Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday Memory #01

When I was a little girl, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was reserved for putting up the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations.

My mom would retrieve all of the boxes from their various hiding places in the store room, and my sisters and I would wait impatiently for my dad to get home, so he could put the lights on the tree.

He was, and is, very, very good at lighting a tree.

My dad still owns a service station, still drives a tow-truck, and is still a volunteer fireman. This meant that some years, we waited a very long time for him to get home, and sometimes he had to go back out into the cold or blizzards to help people.

No matter what, we waited, because to do otherwise was unthinkable.

He worked with a delicacy that defied his work-hardened fingers and hands, weaving the strands of lights artfully around the branches of our artificial, plastic tree. Always the colorful lights, patiently untangled, checked for burnt out bulbs that could cause a whole string to stay dark... He'd check and check until he found the culprit. Not until the lights were perfect could we begin putting on the tinsel, and the ornaments. The wait was always worth it. Finally, when we were finished, he'd put the tree topper on the very top, and the Christmas season could really begin.

"You better not..."

We are having a little disagreement in our household.

The disagreement is over the treasure trove that is our copy of the first season of Battlestar Galactica.

Monday, my son did not have school. He watched episodes 2 through 5 without me. Now, this would be okay if he didn't try to tell me what was going on in those episodes when I came home for lunch, and then after work.

"That girl gets shot!"


"You know that one girl"

"Oh, come on, quit telling me this! You're spoiling it!"

"Opps... sorry."

So, the agreement is, I catch up, and then I stop and wait until we can watch the next together. As he ran into the bathroom to take his bath, he yelled back, "You better not watch any more!!!"

I am half tempted to watch another and tell him alllllll about it.... :)

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Star of Controversy

The Star of Controversy
Originally uploaded by jennifergeek.

Funny story...

My mother had been searching high and low for something to put over the fireplace in the new addition. Awhile ago, my sister saw this star in the window of a shop in Ames. A week ago Saturday, when my mom was in town to help with a baby shower, my sister decided to take Mom to the shop to see it.

When they got there, it was no longer in the window, but they decided to go in to the store to see if they could find something else. Luck of luck, the shop had another.

When my mom finally got back home, she was excited to show Dad the star.

He was less than thrilled. "This is just for the season, right?" he asked as he precariously perched on a ladder to hang the star.

"No, it's perfect there. It's staying up all year," my mom replied.


You know the whole deal with "The Lamp" in A Christmas Story?

Battlelines were drawn, albeit friendly lines...

Our Lovely Tree

Our Lovely Tree
Originally uploaded by jennifergeek.

As promised, here is a photo of our too-big Christmas tree. It's the perfect size for our apartment, yes, but about the fifteenth time I had to get up on the step ladder to do the lights and add decorations, I was beginning to hum something under my breath other than Christmas carols...


How did your Monday go?

I'm sorry, what did you say? How did MY Monday go?

Well, let's just put it this way. About every ten minutes I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't stuck in some nightmare where everything in the labs malfunctions at once (yes, I have those types of dreams).

Luckily, things started to turn around in the afternoon. Late afternoon.

I am now looking forward to a nice evening, followed by a meeting across town.

After the meeting, I am going to go to the store and stock up on Diet Pepsi, then go home and watch more episodes of "Battlestar Galactica."

And I will be just fine...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lovely weather in Iowa, again.

Lightning, thunder, rain here.

South, tornado watch.

To the west, winter storm advisory.

Tomorrow ought to be interesting.

Further proof that I am a Geek

I ran into Wal-mart to get a couple of things, and ended up buying season one of Battlestar Galactica on DVD.

I am such a geek.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

You would think that seven strands of lights would be enough...

but it's not.

I am a strand short of finishing the lights on the tree. What a bummer. I am going to have to go back to Wal-mart tomorrow and buy another strand. We are going to go ahead and decorate it, and I'll just remove the decorations when I get the new strand of lights.

This tree has about forty-two billion branches on it, which is why I needed so many more lights than for the old one.

My arms ache, my back hurts, but now we can start the fun part. Finally.

Update: The tree is decorated. It is by far the best tree we've ever had, and I still have tons of room for more decorations. That's the best part - I love making new decorations every year, and usually, I have to severely curtail my ornament making, or else give tons away to family. This time, I get to keep them! I'll post pictures after my camera batteries finish charging.

Remember that scene from "Christmas Vacation"...

where they get the tree home, and it is much bigger than they realized?

Yep, I bought a seven-and-a-half foot tall tree. I have pretty high ceilings, so I wanted something that would look right, and still be manageable (size and money-wise).

That is one tall tree...

Thank god I have a step ladder, or putting on the lights would really have been difficult. I did remember to buy a couple of extra strands of lights, as my old tree claimed to be six foot tall, and I was taller than it (I'm five and a half). This may actually really be the full seven and a half...

I hope I have enough decorations...

Hanging Out

So, yesterday afternoon, as I was finishing work on mom's computer, my sister Mallory finally got home from working at Target.

Yep, she worked the insane 5:45 am to 3:00 shift, the day after Thanksgiving.

She survived.

We ended up decided to stay an extra day to spend more time with her, because she slept all day Thanksgiving, reviving long enough to eat dinner with us, and to take a bath while we were cleaning up after.

As I was about half-through the pile of dishes that would not fit in the dishwasher, I was waiting for hot water to come out so I could rinse a bowl. As it slowly turned ice cold, mom and I realized that she had taken all of the hot water. Fun, huh?

In any case, we decided to make dinner for everyone last night, as she had a craving for my oven-fried chicken and potatoes and gravy. She wanted my type of gravy, so we ran to the grocery store and spent waaayyyy too much on two gravy packets (hello, $1.47 for one McCormick chicken gravy mix?????? It's, like, 87 cents here, and usually on sale for 67...). We also rented two movies with the goal to stay up late, talk and watch movies.

