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.