Friday, December 9, 2011

Awww! How sweet! AdSense thinks my blog is popular

Mina suggested that I owe two posts, since I had nothing to say in November. AdSense thinks I'm popular. I don't know how these two things are related, but I'm sure they must be.

This is what happens when I have nothing to say - I ramble on about nothing. It's been an eventful week around here, but not a pleasant one. Fortunately, I had Mel's cricket to distract me for some time.

My husband's father passed away this week. He had cancer a few years ago, and it appeared that he had beaten it. Unfortunately, it came back. It must have come back in stealth mode, because the doctors did not detect it until it had spread everywhere. My father-in-law opted to forego treatment, and was able to fulfill his desire to die at home, surrounded by his family.

Now I just have to get through the wake and funeral without saying anything awkward. It's really hard to suppress my natural talent that way. If there's one thing at which I excel, it's saying awkward things, and I really let my light shine at wakes. Someone sew my mouth shut, please.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

File Under: A Little Competition is a Good Thing?

Overheard in my household today:

Scene: The bedroom, where my husband is preparing to shower by doing his pre-shower mini-exercise routine. My daughter is "exercising" too.

Daughter: Exercise is good for you, right, Daddy?

Husband: Yes it is!

Daughter: It helps you live a long time!

Husband: Yes!

Daughter: You and I are going to live a lot longer than Mommy, right, Daddy?

Husband: ...

(For the record, I get up a half hour earlier than necessary so I can work out before I go to work. My daughter is well aware of this.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Now that some time has passed, I can calmly tell the saga of my computer. It's a long one.

Last November, after complaining about the speed and heat levels coming from my old, reliable Acer notebook computer, my husband finally told me that I should go out and get a new laptop. I went to that store that uses a big old price tag for its logo, and looked at what was available. I had a price range and some features in mind. I had read the reviews on cnet. I picked a Toshiba Satellite with an i3 processor and 4 GB of RAM. The price was reasonable, and I was comfortable with my purchase.

The computer worked great for 3 months. Then, one day, the speakers started emitting a high-pitched whine. I tried the usual solutions - rebooting, turning the speakers off and on, removing all the power sources - and then I called* for service. The service guy had me reinstall Windows (which involved saving all my photos and music and such), which did not help. The next solution was to send the computer in for repair. It was at this point where I realized that I should have bought the extended warranty, because I could then have had a replacement computer immediately. Instead, I sent the computer in for repair.

During this time, my husband was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our communication was mainly through email, with the occasional Skype chat. I needed a computer. I still had the Acer, which still works, but it was practically setting my lap on fire, and I had internet road rage from the slow responses.

After about three weeks, my computer came did my husband. I turned the computer on, turned on the speakers, and the high-pitched whine was gone! Hurray! Unfortunately, it had been replaced with a low-pitched hiss that sounded every time I started a program or clicked on a link. Also, there were some other new issues that came along with the repair. So the computer ended up worse than when I sent it in. When my husband went back to work, the computer went back to Toshiba's repair center.

This time, the computer was in the repair center for less than one day, according to the delivery tracking on both ends. It was returned to me with no change. I called* the service line again. I explained the problem to the girl who finally answered, who then asked if I could hold for 5 minutes or less while she researched my case. My response was "Well, I've already been on hold for 45 minutes, so what's another 5?" I think she may have gotten the idea that I was a little upset.

Toshiba then asked me to return the computer for repair again - they don't give refunds, in case you were wondering. Having no choice, I sent the piece of junk back "to the engineers" at Tri-Star Computer for more repair. It arrived on May 27th. I think it was about June 3, when I received a notification that my computer was on its way back to me. I followed the tracking, and it should have arrived on the following Monday. When I checked on Tuesday, the shipping notification indicated that it had made it to my area, but was returned to sender. I was confused, but I let it go for a few days. On June 10, I called* the service center, where they told me that there had been a mixup and they had sent me the wrong computer and my computer was on its way back to them. They would ship it out ASAP.

On June 17, I called the repair center again. They gave me the same story. At this point, I was...irate. To put it mildly. Not only had Toshiba sold me a defective computer, the repair centers had not fixed it. And then they sent it off into oblivion - never to be seen again. I'm fairly glad that after the initial reinstallation of Windows, I really hadn't accessed any personal data on that computer. Someone could have had easy access to all of my banking and credit card and other personal information.

