Saturday, December 30, 2006

Stocking, Knitting Finished

It's done! It's done! Almost. Ok, the stocking is completely knitted, but there is cleanup, blocking, and darning Kent's name onto it. But, the big news is that I finished all the knitting early this morning after feeding the doggies and before Jane and Helen left.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Week After

Nick joined us Christmas Day. Yay! I was very happy and feel a great weight of worry has been lifted from my shoulders. Any more said at this point would be overkill so I'll leave it at that for now. He tells me his email address DOES work but he hadn't checked it in a while so it'd been disabled. He tells me he's re-enabled it.

The Christmas Stocking is coming along like gang-busters. The pattern numbering was off by 25 from the numbering listed in the instructions. I just had to figure out where. My math stinks, so this wasn't as easy as it sounds. After that got sorted out I read through the instructions (mind if I start calling this a recipe?) three or four times. And then another three or four times. Remember, this is my first exploration into socks (cue music from Journey to the Center of the Earth).

Most sock recipes call for doing the heel before the rest of the foot, from what I can tell. I finally figured out that this recipe calls for marking the heel with scrap yarn, knitting the rest of the foot to the toe, then going back to the scrap yarn, picking up stitches and separating the scrap from the rest of the foot and then knitting into the gusset. Humnph. Here goes nothin.' I'm about five rows away from the toe, then it's back up to the heel.

iHubby: Wow, that's really long.
Me: This part here? It's the foot.
iHubby: Oh.
Me: See, you have to knit to here, then do this, then go back here.
iHubby: Oh. (starting to glaze over - but he's so wonderful that he pretends he's not)
Me: And look inside, this is the way intarsia is supposed to look in reverse.
iHubby: You mean not like the spastic spaghetti where you did the, uhm, "reindeer"?
Me: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Then I asked him if he wanted his name on it. "You can do that?" asks my beloved. "Yes," I answer, and suddenly I'm the Knitting Queen of the World. It's good to be the Queen.

Really really: pictures soon.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Flaming Sticks

That's the name Hubby dubbed my knitting needles: Flaming Sticks. Stealth Project #3 is too big - way way out of gauge. I forgot to downsize the pattern when I upsized the needles. Maybe THAT will become a purse, too. I'm about three hours away from completion so I guess we'll see how badly oversized it really is.

Those three hours will be today because I'm home with a sinus infection, this season's first, and I'm going to try to to see the doctor and get much needed antibiotics. I can take Tylenol Sinus until the cows come home but the infection won't go away without the really good drugs. Since this is such a perennial thing maybe she'll just call it in to the pharmacy (hoping, hoping). Today is the team luncheon, too, which I also really want to attend.

Gooood antibiotics took care of that sinus infection. Then I sprained my hand. My hand caught on something and my middle finger (Mom, remember the one that I broke in middle school?) was pulled to far back. So far back I thought I'd broken it again, which after x-rays turned out not to be the case. Nonetheless, the pain was pretty substantial, and now most of the swelling has gone down, and there's a lump in the middle of my right palm. That really put the kibosh on a lot. So did the loss of my Christmas mojo. It disappeared. I think I got it back two days ago but up until then I was thinking I'd just skip the holiday this year.

So, Family-Who-Are-Reading-This, I (we) have gifts that I want to send but they'll be late. Sorry! Like the good little corporate manager that I am, though, I'm already thinking of ways to mitigate the likelihood of it happening again next year. It might involve visiting someone for the holidays. Or starting Christmas early, ha ha!

I have continued to knit, albeit slowly (it's been easier to knit than to mouse and type). All the stealth projects are completed. I've started working on a Christmas Stocking as my entry into the sock world. I've been told that knitting a stocking is a good way to learn; you use the same techniques but on larger needles and yarn. I've also found some nice patterns, so right now I'm swatching for gauge (knitting a 5" square piece using the recommended needles and yarn and stitch to see if my stitches/rows per inch are accurate for the piece). Since it'll be going on someones mantel, gauge isn't as critical, but it's good practice, especially given that two of the stealth projects came out in woefully wrong sizes!

I'll be dropping a note to Nick via his car windshield to invite him over for Christmas Day. He didn't respond to my last note so I don't know if he'll respond to this one. That's ok. He'll do whatever it is he's going to do, and eventually he'll bring us back into his life when he's ready. If he's anything like me (and he's alot like me) that might take several years.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stealth Project #2 - Finished

Alright, stealth project #2 is done. I just started the swatch for stealth project #3, which I changed my mind about three different times. It's more of a "which one can I finish first and get the biggest bang for my buck?" I still have the Publisher project to complete (if I call it something else you'll guess what it is), which I can do in a weekend. Then the Scotland project for Grandma, which I also can finish on either a weeknight or a weekend. If everyone get's Harry & David this year it means I wasn't able to finish it all!!! I seem to be the only person in the house who is into this "hand-crafted gifts" thing this year. Oh well, it gives me pleasure and hopefully will give pleasure to my recipients, too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Back & Forth, Knit & Purl

Yes, it's been a while. When things start getting rough, I stop blogging. Mom would say I should blog more when things are rough, which may be true...but not my native habit.

Round after my last post I retaught myself to knit. What insane bee was caught in my bonnet? I don't know but I'm glad I did it. More on that later.

The thing is, that last post was about a week and a half after Nick up and disappeared again. Sort of. He stopped going to work.
He stopped coming home. That was bad, and we got calls from his boss for several days until Bill was convinced we didn't know where Nick was. Which we didn't, but I think at first Bill may have thought we were protecting Nick from him. Then Bill called to say that a car had been stolen from the lot and that Nick had "deleted the key from the key vault," whatever that means. That didn't look too good. We haven't heard anything about that since, so he may have been bluffing to see if we'd cough up Nick. Since we couldn't, we didn't. For a few days we thought he might actually be missing...but we kept seeing traces that he'd been visiting while we were at work. Things left out, doors left unlocked, a soda can lying around where none had been previously. Ok, he's staying at the Redgate Nick's, we thought. ("Redgate Nick" is the name for his his friend Nick who lived on Redgate Ave, and that was our way of distinguishing one Nick from the other in conversation). I drove by Redgate Nick's place, now living with a couple other friends in our neighborhood, and there was Nicholas' car, his little black Nissan Sentra 200SX.

