Tuesday, December 06, 2005

International Adoption News

Appalling! Australia should be ashamed of itself... again!


While I concede the point that homes and help probably can't be found for all of these hundreds of thousands of children in China, Kenya and Ethiopia, certainly some can be helped by those adoptive parents willing to go that route. Australia! ::tisk, tisk:: In this case, you're right up there with the British attitude of near-indifference during the Irish Potato Famine and the US during WW2 when they turned away the refugee ship "Saint Louis" full of German Jews trying to escape the Nazis.

Romania, on the other hand, should be very proud!


That's right, Romania, don't let the US try to tell you what to do. You're a sovereign nation and I can't see why this issue should be of concern to the US government anyway. I think there's probably some funny business motivating the Helsinki Commission in this case. Can't see why they'd stick their nose in it if there weren't...

Blogger, blogger, where are art thou?

Blogger's been sporadically down for the last day or so. It's been hell trying to update posts. And now, my blog isn't formatted right. I am hoping that this is just another symptom of their problems and I didn't do anything to screw up the code. I've changed my template 6 times to see if that would correct the problem, manually changing the links and other changes I had made to the code before I noticed the problem to see if that would correct it, but every time it still has my profile, etc. at the bottom of the page instead of up at the top right hand side where it's supposed to be. Since even after I've reset the template and before I've altered it, it is still doing this, I'm going to assume that it is their issue, not mine, and that it will correct itself soon. Let's hope so.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Other stuff about the concert

They had really good catering. The cookies were *evil*... double-chocolate macadamia nut, and pecan caramel chocolate. There was also fresh fruit and cuban food... pulled pork, rice, beans, that sort of thing... and steamed veggies. There was soda to drink and the best bottled water in the whole world, Zephyrhills, which comes from a spring 45 minutes north of my house. There was probably beer too, but I don't like beer so I didn't notice.

Andrea went to the concert seperately from Maria and me. She flew down from Chicago pretty much just for the show. She was in the mosh pit while we were standing on stage. She body-surfed twice. Jared stopped singing mid-song twice to save people in the pit. The first time, he said, "Hey, hey, all you crazy mother f-ckers, if someone falls, you pick them the f-ck up!" And the second time he said something like, "Everyone, pick everybody up!" I think Andrea said she fell once. She was certainly bruised enough at the end of the day and came home with Maria and I around 4:30. She wanted to stay until the end of the show at 9pm, but she was feeling sick from too much heat and not enough water or food since 10am that morning. We got her some cookies and water from backstage and then headed out.

Everyone warned us of the parking in downtown Clearwater, but it wasn't too bad. We had found a lot that was free about a mile and a half from the park and the walk wasn't too bad. Taffic was quite light despite the show, it being Sunday afternoon downtown. And even though I had blisters and my feet were throbing, I barely noticed and I was feeling surprisingly little pain 'cause I was floating somewhere up in the stratosphere, and didn't come down until this morning when I realized I still have a mini-term paper to write... I still haven't written it, but I'll be working on it in a few minutes once I've finished with this. It's not due til tomorrow at 2pm, so I've still got time...

Next Big Thing 5 & Jared Leto

Warning: this is going to get very "fangirl" at times... It was unavoidable.

I love my brother, but I don't always like him. Yesterday, he really came through for me though. He got me tickets for myself and my friend, Maria, so we could go to completely sold out The Next Big Thing 5 concert at Coachman Park in Clearwater, FL. Then when we got there, he gave us backstage all-access passes. I will be forever grateful to him for that. Josh was at the concert because Alkaline Trio was playing and he works for them right now. And while Alkaline Trio is great and it was awesome to see them play, the real reason both Maria and I were there was to see 30 Seconds to Mars and Jared Leto. We stood on the stage while both of those bands played, for over 2 hours in all, about 15 or 20 feet from the leadsingers' microphone, and needless to say we were both partially deaf when the music stopped. But we *so* didn't care!

After Alkaline left the stage, we knew within minutes we would be seeing Jared Leto in the flesh, and had to quell our fangirl reactions to that. If we made a scene, we'd get thrown out and that was pretty much the only thing stopping us I think... that and the fact we didn't want to scare him. So he and the rest of the band walked on stage from the back entrance and I was like, "Oh my god, there he is," and did my damnedest not to stare. He and the rest of the band had a little pow-wow at the back of the stage, standing in a circle with their heads together and their arms across each other's shoulders, and then the master-of-ceremonies announced the band. The crowd of approximately 15,000 went wild! Jared was the last one to take up his instrument and microphone. He said "f-ck" or a variation thereof *a lot* while talking to the screaming masses... It was awesome. I, being the good former Girl Scout that I am, came completely prepared. I had my trusty camera with the telephoto lens so I could get good close-ups, and it's a damn good thing I did 'cause during "Buddha," Jared climbed to the top of the scaffolding and sang from 50 feet in the air. Crazy, crazy!

He climbed higher than this, but when he got above the lights, I couldn't see anything but his feet from where I was. The crowd was loving it!

Just before he jumped back down to the stage:

I couldn't believe that he did this, but I have since found out that, apparently, he does this a lot... Andrea said later when I found her in the crowd that his insurance company must love him.

They sang 5 songs. These pages, pictured below, were taped in various discreet places around the stage, I guess so everyone could remember the order of the songs. The one with 97X on it (the name of the radio station sponsoring the event) was Jared's... I suppose so he could remember the name of the station he was supposed to thank.

After the performance was over, the band all left the stage. They said they were going to be signing autographs on "CDs, posters, t-shirts, bras, panties, and jockstraps" in the merch tent. Maria and I were going to head over there, but first we had to get off stage without getting in the way of the roadies setting up the next band's equipment. Maria stayed where we had been standing the whole time to see if she could get ahold of one of the guitar picks that the band had left on the stage floor. I made my way around to the back to the passageways that led out into the open. The opening in the black tarp where people and equipment could come through from the stage and backstage areas was almost completely clogged with amps and speakers and the drum kit, so much so that I couldn't get through there. So I crouched down under a part of the tarp that was being held up by the amps about three and a half feet above the floor to get backstage. And as I stood up on the other side, I nearly smacked straight in to Jared who was standing on just the other side. He was just turning to face where I was coming from, and my eyes went wide and I'm sure I blushed and stopped breathing, and I skittered off to the right as he and the rest of the band were trying to get oriented. They seemed to be in a big hurry. I can't remember if it was Maria or Andrea who said that I should have let myself fall into him or bump into him, in the hopes that he'd actually put his hands on me and ask me if I was okay... ::sighs:: The things you think of after the fact...

Once Maria and I were back together again, we left the backstage area and headed over to the merch tent. We wanted to get our laminated backstage passes signed. The crowd was overwhelming and after repeated attempts to get it organized and under control, the band had to retreat to the backstage area because it was getting scary. Lucky for me and Maria, we were able to get through the crowd a lot faster than they did and had just gotten through the backstage security when they came through themselves, black permanent markers in hand. Maria was quick as they were walking in through the fences and got Shannon's autograph and the drummer's too? (sorry, I'm a bad fan and don't know the other's names) Then, once completely backstage again, Maria, being the brave one, went up to Jared when his back was partially turned, and touched his arm and asked for his autograph, which he scribbled quickly, thanking her, and I sidled up next to him and got him to sign my backstage pass as well. He touched my finger when he held the pass steady. The fangirl in me squealed, but outwardly I just shyly said "thank you," as he thanked me, and stepped away.

Let me tell you, it is physically *painful* to look in that man's eyes, they're so pretty. ::sighs:: They're blue-gray, ya know... yesterday they appeared more grayish than they naturally are because of the heavy black eye-liner he had on.

There will be more about the concert later, but for now, here's some more pictures. All of them are mine, do not post them elsewhere or steal them for yourself. Ask, and I'll consider it.

All of these images can be clicked on to get bigger versions of the image:

Everytime Jared would drink from a bottle of water, as pictured above, he'd chug it down as much as he could at one time and then turn around a throw the rest of the bottle out over the crowd, which just made them scream louder. He did this maybe five or six times during their set. Andrea said everytime he did that, all she could think was "yeah! water!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Grad school & dissertation defenses

Anybody have any experience with dissertation defenses? I've been thinking about what it would actually entail and...

Have I mentioned before that I have horrendous, petrifying stage fright? The only "D" I ever got in my entire life was the direct result of my outright, steadfast, obstinate refusal to stand in front of a class to do my French oral exams the entire last semester of my high school Freshman year because I was so traumatized by the first one I had to do. My teacher, Dr. Groux, tried to embarrass me into capitulating by announcing to the entire class each time I elected to take a zero and publicly detailing the consequences of my actions, but I still wouldn't do it. Mind you, I got an A on that first one, but I just *couldn't* do it again. People said the entire morning that I was looking like I was about to be led to my execution or something, all white as a sheet, glassy-eyed and shaking. My heart was also pounding so hard I thought it would burst and my throat felt like it was closing up, and when it was all over, I went back to a desk at the back of the room and cried for like 20 minutes. I actually scared my classmates. My whole class talked about it for like *days* afterward, people asking if I was okay... people I didn't even know... Three people *in another grade* came up to me on the bus even, saying that they had heard about it and had been praying for me. But that's all the details I can give about it without having flashbacks (not as hyperbolic a statement as I'd like it to be).

