Well, there went spring break.  I knew it would go by too quickly, but yikes.  I spent several days at home, several out and about, and managed to have a lovely week off.  In between the usual chores of cooking and cleaning I got a few things crossed of my to-do list.

Spring break accomplishments:

  • Finished my Big Giant Sweater; it’s now blocked and put away in the cedar chest.
  • Started Brooklyn Tweed‘s Autumn Leaves stole – a lovely pattern that is a joy to knit.
  • Un-cabled and dusted the dead TV – and the now-useless VCR and DVD player – and finally got rid of all the VHS tapes.
  • Spent many hours being entertained by the audiobook of  Dragonfly in Amber, the 2nd book in the Outlander series.
  • Went to my first yoga class in a very long time (and discovered that I still have 12 classes on my pass – yay!).
  • Took Kira out for breakfast before her annual checkup.  I had tea and gluten-free scones, she ignored her bit of scone and just yelled at the outside birds.
  • Knit in public twice at Starbucks – once with friends, once by myself.
  • Started sewing up some box bags of my very own – I figure I need at least 2 to hold knitting projects.
  • Finished 2 baby pumpkin hats and mailed one off to a friend in Canada.
  • Hooked up the old TV tuner to the laptop so I could finally watch CBS Sunday Morning.
  • Watched Dr. Pants stream a concert from @TheBloggess ‘s bathroom.  Fine music for a Sunday afternoon!

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How was your week?

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After a solid week of of annoying, frustrating, and downright pathetic events, I finally broke free from the streak of bad days and had a perfectly lovely one!  I took the day off to drive 50 miles for my annual appointment with my neurologist (par-tay, I know!) and meet a friend for lunch.  We enjoyed a relaxing al fresco lunch followed by some leisurely window-shopping.  Ahh, it was wonderful to have a little bit of a social life and spend some time hanging out with M.

Overall, my social life has been a bit . . .  missing . . . lately.   Spring Break solitude was  my own fault – I started reading* and spent 5 days living inside those pages.   I think I really needed the escape (it’s been at least a year since I dove that far into fiction), but it doesn’t do much for my “real” life.   Thus, I’m looking for events to attend this spring – you know, something to get me out and about with actual people.  So far I have mostly discovered that I have been in the wrong city at the wrong time!  But I did find at least one upcoming art fair that I should be able to attend.  One is a start, right?

While my real life has been a bit bland, my imaginary social life seems to be going pretty well.  I continue to virtually stalk Stephen Fry via Twitter.  OK, so he Tweets me, but it seems a little weird to receive so many charming messages from a man I’m not dating.  And since he’s been traveling in exotic locations with no data coverage, he’s not Tweeting a dozen times a day . . . and I feel a bit like I’ve been dumped.  Sad, isn’t it?  No worries – I just found Greg Grundberg, one of my Heroes.  And, frankly, Brent Spiner makes my imaginary social life seem completely sane.  Heh.

Well, I have a day of sheer drudgery ahead of me — laundry, bills, cleaning, etc. — and then one more day of fun and relaxation with another friend.  I have to say that taking a day off work to play is a very good thing for the psyche.   Coming back to work on a Tuesday (i.e. a short week) is a bonus.

OK, time to crash for the evening.  This is my favorite part of the day – being unconscious.   Now that the sinus infection is starting to break up, and the shoulder exercises are reducing the rotator cuff pain, and the dental work is easing the ache of that pesky molar, I can actually sleep!  This is a very good thing.  I’m a happier me when I get to be unconscious for most of the night.  Wish me luck.

Oh, and for those of you keeping track of my Time Warner Cable rants, they haven’t killed a channel in the last month.  They have, however, announced that they’ll start a tiered pricing plan for Internet usage by summer.   Keep  in mind that TWC doesn’t tell you how much bandwidth you use . . . so there’s no way to predict how many gigs of bandwidth you need each month.   Surprises are nice when they arrive in a box with a big bow . . . not so nice when they arrive in the form of a much-higher cable bill.  I suspect that my Hulu/iTunes/Internet radio days are coming to and end (good thing I never got around to NetFlix and their streaming movies).   When TWC pulled our NBC affiliate a few months ago, they encouraged users to hook their computers up to the TV and stream the shows.  How evil is that?  Get us hooked on streaming video, then start charging to access each program.  Nice business model – if you’re following the ethical standards of Enron and Bernie Madoff.  I’d love to switch providers, but there are no alternatives — my apartment complex has an exclusive deal with TWC and the only competitor in the area doesn’t even recognize my street address.