It was around this point that I decided to step up the complaint process. I did a little internet research and found the main Toshiba website, which had a feedback section. I described the situation in detail. Then next Wednesday, the top customer service representative in the US (allegedly) called* me to see how we could solve my problem. Apparently, appealing to Japan directly gets results. He offered me a credit to Toshiba Direct or a different computer with a slightly faster (i5) chip, but otherwise identical. I opted for the slightly faster replacement.

The computer came in a few days, but I couldn't get it. Fedex refused to deliver it when I was not at work. They wouldn't change the delivery address. They wouldn't let me pick it up that day, or the next, and if they failed to deliver 3 times, it would go back to the sender. Fortunately, I was able to pick it up on a Saturday morning. I finally got it home a few hours later, and when I turned it on, the screen was broken. No picture at all - just a bunch of lines.

I emailed the customer service guy, and asked for my money back again. No luck - I could get the credit or I could return the computer for repair. When I did a quick check of the website, it appeared that I could barely get an equivalent laptop for the price of the credit. I sent the replacement in for repair. I got it back again. It seemed fine...until I went to plug in my mouse.

I'm not a fan of the touch pad - that was the downside to the Acer. The touch pad was so oversensitive that it was basically unusable. Therefore, I use a mouse, unless it's totally inconvenient to do so. Anyway, I plugged in my mouse to the USB port, and it didn't work. I have just enough computer knowledge to be dangerous, so I knew I could delete the USB drives and then reinstall them. That did not help. I did a little research and found that if your USB ports don't work, and they don't work after reinstalling, you probably have a motherboard that's about to go bad.

At this point, I demanded my money back again. Toshiba refused. I thought about going back through Japan, but didn't have the energy to fight anymore. I took the credit they offered. I picked the new computer and ordered it. The sales associate said they would expedite the order, and I refused, since I was about to leave for vacation. She said the computer would then be shipped on the day we were scheduled to return from vacation. I said that was great. Of course, when checking my email on vacation, I found that the computer was shipped 5 days later. Then I found that the computer was delivered to my house and left on my porch - no signature required.

It's been 2 months since I got the new computer. The keyboard is less than reliable; if I'm leaving typos in your comment section, blame Toshiba. I'm stuck with this thing for several more years. But at some point, I will buy myself a Tablet PC which might make my computing life fun again.

*All calls were made with a Blackberry Curve on the Sprint network. The Sprint network, in conjunction with the Blackberry Curve, does not work at my house and averages one dropped call in every two calls I make. This is especially pleasant and useful when trying to make service calls or when you're in the queue to speak to an agent. It is also my only phone, since we do not have a landline. The Blackberry Curve is also slightly aerodynamic, and sails nicely across my front lawn. But that's a story for another day. Apparently, technology is not my friend. And you get what you pay for.

Added note: You can thank St. Elsewhere for this, as she suggested it was time for me to post something. ;)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Where I make you look at my vacation with more accurate text!

(Wow. Two posts in two days. Probably won't have anything else to say for the rest of the year...)

For our first real vacation in 8 years (since our honeymoon), my husband and I decided to visit Santa Barbara, California. I thought he'd want to lounge on the beach and watch the days go by, but he made several suggestions on things to see. That fits in with my preference for vacations (seeing everything I can possibly pack in), and so I set to planning.

We arrived in Santa Barbara in the evening, and ate dinner on Stearn's Wharf.

During the day, Santa Barbara was beautiful...and wonderfully cool compared to the 90+ temperatures in the midwest.

We explored a bit, and ate at Joe's Cafe. Apparently, it's the oldest restaurant in Santa Barbara. We were only eating because we needed something to do before we could go to our first wine tasting. We visited Jaffur's. The wine was delicious, and they gave us some pointers for additional wineries to visit. So we made our way up to the Brander vineyard, through some beautiful countryside.

I was loving my smartphone - not only for its GPS capabilities, but because if I became a Facebook friend of Brander, they gave us a bonus tasting of a $50 bottle of Cabernet. That alllllmost enticed me to buy a $50 bottle of wine. My husband, however, varied from his usual preferences and bought a bottle of white wine.*

The next day, we drove up the coast to San Simeon. We took the most scenic route, so we could visit the wine ghetto in Lompoc. Several wineries have tasting rooms in the middle of an industrial area behind a Home Depot - thus, wine ghetto. We enjoyed some really good Mexican food and samples of wine. There, I learned how important it is to let wine breathe (very!) and my husband bought a bottle of red.* Then we continued up the coast and stopped at the beach at Morro Bay.