I tried (once) to reach out. I left a note (sealed in a ziplock baggy to ward off the damp) on his car window, which he got (I drove by several times to see if he'd plucked it off the windshield), but which he may or may not have read. He's doing everything he can to stay out of touch and at this point I'm just going to respect that. The other night, though, and I thought this was kind of funny, we found little hairs in the bathroom sink. He'd come by to shave and, as usual, didn't rinse the sink. I laughed. Three weeks ago I'd have had an emotional meltdown over the little incident, and would have been very blue for the following two days. This is, I think, where the knitting comes in to play.

When Shanon and I ventured to Charlottesville we sent into a yarn store. I was enchanted and curious. So, about Nov 10 or so, I was at Michael's Arts & Crafts store getting supplies for Christmas gifts. I found myself in the knitting aisle and stood there for a long time, looking at the yarns, the needles, and fiddling with some of the books, and I went for it. Picked (what I thought was) a simple pattern from a $3 booklet, got the needles and the yarn and a little bag of "gotta have" tools (stitch gauge, pins, measuring tape, needle caps, etc.) and went home and tried to figure it out. Between the instructions in the booklet, the videos on, and my own smarts, I managed to figure this out enough to make something. I can't say what it is because it's a gift but I'll post a pic after Christmas.

This simple object was knitted in the round and felted. Call me ambitious, devil-may-care, stupid. The first version of the object failed to meet my expectations. So I tried again, this time being very careful to cast on the correct number of stitches!!! But I learned many lessons from this first foray:
  • Felting is fun!!
  • Felting hides a multitide of sins, such as suspect seaming and boo-boos when binding off.
  • Felting shrinks pretty well vertically (stitches running up/down) but not much horizontally (side-to-side at the row level).
  • Wool yarn bleeds. Just ask my bras, which I threw into the wash with this little fuschia thing.
  • Knitting in the round is not nearly as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it's pretty easy, although the needles are shorter and I like them a little longer.
  • I'm prone to dropping stitches.
  • I can watches a marathon of CSI or Law and Order SVU for hours when I'm knitting.
  • It's incredibly relaxing, and meditative (when not watching tv).
And, most importantly, it helped me get through the last few weeks, including Thanksgiving, with Nick MIA and Patrick still in Fort Leonard Wood.

I've since made a hat which is waaaay too small for anyone but Alison's baby doll. It also fits my model skull. Now I'm knitting three other things which I can't discuss because they, too, will likely be Christmas gifts if I can get them finished in time to avoid overnight Fed-Exing! I have a bunch of projects, small ones, lined up for the next year. I'm abuzz with ideas and want to knit every pattern I see! No, this isn't eclipsing photography. I can't take photos all day long, every day. But knitting fills the gaps and then some. haha!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kissy Kissy

Kissy Kissy
Opportunity favors the prepared. Shannon and I were driving into downtown Williamsburg and spied this little paddock off the side of the road. We thought those sheep were nifty looking, and the light was wonderful. I turned around a few blocks later and we parked beside the sheep and started taking pictures. This one happened so fast I wasn't sure I'd even gotten it in focus.
Originally uploaded by ErinKristin.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Annapolis Weekend

Today we're off to Annapolis for the weekend and Kent's 20-yr reunion. Nick and the doggies are watching the fort. Saturday is a Tailgaiter before the homecoming game (I think Navy v. Duke or something). I don't know that we'll stay for the entire game because frankly neither of us is all that into football.

ciao, baby!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Childhood Favorites

Potato pancakes. Not the grated ones...real pancakes with leftover potato water and bits of mashed potatoes.
Quiche. My mom's recipe. I trust no others.
Rain on the tin roof of the Fellowship house.
Wiener Boats. I've never been able to duplicate it just right.
Christmas Cookies, with frosting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference! By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine

What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference! By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine

Ok, this is my favorite article this week. It makes me want to run to Canada. Fast. This is so embarassing. We must be the laughing stock of the world to have re-elected someone so blatantly incompetent. And yet his administration let's him get in front of reporters and say stuff like this. Gosh, I'd want to keep him locked in a closet. Wait. I already do want to keep him locked in a closet.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Patrick's Letter, August 9, 2006

I think I'll use a red pen today. So Nick's birthday is in seven days. I think I'll slip something in this letter. A check for $150...because I have it to give away.

Well we started BRM on Monday...and we qualify with our rifles on Tuesday. Good stuff. I sent graduation info to you and Ashley, spread the word to everyone else. I'll tell Jordon the 411.

Let's see...I have been chosen to assume the responsibility among 3 other people to memorize basic army knowledge, such as navigation, medical, the uniform...the whole nine acquire prestigious awards that go to only one platoon. So...pretty much, me and three other people in my platoon are representing the whole platoon.
(ok, I have no idea what he just said here...Nick says it basically translates as Patrick and three other soldiers represent the platoon at a contest with other platoons and the game is to have more knowledge about the regulations and army basics than the other platoon representatives.)

Let the light shine.


Patrick's Letter, August 6, 2006

As usual, Patrick's letters begin with...

This is the new stationary I bought (it's blue bordered with the US Army crest on the left side, and says United States Army on the right side, and the edges are blue that fade in to white). And the spandex is unbelievable. It's UnderArmour so I wouldn't expect anything less.

So we had a PT diagnostic today. i did 61 push-ups and 76 sit-ups...and ran my two miles in 13:14. I need to work on my push-ups...get a faster sit-up pace because I had about 24 more without stopping. The 2 14 seconds too slow. I'm shooting for 300+ points on my final PT test and I'm gonna get it.

We zeroed our weapons today. Half of us actually zeroed and the other half couldn't get 5 of 6 consecutive shots in that 4 cm (diameter) circle. The target was a piece of paper 25 meters away with a sample target that is the approximate size of full target 300 meters away. I actually have one (he enclosed it in his letter!). It's not mine, though. It took me 9 rounds to get my weapon zeroed, whereas some people it took 968,473,216,577 bazillion rounds and still didn't zero. It's alright, though. I won't be the one being held back because I couldn't qualify. (I don't know what zeroing a weapon means...)