Even before the horror stories I've heard from Zinzi and some of my professors, just the thought of doing a dissertation defense made me feel nervous as hell... Now, I just feel like I'm going to burst into tears, faint or have a nervous breakdown, or all three, every time I think about it. Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of person who can ignore the unpleasant eventualities and focus on the other details right up to the last second... like the reason why I'd have to go through that in the first place... to get those nice little letters added to the end of my name, "MA" and "PhD," to increase my monetary earnings by a significant percentage, and just to get to do all the things one with a PhD gets to do (one must admit it opens a lot of doors). No, no, I've got to dwell and brood over my worst fears...

Mom keeps saying that I need to just say to myself that "my dissertation committee would just be trying to help me" over and over again... She thinks that even if it's not true, if I convince myself of it, I'll be able to to it. That works up to a point... Then I remember what certain profs have said about ripping apart candidates' dissertations at the defense just to see if they can get them to flinch and that argument starts to loose merit... and the mantra turns into "my dissertation committee is going to kill me" or something like it. In addition to the mantra, Mom has also suggested anti-anxiety meds, but I have, as some would delicately put it, personal "opinions" on medication for non-organic problems... She would have suggested therapy too, since she seems to think it's one of the best things *ever*, but she knows better, having suggested it a few times before for other issues of my adolescence and, as a result, didn't hear the end of it for *weeks* afterward. Needless to say, I took the very suggestion as a grave insult, nevermind that she was just trying to help. Though intellectually I know that therapy has helped many people through problems and some people even *need* it in order to function, I can't help but insist that I don't, come hell or high water... I could detail a number of reasons why because I am self-aware enough to know why I think this way, but that might be getting a little too far inside my head for my own peace of mind in such a potentially public venue.

Now, some might say I should worry about finishing my BA first... or maybe worry about getting into grad school first, or even topics, before worrying about a defense, but I just can't seem to worry about any of those things. I'm going to get my BA, it's just a matter of when. And there's going to be *some* grad program *somewhere* that will take me, even if not one of my top picks, though I don't even think that will be much of a problem, so I'm not worrying about that. And I have a list as long as my arm of topics I'd like to research and write on, and narrowing research topics and academic writing has *never* been a problem for me. It's actually one of my strengths. So my next thing to worry about is the defense... Enter my extreme performance anxiety, et voila! The problem and I panic. Because what would be the point of going through all the trouble of grad school and dissertations if I couldn't get my degrees because of this? 'Cause until I convince myself emotionally that it's not going to kill me (cause while intellectually I know it won't, that really is the level of gut-wrenching fear I'm dealing with here), I don't see all that much point in trying. And yet, it's still something I feel I need to do... to bide my time 'til I figure out what I'm going to do with my life and/or I get my "MRS degree" (a suggestion and term I first heard in a Sociology class much to the horror of my Sociology prof. She was even more scandalized that no one in the class found the idea particularly offensive, but that's a whole 'nuther subject), if for no other reasons. But I'd also just generally like to get at least an MA with the possibility of going on to my PhD, just to have it, if one can understand that.

So, what I think I need to know is people's practical advise and first-hand experience dealing with this sort of thing, grad school and dissertation defenses... procedure, preparation, how much of it is just the formality of arcane & archaic tradition, etc. Not sensational exceptions to the rule, which I'm hoping is all I've heard thus far, but rather, what one would generally expect... Anybody out there willing to help me out?

Monday, November 28, 2005


Since the Holiday shopping season has officially begun, I thought perhaps I should post my wishlists where people could easily find them all. I've checked them both over to make sure that everything is something I'd like, that the sizes are properly entered or that there are notes about each item if necessary.

Torrid: http://www.torrid.com/wishlist/viewSomeonesWishList.asp?W=496133 This can also be printed and taken to a Torrid store if you have one in your local mall.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/registry.html/103-9091033-5855015?%5Fencoding=UTF8&type=wishlist&id=3STW15OLD3U17

Both can also be accessed, should the hyperlinks fail, by going to the main page of each site. At Amazon click on the "Wish List" button at the top of the page. this should bring up your own wishlist or a generic one if you don't have one. In the left-hand column there should be a box that says "Find a Wish List." Simply type my name or my yahoo e-mail address. At Torrid, click on the wish list link at the top of the page. A box should appear to the right side of the screen that says, "enter an e-mail address to view that person's wish list." Simply type in my yahoo address.

Gift certificates are likewise appreciated. I also enjoy surprises. ;D Sometimes, I even like surprises better than the stuff on my wishlists. One might like to keep in mind my interests in the arts and crafts if one has access to cool stuff...

Now to get back to my holiday gift shopping...

"Prison Break" on FOX

If you don't watch it, you won't get it, but...

No new episodes until *March*! What is up with that!? I know that they said that this would be the "Fall Finale"... but March?! ... 12 hours left for the prison break plan to work, and we have to wait until March?! ... ::sighs:: I really hate tv sometimes...

End of the year prep

One of the big signs of the impending New Year I get every year is my car registration renewal forms. I got that today along with a notice that I have to get a new tag. Woohoo! Apparently, it's been 5 years since I got my car. Doesn't seem that long. Anyway, I figured since I have to get a new one anyway, I might as well get a "specialty tag," one of those tags with a pretty picture on it, which signifies that I've donated money to a particular cause or organization. They have them for just about everything in this state, don't know about others, but we've got over 100 of them now. More than half are for universities and professional sports teams, I'm sorry to say.

I wanted to get one for an environmental program. I was thinking of the Florida Panther or the Manatee or Sea Turtle plates, but they raise several million dollars through the license plate program for them every year. I decided on the Tampa Bay Estuary license because they've only sold 15,000 of them in the last six years and they sell fewer every year. Can't see why. It's a good cause! It benefits the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, an education and conservation program which has been working to clean up and repair Tampa Bay for the past seven years. They remove invasive species of plants and animals, plant mangrove and sea grass flats, and educate the public and get them involved in the conservation efforts. I figured, why help just one species when an entire ecosystem could benefit? You can learn more about the work they do here: http://www.tbep.org/

Oh, and in other news, I'm getting that spinning wheel. ::sighs:: I love ebay... Here's a picture:
I still have to decide how I'm going to stain it. It's solid maple and handmade in Ohio.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A knitted voodoo doll?

Found a pattern for a knitted voodoo doll, here: http://www.theanticraft.com/badjuju.htm I guess it's for the days when driving to New Orleans for one or finding a local voodoo practicioner is just too much... or to add a personal touch to curse that person who did you wrong.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I got my first letter from a university to "encourage [me] to consider applying for admission to the graduate program in history." It's from Florida State University. How cool! ::claps excitedly:: Gonna have to start checking in to these things pretty soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Scary stuff...

Copied from a fwd-ed e-mail I got:

"Please read this, a new twist on kidnapping, a very smart survivor.

"About a month ago there was a woman standing by the mall entrance passing out flyers to all the women going in. The woman had written the flyer herself to tell about an experience she had, so that she might warn other women. The previous day, this woman had finished shopping, went out to her car and discovered that she had a flat.

"She got the jack out of the trunk and began to change the flat. A nice man dressed in business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and said,"I noticed you're changing a flat tire. Would you like me to take care of it for you?" The woman was grateful for his offer and accepted his help. They chatted amiably while the man changed the flat, and then put the flat tire and the jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted his hands off. The woman thanked him profusely, and as she was about to get in her car, the man told her that he left his car around on the other side of the mall, and asked if she would mind giving him a lift to his car. She was a little surprised and she asked him why his car was on other side. He explained that he had seen an old friend in the mall that he hadn't seen for some time and they had a bite to eat and visited for a while he got turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit, and now he was running late and hiscar was clear around on the other side of the mall.

"The woman hated to tell him "no" because he had just rescued her from having to change her flat tire all by herself, but she felt uneasy. Then shere membered seeing the man put his briefcase in her trunk before shutting it and before he asked her for a ride to his car. She told him that she'd be happy to drive him around to his car, but she just remembered one last thing she needed to buy. She said she would only be a few minutes; he could sit down in her car and wait for her; she would be as quick as she could be.

"She hurried into the mall, and told a security guard what had happened; the guard came out to her car with her, but the man had left. They opened the trunk, took out his locked briefcase and took it down to the police station.

"The police opened it (ostensibly to look for ID so they could return it tothe man). What they found was rope, duct tape, and knives. When the police checked her "flat" tire, there was nothing wrong with it; the air had simplybeen let out. It was obvious what the man's intention was, and obvious thathe had carefully thought it out in advance. The woman was blessed to have escaped harm. How much worse it would have been if she had children with her and had them wait in the car while the man fixed the tire, or if she had a baby strapped into a car seat? Or if she'd gone against her judgment and given him a lift?