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*I read the Twilight series over Spring Break – 4.25 books in 5 days.  If you lack a week of leisure time, enjoy strong female characters, or have any literary standards, I suggest you read the synopsis and save yourself all the eye-rolling.  There was a compelling story somewhere under all the prattle, because I kept reading and hoping I would be rewarded for my tenacity, but I wonder just how long these books will survive once the fanatics grow up and find real literature.   I also suggest skipping the movie – I suspect that banging your head against the wall would be an equally-effective use of your time.  I’m still miffed that I’ll never get those 2 hours of my life back (and I’m still not sure what the movie was about).

Ever have one of those days/weeks/months where you check off time by tasks completed rather than days on the calendar?  This is (apparently) my busy time of the semester, and  I’m trying to keep my head above water by checking off all the things I’m supposed to do.

  • My new workshop seemed to go well today – no one fell asleep or left at the break.  I consider both to be good signs.  Perhaps it helped that the workshop started with a  game, included prizes, and ended with chocolate.  (No, I am not above bribing my participants to participate.)
  • Half of my conference presentation is done.  I still have a few weeks to finish and get it posted to the conference  website (per the agreement they made  me sign – after changing my topic, combining my session  with another, and adding time back to my presentation after other presenters dropped  out), but I’m thrilled to say I have PowerPoint slides rather than just a general idea floating around in my head.
  • My annual performance review is 99% finished – so I’m nearly ready for my meeting with my boss.  Not stressful in the least – just a pain because  of the level of documentation required.
  • A few more hoops are now jumped in my quest to eventually become a homeowner: my debt is down by a considerable sum, I have copies of my credit reports and scores, I’ve talked with my insurance agent about coverage, and I’ve found the neighborhood  (and house!) where I want to live.  Now  I just need to save half my paycheck for the next 3 years and I’ll be set.

It’s been a long week . . . and it’s only Wednesday.  I’m  looking forward to March, when I finally get some time off and can plan for some fun.   Mild-mannered, inexpensive fun, but a simple break from the task-oriented madness is most welcome.

And instead of complianing about the things in life that are stressing me out, I’m  going to continue to look at things that made me happy today.

  1. Pat made decaf coffee for me this morning . . . she knows that I only drink decaf, and makes sure I have a pot whenever I teach a class.  She doesn’t normally make a pot of decaf, so I feel special.
  2. A surprise phone call from a very sweet  lady from  MI (complimenting me on my hand-made cards and commiserating over the torn rotator cuff situation) just made my evening.
  3. The cool front arrived this evening; after a high of 82, I was thrilled that opening the windows was an option.  I refuse to turn on the AC in February!

Oh, and for those of you keeping count, Time Warner just pulled the TV  Guide Channel from the basic lineup.  Instead of red carpet coverage and annoying reality show coverage, I now get a shockingly bright red and blue screen that displays the time and date.  Down to 17 channels and counting.

So, how much fun is technology? Tons of fun!

  • The 2009 CES (Consumer Electronics  Show)  —  Lots of  new products were announced this year and I’m waiting for some new BlackBerry software to  be released.   But I think the coolest thing I got out of the CES coverage is finding  out  that I can visit a Venice without having to convert currency.  OK, so it’s not really Italy, but it’s slightly less gaudy than the stereotypical Las Vegas neon landscape.
  • The Impossible  Project – I want this to succeed in a big way simply for the irony.  There’s a great blog that highlights the attempt to reinvent instant film for 600 and SX-70 Polaroid cameras, and provides some great examples of instant film  photography.
  • Saw this little gem by T-Mobile UK and can’t help myself – I so want to have people break out in song and/or dance while I’m doing something boring like commuting.  Watch at your own risk – you might want to get up and dance!
  • One last fun  link:  Low-tech entertainment or high-tech for a calendar?  — Check out the Bubble Calendar.   Dude.

Oh, and for those of you keeping count,  Time Warner Cable pulled Channel 19 from my lineup – it’s now only available on the Digital  Tier of programming.   Sure,  it’s only the local community college channel, but I really liked watching the cooking guys . . . they were fun.   Down to 18 total channels (only a handful are real  channels – most are local access and  advertising).