Around 6:00, the phone rang. It was friends of the family, including my best friend from elementary school. They ended up coming over for about an hour, and we talked and caught up. She rode out Wilma at her brother's house, which ended up being a good idea. Florida is gorgeous, but I don't know if I could handle hurricane season.

Well, that's it for this post. I have lunch in the oven, then we are going to go shopping for a new Christmas tree, and maybe a new winter coat for me. My son also has $23 burning a hole in his pocket. He cashed in his change jar yesterday at the bank. He wants to go to Game Stop to look at what they have for used games.

Should be a fun afternoon!

Friday, November 25, 2005

I ate what?

There were eight of us for dinner (plus a one-year-old).

Here is the menu:

1. An eleven pound turkey,
2. Mashed potatoes and gravy,
3. whipped real (not from a can) sweet potatoes with brown sugar, butter, and pecan topping, (whoa)
4. green bean casserole,
5. corn,
6. fresh-baked bread,
7. grape salad,
8. macaroni and cheese (homemade, per request of my brother-in-law),
9. pumpkin pie
10. whipped pumpkin fluff pie.


Everything was wonderful, and we have tons of leftovers.

In fact, I indulged in a morning-after tradition that was sadly missing last year... you guessed it. A piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast! I couldn't even finish it. Still stuffed from last night...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I was NOT going to do laundry today. I had PLENTY of clothes clean for us to pack. Then I discovered my favorite jeans, and my favorite sleep pants in the laundry basket.

Obviously, it would be a crime if I did not wash these things to take with me, right? So, there is a full load of laundry in the dryer. I just had to throw my son's jeans in there, too. Why waste two bucks if I am not going to get a full load done?

So, here I am, waiting.

After this, I am going to finish packing, load up the car (oh crap, I still have the bottles and cans in the truck from my aborted attempt to recycle them yesterday!), go get a birthday present for my neice (so mom and dad can take it to her next weekend), pick up dinner, and head out of town. Luckily, the weather is great, with just a bit more wind that I would like. Yikes! I have to add "fill up the car" to the list... Luckily, gas is $1.96/gallon! Woo hoo!!!!! Hasn't been this low for ages...

Ekk! The timer just went off... laundry is DONE!!!!!

They got SOMEthing right, anyway...

This morning, I had to take my son and one of his friends to school. I have been dreading this, as there are 1800 kids in his school. Normally, he takes the bus, but as they are operating on break schedule, the bus that he normally takes is not running (he had a tardy on Monday - first time EVER - the bus did not have any signs announcing the change, so he and every other kid on the later bus had to go to the office for tardy slips).

I was dreading this based on my experience with his elementary school.

Sawyer elementary has one of the most screwed up methods for drop-off and pick-up imaginable. There is only one way into the parking lot, and only one way out (you have to drive past the bus drop-off to get out of the parking lot, even if you dropped the kids off on the other side of the school). It was a nightmare.

I was not looking forward to having the traffic increased six-fold.

So, imagine my surprise this morning when I saw the buses go to their own drop off point at the back of the school. I turned in at one of the parking lots, and followed it around a wide circle drive with ample space to pull out and around those who need to stop longer for the kids to grab various musical instruments and the like. There was no wait at all. We pulled up, the kids got out, grabbed their bags and the drum, and were off. I was able to get out of the parking lot right away. There were plenty of kids arriving, but the traffic was contained. There is at least one other circle for drop off, and plenty of parking if parents need to help kids bring in projects.

Whoever designed the parking lots knew what they were doing. It gives me great hope for the future of this new school as a whole.

And I no longer need fear picking up or dropping off...

Dear Abby

Note: Dear Abby today is all about cell phone etiquette, or lack thereof. I thought I would add my own experiences to the mix. I may actually send this one in. Link to column: RUDE CELL PHONE USE REQUIRES NEW ETIQUETTE

Dear Abby,

I read your column on cell phone etiquette with some interest, as I have experienced all manner of cell phone abuse in public places, including ones that are supposed to afford privacy.

Did you know that people (at least women are, I don't go into the men's room) are using cell phones in restrooms now? There is nothing more unnerving than being in a public restroom and having fellow occupants refuse to quit using their cell phones for the length of time it takes them to go about their business. It is uncomfortable, to say the least, and there is not much a girl can do other than wait until they leave. It is a huge intrusion of privacy. They walk in talking on their cell phones, and walk out still in full gab. Are they even washing their hands? eeewwww...

Then take last Friday night; I was sitting a movie theater with my son, waiting for the new Harry Potter movie to start. As we settled in, I jokingly said that the first person to have their cell phone ring was going to get a large Diet Coke tossed in their direction. Ten minutes later, my son asked, are you going to throw the Coke now? Sure enough, I looked in the direction he pointed, and someone was talking on their cell phone (the movie had not yet started, thankfully, so I did not have to throw the drink). The people behind us laughed (then proceeded to talk through the first fifteen minutes of movie - erg).

And there's the library, that last bastion of quiet and peace... I honestly do not mind the voices and laughter of children. I don't even mind the screaming of children - they have a right to be there, too. What I do mind are people on cell phones browsing the DVDs, conferencing with the person on the other end about which movies to choose, or the latest break-up. One time, it was so bad that every where I went to get away from this person, she followed. I could not get away! All I wanted was a movie to watch, and the library was closing shortly, and I got an earful of rather embarrassing personal problems...