The next day, we visited the Heart Castle. It was a most amazing place. The tour guides were great, and the house and gardens were incredible. Of course, I felt compelled to read up on Hearst after visiting, and he was certainly an interesting character. I don't think I would have liked him very well, but I suppose he must have been charming in a way that can't be conveyed in a biography.

Before starting off on our next adventure, we took a short detour up the coast to check out the elephant seal rookery. There are two things to know about elephant seals, as far as I am concerned. They are very loud and they are very stinky. We didn't stay long.

We drove across California to Visalia, where we enjoyed the many points my husband's travels have earned him with a free hotel stay. Visalia is about 40 miles from the Sequoia National Forest, which is where we intended to visit. We passed the many orange and lemon groves, fields full of cherry trees and olive trees and strawberries...we wanted to stop and eat everything! Along the way to the National Forest, we passed Lake Kaweah.

We stopped in Three Rivers because they were advertising a Hot Dog Festival that would begin at 10:00. We got there around 9:50. Here in the midwest, when something begins at 10:00, that's when we expect the food to be ready. Apparently in Three Rivers, that's when they fire up the grill. Fortunately, they had a tiny museum with plenty of things from early settlers to inspect while we waited 30 minutes for a hot dog.

The National Forest was indescribable. Imposing mountains,

Beautiful rivers with rushing rapids

and waterfalls,

giant trees with fascinating history,

and incredible rock formations. This one was called Beetle Rock.

I don't have Photoshop on my home computer, so I can't show you good pictures of the cave we visited. I can tell you, though, that if the national park service tells you that it's a fairly strenuous hike, you should believe them. I can also tell you that stalactites stalagmites** (which apparently take hundreds of years to grow up) look very much like stone dildoes.

My husband was surprised to learn that he wanted to return for the second day. We saw a very small sample of the park, and if we didn't have so many more places to see on this earth, I'd go right back.

After that, we returned to Santa Barbara for one last night. We found a beautiful beach, and spent some time there.

And for those of you who remember what I was doing last summer, I saw this on State Street when we were out and about buying t-shirts. I don't know what it was, exactly, but I assume it's a drinking establishment. It was too early to tell...

It was a wonderful vacation. There were many things that struck me, though. First, gas prices in California were not as expensive as I expected them to be (at least around Santa Barbara). Second, vacations are very expensive. I had no idea. I'd better vacation more often so I can keep up with the prices! Next, I should probably retire and drink wine all the time. It seems to be my life's calling. Finally, I love avocados!

Next week, I'm off to Wyoming for a class. Expect more pictures of mountains.

*My husband bought the wine. I drank a good portion of the wine. Just so we're clear.

**Thanks to Valery for correcting me and giving me a way to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. It was so obvious - tits hang down!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Day in the Life...

Here is a sampling of 24 hours of my life:

3:30 pm Doctor's office
Doctor: Hey! How are you! Great to see you! So, what's going on? Last time I saw you, you were talking about...

Me: Yeah. We did a round of IVF last November. It didn't work out, obviously.

Doctor: Oh, I'm so sorry...

6:30 pm My kitchen

Daughter: (*takes knife, slides it in*) Mommy, I thought you were going to grow me a baby in your belly.

Me: I tried, honey. It just didn't work out.

Daughter: (*gives knife experimental twist*) You were supposed to grow me 2 brothers and 3 sisters.

Me: I would have really liked to do so, but we don't always get what we want.

Daughter: (*fully rotates knife a few hundred times per second) But I'll be lonely when you die.

Me: Oh, no. By that time, you'll have a family of your own.

11:30 am My Office

Coworker/mother of my daughter's "boyfriend": I just got back from the doctor's and "boyfriend" is going to have a little brother or sister next spring!

Me: Congratulations! That's great!

Clearly the universe is having issues with me this week... Sigh. Hope that's over with.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

If it bothers you that much..

For me, the internet is a playground - a source of entertainment. I can connect with people who live far away. I can find amusing videos. I can read blogs. I can read the news. I can check the weather and find addresses and directions. You know that lost piece of information? The one about that one actor who was in the movie with the other guy? I can find that too. I have 4 email accounts. I have a Facebook account. I have a blog. I have Google Reader packed with stuff to read all day long. I love the internet and I don't know what I would do without it.