I hope to be in bed before 2009 arrives in my time zone, but once I start on a blog there’s no telling what will happen.  Please forgive the grammatical errors and crazy thought patterns — it’s late, but I actually feel like writing so I’m going to go with it and get this blog started.  I’ll look at this again later and do some editing.

I’m ringing in 2009 quietly — at home, curled up with my computer on my lap and my ‘berry close at hand.   I spent many New Year’s Eves babysitting and I think the tradition is deeply ingrained; when left to my own devices, I want to stay home and watch Dick Clark.  My little one (Kira) is tucked in bed — I adopted her 8 years ago yesterday and it’s hard to imagine what I ever did with myself before I had a wee bird to dance on my keyboard, chew holes in my paper, and drink out of my water glass.  The year I got her, I went to bed before midnight expecting to wake up in spite of the  theories that Y2K would cause the world to end.  This year, I was slightly amused to discover that Microsoft inadvertently created their own little apocalypse — 30g Zunes began bricking themselves en masse this morning, causing a Z2K9 disaster of somewhat mild proportions.  Never fear – music will return on January 1st (like the Y2K problems, it all boils down to programming the internal device calendar – the Zunes didn’t recognize the 366th day of leap year so they just stopped working).  Guess this just proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In my world New Year’s Eve always arrives with a whisper, encouraging me to take a wistful look back at the previous year and adopt a hopeful outlook for the next 12 months.  I suspect that next year will be much like this one – too much work, too little sleep, painful change that results in growth, unexpected joys, and the ongoing quest to become better, stronger, faster, and–with any luck–a wee bit wiser overall.   Looking back, I ponder what more I could have accomplished had I worked a bit harder.   I would have liked to have written a few more blogs, read a few more books, walked a few dozen more miles, and lost a few more pounds.  Ah, well, that’s what the new year is all about — re-evaluating, adjusting, and setting new goals.

So, how did I spend 2008?  Well, this seemed to be my year for learning more about emerging technology and venturing into the Web 2.0 world.  I have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, keep up with a second  (professional) iGoogle/Gmail profile, manage at least two blogs (personal and professional), and use GoogleTalk almost daily.  My Motorola RAZR served me well for 2.5 years, but after switching to the BlackBerry Bold I have to say that I am totally hooked on mobile computing – and will eventually access all of the above sites via my ‘berry  (I’m almost there now).   Internet on the RAZR was so slow it was pointless; I heard the Bold was zippy, but I wasn’t really prepared for how quickly pages load – it really is a powerful device.  Calling the Bold a phone is like referring to the Louvre as a building.  I’m sure the its at least a dozen times more powerful than the computer I took with me to grad school (for example, the Bold has 1g of onboard storage and I added an 4g micro SD card for applications; my first PC had a 120mb hard drive and a box of 1.44mb floppies).  I must admit it was great fun to have instant access to my Gmail (and, of course, text messages) while staying with family over Christmas – I didn’t have to have my laptop in front of me to communicate with friends and family.  And my nephews really enjoyed the Madagascar Penguins movie I downloaded – they asked to watch it on my ‘berry every night before bed.

Anyway, I’m currently subscribing to a variety of tech blogs — including Slashdot, Engadget, and Google Mobile.  I’m getting a grand overview of the innovative, interesting, appalling, and sometimes just plain bizarre world of technology and the people who use technology tools.   I’m also reading a variety of BlackBerry feeds so I can continue with my quest to become totally addicted to my CrackBerry; I take comfort in the fact that I still recognize that this guy needs some therapy, but I can also understand the power of the addiction  (perhaps he gave his bride her own ‘berry to keep her company?).   Of course, I’m following the tragic story of the now very broken Large Hadron Collider  — it looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer to find out if the LHC will bring an end to civilization.

I’m also enjoying some non-tech blogs because, let’s face it, I have a 30-second attention span and blogs are a great way to get info quickly!  To foster my goal of getting 4-5 servings of veggies a day, I read A Veggie Venture–this recipe for green beans is on my list to try this week.    Margaret and Helen continue to write thought-provoking blogs — even though the election is over, there are plenty of issues that deserve the sharp and witty discourse.  Author Jennifer Cruise comments on a variety of topics – including her ongoing narrative about the writing process in general and her struggles to create and edit her current novel.