"I'd like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. I was going to send this to the ladies only; but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., you may want to pass it on to them, as well.

"Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it....better safe than sorry.


Wow, that's scary! Reminds me of the rumor about a serial killer in Louisiana a few years back who was said to have used the tape recording of a baby crying to lure women out of their house at night. I'm pretty sure that was just a rumor, and I hope this is too... There are a few things in the story which make me think it is.

When I bought my bike about two months ago, I had a hard time getting it in my car in the store's parking lot. The lot was mostly empty, so a man talking on his cell phone about 30 feet away could clearly see that I was having issues as there were no other cars blocking the sight-line. After he got off the phone, he opened his car door and kinda shouted over to me asking if I needed any help. I was kinda leery about accepting his help since I was all alone and he was at least 6'4" and probably easily had 100 lbs more muscle than I do, but I just said, "Uh... maybe?"

He came around my car and looked at how the bike was *not* going into the backseat and asked if I thought it would fit in my trunk. I said it was worth a try and popped it. He just picked up the bike like it was nothing and started trying to fit it in the trunk at different angles... It was not working either. Then I remembered that my backseat folds down. So I brought that down and he guided the bike in, while I pulled it halfway into the backseat. Then he secured it with a beach blanket I still had in my trunk from 4th of July weekend so that it wouldn't ding anything if it shifted during the ride home because it still wouldn't go all the way in to my trunk so that the lid would close. He said, "I think this will stay. You don't have too far to go, do you?" I said no, only about 5 miles, and he said, "Oh, it'll be fine. Guess, I've done my good deed for the day," and smiled. I thanked him and shook his hand, and he gave me a couple business cards and said if I ever needed help with a mortgage or a real estate agent to give his wife and him a call. I took the cards, thanked him again, he went back to his car and I got in mine, we both left the parking lot and that was that. And my bike did stay in place all the way home without incident. He was a good guy, obviously, and I was very lucky of that, 'cause even if the story in the forwarded e-mail isn't true, Lord knows there are a lot of creeps out there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So... What's your sign?

Mine's Capricorn... The horoscopes offered by Yahoo.com to members on their MyYahoo page have a tendency to be fairly accurate more often than not. Very rarely do I read mine and say, "What the heck is this talking about?" It was creepy how accurate it was about last New Year's Eve and Day... and in fact the entire first week of 2005. Very creepy. It said I'd be walking around in a fog of "oh, really?", as if someone just switched on the light in a dark room that I'd been trying to find my way through, but that I'd just sit back, take it all in, and prudently not share my thoughts with others and that is exactly what was going on... Very creepy...

Here's what it says today:

"Daily Capricorn Forecast [courtesy of Yahoo.com]
"Quickie: Sharing news of your day means nothing unless you share your feelings about it too."

So here goes... Today, I've started trying to set up an exercise support group with my friends. We always say that we all need to exercise more, just to be healthier, but we never seem to actually do it. I figure if we start setting up appointments with each other to go jogging or biking or swimming or go to one of the free aerobics classes at the USF Fitness Center we might actually exercise more. I just hope at least a few of them respond to the e-mail. Getting answers via e-mail or phone has been like pulling teeth lately except from Maria, who tends to be very prompt, but she's living in Orlando until she finishes this semester at UCF...

I think I'm going to have to give this losing weight thing yet another try if I want this neck thing to go away... I'm trying to convince myself that plastic surgery is out of my price range for the foreseeable future. I erased yesterday's blog entry about that earlier this evening, feeling like it was... wrong to have written it in the first place... I usually try to resist those kinds of urges, to censor myself, but I didn't that time. I'm embarrassed about the depth of my vanity and insecurities. It basically was about how I've come to the conclusion that the one seemingly unfixable thing about me that drives me to distraction and makes me self-conscious beyond belief is how my upper-neck area looks in profile. Can't stand it, want it fixed... the sooner, the better. Told my parents this evening that I'd like to look into plastic surgery to fix it. Mom was supportive, I think... and Dad, well, I think he's skeptical that I'll go through with it. He's probably right. I hate doctors... possibly even more than I hate my profile... possibly... That remains to be seen... which is very difficult for me to admit...

"Overview: You'd never admit it, but you tend to be superstitious, especially about sharing secrets. At this point, you need to spill the beans, and do it now -- maybe even twice."

... Unlike me admitting that I'm superstitious... I'm quite surprisingly superstitious. It's one odd thing about Capricorns, since typically Capricorns are extremely pragmatic and firmly planted in reality. I always say "bread and butter" like my grandmother did if she was walking next to someone and they passed around opposite sides of an object in their path. She said if she didn't that a terrible thing would come between her and that person. I never let someone else take a ring off my finger for the same reason. I rinse my hands with clean water before entering a house after coming from a cemetery to keep misfortune away. All of those I got from my Bubbe, which she said her mother brought with her from Russia. I also kinda buy into Astrology as a psuedoscience... kinda... I also knock wood, toss salt over my shoulder, and I've been known to do things to avert the "evil eye" and avoid tempting fate. And I always, always say the Shema as the airplane I'm in takes off or lands, just in case...

"Daily extended (by Astrology.com): Prepare yourself, because you're due for that thrice-yearly irritating astrological period: Mercury's retrograde, and this lasts for three weeks but classically feels as if it lasts a lot longer. While none of your best-laid plans will probably work out the way you want them to, at least knowing that it's coming can help you, right? Don't be mad at anyone who's late or absent, especially since you may have a turn at that yourself next time around. Be patient."

Oh goody! The autumn Mercury in retrograde... This one tends to kick me in the butt more than others. During one a few years ago (before I knew about them), I had my two car accidents within three weeks of each other. Other little unpleasant things often occur during these three weeks... Supposedly, it is unlucky to get married or do any kind of major business during Mercury's retrograde because it's like Murphy's Law in overdrive. Looks like I should probably take a deep breath, learn to meditate and chill so as not to get stressed out.

On a mostly unrelated side of things, I found a pretty cool blog while trying to find the text of the Avot ("The Ancestors" prayer of Jewish liturgy... one of my favorites, it's got a great rhythm) earlier this evening (And I can't find it anywhere. Yet another reason why I need my own copy of "Gates of Prayer" at home.). Here's a link: http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/ . Gonna have to remember to follow this one...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wow! historic knit petticoat

This is amazing! Wish there were more photographs...

Try here: http://tinyurl.com/c4elm .

If that doesn't work, go here:
http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion/knitting/objects/ Then enter in the search field as follows:

Object type: women's clothing
Place: Netherlands
Date range: 1700 - 1760

The two images that come up are what I'm talking about... I'm jealous! I wanna do that!

Weekend warriors

Joe and I just finished putting in two hard Saturdays' worth of work getting the pond installed in my backyard outside my parents' bedroom window. It's about 4' x 6' and about 18" deep. There's a lot of cosmetic stuff that still needs to be done and plants and fish need to go in but it's basically done. Here's the photo of what it looked like about an hour ago when we were finished (for now):
As you can see, the liner is still very visible and a lot of things need some adjusting, but it's basically finished, as I said before. This week when I have time, I'll go around with a spade and even out the ground under the liner around the edges and get the pavers in tight, and I'll spread more pebbles out over the liner, and maybe I'll finally get the roses planted at some point. I also want to put in some papyrus and irises, but those will probably have to wait longer until we get the bed around the pond better defined.

The Holidays are close at hand...

Woo! My favorite time of year is the end of October to mid-January. Why? Because it's one fantastic holiday after another. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, New Year's... ending with my birthday on January 10th. It's just great!

In preparation, I've been going over my amazon.com wishlist, which is the easiest way to keep track of the mostly moderately priced junk and stuff that I'd like to have for a number of reasons... It can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/registry.html/103-9091033-5855015?%5Fencoding=UTF8&type=wishlist&id=3STW15OLD3U17 Or you can just go to amazon.com and find one of those "find a wishlist" boxes which are in different places on different pages at Amazon and then type in my yahoo e-mail address or my first and last name. I really like that it gives options on how to sort the list (by price, by priority, etc.) and it has ways to narrow the list down by categories (DVDs, music, books, etc.).

I've also been going over possible gifts for other people. I've knitted a number of items intended as gifts, but no matter how quickly I knit, I'll never be able to knit something for everyone... That's okay though because I have a number of ideas for most of the people I don't have knitted items for... I do need to remember to get the bitties' wishlists... eventhough I have a number of things in mind for them already, it's always good to know what they actually would like to have.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I've been practically obsessed with the show since day one. It's just so well-written and the acting is so wonderful and the story and characters are compelling to say the least. It's up there with "The X-Files" as far as all that. (Can anyone tell that "The X-Files" tends to be the TV show by which I measure all others? I can't help it. It was just so well done... until the last season, which we will not speak about here...) Man, oh man... Just saw the latest episode.