Lately, it seems that many people are finding the internet more of a burden than a pleasure. I've seen countless posts complaining about Facebook. I've seen lots of remarks about the pros and cons of Twitter. I've seen people agonizing over the "direction" of their blogs, and complaints about the "branding" that others are doing. And here's what it comes down to - people seem to have a certain level of expectations from the activities in which they participate on the internet. When those expectations are not met, they get upset about it.

Let's take email to start. In Jennifer's Head recently wrote Oh Compulsive Email Forwarder . I love her take on this. I have an email forwarder (or several) in my life. For me, it's a good way to know people are still alive. (I used to be a fairly prolific correspondent, but for every letter I sent out, I got zero in return.) I think forwarding jokes and warnings and such was a kind of rite of passage when you got an email account in years past. But there are those who find the forwarded joke a huge imposition. A friend of mine used to share her email account with her partner. Her partner (who is generally irritable anyway) blocked my email address because she felt I was forwarding too many jokes. Rather than requesting that I not forward things to her, she blocked communication between my friend and me. It's just email - the deletion of an email requires a click or two of the mouse. To get offended by it seems like an extreme reaction, which I don't really understand. In Jennifer's Head's post seems like my sort of reaction - a slightly sarcastic, mild rant laced with affection. Perfect.

And then there's Facebook. I love Facebook - it's a useless timewaster containing all sorts of entertainment in one place. I rarely update - most of the things you see on my wall are game results or requests. I post some pictures sometimes. I comment on others' posts all the time. I don't know much about the origins of Facebook (and I didn't see the movie). Based on my memory of the thought processes I had while in college, I doubt Facebook was meant to be taken as seriously as people take it today. I suspect it was supposed to be a way to find the parties on campus. It has morphed into a giant entity with so many facets...and for each facet I've found someone who finds it irritating. Post a status update complaining about anything? Someone will complain about it. Post a photo? You're either bragging or gloating or stupidly posting something inappropriate. Don't talk about your faith or lack thereof - it's offensive. Don't talk about your political preferences - it's offensive. Don't do anything that anyone else might disagree with - you'll be reviled. I'm not talking about STFU Parents or Failbook because those are snark, and snark is appreciated. But I can't think of a blog I've read that mentions Facebook that doesn't mention how the author hates it (OK, maybe one). I understand that it's venting, but I really haven't seen one person post about how they love facebook. I've never seen anyone post about how they love to play Farmville. I've never seen anyone post about how they like to see what people they don't see in person are doing. So here's me saying I love Bejewelled Blitz - especially when I can beat my sisters. I love arguing politics with the guy from high school who used to ride the same bus. I hate that one of my best childhood friends holds such wacky political beliefs but am thankful that I can watch her son grow up from afar. And for the rest of's facebook. Please. Take it for what it's worth. Better yet, take it for what you pay for it. Whatever you do, don't take it so personally. And let me know if you play Gardens of Time - I need more neighbors. :)

Twitter is something that I really can't get into. It sounds attractive to a certain extent. It would be something to do with all the "Is it really necessary to block me in traffic EVERY morning, Mr. Plumber truck?" irritation I have. But all the angst over follower numbers, and the idea of sorting out hundreds of tweets a day, and the prevalence of marketing and spam all conspires to turn me off. I appreciate the quotes that I've read, but it seems like there is very little meat to Twitter. Or maybe there is very little wheat but bucketloads of chaff. And then I see that some people may not respond to comments, but do respond to tweets. That's when I think that Twitter is probably better than anything for establishing friendships, because it's much more like having a conversation. But in contrast, there's the opposite of relationship building, and so I stay away.

