a mash-up of Battlestar Galactica and Enterprise, with a harried Trip Tucker being chased by a determined Caprica Six. Utterly strange. And Lauren's been having some strange dreams, too. Those I blame on the NyQuil she's been taking. I'm not sure where mine came from.

This week's also been a bit of a cooking week: with the temperatures encouraging us to stay indoors, I've been finding the time to cook a bit. Wednesday night, I made a West African soup-inspired peanut curry recipe I found off one of my favorite recipe websites, the Simply Recipes! blog, which was an instant hit with Lauren (hey, it had curry, it had cilantro, it had mint, and it had creamy peanut butter ... what wasn't there not to like?).

On Friday, the development team I sit with held yet another potluck. I've been with them a little over two months, and they've had two potlucks and one team dinner for the holiday. These are my kind of software developers.

Friday's potluck was the "Security Siesta", so named because the team I work for supports the security side of the software the company sells, the theme for the potluck was Mexican, and because it would be a break from work. Yours truly brought Chicken Mole ... a bit of chocolaty-BBQ sauced goodness made quite easy with the crockpot. I cooked the chicken the night before, then got up early to shred the chicken in the morning and mix in the mole sauce (okay, I confess, I cheated ... rather than do a scratch mole sauce, I used Dona Ana's pre-made sauce, except I livened it up a bit with some extra cocoa (Hershey's Dark), a little bit of creamy peanut butter, and some Splenda to cut the edge on the sauce.) It was received pretty well; I had exactly 1 bowl left afterward, which became Lauren's dinner Friday evening.

This morning found us getting a break from the cold weather (finally!), and it was a good day for sleeping in. Lauren's been feeling a little bit under the weather due to that cold, but it had warmed up enough this morning that we could scatter seeds for the side garden, after which I realized it had thawed enough outside that I could do another raking of branches (from the ice storm), and sawdust (from the tree we had to have removed following the ice storm). The lawn's not 100 percent back to where it was (we still have to replace the trellis that the drunk driver took out), but all in all, the lawn's looking a bit better than it was before Christmas.

Lauren also put out new seedlings in the phonebooth-sized greenhouse she keeps out on the back porch. After that, she headed back to bed, which is where I will likely go here shortly ... we'll both need to be in good shape to watch the game tomorrow (well, at least I'll be watching the game ... Lauren will be watching it for the commercials). I must admit, we're going for the "reasonably healthy" for game-day snacks: buffalo wings with fat-free blue cheese dressing and guacamole accompanied by multi-grain tortilla chips for snacking. I might even be tempted to pull out a pack of chicken-spinach sausages to grill on the George Foreman in lieu of the usual brats.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And Of Course, This Really Has Me Pumped ....

Being a Star Trek fan, this image gives me hope that after the dismal outings of the last two movie treks and the "didn't quite get there until the end" meh-ness that was Enterprise, that JJ Abrams will get this one right, and provide the franchise a sorely-needed kick start.

Next December can't quite come soon enough for me. Well, to be honest, all of this year can't quite come soon enough, because by then:

1. Battlestar Galactica Season 3 will finally come out on DVD (in March) here in the States.
2. BSG Season 4 (part 1) will finally show up (and come back to Friday nights, after Sci-Fi realized its mistake in moving it to late Sunday nights).
3. The 4th Indiana Jones movie will make it to theaters in May (May 22nd).
4. The next Harry Potter movie installment is set to come out in November.

It's nice to have good reasons to go back to the theater and to watch the Sci-Fi Channel on Friday nights again.

OMG, Not AGAIN!!!!

To say that this week has been "interesting" to say the least, is to do the classic Chinese quote on the subject some justice.

Life is getting back to normal after Monday. Realize that I've only been at my new job since late October/early November. Realize also that I've also been through a long stretch where I went unemployed for about a year, living on unemployment insurance and my severance package from my last company. So, when I got into work on Monday morning and checked my e-mail, only to realize that we were going through a company-wide "right-sizing" effort, that cold icy ball o' fear that my job was on the chopping block materialized.

My team's meeting was late that afternoon, so I had the whole day to focus, to think about what-ifs. I knew that I had a job to fall back on, should the worst come to the worst. But still, it was hard to focus on work.

Suffice it to say that the worst fears weren't realized, I am still employed, and I'm still enjoying the benefit of being able to work from home, as I did today due to the winter roads.