***Spoilers beyond this point (that people who don't watch the show probably won't understand, but I've got to gab somewhere)***

So "the others" are at it again... as if they ever stopped. And now this thing with Walt. Not only Shannon seeing him, but also Sayid now... And the voices... And where did that dog go? And now Shannon has been shot by trigger-happy tough-chick, and in the gut too, as if being shot when they are so low on antibiotics weren't bad enough. We already lost Boone, we can't loose his sister too! She better have not just died in Sayid's arms! Neither Shannon nor Sayid need that right now. And of course, there's my favorite cowboy bad boy, Sawyer - also shot and obviously suffering from a very nasty infection. ::sighs:: Ai, this show! I hope they were only messing with us that someone was going to die in this episode, that it was just that new character from the other side of the island who has now disappeared.

On top of that, I have questions left over from previous episodes... Where the heck did the French chick go? And where did that Irish guy go? They both just disappeared into the jungle... "The others" don't go after them? Crazy as they both obviously are... Then there's the hatch thing. What is up with that? Experiment gone awry? Where are the replacements? I'm figuring that the guy who went crazy and died back in Australia and the guy who went crazy and was in the same mental hospital as Hurley in California were the previous workers in this hatch thing and that's why both of them repeated the numbers over and over again... Unless I'm forgetting something from that episode. And what was the French science team from Fiji doing out around the island before they were shipwrecked?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Updates and a link

Sorry I haven't written anything lately... Been pretty busy the last few days. Figured I should write something while my facial is drying.

The pond in the backyard is about halfway done. It's all dug out. Now, it just needs to be lined and filled with water, plants and fish... I've got blisters though and that won't do because one can always tell a lady by her hands, although in my defense (unlike Scarlett) I *was* wearing gloves. So finishing that will have to wait until tomorrow. After all tomorrow is another day. (Who saw "Gone With the Wind" far too often at apparently too young an age?... Me! Me!)

I can't remember if I mentioned it yet, but I got a B on my Geology midterm and an A on both my Archaeology midterm and paper. WooHoo!! Quite happy about that. I'll be able to register for Spring semester classes on Nov. 16th. Don't know what I'm taking yet because once again there are like *no* Medieval history classes being offered... Professor Hughey and I must be the only people in the school who care about Medieval history. ::sighs:: I'm going to try to do an independent study so I can get my upper level credits finished. And then there's two options: foreign language (which is almost definitely out because they aren't offering many beginning levels this semester unless I want more French, which I don't because it will require 4 more credits than I need to take it and that's like $400 I don't need to give USF), or the History exit requirements. I'm going in to talk to my MIA advisor next week come hell or high water or both. And that's that.

And as I promised some people a while ago, here is a link for the "Very Secret Diaries" written by Lord of the Rings fan Cassandra Claire: http://homepages.nyu.edu/~amw243/diaries/ The diaries are a work of parody, all in good fun, but they are *definitely* not appropriate for children. And for the sake of continuity, they should be read in the order in which they are listed going left to right. Also, best if read when one is in the mood for something funny. If you're not, you might just think it's really dumb... which it probably is, but it can be really funny too...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pleasant surprise

Usually, I dislike female characters on TV... Lana Lang on "Smallville," every girl on "90210," "Melrose Place," and (uck!) "Sex in the City" to name a few off the top of my head. They're unusually vapid and self-centered and completely obsessed with guys most of the time... and I could probably say the same thing about "Desperate Housewives," if I actually was ever bored enough to watch it... And by and large, female characters on network television can be easily categorized into the virgin, vixen or mother archetypes. But this Fall season, I tell you! There are some fantastic, role-model worthy female characters in the new offers from network TV. There's "Dr. Temperance Brennan, PhD," based on real-life forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Reichs, PhD, on "Bones." She's a forensic anthropologist who is obviously brilliant, very professional and doesn't take crap from other (living) people. All of her coworkers seem to be trying to get her to lighten up, but she seems to think she's just fine the way she is. Then there's "Dr. Molly Caffrey, PhD" on "Threshold". She's a woman who comes up with contingency plans for end of the world scenarios. Her "Threshold" plan was put in place when something extra-terrestrial began infecting humans. (I also love this show because - other than that it' good - it has a character who is a dwarf, but not comic relief. He's a brilliant scientist and a linguist. Very nice from breaking out of stereotypes. And if all that weren't good enough, Brent Spiner - "Data" on "Star Trek" - is also in this show.) And then there's "Melinda Gordon" on "Ghost Whisperer." She's a newly wed, who co-owns an antique store with her best friend in a small middle-American town. The catch is that she can see and communicate with ghosts and they have a tendency to seek her out at inopportune times. What I really love is that the male characters in all these programs take a backseat to the female stars. There aren't very many programs in television history that that can be said about (I've read academic essays on it for modern American culture classes), so I take that three new characters like this in one season, at least two of whom are shaping up to be as well-rounded as Dana Scully, as a very good sign... Good sign of what exactly? ... That women are perhaps finally being more equally represented in positive roles on television to start. And that they are being cast in roles that many people wouldn't automatically think of a woman doing - such as forensic anthropology and secret government jobs (both fields from what I understand are dominated by men).

But I'm an equal opportunity television watcher... Of the new Fall programs, I'm also watching "Prison Break" and "Supernatural." "Prison Break" only has two characters who are female, and other than that they are both totally all guy shows.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Legend of Zorro

I got a ticket to the sneak preview of "The Legend of Zorro" tonight... It's good... Could have been better, was kinda predictable and had obvious jokes and gags, and was not as good as the first one, but it was good. And the movie is well worth seeing just for Antonio Banderas and that gorgeous Andalusian!

***Slight non-specific spoilers beyond this point... nothing one couldn't get from paying very close attention to the commercials and trailers***

I just have to say this is a movie is very obviously set in 2005 masquerading as 1850. In the movie there are terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world trying to destroy America and the American way of life, an evil Frenchman and crazy Bible-thumper, weapons of mass destruction, and a government organization that is behaving in a semi-illegal and suspiciously similar to Homeland Security kind of way... not to mention extremely independent and outspoken women who can kick butt in a corset and petticoats and Catholics doing things that good Catholics in 1850 would *so* not do... So in the end, this is another semi-historical movie that ends up just using an historical background to tell a modern story. ::yawn:: Next!

Oh! And can anyone tell me what Abraham Lincoln was doing lurking in the background at the ceremony to officially include California as part of the United States? And why were the "southern bad guys" wearing outfits that looked like Confederate Army uniforms in 1850?

Bright and sunny day

It's been bright and sunny here since right around noon. I went out to get a wig for Halloween and to get some yarn for a Christmas present and to take back some that I didn't end up needing for a different Christmas present. It is windy as all get out, but all in all a very nice Fall day.

And that's the real change that Wilma has brought to this part of Florida. Today has been the first day since it officially became "Fall" this year that the temperatures have been low enough that one can wear a sweater all day without regretting it by mid-afternoon. I wore the one I made from Jenna Adorno's Tempting pattern that is available on Knitty.com. (Btw, I've found that I'm allergic to processed wool. I can come in contact with soft, handspun wool and I can spin wool myself without my skin freaking out, but *anything* commercial just causes my skin to get all red and start to swell. Not good! I've been told by people who know more than me that a lot of people are allergic to the chemicals used in wool processing, either in the dyes or in the wash they use to remove the natural oils. So in order to finish the felting project I'm working on, I'm going to have to wear latex gloves while knitting it.)

Which brings me to some news... Knitty's 2006 Calendar is now available through their cafepress store. You can see it here: http://www.cafepress.com/knitty/918927 . A few of the photos are really good (I particularly like January), and with a few I'm wondering how exactly they were deemed good enough (I know better than to mention them though)... And most are kinda ehh... I do see what they seem to be looking for though. I've got me some ideas involving Hillsborough River State Park now. Only thing is the shoot will have to be when it's still cold enough that the sweaters won't make the models miserable, the mosquitoes aren't insanely everywhere, and the gators aren't very active... so before the end of February. And, oh boy, if we go to Callaway or Cherokee next summer on vacation! My mind is already reeling!! I need to get around to knitting "Cleaves."

I need a digital camera. I've been thinking about it for several weeks now. I just really need a digital camera. I'm taking too many photos to keep developing film. I know Ms. G said that you have to use film like it's toilet paper, but it's freaking expensive toilet paper to be using it like toilet paper. So, I need to look into this megapixel business... the sooner the better!