On to blogs. I'm not much of a blogger. I don't have that much to say, because I am unable to put my emotions on display. I would probably be better on Twitter, where my commentary would be limited. But for those days like today, when I want to go on and on, I love my blog. I love reading blogs. There's fascinating information, funny stories, giveaways, insights into other people and their lives - it's a gold mine...with veins of crap, sure, but there is so much good stuff out there. I feel honored that anyone reads anything I write, and my days would be completely boring if I didn't have so much stuff to read. (I suppose I could work harder, but what fun would that be?) Here's the thing about blogs, though - there seems to be a huge internal conflict among American bloggers. They want to be taken seriously. They want readership. They would really like to make some money from writing. But they don't want to be seen as commercial. I've seen articles from 3 Ways to Drive Blog Traffic From Major News Events (subject matter obvious) to Five Hundred and One (where the author is getting traffic but still feels unnoticed). I see laments about the sidetracking of blogging in favor of other social media. I think the thing that bothers me most, though, is what I perceive as jealousy of the bloggers who have "made it." I see people commenting about how those bloggers are all about their brand and promoting themselves. I'm sorry, but aside from a very few instances, every blog I've seen has been promoting the writer in some form. Fortunately, there are a few people out there, like this one and this one (had to link to that particular post because it's great), and even this one (her other blogs are not as selfless, thus the "even") who are trying to promote more than themselves. They try to promote community and education and connections between people. People like this show their support in tangible ways. So to the jealous ones, or the ones worried about their brand, I say take a look at what these people do. Brand is not as important as making your blog something admirable. Most of the people I read have that quality - I hope they can eventually take over the internet. And if they strike it rich in the meantime, more power to them.

To anyone who finds social media so oppressive, please be realistic in your expectations. You'll be much less irritated, and then maybe you can behold the internet in wide-eyed wonder again.

And if you'll excuse me, I have to go search for the best way to transfer 8mm film to video - eHow can tell me how, and eBay can probably provide me with discounted tools.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Come to think of it, there are no problems when Katy Perry's Extra-Terrestrial is on...

You know how you have those little things that you should get fixed, but don't? Just something small and annoying, but you can deal with it, so you just let it slide? I have a couple things around the house like that, including the caulking around our sliding glass door that I think is letting ants in, and the weed whacker missing a bolt which makes it impossible for me to start. But the main thing that doesn't work right? My car radio.

More specifically, it's my husband's car radio. I drive the car most often, because it gets better gas mileage. However, it's his car and his radio. You see, I may have mentioned before that he is...frugal. So when he decided he was going to buy a car to replace the pickup truck that he sold, he put on his negotiating face and went to the dealership with the newspaper. There was a stripped down version of the car he wanted, for the cheapest price advertised, and that was what he wanted. The only problem? The car didn't come with a radio. So he harassed the salesman to put a radio in the car. Now, I didn't expect to get some sort of stellar sound system, but I didn't expect what I got.

At first, it was just the odd anomaly. Once in a while, the radio would turn itself up. Self-adjusting volume was...interesting. I usually have the volume between 5 and 7, and it would turn itself up to about 17 or 19. My daughter was not fond of this. The clock would lose a minute or two a week, making me cut it a little close on getting to work. But these were just intermittent annoyances.

Next, the display started acting up. It wasn't that some of the LEDs stopped working. It was like aliens were taking over the radio - strange symbols would appear and then the screen would go blank. I tried to take pictures of it, but a) it would mostly only happen when I was driving, and I'm not very steady at taking pictures while the car is moving, and b) if I could take a steady picture, the alien symbols would disappear when I pulled out the phone's camera.

The latest problem, which makes me think the aliens have actually taken control of the radio, is that the preset buttons rarely take the radio to the station I select. I leave for work between 6:15 and 6:20, and right around that time, every radio station in my area seems to go to commercial. So I try to find some music, and start hitting buttons. Preset 2 will give me preset 3. Preset 4 or 5 sometimes adjust the volume all the way down. Preset 5 will let me adjust the equalizer. Preset 6 will give me preset 6, but then all the other presets will only lead to preset 6. Apparently, the aliens really like pop music. But only the totally pop music station, because the crossover type pop station will almost never show up. And commercials. They like commercials too.

(We just took a trip to Chicago, and I got 5 days of the blessed relief of picking one station [93 - WXRT] and sticking with it. They play the best music, so there's no need to change the station)

As an added bonus, it plays CDs just fine when my husband drives, but every CD I've put in just generates an error message. Theoretically, you could hook up an MP3 player to it, but I am afraid of what would happen if I tried it.

I could have had this fixed or replaced, if I had followed up on it when it first started happening. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get that done. So now, we have a very strange radio. And since it mostly behaves when my husband drives, he thinks it's hilarious that the aliens only want to talk to me!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I should have bought a Power Ball ticket too...