And I had a butterfly land on my hand and stay there for a good 4 or 5 minutes. I took that as good luck like...luck that couldn't get any better. I often do butterflies land on people? Twice for me for as long as I can remember. A bunch of guys called me a pussy. Then I called out, "is that why I can fire an assault rifle and you can't?" Still got me a soft-ish heart.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cool Things from Slate

Does Israel's attack spoil the cease-fire? By Jesse Stanchak - Slate Magazine

One of the many things I love about are the "Today's Papers" titles. If you don't know about Today's Papers, it's a daily email that highlights what the major newspapers are headlining and summarizing their coverage. By majors, I'm talking primarily about Washington Post, LA Times, NY Times, and sometimes USA Today. It's a lot cheaper than actually subscribing to the physical paper or surfing to each of their sites. By the way, Slate is owned by the Washington Post.

Wednesday: Diss-Arming (The Washington Post leads with Hezbollah reiterating it won't disarm or really withdraw)

Thursday: No Farewell to Arms (Lebanon's government, as expected, ordered its army into the south after it hammered out a don't-show don't-search deal with Hezbollah)

Friday: Tapped Out (federal judge ruling the president's warrantless wiretapping program is quite unconstitutional)

Saturday: Cease To Exist? (wire services reported early Saturday that Israel may have broken the ceasefire that took hold Monday by launching a raid in eastern Lebanon)

Sunday: Kofi A-None Too Pleased (all lead with an Israeli strike on a Hezbollah bastion in Baalbek, Lebanon, an act United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan considers a violation of last week's cease-fire agreement)

So what's all this about? Well, I'd forgotten that I can "blog this" using my right-click menu thingy and I'm all about that right now. I'll get over it soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Conspicuous Consumption

New washer and dryer time! Woohoo! It seems so sad to get so worked up over a new set but these are really nifty, quiet, smart, and have a huge capacity. We didn't just do this out of the blue, though. This was all about the fact that our dryer had been dead for over a month, and this set is >15 years old, and geez I'm sorry but I don't enjoy hanging out at the laundromat. I wish we had as nice a laundry space as this but, truth be told, it's in the dark, spider-webby basement of our 100-year old house. But it's a very sweet set!

And Nick...broke his wrist :( He see's an orthopedist tomorrow for a cast. It's a small fracture at the end of his ulna and he's had it in a brace since Saturday - the folks at PatientFirst wanted a radiologist to read his X-ray because they weren't sure if it was a break or not. His health insurance doesn't take effect for another four months so this really is a major bummer for him.

All the news that's fit to print!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

California's secret SUV ban, By Andy Bowers

California's secret SUV ban. By Andy Bowers

Doesn't this make you want to go out and tell someone and then stand back to see what happens? It's just too good. I've been trying to catch photos of Hummers in incongruous places. In the supermarket parking lot, towering over other cars; in rush hour traffic; in front of the doctor's office; parked at the botanical gardens. Funny, I've never seen one at the hardware store...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Patrick's Letter, August 2, 2006

I got 9. REMEND is an iffy, though, but I would've crushed on that roll. I was told about the new washer and dryer.

I might want a copy of that program you just made. I could use it to my advantage.

So, yeah. Oklahoma.

Our first FTX was awesome. People were getting hit with fake IED's, drill sergeants were sniping privates with rubber pellets whenever they walked out into the open, MRE's are a godsend, 3k and 5k road march, random running through the woods trying to take out the drill sergeants, and we were kept on our feet the whole night during fireguard trying to infiltrate other platoons areas. And the stars were magnificent. I spotted Orion, Cancer, Ursa Major and Minor, Cassiopeia, Poseidon, and Venus. Not to mention a shooting star and the Milky Way. Good training. We started BRM today
(I think that's a rifle). Touched on a few things I've been reading up on. I asked about the rear sight...because there a big hole and a small hole...I wanted to know the difference.

It's all good, though.


He used the phrase! AAARRRGH!

No title, no sun, just rain: p.s., "it's all good"

I don't like that phrase, "it's all good." Maybe I'm just being perverse. It's in the same league as "oh, my bad" and "functionality," the latter being a term made famous by the IT people. Apparently, "capability" just doesn't cut it, and neither does "function(s)." IT has a tendency to create short-hand that becomes mainstream. It's even in the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Sad.

I meant to begin by saying that the idea to post a bunch of pics occured to me when I ran across the little ad for "disposable weddings..." June was a really wet month: we picked up over ten inches of rain. This month I think we're up to one inch. Most of this is via little squalls that run through the area, or thunderstorms that build around the hottest part of the day. Every so often, though, we'll get a gray, wet, depressing day. Summer in Norfolk = Hot to Sweltering. Did you know that sweltering is defined as above 70% humidity? I didn't until today.

I promised my Mom that I would type Patrick's letters from basic training. Here's the first one.

July 11, 2006
I'm in boot camp finally. It started yesterday. And so far, to say the least. I've organized a little work-out routine compiled of stuff I learned in weight lifting to help prepare everyone else for the PT tests. So far red phase isn't so bad. All I do is obey the drill seargents and don't resist and we get along fine. It's easy. Three people went AWOL already. It's ridiculous. I tried to call yesterday but I forgot how to use 1-800-Collect
(what, are you kidding me?) and I don't have a phone card. So...send a loaded phone card and moleskin, ok? I've got half a blister. They're on my feet now and not my hands.

I graduate in November when I complete AIT.

p.s., stick a 3 on the center
(back) of the envelope when you write back so the mail can find me faster.