Which brings me back around to post-Wilma news. No damage to report, which is good. I went up to the county line today, driving around, taking in the thing called "Fall" in Florida. There's a lot of new construction going on up north of here. I was surprised to see a Walgreens where all my life cows have grazed. And what was a palmetto and pine savannah is now being leveled for... something. I drove down Lutz Lake Fern to see if one of my favorite houses was still standing, and indeed it is. It's now called "Tara Acres," the driveway is renamed "Fiddle-Dee-Dee Lane," and they do horse back riding lessons. I tried to snap a photo from the road, but I couldn't slow down enough to quite get a good one. (It's a 50 mph zone right through there.) The front 2 acres haven't been kept up; they've gone totally wild, so that the house is only visible from a few angles. (The stables and rings are in the back of the property.) I tell you it looks worse than Tara did after the War! It would cost Rhett a fortune to get it back to what it used to be. Fiddle-dee-dee indeed!

What Wilma's up to...

The eyewall of Wilma has come ashore down around Naples and Marco Island. They're taking quite a pounding. I went to bed early last night and was woken up by the rain and wind around 4am. Here in Carrollwood (see star on map below for Carrollwood's location), we've been experiencing what is called "squall" conditions over the past 8 hours or so. What that means is that the rain never really stops, but it slows down a bit sometimes and other times, even if it were light out and I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to see the mailbox from the front window. The wind is high up in the trees for the most part, but sometimes the gusts approach 40 mph. It's all expected to clear sometime around mid-afternoon and total rainfall is expected to be only about 2 inches... Watching it come down, it's hard to believe that that's all the rain we're going to be getting this morning, but that's the official prediction. I'll probably have pictures of any damage or non-damage around noon.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

National Novel Writing Month?

Apparently, it's National Novel Writing Month in November, at least according to Blogger. So all you novelists out there, get your notebooks, pens and computers ready. Read more about it here: http://buzz.blogger.com/2005/10/write-novel.html#links

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Yet another Wilma update

Looks like it won't be making landfall in FL until Monday morning. It has slowed so much over the Yucatan. I feel really sorry for the people who live there, having a Cat 3 hovering overhead for 24 hours. What a nightmare! One of the usual blessings of a hurricane is that it blows through fairly quickly. When it sits like this, it just gives the wind and rain more time to do damage.

It's expected to make landfall down around Naples sometime on Monday morning as a Cat 2, but the exactly location of where it hits all depends on when it turns East. We've already been getting scattered showers from the outermost part of it over the past 2 days. This is one massively large storm! The rain bands are stretching out as far as maybe 100 miles or so North of the Bahama Islands it looks like, and a high surf advisory for boaters has already been issued for the the Tampa area. I borrowed the image here from The Weather Channel's website.

I'd also like to mention that yesterday, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida went up in the Hurricane Hunter G-IV airplane for an 8-hour trip above the eye of Wilma. I couldn't believe they let him do that! He's a good senator and has a respectable voting record (according to me). We don't need to be risking his life like that. But he went up because he used to be an astronaut, so I guess he could handle it, and he was actually working, doing storm calculations and stuff.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wilma update

As of the local Bay News 9 report at 10:49pm, if Wilma stays on the expected track, it will be a Cat 2 when it hits Florida on Sunday afternoon, and it will be far enough south of us that we will have very little weather from it. That is, if it stays on it's currently expected track... You never know with hurricanes. But if that's so, we won't have to evacuate or anything. We are continuing to watch it though.

"Ghost Hunters" and my own experience

I've been watching "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-fi while working on knitting Christmas presents off and on today. I've got two more dishcloths done! (Yay!) I'd post pictures but I don't want recipients to possibly see them. Anyway, as I've been watching "Ghost Hunters," I got to thinking of a few incidents I experienced when I was in the Carolinas this summer. Haven't really told anyone about them, but I figured I should take the opportunity to write them down somewhere and this seemed as good as any. To preface, I've been going to historic properties all my life, from darn-near everything in Washington, DC and the surrounding area, to Gettysburg, to Oak Alley in New Orleans and a whole mess of places in between. Never felt or seen a thing in any of those places that I can remember. Although at Gettysburg, because I was in charge of picking hotels on that trip (when I was 11), I made sure we slept several miles away from all the action, outside Tarrytown... I'd heard the ghost stories and I *did not* want to chance it. Did the same thing in Concord, Mass (when I was 14) when we stayed at an inn older than the United States that was reputed to have several ghosts... I made sure my mom told the concierge when making reservations that we didn't want a room anywhere near where ghost activity had been known to occur. So I've purposely avoided ghostly activity pretty much all my life...

The first incident this summer was at the Borough House in Stateburg, SC in "Aunt Rinda's House." The older part of the house is one of the oldest buildings on the property. Only the main part of the big house is older from what I understand (?). Also from what I think I remember from stories of the property, it used to be the home of the kitchen slaves for the big house, and Aunt Rinda was either born a slave or within a few decades after the Civil War on the plantation, she took care of the family's children and worked and lived in the house that bears her name and died there in the first half of the 20th century. Please, correct me if I'm wrong. Now, I didn't know all of this going in. All I knew was that it was an old house called "Aunt Rinda's" and Aunt Rinda had lived, and probably, died there, and I knew some about the structure (which I think is *so cool!*). I went to visit and was given what I later found out was Aunt Rinda's room. Early in the evening, I went to go sit in the small parlor room, which was a part of the old kitchen, I think, and I got a strong feeling that I shouldn't go in that room, that I wasn't welcome, almost as if something was trying to bar me from it. Then, when I went to go to bed that night, I was preparing for bed and I started to get an uneasy feeling everytime I passed her door. There are two bedrooms on that floor and the other didn't cause that feeling. I told myself this was silly and I needed to chill, and went to turn the lights off, got in bed, and within minutes the uneasy feeling had grown to the sensation of being watched and I ran across the small room to turn the lights on again. I was, of course, the only person in the room, but I couldn't bring myself to turn them off again and fell asleep several hours later after reading and praying that no bad things would happen. I woke early the next morning, when Jason knocked on my door. By then, the light from outside was illuminating the room enough that I felt comfortable turning the light off and went back to sleep until breakfast was ready, if I remember correctly. I really wanted to chalk up the whole thing to sleeping in a new place, but I'd never reacted to sleeping in a new place like that before.

We left to go up to NC to where my younger siblings live for two weeks and then came back. I slept in the same room again, and although I still felt like I was being watched, the feeling I was getting wasn't causing me to be afraid and I was able to sleep with the light off without any problem. The next morning as Jason was making us breakfast, he asked how I had slept the night before. I said, "Fine." And I'm pretty sure that the conversation went something like this... He said, "You know, that was Aunt Rinda's room you slept in." "Oh really?" "Yeah, you know, she's still here." "What?" "Oh, yeah, both me and McKenzie have heard her walking around up there." I think I kinda blinked at him, like, "And I slept in there?" Then he said, "I've been in bed at night and heard her puttering around in there, or I'll be down here and hear her upstairs. I usually just tell her that it's late and to go to bed and the sounds will stop. But I haven't heard anything since we got the cats." I think Susan came downstairs at that point and that discussion stopped, but about an hour later while I was taking photographs outside, Jason brought me an old photo album and showed me a picture of Aunt Rinda. She looked like a very nice older woman, very caring, and she was cooking over an old cast-iron stove, I think. The look she was giving the camera struck me as a little funny, like she must have had a good sense of humor. He also showed me a picture of what the house looked like when she was still alive too. It's changed a lot. I was surprised at how much. After getting home, I wondered if my little sisters, who sleep in that room when they are there, have ever seen or felt anything. I doubt it, but I'd be interested to find out.

Then, before that day, when I was in Charlotte at the Rosedale Plantation, I got some creepy feelings. Funny enough, it was not when I was on the back porch where the tour guide said the possible haunting was. It happened twice. The first time was when we were walking from the master bedroom on the first floor up the stairs to the loft where the daughters of the family lived in the 19th century. As we were walking up, the hair on the back of my neck kinda stood on end, like a draft had gone across my neck or something, but it didn't really go away up in the loft. It was pretty steady. I walked around a little bit, looked at the furniture and architectural features of the loft, and then when we went back down, the feeling dissipated just as steadily as it had come on. In the rest of the house, I felt nothing out of the ordinary. Then we went down to the basement, which was the old kitchen. We went down from the outside, I noted as we exited, on the same side of the house that the loft is on. As we walked down the steps, passing under the area where the loft is above, I felt it again - same feeling, just as fleeting. Nothing concrete, but... creepy... Don't get me wrong, it was *very* cool... but kinda creepy.

Watching "Ghost Hunters," I think it would be really cool for TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) to do a study on the Borough or Rosedale. I think it would be cool if they found anything, or proved that it was all nothing, since that's what they do best. They've gone to North Carolina before, to survey the USS North Carolina battleship and the Mordicai House in Raleigh. They didn't find anything at the house, but they found lots of bizarre things on that ship.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Holy... Hurricane!

Check the weather just a minute ago. Overnight Wilma has been upgraded to a Cat 5 with winds of 175 mph. That's right, a Cat 1 to a Cat 5 in a little over 12 hours. The latest pressure readings are, if they are accurate and they are double-checking, the lowest ever recorded in a hurricane. The projected path has deflected a little bit southward in relation to where it was projected last night, but Tampa is still on the northern edge. Considering how accurate they were in projecting how it would intensify, I'm not really taking their word for the projected path. Evenso, it's still not moving any faster, and we have to wait and see where it wants to go.