But as I told my teammates: "this time, we dodged a bullet. Next time, I don't want to even be near it."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Back to Work amid the Bleakness (Cheshirekitty speaks)

I know, I know -- I am just so spoiled working in academia. While Richard got only a few days at Christmas (some of them bereavement leave from my mom's death), I have been off work from about the 20th of December until tomorrow -- almost 3 weeks. On the other hand, end-of-semester is usually insane enough that I NEED at least two weeks to recover. This year, the extra time was welcome because it gave me a little more peace to process my mom's death.

Spring semester's arrival isn't as momentous as the beginning of the school year in Fall. There are fewer rituals -- although we have a campus-wide meeting on Friday (just as we did at the beginning of Fall semester), we don't have events like the President's lawn party at Gaunt House. Add that to the fact that Fall semester ends with the whirl of campus Christmas events, and the beginning of Spring semester seems like an afterthought.

Spring semester comes in like a lamb, and will (like many Springs) go out like a lion. With extensive planning for the annual department banquet, coordinating the Department centennial, and serving on a search committee to replace our department chair, in addition to the usual teaching/research/service components of my job, it will be a crazy-busy semester.

Guess I needed that three-week break after all!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Hi all,

It's 2008. It's cold outside (7 degrees now, low of 3). And the New Year's project (housecleaning and sorting/disposal for things we no longer need) is almost done.

But first, a thank you to those of you who have read the blog (Lauren's friends from CalorieKing, Anne in Colorado, Martha in Phoenix, the Larcoms, and also the Knoll's (Linda and JT)) and who have sent cards or e-mails and left condolences. It was a very stressful, very bittersweet holiday for both Cheshirekitty and myself due to her mom's passing, but in retrospect, there were some small blessings in that her mom didn't suffer very long and that remembering her brought a small miracle to the family: an estranged family member (a sister's son who hadn't talked to his parents in 13 years), came to the memorial service on Thursday evening. We hope that it's the start of a reconciliation for them.

Despite the loss, we did still manage to have a little bit of Christmas while we were in Illinois. After leaving early on Friday to beat the oncoming winter storm (and driving through heavy fog until the last 30 miles of the trip), we made it to the bed and breakfast we were staying at, the Brightwood Inn, in Utica, IL. While there, we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts, John (Jack) and Jo Ryan, and quite possibly some of the best breakfasts we've had in awhile, including a sublime herb-laced cheese omelet, a breakfast casserole, and a breakfast strata, all accompanied by fresh bacon or sausage, juices, pumpkin bread or scratch coffeecake, as well as grapefruit and chilled fruit salads. They also kept the cookie jar in the library well-stocked with Christmas cookies, too. We're hoping to stay there again for the holidays next year as well (if anything, we like the instant comfort of gas fireplaces, and maybe next year, we'll be able to afford a room with a hot tub).

Christmas Day we spent with the family at the house in Marseilles, where we swapped presents, snacked on breads (more pumpkin loaf plus a scratch gingerbread loaf we had bought from an organic-themed bakery-goods shop in Utica), and drank some of Dad's very good plum wine. Cheshirekitty got a very nice cat-themed photolocket from me and a powered wine de-corker (as well as the copy of the Heroes hardcover comic which I let her open early), as well as a power drill (her old one had died back in October), a set of serving dishes, a "fat" cat penny bank, and a set of "caroling kitties". Meanwhile, I got a nice knife sharpener, as well as Dr. Who (NuWho) Series 1 on DVD, which we've been wanting for awhile now. I also got the special (pre-edited and enhanced) versions of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, which completes our collection there.

But on to New Years: Cheshirekitty has this little thing called "project obsession". When she wants to do something or get something done, she will keep working until it is done. This usually manifests itself as a New Year's project. Last year's project was building and installing a closet insert, so we would have more room to hang and store clothes. This year's project involved the purchase of a new, larger clothes dresser armoire (made possible by a very good sale at the local furniture store), the purchase and installation of a hanging jewelry armoire, the removal of furniture no longer needed (the old dresser and old standing jewelry armoire), and the disposition of a bunch of old clothes and items no longer needed.

Afterward, we headed out to A&G for dinner, and then settled in to await the New Year accompanied by Irish Coffee, chips and cheese dip to snack on, and a NYE toast over a little more Adam Puchta port which we purchased while on our honeymoon.