My most recent discovery —The New Adventures of Mr. Stephen Fry— makes me quite giddy, as I feel like I’ve been reacquainted with an old friend.  No, I don’t have delusions of actually knowing the man but, after reading his autobiography and scouring bookstores for a sampling of his novels, I find that I continue to crave more of his literary creations (not to mention his film work).  Digging into one of his lengthly blogs gives me the same cozy feeling as settling in a comfy chair and wrapping up in a soft blanket.  Plus, his addiction to technology gadgets makes me happy – the man travels all the time with a suitcase of gadgets – and I get a kick out of reading his Tweets.

Still not much into TV these days, as I stay pretty busy doing other things.  Plus, I figure the networks will just cancel the programs I like and Time Warner will just dump yet another batch of my favorite channels (as of midnight tonight).  While Chuck is still my can’t-miss show, I started watching House again and got hooked on Fringe — so I’m up to 2.5 nights of TV shows a week.  The iPods are getting a workout; the Nano (the short squatty 3g version) accompanies me on walks and to the gym and my video iPod travels between my home and office docking stations.  I can sync my Bold with iTunes, so I take music podcasts with me everywhere.  No wonder XM Radio is dying!  With HD radio, tagging, and iTunes integration, it’s possible to listen only to what you want to hear — with no monthly fees.

I’ve also spent some time crafting this year – the return of my creativity is a sure sign that I’m a bit healthier than I’ve been in recent years.  I dug out my watercolors, pounded out a bunch of card sets to sell  in a local salon (results pending), and continued to work on my jewelry-making skills.  I’ve spent most of my free time working on projects instead of digging through the ever-growing pile of unread books – but suspect at some point I’ll put away my crafting supplies and go back to a more calm and orderly existence.  I’ve got some great novels waiting for me  (including Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth / World Without End and the Twilight series).

Well, so much for 2008.  I’m ready to move on to the new year – I have big goals and am ready to chart out the steps it will take to get me where I want to be by this time next year.  Not a big fan of resolutions, but I will state here that one of my goals is to write at least one SparklyShiny blog a month.  If I want to discover my “blog voice” I have to actually practice writing, right?  And by the looks of it, I need to add some photos!

I hope that each of you will find unexpected joys and many opportunities for celebration in the upcoming year.  Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment, come follow me on Twitter (see the About tab at the top of this page for more info), send me e-mail and/or text messages – I’d love to hear about your resolutions, goals, or general plans for the year.

ttfn

Election day is right around the corner – thank goodness.  I’m really tired of the political ads and shouting matches.  I did my best to educate myself about the individuals on the ballot before standing in line for an hour and casting my vote.  By Wednesday morning, this will all be over and we can move on!  Well, until a few minutes later when the other guy claims the vote was unfair and the speculation about the potential effectiveness and the blatant criticism of the new yet-to-be-inaugurated administration begins.

If you find yourself just hanging around until Tuesday with nothing much to do, I’d encourage you to check out a little blog I discovered (thanks to Jennifer Cruise’s blog) this week:  Margaret and Helen.  If the set-up can be believed (hey, it’s the Internet – who knows what lurks behind the curtain), Helen is an outspoken 82 year-old woman living in Austin.  Her grandson set up a blog so she could keep in touch with her best friend, Margaret, who moved to Maine.   If you’re a staunch Republican, you may want to skip the link.  But if you have any ability to consider issues from various points of view, give the blog a read.   Helen gets a bit feisty and bashes people around a bit, but among the sharp critiques are some witty (and a few wise) comments.

I have been having some great political discussions at the office — with people who are interested in talking issues instead of bashing individuals.  I don’t care about Palin’s wardrobe (I’d need a new wardrobe if were suddenly put in the national spotlight).  I don’t understand why Senators are expected to have foreign policy experience (I want them doing the job they were elected to do, not flitting about the world at taxpayer expense and poking in places they don’t belong).  Frankly, I don’t know why candidates can’t simply admit that the job is too big for one person, and the smart thing to do is assemble a team of qualified individuals who can provide factual information along with sage advice about his/her area of specialization.  If one candidate had simply admitted that he doesn’t know everything, the debates would have been something more than completely useless drivel.