Oh, yeah... Wilma

Well, it looks like we just might get a hurricane before the end of the season yet... I hope not, but there is definitely enough reason to worry, watch and prepare. Wilma's projected path comes right across the state from the Southwest by the weekend. When the bad storms hit the Gulfcoast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas such a short time ago, Mom said that we would have to evacuate if a 4 or higher came this way. Not because our house is in particular danger, we're on pretty high ground here (even coming straight up the Bay, it's highly unlikely that there will be flooding in our neighborhood ::knocks wood::), but because Mom would rather be safe than sorry and doesn't want to deal with possible power loss or supply shortage. So if the storm gets to be a 4 or higher, or maybe even just a really strong 3, and looks to be headed this way, we'll be packing all three (or four, if Josh is back home by then) of the cars with the pets and whatever we can take and heading North. Don't know where our destination might be yet. Will update later in the week.


I was watching "The Ellen Show" just now while checking my e-mail and whatnot. She had a guest on there, Jason Karol, who claims he has a photographic memory and that he can project ideas into other people's minds. He demonstrates this through card tricks, basically. He had Ellen shuffle the deck, then he looked at the cards fanned out for literally all of 2 seconds, and then he had Ellen hold the deck and overturn the cards in order as he said out loud what they were. He got through the first 20 before he started going so fast Ellen couldn't flip the cards before he was three cards ahead of her and Ellen stopped him. It was amazing! He did some similar tricks, and then at the end of the show, he came back on and gave Ellen a closed deck of cards while she called her brother, Vance, on the phone. There was one card reversed in the deck and Jason knew which one it was because he'd put it there and he claimed that he was going to project it into Vance's mind through the phone. Jason asked Vance to imagine a deck of cards in his mind, to imagine that he removed one card and then placed it back somewhere in the deck face-side down. I followed along and imagined taking out and reversing a 3 of Hearts. Once he'd done that, Jason took the deck of cards from Ellen, opened it and took out the cards, fanned them out, and flipped the one reversed card. It was a 3 of Hearts. Without revealing that, he asked Vance what his card was, and Vance said, "3 of Hearts." I was blown away! Now, the thing with Vance could have been rigged, but there was only a 1 in 52 chance that I'd think of the same card... Woah!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

County Commissioner Update!

Well, this is just wonderful. I've said it many times, and I will say it once again: Joe Redner is a pretty cool guy. Joe Redner hates the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council. He's never hid that fact.

For those who don't know, Joe Redner is one of the most notorious businessmen in Tampa. He owns at least 2... maybe 3 strip clubs in Tampa, and I think I heard somewhere that he's also opened some in New York City and Las Vegas. The ordinance that the City Council passed a few years ago, the also notorious "6-foot Law," was passed because they were trying to hurt his business, specifically. But while they have tried to charge both women and patrons with violations, none have ever stuck, and Joe has paid all legal fees. He did a lecture in an American Law and Justice course I took several years ago. He apparently, lets the women at his clubs set their own hours, provides day-care for their kids, encourages them to go to college and helps with tuition, and by all accounts, he's the classy kind of sleazy... more like Hugh Hefner than Larry Flynt. He also ran for City Council in the 2000 and 2004 election years, but didn't win.

Now, Mr. Joe Redner is suing the 6 County Commissioners who have consistently supported anti-gay legislation over the last several months, lead by Rhonda Storms. What he's siting exactlty, I don't know. But the papers are to be served tomorrow during the morning Commissioners' meeting.

Well, he's off my list...

... of 'not too bad Republican politicians.' Who, you may ask? John McCain. I used to think he wasn't so bad for a Republican politician in Washington... not too radical or crazy. Well, I just heard him speaking at a Chamber of Commerce thing on CNN. He basically wants to make it easier for illegal aliens to not only *stay* in the United States and *not* be deported, but to also have the same rights as United States citizens without resorting to fraud (and without paying taxes or making any kind of contribution). How could a guy from Arizona have enough constituent support for a move like that?! ... I'm disgusted...

Monday, October 17, 2005

::fanfare:: Hear ye! Hear ye!

Midterms are officially over!

::ecstatic cheering a la Kermit the Frog at the beginning of "The Muppet Show"::

::big sigh of relief:: I am so glad that's all done with. I crammed most of the day and just finished my Geology midterm with 16 minutes to spare. It was an online test, covering 10 chapters (almost 300 pages), 80 questions in 90 minutes. There was less than 2 minutes left on that clock, but it had to be completely finished by 12 midnight, no matter what time it was started, and I finished at precisely 11:44pm. Nice thing about an online exam is that the program grades it right away so there's no waiting to see how well or badly you did. I got an 82.5, which is a B... I'm told also that my Prof rounds up, so it will be probably go into the book as an 83. If I get a high enough grade on the pre-final exam, I won't have to take the final. I still don't know what my Archaeology midterm grades are. I'll probably find out tomorrow.

Also, Knitty has their Fall issue surprises up. Since I didn't get a contest notification, I guess I didn't win anything, although the honorable mentions are still not up. The new stuff can be found here: http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTpumpkins.html , http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTbits.html , http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTyorick.html .

Two things...

First, isn't this cool?!?! http://www.buggy.com/showroom.html

Second, another reciepe... They're a little bit sweet, but not overly so.

Rachael's Pumpkin-Bran Muffins
yields about 2 dozen

1.5 cups oat bran
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup flaxseed, ground
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 small cans of pumpkin (or equivelent - approx 3.5 cups)
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup of oil (take your pick - canola, flax seed, Smart Balance, etc)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare muffin pan as usual (grease or use paper muffin cups).
2. Combine all dry ingredients, except sugars, baking soda and spices, in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine all wet ingredients, brown and white sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until well blended.
4. Add wet ingredents to dry and mix until well blended.
5. Fill muffin cups at least 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool several minutes in pan before transfering to cooling rack.
8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 for second dozen.

Preparing for Winter

Two days ago, Tampa saw temperatures in the 60s for the first time in over 7 months. It was only 68 degrees and that was over-night low and we probably won't see highs in the 70s for another month, but still, it's a change and sign of things to come.

Seems like only yesterday, we were preparing for Fall (and weather in the low 80s to upper 60s is, sadly, what Fall in Florida is like), but it's already time to start seriously planning the December and February plantings. In December, we'll be getting some fruit and nut trees from a very nice place in Georgia, Aaron's Nursery (http://aaronscanna-amaryllis.com/). We'll have pears, apples and peaches, as well as pecan trees, and maybe a few other types, as well as several berry bushes. We need to plan exactly where those are going to go because they'll need to go into the ground pretty quick. We might have mild winter weather most of the time, but if there's a freeze or even a near freeze, those trees will have to be in the ground if we want even half a chance at keeping them alive.

In February, I'll be starting the Spring vegetable garden. I'll definitely be planting field and sweet corn, cucumbers, several types of summer squash, peanuts, bush beans, and we'll have the second year asparagus to look after. I might be persuaded to plant some other things as well, but the okra, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant did really badly this year and I think perhaps giving the land a break from them for a year might exhaust some of the pests that ruined them without resorting to chemicals.

What I have to do as soon as possible is find some black plastic sheeting. I'd rather not have to mail order it. See, in the local garden centers, all I've been able to find is the weed blocking fabric, which is either just thick paper or it has holes in it. It's totally useless in killing grass to clear land. I've tried and it only works for killing weeds (and definitely not grass) that have not already taken an area over. Last year, I was able to find tons of black plastic in local stores. We had 6 rolls, each 10 x 50 feet, but the down side to black plastic is that it only works for one season because the sun and elements make it become very thin and brittle. So what we've got from last year will not work for this year. I need some more... I don't know why no one seems to have stocked it this year. Next weekend, I'll have to check the feed stores. There's one at Nebraska and Bearss about 7 miles from here called "The Feed Depot", and then there's "Fox's Corner" out in Odessa (or as the developers are calling it now, "Keystone Heights"), it's been there *forever*. (On maps made 30 or more years ago, when there was nothing in that area except farms and Fox's Corner, "Fox's Corner" was marked on the map, and it's still there now.) It burned to the ground about 5 years ago. I remember people could easily see the column of smoke over 10 miles away, and everyone figured the owners would probably sell the property and someone would turn it into a Texaco, but they didn't. They stayed, rebuilt it, diversified their inventory and now it's even bigger than the original. Awesome place! If it weren't over 30 minutes from my house, it would have been the first place I went. They have hardware supplies, tractors, feed, hay, bait for fishing, and they sell chicks, ducklings and baby rabbits during the Easter season (and every year I try and every year I haven't been able to get my parents to let me get any). They might have black plastic... After all, strawberry farmers seem to swear by the stuff.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Boiled peanut recipe

One of my favorite snacks is boiled peanuts. They take a long time, but they are so worth it! Here's the recipe that I have developed:

Rachael's Slow-Boiled Peanuts

Read entire recipe before beginning.