Patrick gets blisters on his hands from rowing and weight lifting. Blisters on top of blisters...because he refused to wear gloves. He said it interferes with his feel of the paddle (or weight bar). Ok. I don't like the way THAT sounds...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Patrick's Letter, July 18, 2006

Hi. Lack of possessions holds no restrictions for me. I just created a mini chess board on the back of this pad of paper. I've beat 2 people 3 times today. It's easy. My hardest opponent is probably Kent. I still need to beat you... On another note, I've been voted the fastest sprinter in my platoon. And I'm the designated tattoo artist. We're supposed to get our rifles today and start firing them at the end of red phase. We're in the 4th day of red phase right now. And the platoon is starting to get together. I'm gonna come back ripped. I've already started to see changes in my muscles. Send moleskin. And computer paper. And pencils. Love, Patrick

Now THAT sounds like the Patrick we watched trip away to basic training! Kent began sending him Boggle boards. We play Boggle almost every night and when we encounter a particularly good tile set, we draw it on paper and send it to Patrick.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Patrick's Letter, July 13, 2006


I was thinking today while standing in formation that the army isn't for me. I have too much of a free will. I want to laugh whenever I can, talk whenever I can, sleep whenever I can, eat whenever I can, smile whenever I can, and just think for myself and to be an individual and not some robot made identical to every other robot here. I only have one hour to be myself...but that's not enough time. I want the whole day. I feel way too restricted, and you know how I hate feeling restricted. I'd like to look around, to observe what's around me and take it in but I can't.

On Sunday I'm going to talk to a chaplain. Get my options and see what I can do. I want to pursue my musical talent. I could've gotten a record deal before I came here, and I feel by the time I get out of AIT my opportunity will be gone. I don't want that. Not at all. I was rolling like a perfect I just feel I hit a bring wall. Like I'm going nowhere. And upon that wall, in big while block letters, is the word "ARMY"...

Oh no! Kent told me this happens with ALL recruits the first week. We told him to hang in there. I don't know if he did see the chaplain, but his next letter was more encouraging.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

No title, no sun, just rain

fotograf by imran 2006

This is (was, I wrote this June 3 but finishing it on August 2) my weekend to surf photoblogs. It's incredibly inspirational. I visit ddoi almost daily found some new ones today. I like the work this guy, imran, is doing. I know he's Photoshop'ing to some extent but I'm now sure how. Dodging and burning? LAB corrections? Some of it is pretty real. And disturbing.

Anyway, that was a month ago. Since then, amazing, wonderful people have given me insightful advice and shared their own tragic stories, and few words express how much I appreciate all the support and friendship you've given me. I'm sure this is just the beginning of a new journey with my adult sons who are so different from one another and who are, in many ways, a lot like me.

Patrick graduates this week, plays for two weeks, then is off to basic training at Fort Eustis, up the road about 20 miles. Nick has a job interview on Monday (!!) and I'm going to spring for some decent slacks and nice shirt so he doesn't turn them off with his surfer shorts and oversize t-shirt. This much I'll do. I'm thankful we don't have drugs to deal with. He has a very supportive friend in Jason, who I consider our "other" son, and who I think helps keep him on the (mostly) straight path.

Work. A week or so ago I finally broke through my funk and am kicking ass and taking names. The national manager position was posted, Friday, for our team (I'm a regional manager). It's been filled on an interim basis for six months by one of the other regional managers. The first week of January the previous nat'l manager unexpectedly terminated. So, I may go for this. I don't have anything against the current guy, and I wasn't, and am still not, disappointed that he was picked to take that role. Six months ago I don't know that I was ready for it. But it's more strategic, less day-to-day ops, and I can actually look forward to doing a Six Sigma Green Belt project. This would finally get me on the six sigma-related process path I REALLY want to be on. I'd miss working with my database and metrics, but at that level I can actually define those things, instead of implement them. The recruiter was on vacation, but I need to find out if they already have someone slotted for the spot (the interim guy, for instance) or if it's really, competitively open. If so, I can nail this. If not, then I have Plan B: keep scouring the postings for something in the Q&P organization, and (Plan C) if there is someone who transitioned over from MBNA, then impress the hell out of the new guy. The other thing about moving into the nat'l manager spot is IF we outsource the move/add/change work I'd help define how that will be implemented. Kind of a lesson's learned from outsourcing some of the other technology outsourcing implementations. I've been engaged in some kind of outsourcer management for eight years so it's not like this is new territory. In the current environment it's a very real possibility. Do more with less and less.

Big long paragraph. Yes, I'm excited.

Let's see, what else...I've lost 15 pounds on purpose so that's been a very nice achievement. It's so nice to notice that some of my mainstay shirts a a little looser around the hips, that my jeans need to be replaced because they are, officially, too big.

I'm obsessed with the geometric patterns created by a group of five shipyard cranes across the Elizabeth River. I noticed them a few weeks ago during a meeting in the river-facing conference room. Beautiful blue sky with cotton-ball clouds, and these five cranes. I figured out one way to shoot them but I'm looking around for alternatives. There's a parking garage on the river and I took some images from the top deck but it wasn't the right angle.

Anyway, here are some images of mine, and some I've run across recently, including THE DaVinci Manure shot across from Rosslyn Chapel.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What I did on my Memorial Day Weekend

Curtains. We sewed more curtains. We're designing with fabric! We (and this really is a Kent & Erin joint venture, not just a "we, a.k.a. Erin") were prompted in our actions by new neighbors.

Thelma lived in the house on the east side of ours, so for five (?) years we've been here and she's been spending 50% of her time at her place in Nags Head. Great gal, that Thelma, older than dirt, a little 5'0" crotchety thing but generous to those who were kind to her, very plain spoken, and drove a big 2002 F150. I'd seen her drive and it was a scary thing. Really incongruous to see her and that truck, though. Anyhow, Thelma passed away a few months ago. That was very sad for all of us on the block because we liked her. The family had an estate sale and I couldn't bear to go over there with all the other vultures and pick through her things for the best second-hand value. I don't have that problem with other estate sales, so it must be because we knew her.

The house sat on the market for six or seven months until Kelly & Al bought it at the beginning of May. They've been renovating like crazy, which frankly has us inspired. More than that, though, is that they stay home! And they use all their rooms! And some of those rooms on their second floor look into the bathrooms on our second floor! Eek! Except for our bedroom because there's even more exposure, none of the windows on the east side of our house has window coverings, and except the kitchen none of the windows on the west side of their house has window coverings either. We're pretty exposed to one another on both first and second floors.