I've been pretty lucky lately. Well, in general, I feel like I'm pretty lucky - I have a wonderful husband (when he's not being annoying) and a delightful, hilarious daughter, in addition to a very entertaining extended family. But I've been the beneficiary of some extra luck lately.

Lori Lavender Luz was hosting a giveaway at her All Thumbs review page recently. I won a great set of glass storage containers, some recipe cards, and a flexible measuring cup. I would have taken a picture, but everything went immediately into the dishwasher (except the recipe cards, of course!) so I could use them right away!

My other big win is a trip. One day, at work, I received an email from one of the managers regarding a travel/training opportunity. The training and lodging is funded through a particular program, but if you were one of the first 100 to register, your travel expenses would also be paid. Since I work for state government, and since the state coffers are empty, training opportunities have been few and far between...unless I'd like to pay for them myself. I'd rather spend my travel money for leisure than work, so I haven't been able to go to any professional meetings in quite a few years. I was able to get my registration in, and now I get to spend a week in August in Jackson Hole, Wyoming! There are worse places to attend training, I think. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to snag a rental car and take a quick trip to Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful.

We've already had our first vacation this year - my daughter and I spent the weekend in Chicago attending my niece's graduation. I'm planning a couple more trips too. This should be the most exciting summer I've had in a long time!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Juno's Daughters - A Book Review

Calliope asked for volunteers to review a work of fiction, and since I am always interested in reading new books, I signed up. For the last year or so, I've been reading light fiction, because it requires little thought. I'm generally an escapist reader. When I read the first chapter of Juno's Daughters online, I thought it would be a good read. I've been to Whidbey Island, so I have a bordering acquaintance with the area. I have a daughter. I like Shakespeare and Led Zepplin.

I received a (free*) copy of the book and began reading it right away. By about the third chapter, I suspected that I would not be able to identify with any of the characters. By the fourteenth chapter, I had decided that I didn't really like the book. But I had agreed to write a review of it, so some further reflection was required.

The story involves a single mother of two daughters who lives on San Juan Island. During the summer, the island puts on summer Shakespeare theater, importing actors from the mainland. Jenny, the mother, and her older daughter, Lilly develop an interest in the same actor. Meanwhile, Frankie, the younger daughter, is experiencing a series of desertions in her life.

Some of the main issues that bothered me were parenting decisions. Essentially, promiscuity and drug use were laughed off. This is where I had to ask myself if I were being a prude. I know I'm fairly repressed/prim/uptight regarding myself, but my best friend is a try-everything-once/let-it-all-hang-out/free-thinker. I swear like a sailor (sometimes), and I enjoy a rude joke and double entendre (with the proper audience). Jenny seems to shrug her shoulders at Lilly's sampling of all the teenage boys in the area and what seems to be a fairly chronic use of marijuana. That is not how I would react. And competing with my daughter for a man? That just seems icky. (And as a cynic, I suspect the man will almost always take the 18 year old over the 42 year old.)


But then there was a segment of the plot that involved a "naked rehearsal." Frankie, a thirteen year old girl, is expected by everyone on the island to participate in the naked rehearsal, where all of the actors are required to do their parts without clothing. The only one (aside from her mother's half-hearted "You don't have to do it if you don't want to") who seems to understand that it might be a bit much for a young girl (um, the ONLY young girl) to undress in the presence of a bunch of adults, including unfamiliar men, is a young, African-American, gay man.

Upon reflection, I think my main problem with the story is the incongruity. Frankie is supposed to have grown up on an isolated island, without TV. So the advanced sexualization of young girls would be muted there. And no one knows for sure what the "naked rehearsal" is until they participate, so it doesn't seem like the people on the island habitually wander around naked. It doesn't make much sense for a mother to make so little of this. Jenny, the mother, is a survivor of an abusive marriage. On the one hand, she is strong enough to determine the length and terms of her subsequent relationships with men on the island. On the other hand, she's completely passive when it comes to her daughters' behavior. She sees herself as a teenager in Lilly, but does nothing to try and advise Lilly on how to choose a direction in fact, she actively resists any attempts to help Lilly become an independent adult. Jenny finds piles of love letters in Lilly's room, and rather than worrying about Lilly's emotional health, Jenny worries that no one will ever write her a love letter again. It just doesn't ring true, for me.