1 lb. raw peanuts (green in the shell or shelled dried)
1 bottle Michalob Honey Lager (or your favorite fermented barley product)
6 cloves garlic, minced (dry or fresh)
1.5 tbsps Kosher salt or salt to taste
dozen or so whole peppercorns or pepper to taste
Optional: For added spiciness - 1 jalapeno pepper, or if you're suicidal, 1 habanero pepper.

Boil peanuts slowly for 2 hours.
Add salt, garlic, lager and pepper(corns).
Cover and let them sit in the pot on stove overnight to cool.
At least 12 hours later, return peanuts to a slow boil for at least 2 hours.
Add optional jalapeno or habanero during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Test for taste and texture. Adjust seasoning and boil as long as need be for correct consistency. Don't worry, it's very difficult to over cook these.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Green Acres is the place to be...

My mom told my dad and I this evening at dinner that, now that the remod on our house is done, she's thinking that my dad and she should look into buying a vacation property/retreat somewhere (of course, my dad's response was "With what money?"). She loves our home, so she doesn't want to move or anything, but she's really missing the farm she used to have in Brooksville. She said it's always been a dream of hers to have a lovely, 5- 10 acre property in the Carolinas or Virginia that she could eventually keep horses on... maybe some goats. She said no chickens, which is disappointing. She's worried about the bird flu thing, silly as that is. As someone with a degree in Biology, she should know better. (added 10/16/05: When I asked mom if she was serious about the no chickens because of the bird flu thing today, she laughed and said she had just been messing with me and that by the time we were ready to get chickens, the bird flu wouldn't even be remembered by most people. ::sighs:: She's been hanging out with dad too much, starting to develop his sick sense of humor.)

I started looking around on the internet to see what I could find and I didn't find much. Mostly listings for way too much property or smaller parcels at $8,000+ per acre. If anyone knows good places to search, please let me know.

If only we could win the $1,000,000 Lake Lure, NC home that HGTV will be giving away in January... ::sighs::

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yom Kippur

heads-up, this is going to get kinda theological according to some people's way of thinking, and maybe even a bit deep... just to warn ya...

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I was able to fast the entire 24-hour sunset-to-sunset period for the first time in years. (Woohoo!) It was a good day. Kol Nidre services were Wednesday night from 8:00pm to nearly 10 pm. There were lots of children sleeping in their parents' arms before the closing hymn was sung. Thursday morning services started at 10am and continued until just before 1pm. Children's services were at 1:30. There was a discussion group at 2:30, a choir performance at 3:30, and afternoon services started at 4pm on the dot. They included Yitzchak (memorial) and N’ila (concluding) services and continued until 7pm. Needless to say, a break-fast followed in short order. I went to everything except the children's service and discussion group... to keep myself from thinking about food if nothing else.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is the day when all Israel comes together to pray for forgiveness from G-d for all their sins and human failings of the previous year... together as a nation, as families, and as individuals. It’s a very emotional and moving day for a lot of people. The tradition says,

"Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day.
It is awesome and full of dread...

"the still, small voice is heard;
the angels, gripped by fear and trembling,
declare in awe:
This is the Day of Judgment!
For even the Hosts of Heaven are judged!" (From the "Unetaneh Tokef")

And mostly because of that, the Rabbi's sermon during the Yom Kippur morning service is debatably the most important and anticipated sermon of the year. Every year, people wonder, "what will the topic be?", "will it be about social justice, or current events, or a more traditional topic, like human mortality?" (Because of the sometimes depressing and down-right macabre nature of the Yom Kippur sermon, children are usually sent out for an alternative service led by the head of the religious school, which lasts from after the Torah and Haftarah portions are read until just after the sermon.) Our rabbi, Rabbi Zimmerman, is a master at crafting sermons. Nearly every year, he brings me to tears at least once. He is *the* best I've ever seen... and while admittedly, that's not many, even the senior citizen members of the congregation seem very impressed by him, and my grandmother of blessed memory thought him completely wonderful. He is wise well beyond his years (he's, I'd guess, in his mid-30s), and he always seems to know exactly what to say. Sometimes, he talks about things his children have taught him about the world, sometimes he talks about the significance of current events, like in 2001 when the High Holy Days were only days after 9/11... Many times, he speaks about social justice and why we're obligated as Jews and as human beings to do something about it. A major precept of Reform Judaism is the concept of Tikun Olam, which means "Repair the world," and another is the idea that if anyone is denied rights which we hold dear, everyone is denied those rights, including us... It comes from the Exodus concept that if one man is enslaved, the entire world is enslaved, and no one is really safe or free. So social justice is very important in Reform Judaism. At least, it's supposed to be. But as human beings, we are apt to be hypocritical, to exclude certain people, whether consciously or unconsciously, from our awareness of the oppressed.

Today, Rabbi Zimmerman talked about an incredibly taboo subject in American society, especially taboo in a religious setting, unless it's put in a negative light, according to many people's thinking. Rabbi Zimmerman said today that "gays are the new Jews." He got around to that point in a brilliant way too (as usual). He started with historical anecdotes about how throughout history when Jews have been oppressed and persecuted, it was often not motivated by hatred on the part of the people who began it. It was motivated by politics. The Inquisition, the pogroms, the ghettos of Europe, the Holocaust itself, all had their roots in the politics of the day. He told a particular story about how the Czarist government about 100 years ago sponsored a writer to compile a (they claimed) non-fiction book about how Jews were honest-to-G-d trying to take over the world. It wasn't because *they* hated the Jews in Russia per say, rather the Jews in Russia were a convenient distraction from the real problems plaguing Russia at the time. The government could say, "Hey, all you peasants, look over here. See this book! This is what it says! Look, the Jews are ruining your lives, not us! We love you! We‘re trying to protect you from them!" And then, just when people were thinking, 'okay, so where's he going with this?', he brought up the last Presidential election, how with all the problems plaguing our country and world at large, the one topic that got so many on both sides of the aisle up in arms and their power-bases riled was gay marriage. Why was that? Because the US is really in danger of being ruined by gays? Or because they are convenient scapegoat minority, who no one will speak up for unless they are one? It soon became obvious that he decided on this topic because of the recent bad business conducted by the County Commission. He actually said that "Rhonda Storms is a bad Christian." (I smiled. She’s a bad human being, if you asked me, her religion doesn't even get a chance to enter into it.) He said he could do that because, as she told our Cantor in (so he said) the *only* repeatable sentence in the letter she sent in response to the one our Canter sent as a community religious leader asking her to reconsider her position on the anti-gay ordinance, Rhonda Storms doesn't represent our county district. But it was about more than what the County Commission has done...

He reminded us that inappropriate joke are the beginning... Rude gestures, name calling, negative associations... Assuming most gay men are pedophiles, that there's something *wrong* with them, that they are a *them* and not *us*, that the phrase "that's so gay!" is equivalent to "that's so stupid" in American vernacular these days... reminding us that it's no different than saying, "I hope you didn't get jewed when you bought that car!" thereby equating Jews with being cheated. (He made several more pretty graphic analogies throughout the sermon.) The words of those who demonize and differentiate, no matter how outlandish they are, become accepted by more and more people as likely to be facts... Next come outbursts of violence, which become more and more frequent, more and more tolerated by the general public, the excuses by those who agree with the perpetrators that the victims somehow brought the violence upon themselves for essentially not being the same as everyone else become more acceptable... This has happened in this area in the last few years... Several gay men have gone missing in Hillsborough County, one of them just 5 miles north of my home, in similar enough ways to make authorities wonder if there's a serial killer stalking gay men in the area and openly gay men and women have been warned to be extra aware of their surroundings and to try not to go out alone... Every few months there are news stories published that a gay man or a lesbian has been assaulted, several have been in their own front yards or at their businesses... (And I remembered specifically about 2 years ago, during Gay Pride, there was an all night circuit party, a "White Party," for gay men at the rented-out Florida Aquarium... In the wee hours of the morning, as it was winding down, a lot of guys were walking to their cars parked in the garage across the street. A group of five or six angry, young straight guys, armed with crowbars and chains, attacked one of them from behind as he reached his car. He didn’t even have a chance to defend himself. They yelled, "Stupid fag!" and other obscenities as they beat him and kicked him, but he was already unconscious and bleeding on the cement floor by then and didn't hear them. Some of the other "fags" in the garage heard, I think in a turn of divine justice, the commotion and came running. Since the attackers were drunk, and not really in shape (unlike the vast majority of the kind of guys who would go to a White Party, let me tell you), when they reached them, those attackers got the snot beat out of them and were subdued while the police were called and ambulances arrived. The attackers had broken bones, busted lips and bloody noses, and were arrested and charged with some nasty felonies... The young man who was attacked was in a coma, but thankfully came out of it after a few days and, after many months of physical therapy, made a full recovery. And the gay men who came to his rescue, happily, weren't charged with anything, since the attackers had been armed and obviously the aggressors. Even though it ended well, given the situation, it started in the first place when it shouldn't have at all.)