We dug out our drapery plans. I picked up "frosted" window film for the bathrooms and then picked out sample fabrics for the windows in the living room. I'd been down this curtain-construction road before so I feel pretty comfortable nowadays. And, this is Memorial Day Weekend, which means EVERYTHING IS ON SALE, including decorator fabric.
Seven one-yard swatches later, we decided on a lovely burgundy with embroidered-gold twining flowers in polyester that looks a lot like Dupioni silk, which I love but can't afford. This is for the living room and looks amazing with the gold-toned walls, especially if we use it unlined with shears behind. We had a 12-yd bolt of a great looking flower pattern on yellow damask that went well in the dining room. Back to the fabric store for drapery lining, a full twelve yards of the burgundy ("merlot"), thread, and weights. We found fabric for the shears, too, a pale gold with similar self-color twining flower pattern. Over to Lowes for rings and rods, then home to measure, cut, and sew. Saturday was all about acquiring the implements of destruction. Sunday I finished the first of four yellow panels for the dining room.

Sunday night was a bonfire/cookout in Chesapeake with the cast of the Durang one-acts that Kent is doing (Kent acting, opens June 9). Getting to this place in Chesapeake from Norfolk is like from Bremerton to Horseshoe Lake using half highway and half back roads. It doesn't look like much on the map but dang it's way out there, just a mile or so from the NC border. Terrific small get together, theatrically typical.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Nicholas has returned. Oh joy, oh rapture. Sort of. He called at 9:30PM, Saturday, April 29, and said "I want to go back." Okaaaayyyy....So he wants to rejoin the human race, as he said. I went to visit him, took him to dinner, invited him to spend the night. The bottom line was that the mother of the boy he was staying with told him that he couldn't stay there anymore and he had to be out on Monday. No one would give him a job because they didn't want a deserter. He didn't want to go back to the Army, per se, but wanted to be discharged out of the Army the right way. We bundled him off to Fort Knox, where they out-process guys like him, and he returned on May 7th. So now he's looking for a job.

I should be joyous and enthusiastic, but what I feel is drained and wary. Wary because we've gone through this finding a job thing before, exactly this time last year in fact. And it hasn't been fruitful. There doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency. I want him to be DESPARATE to find a job. I want him to be desparate to get his own place. What I see is sleeping in late, playing computer games, making a few phone calls, and nothing of any consequence happening.

He and his friend Jason have a deal where they'll get a place together at the end of June, when Jason's current lease expires. That's his deadline, but for Jason to accept him as a roommate Nick has to have a job. We're losing sleep over this because it's as if we've turned back the clock and we're pre-Army again. I'm not encouraged. So he's been home for two weeks and no job. He's submitted one application, to Dycarp. Jason works there and there is an open position.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Scotland Day 1 of 9, Part One

My numbering makes no sense. The REAL day one in Scotland is the morning we arrive, 8:00 AM local time. Our guide, George, met us at the airport and laughed over the amount of luggage we had, wanted to know if we were moving in. Accent? Oh ya. Heavy accent. They went to the what? the toolit? And who the hell is Mum?

I need to back up. The flight was wonderful. The last time I took a trip with my mother I was about 12 or 13 years old and we (Michael, Mom, me, Carolyn, 1976?) drove the old Mazda to Disneyland and listened to Beatles all the way. That's how I remember it, anyway. This, on the other hand, was Grown-up Travel. And I'd never traveled with my grandmother. I sat between Mom and Grandma on the plane, rubber-necking back and forth, soaking up the face to face time. I don't remember a single thing we talked about, but that isn't important. Important was the nearness and the touch and the smile.

All seven hours of it.

There were two movies, the names of which I don't remember but watched anyway. One was...Diane Keaton, Dermott Mulroney (what a hottie!), ding-dong from Sex and the City, Matthew Broderick's wife. I like her, don't get me wrong, I just don't remember her name. Oh, and that guy from Coach, I like him so much, he does those wonderful "Real Man with Grudging Vulnerability" roles. Mom knows his name. Craig? Ah. Craig T. Nelson. I would never have placed him in a movie with Diane Keaton. Never ever. I'd have called it a total mismatch but it seemed to work. But hell, I was on a plane, it was probably cut to shreds, and they were handing out dinner in the middle of it. Why couldn't they have done that during the other, less interesting movie?

I am my mother's daughter. We talk alike. We laugh alike. We think alike. We like the same style of eyewear, a la Elvis Costello. Or Buddy Holly, depending on your generation. We buy the same types of things even though we don't know the other is doing it. We love movies and British comedy...but then where do you think I got that, hm? We would continue to notice these little things and laugh over them through the entire trip, and I think it was a little disconcerting to Grandma sometimes. 12 years and 3000 miles apart and I grew into the adult I admired most. A lot like her.

Mushy mushy mushy. Mom and Grandma took cat naps; I may have dozed a little but I'm not an airplane sleeper.

Touch down. Pretty clean landing in the middle of a pasture. The Edinburgh airport is surrounded by pasture. Not a little bit of pasture. A lot of pasture. Green rolling hills and evergreens, and white fluffy dots that on closer inspection were sheep. We get off the place last, which makes sense because we'll be the slowest. You'd think we'd be the slowest, but Grandma was up and off! Didn't look back just marched down the aisle, off the place and into the wheelchair. She was three or four people ahead of us before we knew what happened. The took very very good care of us. Rolled us right up through immigration and customs, no waiting, thank you very much, have a nice visit, mum!

Baggage claim was strangely quiet. I looked for "no shouting" signs. Everyone was so...reasonable. Standing quietly waiting for their luggage to appear on the conveyor belt. The baggage was all right side up when it came out. No one crowded. Stepped up, took the bag, pardon me, thanks, and went off. The fellow who was handling the wheelchair for us set the break, got a baggage cart (free, hello) and did a fine job hauling our luggage off the belt and onto the cart. No no, you just stay right there...another fellow joins us and asks fellow number one if he needs a hand, which we do, and now we have two: one fellow for the wheelchair, one fellow for the baggage cart. Then we find George and it's beginning to feel like an entourage. George, Grandma, Mom, Me, Fellow #1, and Fellow #2. We take a quick bio-break, then to the car where the Fellows peel off too fast to leave them a tip. Bye, have a good stay! More about tipping later.