Finally, there were some plot devices that were vaguely annoying. The actors visiting the island were referred to by the names of the characters they were to play in The Tempest. That seems...demeaning. The homeless teenager scene in Seattle provides a stereotypical minor side villain. I don't know if it was plausible or not...I suspect a naive 13 year old would likely have met a more violent fate (however, this may be due to the fact that I work in the crime lab, and I expect people to be evil instead of merely mean). Also, the Led Zepplin reference? It was minor and seemed like an afterthought. The cover review proclaims it "part Led Zepplin anthem." I would disagree.

All in all, a mixed review - I didn't really like the book, but it did make me think about my values. It wasn't a good escape from everyday life, but it certainly provoked a reaction. Read it yourself. See what you think.

*Is that what I have to do for those FCC folks?

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I'm a pattern person. I notice the repetition in things. That's probably why I am doing the job I do - because I can recognize patterns where most people will not. My life seems to go in patterns too - I note patterns in the types of evidence I receive. I note patterns in the things my daughter does. This week's pattern (which I hope does not continue) was randomly occurring discussions of miscarriage in the least expected places.

Today, for instance, we were having a garage sale, and trying to sell all the clothing my daughter has outgrown. Some women came up, and noted that all the clothes were girls' clothes. They said "all we have are boys." And as they walked away, one continued "that's probably why she lost her first one - it was probably a girl and girls are not allowed."

Yesterday, while at work, somehow the topic also came up. This one was a little more difficult for me. One coworker was discussing someone she knew who lost a baby at 14 weeks. The woman's mother told her to scoop the miscarried baby out of the toilet and take it in to the hospital. The woman could tell that her child was a boy. Another coworker was wondering why that would be necessary, so I told her that the doctors would be able to tell if the mother had an infection of some sort or if there were a chromosomal defect in the baby if they could test the "products of conception." The second coworker also said that she thought that miscarriages were just bleeding - she didn't realize that you'd be able to see the baby. So I told her that there used to be a display of the the gestational stages of a fetuses at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (it was really an amazing exhibit, but a. lost on the kids on field trips and b. no longer displayed due to decomposition and, I think, social pressure), and that after maybe 6-7-8 weeks, there would be something big enough and developed enough to be recognizable as a baby. I didn't share my miscarriage experiences - or I would have burst into tears. The first coworker also brought up a former coworker who had an almost full term stillborn baby. It was kind of a rough half hour there. On our way out later, the first coworker apologized for bringing the subject up - she had forgotten about my miscarriage (um doubtful - she's kind of passive-aggressive that way). I said that I would prefer to have miscarriage discussed - it's far more common than people believe and it's better to talk about it so people who need it can find more support and understanding.

I'm hoping that's all the discussions of miscarriage I'll accidentally fall into for a while. I hope this is the end of this particular pattern.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The dollars and $ense of MY family’s creation

So, I'm a little late to this party, but that's typical. This post, inspired by the blog hop at Write Mind, Open Heart, addresses the costs of building my family.

We are in the enviable position of having insurance coverage, having issues that could be discovered and addressed, and being extremely frugal. So, while we hate to spend any money on anything, the costs of building our family seemed very much worth it to us...until they didn't tell us anything or didn't work.

I don't have any idea of what our family building efforts cost, but most of it was testing and medication copays. Some of the testing was not covered by insurance, and it amounted to a few hundred dollars. All of the medication had copays, so I would estimate those costs at around $500. The unfortunate/fortunate thing was that all the testing I had to pay for revealed nothing. The testing covered by my insurance gave my full story...but that couldn't be taken for granted.

If my child were to ask me how much she cost, I'd tell her I didn't know...but whatever it was wouldn't match her value. No matter how many times a day her father threatens to sell her on eBay. And then I might tell her that I wish I'd been able to pay whatever emotional cost it took to provide her with a sibling. I do have a file of most of that information, but I've never actually reviewed all of the data.

In some ways, our finances did determine the extent of our family building efforts. Because we are older parents and savers, we had enough resources to say that our secondary infertility was something we could throw money at to see if we could solve it. We did not succeed, and while we could try again, the emotional cost far outweighs the monetary cost.

Going outside the country would not solve the problem that I'm old and my eggs are...past their sell-by date. Spending more money wouldn't help that either.