Rabbi Zimmerman pressed on: Then, the little laws get passed... This anti-gay ordinance in Hillsborough County and many others like it in communities across the country, it's a sign. It's a sign as much as the first anti-Semitic laws in Germany were a start. The slope is slippery and if no one but those who are persecuted care or cry out, the snowball will turn into an avalanche, people will loose their lives and the world will become dimmer for the spilling of innocent blood.

And, just when the sermon was getting to the point where some might have been wondering when it was going to end, he brought it back home. He said, "And I'm sure many of you are sitting there thinking, 'Rabbi, what does *this* have to do with me and Yom Kippur?' Well, I can tell you there were many good priests in Europe and North America who gave sermons during Christmas services in 1939 just like this one, and many of their congregants probably asked the same thing."

The point was we know what's happening now, we've seen it before, as a people we lived it before, and we know that's it's wrong and it's wrong to be silent. Being silent in the face of injustice is as serious a sin as actively participating in the injustice. Are we going to stand by and watch? We know we shouldn't, we know we must speak out for all those who have been silenced and all those who would be silenced. I’ve known this for years and that’s why I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida since I was 16 in 1999. I vowed to myself then that I would not be silent for all those who are forced to be. And still, even with all this commitment and effort and calling friends out on the mat for casual thoughtless homophobic comments, telling them, exactly as the rabbi said, that such comments are not harmless, and bearing their anger at my censure on more than one occassion, I know in my heart there is more I could have done.

I was glad that Rabbi Zimmerman reminded the entire congregation of these obligations… I could see looking around it was very difficult for many of them to hear. I could feel the tension in the room rise, there was a sense of uncomfortable emotion as the sermon ended on that note, which I think was the rabbi's intent. But I still wondered, as we all watched the children filter back into the sanctuary and were welcomed and hugged by their parents a few minutes later, how many of those parents were glad that their children hadn't heard the Rabbi's sermon this year.

And on a completely different note, but still connected to Yom Kippur, my cousin (by marriage) Stephanie gave birth to a baby girl (and I *knew* it would be a girl. As soon as we found out that she was pregnant last spring, I immediately thought, "it's a girl"... did the same thing when she had Molly, and I knew instantly that Jake would be a boy when she was pregnant with him... Perhaps I *am* a bit psychic... ;D ) around noon on Yom Kippur. She and her husband have decided to name her “Katelyn Rose” (I’m not sure on the spelling, but that’s the name). Poor Steph had a c-section and so she wasn’t up for visitors yesterday, and Katelyn spent her first several hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, though she wasn‘t a premmie. My cousin Martin said there was something wrong with the way she was breathing when she was born. We’re praying it’s not serious and she recovers. I’ll post a picture as soon as I get to take them… Hopefully, we will be able to go to the hospital to see them this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My day and a sad, simple truth...

Well, I had my Archaeology midterm today as well as a midterm paper due (though it's not officially due until Thursday). Proud to say I had it all printed out and ready to turn in at 4:15 am today. Class was at 2:00 pm. I think I did pretty well... Will know in a few days.

After I came home, I went out riding my bike. I got about 2.5 miles from the house and got to a treacherous bit of sidewalk. Live oaks on both sides within inches of the edge of the side walk, lots of roots tearing up the surface, about a 2 - 3 inch drop from the cement on both sides to the ground, and the sidewalk wove back and forth very quickly... Well, I slowed down hoping that would make it okay to get past it, but my front tire hit a weird bump, slipped off the edge of the cement and bam! I hit a tree. My basket is all messed up, and I've got scratches all over the left side of my face and left arm from wrist to elbow... And there's possibly a bruise developing from the side of my knee almost down to my ankle on my right leg. I saw stars... for a second I just hugged the tree and wondered if I had broke my jaw. I didn't, thank goodness. Odd thing is there isn't a scratch on the bike. And then I had to ride 2.5 miles back home. It sucked.

But then, I remembered that Jeff Corwin, of Animal Channel fame, was going to be speaking at USF this evening at 7pm, so I cleaned up, hurried to eat dinner and headed back to school. The lecture was held in the Special Events hall this time instead of the ballroom... a good call 'cause there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. A lot of kids, some looked as young as 3 or 4 too. I was surprised. Jeff talked about his travels and the things he's learned over the last ten years since he started doing tv. He said that the best advice he could give, before anyone could ask, was to find something you love and find a way to make a living off it. He said he decided he wanted to do what he does since he was 6 years old and got bit by garter snake in his grandmother's backyard... and he decided on tv specifically when, having just finished his undergrad work, he was asked by a documentary crew to show them around Bolivia, which he knew like the back of his hand practically because of all the work he'd done there and time he'd spent. He got lucky. It only took him 4 years of persistence and tenacity to land a show on Disney. The rest is history.

He was really nice, and funny, and patient with the little kids, and the whole point of his lecture was to raise awareness of species that are truly endangered... Not the fuzzy, cuddly ones that everyone likes, like pandas, but rather the ones that a lot of people wouldn't mind killing themselves cause they're afraid of them or think they're a nuisance, such as rattlesnakes in the southwestern US.

He's also quite upset, and rightly so, about the "reworking" of the Endangered Species Act. If you haven't already, read up on what the distinguished gentleman from California, Richard Pombo, has done. Here's his version: http://www.house.gov/Pombo/press/press2005/sept29_05.htm Really, it's a toothless excuse for a law and will allow developers and other rats to continue to endanger threatened and nearly extinct species (and this isn't the first time Pombo has, pardon my French, bent over for developers and self-serving "special interests."). Every environmentalist in the country knows this... but the vast majority of this country isn't caring about the environment right now. They're too distracted with the hurricane clean-up, and Iraq, and gays getting married, and their own problems... The environment is always there and yet not in their face, so they ignore it. And that really sucks of them. If you're one of those people, I suggest you get up and start writing your local newspapers, your elected officials, tell your friends and get people pissed about this so-called TESRA. Cause those 900 species still on the Endangered Species List was reduced by 4 last month because 4 species were officially acknowledged as having become extinct... gone forever, never to be seen on this good Earth again. And there will only be more, thanks to Pombo, TESRA, every single Congressmen who voted for it, everyone who supported them, and everyone who didn't fight against it with everything they felt they could do. The loss of those 900 species *will* be *their* fault, it will be on *their* heads, every one, and no one else's because when they were able to do *something*, *anything* to stop it, they made the selfish decision to pander or to be apathetic. And that's the simple truth.


I finally finished the quilt I worked on for over six months altogether... I'm told that's fairly quick for a first quilt. It's for Simon, a guy friend from high school who I had a devastating, utterly hopeless crush on for like... Oh, the better part of seven years... Pretty much from the first second I saw him... Sad, very sad... Finally, I had to come to the conclusion that it would never go anywhere and to move on. But anyway, I finished the quilt, which I made in honor of his graduation from college, and sent it to his parents. I think he back-packed through Europe this past summer after finishing a degree in Japanese Culture and Language at Hampshire College. He very well could be in Japan right now. I haven't been able to get ahold of him. I seem to have somehow lost his e-mail address and I can't find his cell phone number, so I sent it to his parents' house, knowing it will get to him eventually.

About the quilt itself... Everything means something... I did try very hard to get patterns that at least shared the same colors and limited them to black, white, silver, red, gold, and blue. The backing is a marigold and red asian dragon motif outlined on black. To the best of my knowledge the fiber content is all cotton and cotton blends, with the exception of the velvets, which have rayon and possibly spandex in them.

::heavenly fanfare:: pictures to share...

Been taking pictures like crazy with my little camera phone... These that I've uploaded are maybe a fifth of what I've taken in the last few weeks. We'll see if they hold up better than previous ones.
This is sunset on the evening of September 28th this year, over a parking lot in Citrus Park, Florida, across the street from one of the most pleasant, if not very useful to me, malls in the Tampa area.

As I'm sure everyone knows, Halloween is coming up... I love Halloween! So I tried on my costume that I bought last year. It looks fine on, but I thought a corset under it would make it look that much better, so I got out one of the corsets I bought in high school when I was around 17... I am quite proud to say that I can still get it on. Of course, it would be nice if it actually fit. I had to add extra lacing to it because the person who made it reduced the measurements I gave them by 10 inches all around. They denied that they did it and refused a refund, but my tape measurer and copy of the order didn't lie to me... Anyway, with the extra laces it is wearable, technically. You can clearly see why I'll never have to wear a bumroll and have problems finding skirts and pants of the proper proportion... and with a Tudor period corset, my hips are even more pronounced.

The dress is all lace and panne velvet... Reminds me of the old Bob Hope "Casanova" movie. It's lovely. Got it at Torrid last year.

The sleeves have a slash down the side with laces and long drapes of black lace.