There have been countless times that I have been party to one-sided conversations that I would rather not hear. I have no wish to know what you did with your boyfriend/girlfriend, or who did something mean. I do not want a rehash of what happened on your soap today (especially if I didn't catch the first part of the conversation where you indicated it was a soap and not real life - scary!). If you really have to discuss something personal, maybe you should wait to have the discussion until you are at home rather than in public. It is very hard to NOT hear your side of the conversation.


The Unwilling Eavesdropper

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One more post tonight, and then I swear I am done!

I did not get much of anything done today.

I had all sorts of plans, and then realized, as these plans kept getting more and more complex, that if I wasn't careful, I would spend my entire vacation cleaning.

I dusted today. I spent 10 minutes dusting. I ran the dishwasher. I emptied the dishwasher. I took out the garbage. I made popcorn for my son and his friend, and I made dinner. I cleaned up after dinner. The house looks no worse than it did this morning, and actually a bit better. And I am relaxed instead of worn out and aching.

Tomorrow, I had planned to wash a load of jeans. Then I realized that I only have three pairs to wash between both of us (I wore my J-Lo warm-up pants today). Not worth it. So, I will wait on laundry.

All I have to do tomorrow is do a bit more tidying, take a box to goodwill, and pack. Oh, and I will probably vacuum, too. I may try to get a quilt top done for a wall-hanging, but since that is fun, I am not counting it as work. The goal is to have it ready to hand quilt by the time we need to leave to go to mom and dad's (I like having something to work on when I go home, as it is too loud to read, and this way I can talk and work at the same time).

In fact, I think I'll get out my sewing stuff and get to work...

Impulse Buying

Okay, I am normally not an impulse buyer. I tend to look at all pros and cons of most things I buy, to determine if

a. I really need it,
b. It has the options I want,


c. Best price/ best quality.

Which is why normally never would have done what I did about an hour and a half ago.

You see, earlier today, I was writing a post about nothing, again, when I started rambling on about my stupid tracfone that I have (because I had to go buy more minutes for it). I realized that I was always having to add minutes without even using the minutes I already had, just to keep the number active. Granted, this was a lump sum total of around $20 every two months. Not a big deal.

Then I realized that the reason I wasn't using my minutes is because, while I can hear everyone just fine, my mom has long complained that she can't hear me very well at all when I am using my cell phone.

Somehow this little seed entered my fertile brain, and I surfed over to the tracfone web site to look at the phones they had, and do a little comparison shopping. I also researched what it would take to get my current tracfone number and minutes transferred to a new phone.

Armed with the model number of the phone I wanted, I drove to Target, only to find they didn't carry it (the alternate phone was more than I wanted to pay). Empty handed, I walked out of the store and decided to drive to Wal-Mart (EVIL!).

At first, I couldn't find the phone I wanted. The more expensive phone was $20 cheaper at Wal-Mart than at Target, but I still had my heart set on the model I could not find. Luckily, they have this station set up just for cell-phones, so I asked the guy there if they had that model phone. Yep, upstairs, he said, and while I waited, he ran to get one. The price on the tracfone site was $29.99 on sale. Wal-Mart price = $21.99. I bought it, and a 40 minute card.

Thirty minutes later, the nice tracfone lady had transferred my old minutes and phone number to the new phone, activited it, and added the new minutes. Everything went pretty smoothly. After about ten minutes, I tested it. Perfect!

And the best part is that I don't have to add minutes until March 22, 2006!

P.S. I know this hardly qualifies as an impulse buy for most NORMAL people, but for me, it is. :)

Day 1: Vacationitis

Ahhh...... I am sitting on the couch, with my favorite fleece blanket over my legs, checking email and trolling the web for interesting, non-work related items. "One Crazy Summer" is playing on Comedy Central, my son's toys are picked up, the dishwasher is running, and all is good in the world.

I'm guesing I have about an hour before I get bored.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Woo hoo! I am now off work until NEXT MONDAY!!!!!

I have a bunch of things I want to accomplish, but realistically, and based on past experience, I can expect to spend a lot of time on the couch trying to muddle through the lame daytime tv offerings.

Now, my idea of a perfect TV day would be for the SciFi channel to run a Battlestar Galactica season 1 marathon, followed by a season 2 marathon. That VCR still records, after all.

I have this weird Battlestar Galactica obsession lately. I want to watch the new episodes, but I have missed so many that I DON'T want to watch it and be lost the whole time. Weird, right?

One of the other things that must be done, and that I am dreading, is getting the Christmas decorations out. My tree is really looking sad, but I could not find one that I liked as much during the after-Christmas sales. This is the absolute last year I can use it, though. Lights are easy, at least I think they will be. Please let me have remembered to neatly coil the strands rather than just throwing them in a box like I did last year... oh please...

In any case, by Saturday I will have moved the furniture around, dug out the old mix CD from Geoff and Amy (I can't find your address!), and have managed to spear myself in the foot with broken glass decorations. Cocoa will be drunk with tons of marshmallows, and I will have placed the tin-foil star on top of the tree. If we are lucky, it will snow.


I had a strange thing happen with blogger earlier today. The "Holding down the fort" post appeared twice, so I deleted one. Then someone tells me tonight that they got a 404 when trying to get to it. The comments for that post are working now, but if it was from an RSS feed, maybe that's where things got weird....

My fingers are freezing.

One side effect of everyone leaving for break is that the labs suddenly become icy-cold. My fingers are freezing, therefore I must type to keep my fingers from becoming too cold to type later if it's needed.

I have seen only four faculty members in our hallways this morning. I have not yet braved the main office, as I know I do not have any mail yet today, and I am keeping one eye on the "ditto" process running on the server. My toes are getting cold too, so I will have to take that jaunt just to warm them up.

I think I may be reduced to using my laptop as a hand warmer here in about a minute or so...

Holding down the fort

Why am I at work on the Monday of Thanksgiving break?