All in all, we have been extremely lucky to not have money be our main consideration in our family planning efforts. We were more focused on finding the problem and finding a solution.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Language differences

I was reading some work-related articles the other day and came across one from This Is

The story is interesting enough, but what really caught my eye was the phrase at the end:

"He denies rape, attempted buggery and aggravated burglary."

I'm still wondering what attempted buggery is...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's talk about happier things

Once upon a time, a project was begun. My husband decided he was fed up with the tile in our bathroom, and he started to change it. I'm pleased to say that last month, the project was finally completed!

(Pictures from the old bathroom, which can be seen by clicking the above link, are on a hard drive somewhere, and I'm too lazy to go find them. Please excuse the slantiness of the pictures - apparently I'm unbalanced.)

The main tile is a rose marble - I thought it would be overwhelmingly pink. But with some small slate tiles for contrast, cream colored travertine to soften some edges, bright white trim, and the silvery paint, I think it turned out really well. We had some long discussions about the shower door (my husband prefers translucent to transparent), but I think the clear glass showcases all his hard work. And the glass block both lights up the shower and adds interest to what was once a blank wall.

In other news, my luck turned around and I was very fortunate to receive on of Mel's Purim baskets!

Oh, the deliciousness contained in one Priority Mail box! Melissa said that everyone should have a weekend of gorging on sugar every once in a while. All I can say is I wish she lived next door, so I could invite myself over every day.

One of my internet timewasters is signing up for and taking various surveys. Survey organizations reward you in a variety of ways; magazines, movie rentals, cash, etc. Using some of my rewards, I was able to purchase Mel's book (Life from Scratch), the complete AbFab collection, and a variety of other things. But as I was the recipient of Mel's mishloach manot, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to pass it on. The remainder of my survey funds were donated to the Red Cross to support their efforts in Japan. The earthquake and tsunami and their aftermath were a stark reminder to me that any society is one natural disaster away from chaos. But, we are talking about happier things...

My daughter and I enjoyed some lovely spring weather this weekend. Multiple trips to the park and some shopping made us both happy. The warm weather will continue for a few more days. And, happily, as I am watching the news today, all of the crime is happening on the other side of the river (i.e. state line), so it won't be terribly busy at work!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And you thought you were having a bad week...(Updated)

On Thursday, I got rear-ended on my way home from work. Spent Friday being irritated by the insurance company. If they don't straighten up and stop annoying me, they will be the subject of another post. I suspect my car may also be totalled. And I have whiplash, which is not healing like it did when I was 19.

On Saturday, my 3 month old computer broke. I have to send it in for repairs. This is going to be very annoying because I have to use my old computer for a couple weeks. My old computer gets hot when I use it and is really slow. I also get internet road rage.

On Tuesday, my husband goes back to work. In Iraq. And then possibly Afghanistan.

On the plus side, well, I can't think of a plus side right now. I was going to say things couldn't get much worse, but that's like inviting trouble.

Perhaps there will be sunshine and roses next week...

Anyone want to buy a 2005 Nissan Maxima in silver? Low miles! New paint! ETA: Now with hail damage! (I assume)

To top it all off, last night we had severe weather which ripped several shingles off of our roof. Not sure if the universe is targeting me or my insurance company...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's been a while...

I guess that means I have a very uneventful life...just the way I like it.

Some things I've noticed lately:

-Improved technology for weather prediction has turned meteorologists into fear-mongering drama queens. I was very entertained by the city's news conference today. The main message was "Huh. Isn't as bad as we thought it would be. But we'll stay on top of it anyway."

-Messing with your hormones has some longer term effects than I expected. Hurray to smaller pores and the temporary banishment of breakouts! Boo to f'ed up cycles.

-I am getting older and it's becoming apparent. I move slower. My reaction times are slower. I am becoming more likely to say f'ed up than fucked up. I don't retain information as well as I used to. We had training at work last week, and things that I know I would have absorbed readily 5 years ago, I'm having trouble remembering. I'm actually going to have to go back through my notes (at least I took some!) and organize the information for when I'll need it again.

-I've read some really entertaining books lately. First, Melissa Ford's Life from Scratch, then Carrie Vaughn's Discord's Apple, and finally, Ann Mah's Kitchen Chinese. I have not been in the mood for anything dark or heavy...and these suited my mood. And no one has given me anything to say that I liked them either.

Off to check on the state of the weather...I took a snow/ice day today, and I might take another one tomorrow...