We're flushed and tired and excited and dazed. Right off I tried to get in on the driver's side of the car. I stood there thinking that something is wrong with this picture but I can't put it together. All the other countries in the EU drive on the right-hand side of the road, like the US. But not the UK. Stubborn asses, still on the left side. I suppose there's just too much infrastructure to change it at this late date. I wonder what the history is about driving on the left? Or driving on the right, for that matter.

Drive drive drive Do you want a take-away? We stopped at the BP off the motorway. It's not a highway. It's a motorway. Anything that isn't a motorway is a track. Coffee sounds pretty good. Three Americano's for the three drive drive oh shit where's my wallet? Somewhere between getting the coffee and returning to the car I leave put my wallet somewhere and now I can't find it. It's not in my big green bag, it's not in the back seat, it's not anywhere nearby. While George finds a place to turn around and head back to the BP, I'm thinking. Ok, first the backup plan. I don't have a backup plan so I make one up: Call Kent and have him wire money into Mom's checking account so she can cover my expenses. This actually would work because I had set up bank transfer approvals so that I could wire money to her to pay for the trip. I'll have to call collect and it'll cost a fortune but it's my own damned fault anyway, and I'll have to walk Kent through the process because I don't think he ever logs in to that particular bank account! Back at the BP. There is one on each side of the motorway, with a pedestrian bridge. The pedestrian bridge is disgusting and stinky and dark but George and I cross it and look for the red wallet. It's more of a small-ish red purse, about 6x9 with a yellowish/orange interior. Bagallini. It has a detachable strap which was, at the time, detached.

George and I look everywhere in the BP minimart, around the gas (fuel) pumps, near where we parked. George talks to one of the officers who hang around for safety. We walk back across the stinky, disgusting, dark dank pedestrian bridge back to the car. I'm horribly upset. I have a backup plan, but I'm still devastated. George is beyond devastated, I think. He's a sensitive guy. I open the car door. Oh shit.

I imagine that there's this little applet running in the background, in my brain. When I set something down, this applet runs the "set down-pick up" routine. The routine has a natural break in the middle where it is waiting for the cue to "pick up." Sometimes the cue is conscious, I look over, reach out my hand, pick up the object, the routine finishes, and I consciously know exactly where my pocket book is. Sometimes, the cue is not conscious; something trips the applet so that "pick up" runs anyway, and correctly I might add, the hand reaches out, picks up the object, tucks it under the arm or wherever, although I'm not paying attention at all. Not for a millisecond.

Under the front passenger seat is the corner of my red wallet. To say that we were relieved is an understatement of significant proportion. It takes us a good fifteen or twenty minutes wring ourselves out from our first trauma. The "set down-pick up" applet ran exactly as designed.

I don't think I'm overplaying this too much, really. Back me up, Mom. There was only one other trauma during the trip. Stay tuned.

Next episode: Luss, Loch Lomond, Dunoon, and The Dhailing Lodge, Day 1 Continued.

Lesson #2: They don't have "to-go." Rather, they have "take away."
Lesson #3: If you don't understand, tell them to speak slower.
Lesson #4: Know where your purse/wallet/handbag is at all times. Keep it attached to your body. Not because someone might steal it, but because YOU might set it down and forget it in all the hubbub of getting Mum situated with her coffee and out the door with her walker.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Black Pansy

Scotland Day 0 of 9

All was well until I got to the gate at the Norfolk airport. There was no place. It was late arriving FROM Newark to take we who were waiting TO Newark. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that the late departure ate up all the wiggle room I had between flights. I really thought I was going to miss my flight out. I set up a contingency plan with the folks at the gate so that I could take the next flight out if I missed this one. In fact, I had been removed from the original flight because, based solely on schedule, my Newark flight arrived after the Edinburgh flight departed.

But wait! The Edinburgh flight was also delayed by about thirty minutes. I got to the gate just in time to begin boarding. Mom was sweating bullets. She'd called Kent, who knew he couldn't call me because I did not take my phone with me, but he did tell her that the flight was very late leaving Norfolk. Not much a person can do except hope that it all works out. Which it really did. We all got on the plane together, Grandma and her walker, Mom hanging on to hers and Grandma's carry-ons, and me with my roller bag and shoulder bag. We had lots of STUFF. The flight over was pretty uneventful, but those first few hours before we left the ground in Newark were nuts.

Lesson #1: Avoid Newark/Liberty Airport at all costs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

That Scotland Trip!!!

It was soooooo fun! My pictures are here. In case the link doesn't work, copy/paste the following into your address bar: I converted them all to jpg and just loaded them up. Like I've been telling everyone, I have a disclaimer: I haven't sharpened, color corrected, tweaked, replaced clouds or sky, removed people, added objects, or otherwise messed with these images at all yet. I'm still cataloging. I tried not to include duplicates but I'm sure I missed a few. I sent Mom three CD's full, and I'm processing photos for Grandma but it's taking longer than I'd hoped. This weekend maybe I can finish that.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption: The Results

So: (see what I mean?)

I got the CF Card reader (very inexpensive) but the vPod doesn't recognize it. But I can upload the images to the vPod from the camera, which it does recognize. And I might get a battery grip instead of an image tank, undecided as of yet but it's half the cost of a tank and it takes AA batteries instead of the special Canon rechargable battery. Still undecided.

Later (much much later, as in 4/25 later)
What I finally did: March 30th, bought the Epson P2000 from Circuit City, used it for the entire trip, and reset it to the factory defaults after uploading allllll my gb's of picture to my computer, repacked it in it's little carton, and returned it to Circuit City on April 13. There's a fourteen-day return policy. Lest you think I'm a complete schmuck, let me say that the P2000, and rockin' as it is, does not do for raw files as it does for jpg. For instance, you can zoom and rotate and do slide shows with jpg files but you cannot raw files. Let me also say that this is likely only time I will ever do this, and it is the only time to date that I've done something like that. But in the meantime I did have a convenient way to save my photos and show them to Mom and Grandma!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption: The CF Card Dilemma

Mom and I have many things in common, including starting many of our sentences with "So..." So much so in fact that SHE named her blog in that vein. I love it!

I have this terrific digital camera, and two 1GB compact flash cards for it, with the intention of buying two more of that size. Each holds about 90-or-so RAW+(small) JPEG images. Which is great unless you are traveling out of the country and don't want to take your laptop with you. Which will be me on April 1.