Why, I am backing up the Mac server, of course.

Why are you backing up the Mac server?

Why, because I am paranoid, of course.

How long is this going to take?

All day, of course. And I am not backing up every single thing on the server, but rather what I need in case something were to happen and I had to switch out a drive or something (four drives in this baby. It was one of the last of the Quicksilver models, utter workhorse, dual 1.47 GHz G4s, 2 GB RAM, 750 GB of storage.) I also want to get student data backed up, as I don't even want to contemplate what would happen if one of those drives failed (last back up was not recent enough).

Actually, I am also moving data around right now, to make more efficient use of the storage I have. I would like to repartition one of the drives, but the shuffle of data has to come first. When I set up this machine two years ago, I planned for the future, but had no idea that my lab image would swell to the 29 GB mark. This left my boot drive uncomfortably full (I think I have about 10 GB left). I am planning on moving the radmind directory to another drive, leaving a symlink behind at the normal location.

So, the whole point of coming in today, when barely anyone is around, is to placate my inner pessimist. One copy is going home with me, the other will be on a separate drive in the machine.

Okay, that 37GBs is almost done copying. Time to backup the ArtIS drive...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Disaster Movie Round-up

"The Poseidon Adventure" on NBC.

Because having a cruise ship turn upside down isn't exciting enough, let's throw some terrorists in the mix.

Worst. Dialog. Ever.

Skip this and see the original. Unless, of course, you want to make fun of this remake. I don't know what they spent on it, but whatever it was, it was too much.

The original rocks!

Footnote: If any of you South Park fans remember the "Succubus" episode, the song she sings, "There's got to be a morning after," came from the original "Poseidon Adventure". I still giggle every time I think of it...

Let the fun begin.

I have decided that instead of sitting around with nothing to work on, I am going to start a couple of sewing projects in preparation for the holidays.

I am torn between starting projects for other people, or for myself. I am always making things for other people, and I do have a couple of gifts I would like to make. Nothing for my family, as I know what my sister LeAnn wants (I drew her name for Christmas), and I don't know if my mom would like anything homemade this year (she's not sure what she wants to do with the new addition yet). I just want something to do while watching TV as the weather gets colder.

I guess this means that I am bored.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

List items accomplished...

Okay, a few anyway. I did six loads of laundry, which brought me just about to the finished stage. I had a full load of sweaters, which are now hanging all over the bathroom. Due to a miscalculation, I had only just enough laundry soap to do six loads, so the final three loads (all three of bedding, and extra blankets) have to wait until tomorrow.

After finishing the laundry (today's anyway), I grabbed a shower and then made up the menus and grocery list for the next week. Of course, I had planned a wonderful Thanksgiving day meal of pizza, until I remembered that it was in fact Thanksgiving, and not just Thursday. I scratched off the meals for that day, and the next, and revised my list.

At the store, I kept running into a friend nearly every lane, so it took about twice as long as normal, as we had to catch up on what has been going on lately (tornados and the like). She was in Minnesota at the time with her daughter's dance group, and happened to call the house sitter just as the warning was sounded.

What a difference a week makes.

Warm and stormy last Saturday, and cold and rainy today. I wonder what the weather is going to be like this week...

Fall Cleaning

After a night of staying up waaayyy too late, I am just now getting started on my "to do" list for this weekend. I had planned on getting up early, but as we did not get home until 1:05 am this morning, I scratched that in favor of being rested. I don't think I even moved until 10, which is very, very late in the morning for me.

So, here is the wonderfully boring list for the weekend and my vacation:

1. Laundry - I need to find my sweaters and add them to the mix, as this week was COLD, and I froze at work.
2. Take stuff off of the walls in the bathroom and wash the walls.
3. Take the cans and bottles back.
4. Take the stuff off of the top of my kitchen cupboards and dust it. Wash walls.
5. Okay the rest of this also involves washing walls, window sills, and windows.

It is at this point that I almost wish that we were camping this weekend after all...

In any case, my mom is in town to help my sister Kim with a baby shower for one of Kim's friends. She wanted to know if we wanted to go to Sam's Club later, but I resisted the temptation. I have no room to be stocking up on anything. Maybe after I finish purging the cupboards. My kitchen is so small that I made half of my hall closet into a pantry.

Oops, I forgot to add

6. Grocery shopping

to the list.

In any case, nothing is going to get done unless I get off of my chair and get started.

A boy, a cup, and a wand

Was it worth waiting in line for nearly an hour?

Aboslutely. Best Harry Potter movie yet.

The only low part was the couple behind us who talked a bit more than they should. You would have thought it was their living room rather than a sold-out theater... I wanted to turn around and offer to loan the girl my copy of the flipping book, just so she'd quit asking questions. The rest was very good.

Voldemort=scary in a way not easily defined.

I may have more later today, but for right now, I am exhausted.

Here's a hint: this movie felt shorter than the others, but it's longer.

'night all...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Waiting for Mr. Potter

I goofed. Big time.

Yesterday, I planned on getting our tickets for the new Harry Potter movie. We even nearly decided to get them last night while running errands, but I did not want to fight the normal evening rush of people at the box office. So, I decided to get them over lunch today.

Except I got to the theater and discovered that the box office did not open until 3 pm, and the doors were all locked (despite a sign saying that we could purchase tickets inside). So, I decided that we'd have to come back after work, get our tickets for the 6:40 show, and go eat dinner while we waited.


We got there at 5:05 pm, and all four early shows were sold out. The only tickets we could get were for the 10:05 show tonight, or wait until tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, we have plans for both tomorrow and Sunday afternoon, so I bought the 10:05 tickets.

Now it's just a matter of staying awake long enough to both remember that we have to leave at 8:45, and to be able to stay awake through the whole movie.