In any case, I am pleased that the Bush era is nearly over.  I am frustrated that Bush was so successful at making his friends rich at the expense of this country and treating the White House as his own private fiefdom for nearly a decade.  Why do I not like Bush?  Here are a few of my favorite topics to rant about:

  1. Executive Order 13233, which restricts Presidential records from this administration — and prior administrations — at the whim of the sitting president, under the guise of the undefined term national security.  Discussions from SMU and the Society of American Archivists show that there are a number of groups worried about this Executive Order.  If you’re not concerned about this, you aren’t paying attention.  I’m not even sure where the Order stands right now – several attempts have been made to overturn it, but it keeps being resurrected.
  2. The ousting of Archivist of the United States, John Carlin.  The Archivist of the U.S. serves indefinitely and is replaced only upon resignation or by removal of the President – but if removed from the position, the President is required to state a reason for said removal.  Bush replaced Carlin without stating a reason why . . . but we can guess.  (To be fair, Carlin was heavily criticized when he was appointed, but in time proved to be an excellent choice and was doing a great job of tackling some of the difficult issues surrounding preservation of electronic records.)
  3. Weakening FEMA by hiring his friends instead of disaster response professionals.  Even after Katrina, Bush fought Congressional attempts to require that the head of FEMA have some disaster response expertise.
  4. Weakening the EPA by undermining the agency’s regulations.  Bush derailed attempts to enforce clean-air restrictions on utility companies, and still refuses to acknowledge global warming.  (In this article, Bush says that following the Kyoto treaty could damage the US economy.  Ironic, isn’t it?)
  5. Don’t get me started on the U.S. Patriot Act.  Reactionary law seems like a bad idea overall, and making this law permanent doesn’t improve the quality of the legislation.  Of course, the White House says the law is saving American lives, but critics argue the law is too vague and far-reaching.  We’ll never really know (at least during our lifetimes) because all the records are sealed for national security reasons.

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As an update to my previous blog, KXAN has returned to the Time-Warner Cable lineup – not sure when, but yesterday I notcied they were back.  Just in time for KLRU-2 to announce that TWC is dropping the channel from basic cable; it will only be available to subscribers of a tiered digitial cable package.  The original KLRU station will still be available to basic cable subscribers . . . at least until TWC decides otherwise.

Time Warner Cable and LIN Television (the company that owns our local NBC station) have been bickering about money.  They took their squabble public, advertising on TV and radio for the last couple of months, so each can complain about how the other one is being unfair.  Frankly, I think they’re both being greedy: TWC charges consumers to carry local stations, and now the local broadcasters want a piece of that revenue.  Neither would budge.  So the NBC signal was yanked from the lineup as of Friday.

Once again, corporations bicker and the only people who lose are the consumers who want and pay for the service.  Sure, NBC is free if you have an antenna – but I live too far away from the broadcast towers to get a signal.  So there goes my plan to follow ony three TV shows this year – Chuck and Heroes are no longer an option.  Yes, I know I can watch them on NBC.com or Hulu, but the reality is that I won’t.  My tiny computer screen is not as easy to view as the TV, and when the computer is on I tend to be doing other tasks.  Hard to multi-task when watching a TV show in the same screen real estate.

I went 3 days last week without turning on the TV.  Looks like the trend will continue with even longer streaks now that I’m even angrier about having my choices taken away from me.   I’d tell TWC to shove it and take my business elsewhere, but I still need Internet service and they’re the only game in town.   My apartment complex has (or had, if it’s been made illegal now) an exclusive contract with TWC.  Even if the law allows me to change providers, there aren’t any . . . AT&T U-Verse doesn’t serve my Zip code, and the competitor cable company doesn’t recognize my address.

I hated TWC for screwing me over back in 1996 and I survived 10 years just fine without cable.  I had to pay for basic cable just to receive local stations here . . and once again I find that I hate TWC with a renewed passion of a thousands firery suns.   I obviously don’t need network TV in my life anymore.  I get my news off the Internet and I’m probably just as well off not knowing about severe weather (I don’t have a basement anyway).  From now on, I’m watching my Iron Man DVDs.  Thanks to Jon Favreau’s excellent planning there’s enough content to keep me busy for weeks to come.

Oh – Time Warner  Cable and  LIN Television – you both can bite my shiny white ass.   I’ll be bringing both of you a handbasket with some directions . . . .