I researched the heck out of this and had originally intended to go buy a "photo storage device." There are several nice ones out there, including:
  • Epson P-2000
  • Image Tank G2
  • SmartDisk Flash Trax
  • Transcend Portable Photobank
Most of them don't have a color display, something I personally feel is a must. I read bad reviews about the Flash Trax, good reviews about the Epson, and no reviews about the other two. At this point I'd pretty much set my sights on the P-2000 when I spied a discussion board post about using the new video iPod to the same end. More research ensued. You could ask why I even bothered since we already have (ahem, KENT already has) an iPod. First, you have to understand that the P-2000 and the 60GB video iPod cost about the same and have many of the same features. You also have to understand that Kent's original 40GB iPod was behaving more like an iBrick. It weren't doin' nuthin' for nobody. Dead dead dead. We talked, Kent and I, and saw an opportunity. He gets a new iPod and I get an image tank. I like the sound of "image tank" even though it belongs to something else. This saves us the cost equivalent of two iPods and hundreds in compact flash cards. Really. Logic doesn't work here. This is all emotional. Do the emotional math.

Wednesday. Off we go to Best Buy, get the iPod. Then to CompUSA, get the iPod photo upload adapter. And, apparently, an iHome. It stuck to Kent's hand all the way to the register, where it finally fell off and scanned itself before jumping into a bag with the camera adapter. Sneaky iProducts. Anyway, the iHome is way cool.

Thursday. Loving the hell out of that iHome, man. We woke up to Brazilian Girls Thursday morning, and Billy Joel Friday morning. I can't wait to see what random song from our entire music collection
(which, by the way, consumes 19.81 GB, leaving 40GB or so for me, although I may ditch some tunes before I take it with me but it'll be entertaining on the plane) shows up randomly on Saturday morning. But wait, we won't be awaking to an alarm Saturday morning (even though we actually did by mistake; it was Depeche Mode).

Friday. Proof of concept. I shot a few photos and uploaded them to the iPod no problem! Well, minor problem. iPod can't view RAW images so I have to shoot RAW+JPEG (small jpeg, so I get the most megapixels in the RAW image - it's just so I can preview it anyway). (Also, if you plan on trying this at home, dear readers, make sure you set your iPod in iTunes to Use As Disk if you want to be able to synch those photos back to your computer.) So, this isn't such a problem. I'm stingy with my megapixels, though, and would prefer not to have to shoot both RAW and JPEG but what the hell. I'd rather spend that money that I would have spent on the P-2000 on a new lens with image stabilization (more on that topic another time). I was also thinking I might be able to use a CF card reader to upload the images because that won't be such a drain on my camera batteries. I've read that uploading a 1GB card from 20D to iPod is a major battery drain and I'd just as soon not have that situation out in the field. Or on the Isle of Skye.

Saturday. Pilot the whole solution before the snow starts. Go buy CF card reader (SanDisk). Go shoot two cards full of pictures. Load one card from camera to iPod, then load one card from card reader to camera. See just what kind of battery drain there is, how much time it takes, blah blah blah.

Sinus Rinse - nice name!

At the pharmacy today...

Can you really call what we have these days a pharmacy? Walgreens, Eckerd, and RiteAid all look like mini-marts. Or a scaled-down K-Mart. I've switched from Eckerd to Walgreens recently. In our little neighborhood of Ghent (like a small Capitol Hill in Seattle, without the hill because we don't have hills in southeastern Virginia) we have four pharmacies. The three I mentioned above, and a REAL one, on Colley Ave, struggling to stay alive but which I don't visit because there's only this teeny-tiny parking lot they share with a church and Starbucks. We were fine with Eckerd. Then in came RiteAid two blocks away. Hate RiteAid. Their aisles are diagonal and confusing and they are always moving products around so you can't find anything. Then in came Walgreens, which all of Ghent and surrounding neighborhoods fought like hell, me too. Then I discovered that their photo processing was better than Eckerd. Then I discovered that they are less likely than Eckerd to run out of certain medications which, during one refill when Eckerd wasn't able to get a certain medicine for two weeks, Eckerd offered to send my prescription over to Walgreens. Besides, who needs a 24-hr pharmacy anyway?

Ya, well, it's nice. At 10PM their drive-thru pharmacy drop-off/pick-up is still open. That's nice. The pharmacist talks to you. That's nice, too. And remembers you. That's extra nice. It almost feels like a REAL pharmacy.

So...picking up where I left off. At the pharmacy today, picking up medicine refills, I spotted this thing called SINUS RINSE. Which is a hell of a lot nicer moniker than NASAL IRRIGATION or, as the pharmacist called it, NASAL DOUCHE. She really did. She also told me that you should use un-iodized salt because the iodine can exacerbate (nifty word) acne, even mild acne (as in, adults who have to really work to fight off the zits). This stuff uses the same ingredients: saline and bicarbonate, a.k.a., salt and baking soda. 100 packets. So ya, I could have gone to the supermarket and gotten a container of uniodized salt and more baking soda, but I didn't feel like it and ten bucks didn't seem like too much a price to pay for a little convenience. Besides I was thinking of making little packets anyway. They did it for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hard Plastic Packaging

From a 1998 discussion board post from some guy with the initials b.h.: "For Christmas I received a very nice portable cd player. It came in this blister pack, obviously designed so it can be hung on a hook behind the store counter. Can anyone enlighten me as how to open the f*****g thing? There are no "pull here to open" labels or anything like that. It seems that you have to completely destroy the packaging to open it. I almost cut myself with my knife. Does anyone remember
buying radios and such in boxes? God I hate blister packs. The label should say, 'destroy here to open'."