There is also that little niggling feeling in my brain that I am a BAD BAD BAD mother for taking my eleven year old to the 10:05 show. But then again I took him to the midnight release party at Hastings for the sixth book...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Flex Frozen Fingers


It took 15 minutes to clear off my car and scrape the windows this morning. There aren't enough garages for every apartment to have one, and I ended up renting one without a garage. But, most of the year, that's okay, as I have the apartment with a unique floor plan which makes it look bigger than it is. On days like today, however, it is a pain in the...

In any case, I stuffed myself with more soup than I care to admit for both lunch and dinner. My toes are still cold, as are my fingers, but my mouth is suffering the effects of too-hot soup from last night. Ouch.

I am going to have to get up extremely early tomorrow morning, as it is LASER CUTTER SIGN UP DAY at the labs, and I will have somewhere between 20 and 30 students (or more) lined up waiting for the list to come out. Sometimes they get there an hour early. So, I have to make certain I am at work on time, so as to not incite panic.

Maybe I'll even make a nice breakfast for a change...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Mother's work is never done.

"Mom. Wake up."

"Whaa..." I rolled over to see my son standing by my bed, barely visible in the light from the hallway. The clock read 4:19 am. "What's going on?" I struggled to sit up, tangled in blankets.

"I don't feel so good..."

I instantly threw off the blankets, found my glasses and had the light on before he finished his sentence. A mother knows you have to move quickly when you hear those words, as they are usually followed by nothing good.

I ushered him into the bathroom, and had the seat up in the next 20 seconds.

"No, not like that," he said. "The other way..."

Oh, it suddenly becomes clear. I can fix this. I found the first aid kit, and we went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I once again tried to teach him how to swallow a pill, but he couldn't do it. Finally, I crushed up the medicine, and mixed it with a spoonful of cottage cheese (I didn't have anything else that would work).

In less than five minutes, he was asleep again, with the hall light left on so he had a clear path to the bathroom.

I should have just stayed up.

I could not go back to sleep. I kept dozing with one ear tuned to the sound of feet hitting the floor. The light from the hall was too bright, so I got up and closed the door. Finally, about 5:30 or so, I started dreaming again.

I was late for work, or maybe I dreamed that I emailed my boss, and then forgot to call the school. I can't remember.

In any case, my dream was about how my day would go if he had to stay home from school. When the alarm went off at 6:10, I barely heard it. Just pressed "snooze" and didn't even bother to roll over. Finally, at 6:45, I decided that I had to get up, and check to see if my son could go to school.

He was perfectly fine, and anxious to get to school (he, unlike most kids, loves to go to school).

I walked around like a zombie for most of the day.

And tonight, right around 8:25, my son tells me again that he doesn't feel very good. He doesn't feel like he has to throw up, or "the Other", but he just doesn't feel right. No fever or anything, but he went to bed right after his bath, and read for just a few minutes before falling asleep.

I really, really, really hope that he isn't sick...

Cold. Ice. Snow.

Well, it had to happen sometime.

It is snowing. Saturday, we had NINE tornados go through central Iowa. Today, we have lots of snow, slush, and a chill that just won't let up.

I am normally pretty adapted to the cold weather by this time of year. However, with the unseasonably warm weather, there hasn't been a chance to get used to it yet. My fingers are like ice, and the windows don't seem to be holding out the cold as well as they used to.

I made homemade vegetable beef soup tonight for supper. My son refuses to eat it, so he had ravioli. I ate way too much soup, which is okay, as the beef was fairly lean, and the soup is more vegetables than anything. It turned out really good this time, too. Which is good, since I will be eating it for the next month or so.

Like I said, it makes a large batch, and I am the only one here who will eat it.

In any case, I am not looking forward to tomorrow morning. I cannot find my gloves, which is weird, considering I wore them just last week. I also cannot find my son's gloves. He wore those last month when camping. He refuses to wear gloves or a hat to school. He will, however, wear the scarf I clumsily knitted for him. Weird.

In any case, I should have some that will do for tomorrow, if only I can remember what I did with them... I only have about 5 pairs around here somewhere...

Monday, November 14, 2005

You just gotta love Iowa...

Winter Storm Watch Issued

This so totally could have been me...

(except my mom would never do something like this... thank god. But yeah, people wondered why I refused to get up to catch my sister's bouquet...)

DEAR ABBY: My widowed father recently married a woman I'll call "Millie." The wedding was held at Millie's home. Of the 20 or so guests in attendance, the only single adult was my younger sister, "Kim."

The ceremony was beautiful, the food was delicious, and everyone seemed to be enjoyed themselves when, out of nowhere, three of Millie's friends asked for everyone's attention. They then announced that instead of the bride tossing her bouquet, they had decided to just present it to Kim! Most of the guests laughed, and Kim played along, but I could tell she was upset. These friends went on to say something like, "Don't worry, Kim, you won't be single forever -- your turn will come someday!"

Abby, my sister is a brilliant, beautiful, very successful attorney in a well-known law firm in a large city. But because she doesn't have a man in her life, she was "singled" out and teased in front of a group comprised mostly of strangers. She held it together through the party, but wept openly to me afterward. She felt humiliated, and worse than that, like some kind of failure.

As it turns out, it was Millie's idea to give Kim the bouquet and make it a "funny" display. Kim was incredibly hurt and no longer wants much to do with our new stepmother. I don't want to get in the middle, but I feel if I told Millie why Kim is being distant, she'd most likely apologize.

Should I stick my nose in or leave it alone? Are we overreacting? Any advice would be appreciated. -- NOT AMUSED SISTER IN VERMONT

I think I'll pass this along to my sister, Kelly, who is probably next in line at the altar...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dispatch from Tornado Alley


First off, we're okay, and did not have any damage to the apartment building. In fact, the pots of dead flowers on my deck were not even moved or anything. All of this despite having a tornado touch down a mile or so north of where we live.

Ames Home Leveled By Tornado
Tornado Sirens Clear Stands At ISU
Residents Find Homes Destroyed, Belongings Scattered: At Least Eight Other Towns Hit
Tornado Kills 1 In Stratford: Tornadoes Touch Down In Central Iowa
Photos Note: The first few in this series were taken from my sister's neighborhood. Luckily, none of us were in town. We were in Manson celebrating my nephew's first birthday. It was hard at first, because we couldn't get any info on what areas were affected. Later, we called home and the answering machines were working, so we knew we at least had electricity.

We have an astounding group of meterologists working for KCCI, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines. Without them, we would have had a lot more people dead or seriously injured. These things were popping up frequently, and the guys stayed on the air, switching between live radar, webcams from SchoolNet, and the storm chaser trucks. Just great coverage, for hours.

More links:

Towns hit by tornadoes wake up to debris, disaster
Cyclone fans encounter the real thing before game Note: Some people asked me why the game went on. First of all, it would have been very bad to have all of those people trying to get out of town into an iffy weather or debris situation. The stadium had no damage, they had power, and the storms had passed. We really didn't need tens of thousands of people complicating traffic in town. Let them watch the game while the authorities assessed the situation in town. It ended up being the right decision. And we WON!
Woodward on Sunday: Church bells and chain saws
Stratford on Sunday: 20 percent of town displaced

Needless to say, everyone at my nephew's party was watching the situation closely. We had a bad moment when the inital storm track was shown for the one that hit Ames, as it pretty much showed a line going straight through my neighborhood. I couldn't breathe, and Kim and I just held hands while I tried not to cry. Then my son came in the room just as I was losing control, and started to get upset. That helped me calm down enough to try to think about what needed to happen next.

Of course, about this time, I started to crack jokes. "Well, at least I know where my insurance agent is..." (the next room), and "At least if this house is gone, I won't have to finish cleaning out that closet." Kim said I could stay with her, and I told her she could stay with me if either of our houses were gone. We went back to the party, and tried calling friends to see what happened. I called my lab monitor at work, and she told me they had watched it go past, and were still watching it. About half an hour later, after trying repeatedly to get through to a friend, I decided to call home, and got the answering machine. Kim tried after that, so we knew things were okay, but not the specifics.

Both of us just kept repeating how lucky we were to not have been there, and that the damage was not worse.

And I am not going to go see the damaged area in town. I have seen enough of that to last me a lifetime, having gone through a whole summer of clean-up when I was seven (Manson's F4). TV is bad enough without seeing it in real life. Plus, it is disrespectful to the people involved. What I will do is donate money if some sort of fund is set up for the family that lost their home in town. I don't think I know them personally, but I still want to help.

Again, this was the craziest thing... This is also the second tornado to hit Ames this fall. I just wonder what the rest of the year will bring...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hey Troy, you missed it!

Apparently, just after Troy left the LAN party, the guys tripped a circuit. This led to a search for keys to the place across the hall, and about 10 minutes of confusion.

Then, they did it again.

Eventually, they strung more extension cords from the back, switched around more power strips, and we were in business. I settled in to watch "Battlestar Galactica, the Miniseries" on my laptop, and ate some of Cassie's birthday cake, while the guys shot each other and generally had a good time.

I never saw a pound of red licorice disappear so fast...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

So, What's YOUR pirate name?

My pirate name is:

Red Jenny Rackham

Passion is a big part of your life, which makes sense for a pirate. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Okay, so that probably wasn't interesting to anyone but me.

But this might be.

I posted the "request" sheet for DASH Movies and Popcorn this afternoon. Every semester, we have 24 hour labs during 10 days between the Wednesday before dead week, and the Wednesday of finals week. We pick three movies per night, and they are shown informally on the plasma screen in the fourth floor crit space, just outside the labs. We have a popcorn machine, and make free popcorn, and the movies are there for students to take a quick break and watch a bit of a favorite.

I take requests, because I never know what good movies the students will suggest that I may not have considered, or had forgotten about. I always pick out one key movie that kicks the whole thing off, and that forms the basis of my movie poster for the festival.

This year, I am having problems picking a main movie.

I usually pick something that has just been released on video, and that I happen to own. This year, I have a couple of different movies that I can choose from, but nothing that screams, "Pick me! Pick me!"

The poster has be done before Thanksgiving break, as DASH begins the Wednesday after we get back.

I already know what two of the nights will be: 80's night, because that is a tradition, and a massive movie marathon of a certain six-part movie saga whose final episode just came out on DVD (saving that for a Sunday).

Beyond that, I have no idea at this point. I think I am just going to have to try to watch as many new movies between now and then, and see if anything grabs me. Oh, and we may have to show the Battlestar Galactica mini-series, too.

Any suggestions from my massive pool of readers?


I did laser cutter stats for the semester yesterday.

It is interesting to note that every available session was booked through the month of October.

Not just a couple of weeks. Every session, of every day.

November is shaping up to be a repeat...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Accessibility Issue

So, it's voting day here in Ames, and I went to the Ames Tribune website to get some info. They had a link to the map of voting precincts, so I downloaded it to check that nothing had changed (this has happened to me before).

6.7 MB PDF file. Bad. Bad. Bad. You would think that it must be really high quality then. Nope. I had difficulty reading it, and zooming in just revealed a big mess. It looks like it was a lower quality JPEG that was PDFd because someone told the person they needed a PDF for people to download.