Every time I purchase something that comes in one of those damned packages (called a thermoformed blister package, by the way, not to beconfused with real blister packs that are the kind that Drixoral and Benadryl come in - those little flat things with indentations that you have to peel the back off. The difference being that they are manufactured differently) I mangle my hands. And we've allowed Them* to do this to us for eight years already. I actually searched the web for a grass-roots group against blister packages. I'm pretty certain there's something They can do to make them easier to open. Here are some commandments for packaging:
  • Thou shalt not make packaging that requires special tools (craft knifes aren't strong enough, and utility knives are usually buried in the garage/basement/closet).
  • Thou shalt not make packaging more difficult to use than the thing it encloses.
  • Thou shalt engage consumer focus groups before implementing anti-theft packaging
  • Thou shalt make packaging large enough to discourage shoplifting (Costco uses this to great effect without using blister packaging. For the most part.)
  • Thou shalt come up with a device that the store has to remove at purchase that subsequently enables the package to be opened like a simple clamshell, thereby serving multiple gods: the anti-shoplifting god, the clean-language god, and the right-to-simple-packaging god.
  • Thou shalt not make hazardous consumer packaging.
So what the hell brought all this on? My laptop, my sacred Vaio, had a dead LCD monitor and is being repaired at Sony; I have to Nick's left-behind tower computer and a PS2 mouse and keyboard. Both PS2 ports are pushing up daisies, so I had to use USB devices. Typing on the USB keyboard sounds like a heard of horses on concrete (think IBM Selectric), so I bought another keyboard. New keyboard has a PS2 connection, which I didn't think was a problem until I plugged it in and realized it wasn't the old keyboard but the ports that were the problem. ARGH! So, last night I purchased a PS2 to USB adapter from Best Buy. This morning I (ahem) "opened" the package to remove the adapter. Even my heaviest duty scissors barely made it through the plastic, and it just shouldn't be that difficult To add insult to injury, it was a blister pack inside a blister pack. At least I didn't cut myself this time. I saw someone in that same discussion board call it a "blister cut."

Is this stuff even recyclable?

*The Retailers and the Manufacturers

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The News from Norfolk

Dear Mom,
On Jan 24 we received a letter from Nick's commanding officer telling us that Nick hadn't returned to Fort Gordon. But didn't we drop him off at the airport? Well, no, actually. We didn't. He spent his last night in town with a friend who was going to take him to the airport. Apparently he didn't plan on returning. He'd been doing just fine, and was excited, until he caught up with his druggie friend, Trey, the last weekend of his vacation. Kent and I and Nick's friend, Lester, went to visit Nick at Trey's house, where we figured he was, and tried explaining what would happen if he didn't return. And he didn't return anyway. As of Feb 4th the Army considers him a deserter (absent without leave for more than 30 days). We haven't had a followup letter from his commander, though. I'm sure we'll see something soon since this is his home of record.

So, Nick is off drugging it up (I don't think it's anything stronger than pot) with Trey. If the Army goes all the way with this desertion thing, then Nick has pretty much ruined his chances for anything meaningful in the job market. We've both written several email to him, which we discovered he hasn't opened (long story). I'm very sad about this, and Kent and I have had an emotionally difficult few weeks. We're done reaching out to him - at least for now. We've been trying to for a couple of years and we're just tired of fighting. His inaction is exhausting.

In the meantime, Patrick has decided that he's going into the Army Reserves, as a Heavy Construction Equipment Operator in the Corps of Engineers. In other words, he wants to build and destroy things with bulldozers, cranes, and wrecking balls. Isn't that a dream for a lot of little kids? Apparently it still is for Patrick. His eyes actually sparkle when he talks about it. But the Reserves will put him through college (an engineering or architecture degree) and ask for about two more reserve years after that and his commitment is done unless he wants to go active duty. Heck, more power to him! He signed paperwork and everything. So, he's all relaxed and happy that his next six or so years are mapped out for him. And he still gets to row because he's going to ODU and they have pretty good rowing team.

Kent is in the middle of Coreolanus, which has gotten good reviews. He also finished his Master's (yay yay yay!! no more losing him to homework!). We've finished MASH through season 9. Season 10 isn't released yet. We just started watching Arrested Development (FOX). We figure that by the time season four is airing we'll have watched season's one, two, and three on DVD :) Funny funny show.

Best Buy sent off my laptop to Sony for a new LCD screen and ribbon. That was Tuesday, I think. Yesterday I got Nick's old computer out of the closet and fired it up. Patrick and his friend Jordon and having a combined birthday celebration tomorrow (Sunday) so today I was picking up the house and buying totally unhealthy snack food for them and their twelve friends. Patrick LOVES bakery cakes, especially the ones from Costco, so I got him a chocolate sheet cake from Costco.

And that's the news from Norfolk.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


My plan today had been to hike (walk) the trails in the Shoreline State Park, but I've spent the last two hours collecting webcam links located in Scotland.

Oban, one of the places we'll visit while we're staying in Dunoon.

Glasgow, Buchannan Street. I don't think Glasgow is one of our stops this trip. It'll be the next trip.

Edinburgh, Princes Street shopping district. I'm sure we'll hang around here a little before we fly back to the US of A.

More Glasgow just because it's Glasgow, eh?

Dunoon webcam

Fort William, north of Oban. No, not as in Braveheart, which I'm told is down near Stirling.

Kyle of Lochalsh, on the road to Isle of Skye for which I can't get a webcam view. Argh!

Loch Ness. This is one wild little website. From this link you can do Tai Chi with Nessie (or so it says).

I'm learning about the Scottish terrain by pouring over my big map and visiting the web cams. I'll know even more once we get over there!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I'm changing my blogging name. I shall now be known as: ∂
Actually, I'm changing it to DancingWithDogs, but ∂ was kinda fun wasn't it? Of course, it's just a mathematical symbol. My photo too. The headshot thing is so prosaic.

This is the new me! Like the hair?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I'm ready for Spring. Since it isn't here I'm reduced to taking pictures, indoors, of tulips imported from South America where at the moment the weather is more Spring-like than Southeastern Virginia. We can't even get decent fog here. I'd like a morning with fog so dense that it's unsafe to drive.

I don't have anything to say today; I'm just trying to keep up the momentum!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Maggie, aka Calendar Girl

Wide-angle lenses are cool. I'm experimenting with exaggerated perspective. Maggie and Tasha were my first two models.

For Jonathan: Shot with Canon 20D, 18mm, 1/15 @ f/3.5 ISO1600, WB Tungsten, color corrected in Photoshop CS2.

Update 10/6/2006: Okay, in this shot she doesn't look like much of a Calendar Girl.

Tasha, aka Goofy