I am very disappointed. This is something that people need access to, and they have made it difficult for anyone on a dial-up connection to get, and difficult for anyone with vision problems to even see after they spend hours trying to download it. Honestly, they could have just shown this as a GIF in the browser at a higher quality, with a smaller file size.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I forgot to bring the candy to the troop meeting...

At times like these, I wish I were two people.

And so, in two weeks, we will embark on Thanksgiving break. What does this mean for me? Well, the labs are going to be closed, for one thing. My son will still be in school, so this is the perfect time to get a head start on my holiday baking.

Except I really, really need to diet. Badly. How does a girl gain 10 pounds in a little over two weeks??? I am ready to call the doctor and make an appointment. Seriously.

Oh wait, I know... it's all of the Halloween candy, and the Cheesecake Factory, and the not-eating-right-because-I-was-busy. This week will be different. I have made my menus for the week, and did the grocery shopping, so there is no good reason why I would have to give in and eat junk. No reason.

I am taking the rest of the leftover candy from work to our troop meeting tonight. Let the kids and their higher metabolism feast on the sugar laden stuff. Not me. I am turning over a new leaf! I am going to take the stairs at work (as long as it's only two flights), and will start walking in the evening after dinner. This trend to gain WILL be DEFEATED!!!!

Coincidentally, a couple of my friends have also said that they had recently put on weight, and then there is another, who stopped dieting, and did not gain back a single pound. Jealous!!!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


CBS, right now, "Catagory 7; The End of the World".

More crappy camera work that used to be cutting edge than you can shake a stick at.

Paris flattened by tornados, a hidden report that practically predicts the locations being hit by the severe weather, by-products of industry run amok...

Growing up in Tornado Alley...

What the HECK? Catagory 6 Tornado? Wouldn't that be an F6?

Anyway, as I was saying, growing up in Tornado Alley, I've been through an F4, and through my share of severe weather and tornado warnings, including a smaller funnel that I actually woke up to. Tornado movies always strike me as a little ridiculous...

In any case, a weather disaster movie at this time is distasteful, to say the least, what with Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

And I just watched George Washinton's face fall off of Mount Rushmore.

What more could a girl want on a Sunday night?

update: Okay, put a bunch of bigwigs in evening dress, and have the tree frogs go crazy. Oh, poison tree frongs. On the food. What the HECK were the writers thinking? The pyramids are going to get it next. Ooooo goodie!

update #2: Okay, I get it. Storms, locusts, plague of locusts. Randy Quaid standing in the middle of a field saying somethings going to happen. More camera work that was immortalized by car commercials...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Mooommmm, play with meeeeee????!?!?

My son is under the impression that I am dying to play video games that give me motion sickness. He is dying for someone to play Rogue Leader with him, so he can blow them to bits with his B-Wing. No matter how many times I tell him that I get migraines from playing games like that, he keeps asking.

I LOVE the fact that he wants to spend time with me. I know that these years/months are precious, and will be coming to an end soon. The teenage years are always at the back of my mind, when I know that I will be relegated to the role of food provider and parental oppressor. Don't get me wrong - I would love to play games with him. I just wish that he wanted to play something else, and would not ask at inopportune times (i.e. when in the midst of supper preparations, or in the bathroom).

This is why I wanted to take him to the train show today. I wanted us to do something that he liked and was interested in, but apparantly, his interests changed while I wasn't looking. Dumb Mom.

It's the age he's at. I've talked with his friends' parents, and it's pretty much the same story there. They fight with their friends, but get upset when you suggest not spending as much time with those friends. They snip at each other, and are exerting their independence fiercely. They talk back, and try to see how much they can get away with. If they still had recess, I am sure they'd be able to get this agression out during football or tag, but with the new middle school, they don't.

As for tonight, I am going to go start dinner, then I'll dig out the chess set, and the dominos, and see if he wants to play. It may not be Star Wars video games, but at least I won't get sick.

This is going to be a loooong day.

My son has decided that he is tired. About an hour and a half ago, he sat on the couch, and pretty soon he was tucked up in a blanket, watching TV. This is not like him at all.

I went to the grocery store and got groceries. When I came home, he decided to take a bath. He's decided that he doesn't want to go anywhere today. At all.

Now, it's all well and fine to leave him at home when I go get groceries, but I needed to run to Target, as my shoes are falling apart. Too far, too long a time to be left at home by himself. We also have this thing for scouts tonight that we should go to, but if I can't get him out of the door with a promise of going to a train show, I doubt I will get him out of the door for anything else.

I hope he isn't getting sick, but at this point, with the way he is acting, that might be just what is happening.

LIke I said, this is going to be a long and boring day.


Somehow, my plans to get up nice and early and clean house were transformed into pressing the snooze once, then accidentally turning off the alarm, because after all, it is Saturday.

I am going to finish my coffee, and get dressed and go to the grocery store. My cleaning weekend is quickly filling up with activities NOT related to cleaning, but I am going to muddle through somehow.

Why did I turn the stupid thing off????

Friday, November 04, 2005

Once again, I have too much stuff.

This weekend is hereby designated as "Throw out your crap!" weekend!!!

This means that all of those clothes that I thought I HAD to have, are going away to new homes. Actually, to one new home - the DUMPSTER. You may ask why I don't give it to Goodwill. One simple reason: if I bag it up for Goodwill, it will sit in my living room, waiting for me to have a moment to take it. Honestly, I would not want to inflict the sheer hideousness of my old clothes on ANYONE.

My goal is to reclaim my closet. Back in January, when my son had the chicken pox and was out of school for SIX DAYS, I went through the first round of cuts. So, it's not as bad as it could have been. I am going to get another shelf for the camping gear, which is out of control. We camp a lot. We've camped once a month since April (except I camped twice in April). Oh, and July, but that doesn't really count, as we camped for an entire week in June.

In any case, we have a lot of camping gear. It's hard to get to. I want to change that.

I also have a surprising amount of renaissance faire garb that has taken over part of the closet. And tons of shoes that I don't wear, and never will again, because they are ugly or uncomfortable.

This is just my closet, understand. The kitchen cupboards could be purged again, too. I clean out the 'frige once a week, so that's not a problem.

The big problem is my son's room.

He has too many toys, and insists that he needs to keep them ALL. His idea of cleaning his room is shoving everything to the sides, and under the bed in typical kid fashion. Unfortunately, this results in my never being able to open the side of the closet that has the shelf with his bins for clothes. I am always reaching blindly to put things away. I'd like to be able to open the doors.

So, bribery will be in full force tomorrow morning. We will be taking a large amount of toys to goodwill (even I don't throw away toys!). If things go well, there may be a trip to the train show in a nearby school. If not, well... there may still be a trip to the train show. I just want to see effort, and get rid of some stuff. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Yes, I am getting older.

I fell asleep on the couch a bit before 7:30. I just woke up about 15 minutes ago. I will be going to bed for the night in about 30 minutes. When it is time to get up tomorrow morning, I will still hit the snooze at least twice, and will feel like I haven't had enough sleep. This is normal for me. The part about not feeling rested in the morning, anyway.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ways to bug me:

1. In a communal laundry room, take up all three washers, then leave your clothes in for 45 minutes after they are done.

2. Put your empty laundry basket on top of one of the washers, so that others will think the washer has clothes in it, then just leave it.

Luckily, I only waited 20 minutes before looking into the washer with the basket on it. It's still going to take me all night to do three loads of laundry, but at least it is started.

Way Cool!

It's not very often that I get a chance to do something cool with technology. Oh wait...

Okay, it's not very often that I get a chance to do something cool with technology that is outside of my field.

Tonight, our boy scout troop got a chance to visit the C6 Lab, on the Iowa State University campus, in Howe Hall. This guy was there, too! We had a chance to test a new fire safety training program that uses virtual reality. The kids had an absolute blast, and I think most of the adults had fun, too. I was particularly thrown by how fast fire can engulf a room, and many of the unsafe practices we saw in the model home opened my eyes as to what we can do to make our home safer. And --- no notion sickness this time!!!!

I am a fireman's daughter, and my dad taught fire safety in my hometown school quite frequently. There is a vast difference, however, between hearing how fast a fire can spread, and seeing how fast it can spread. Literally in seconds we went from pointing out the unattended food cooking in the kitchen, to having the room fill with black smoke. Yes, all computer generated, but it was still unsettling.

So, thanks, folks at the C6 Lab and the Ames Fire Department! I know that my son and I had a good time, and we walked away feeling we learned something. I am going to go remove my hat from the top of my halogen lamp now...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The end? Or the beginning...

Way back in time, in a Galaxy far, far away, a little girl saw a movie that reached out and grabbed her, and wouldn't let go. I was five when Star Wars came out, but I didn't see it until right before The Empire Strikes Back. This was back in the days before normal people had VCRs in their homes, and the best one could do was hope for a movie theatre to pick up an older film and run it for a special occasion.

The movie house in Pocahantas, Iowa, did just that in the run-up to the release of The Empire Strikes Back. I don't remember the drive to the theatre, which was 20 miles away, but I remember walking through the doors, into a sea of excited kids, and seeing those words appear on the screen, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...".

For a least a year before the second movie, my best friend, Kim, and I had collected the Star Wars movie cards, clutching our quarters as we rode our bikes to the store, spending our allowance on bubble gum cards, carefully putting the cards in number order, in a shoebox we kept in Kim's closet (she didn't have younger siblings, so they were safe at her house). We played with her Star Wars action figures, rescued the galaxy, fell in love with Han Solo (we were both Princess Leia, so we had two Han Solos), and snuck her brother's Star Wars ships and other toys out of his room when he was gone.

The audible gasps from the audience when Luke found his uncle and aunt burned to death, and as Darth Vader struck down Obi-Wan were echoed by every kid in the theater. Many of us had been too young to see the movie when it first came out. We all knew the story, but seeing it was something entirely different.

My dad took us to see the second movie in Fort Dodge. Kim and I were so excited we could hardly sit still, while LeAnn was tagging along because the big girls were going. When the movie ended with Han Solo still frozen in carbonite, Kim and I cried the entire 30 minute drive home. My dad was at a loss as to how to console us. "It's only a movie," he explained.

But that's just it - it wasn't and never will be "only a movie."

Yes, the first two prequels were disappointing to many, if only because many of us who saw the earlier films as children expected more of the same, but with better special effects. But the point was, Star Wars was alive again. We knew as children that there was more to the story, and we wanted to see it, hear it, read it. It wasn't the only thing in our lives, but it was a common thread that linked the children we were to the adults we have become. And it links us with our own children, as they discover for themselves the stories of our childhood.

When I saw Revenge of the Sith, when it first came out, it was with my son and two of his friends. We waited eagerly for the movie to start, and sat in rapt attention, barely moving, for the entire film. We gasped when Anakin killed Mace Windu, and when he murdered the Jedi youth. We watched he became what he had to become, in order to fulfill his destiny. And as Luke and Leia were born, and Padme and the last human part of Anakin died, we cried.

But when Lord Vader arose, we cheered with the rest of the theater, for what is Star Wars without him? The villain who will become a hero in the end, to save the children that he did not know had survived until he met a boy named Luke Skywalker. In the end he finds the strength to kill the Emporer, and in doing so sacrifices himself, destroying the Sith.

Revenge of the Sith was released on DVD today. There will be no more Star Wars movies, or so we've been told. But this is a story that can never truly end, as long as there are children who pretend to be Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Darth Vader.