Saturday, April 30, 2011

First Picture from the Mac Phone Booth

You know what is more difficult than medicating a bird?  Medicating a cat.  This is Spooky, still pouting ten minutes later.

Friday, April 29, 2011

BTT- Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

This was the Booking Through Thursday question that I couldn't answer last night because I needed to run around my own books before making a final decision:

If you could see one book turned into the perfect movie–one that would capture everything you love, the characters, the look, the feel, the story–what book would you choose?

After debating with myself for over 24 hours, I have come up with a Top 3. But first, I must Side Note one of the debates, because it will amuse my mother:

Self 1:  Rhett Butler's People
Self 2:  That's asinine. That wasn't even a Great Book. It was a (Qualified) Good Book.
Self 1:  Don't care. The question read "one book turned into the perfect movie". It didn't say "Great Book", but it did say "perfect movie". "Perfect movie" would involve Clark Gable reprising the role of Rhett Butler, and there isn't anything under Heaven I would rather see on screen.
Self 2:  Dude, Gable's been....
Self 1:  Shut. Up. It said "perfect movie". As in Dreamland! As in Any Actor I Want!
    So. Here is where I landed.
  1. Wicked.  Not the musical.  The actual plot of the actual book with the sad, scary Land of Oz and the politics and the Animals and the psychological profile of the villain.  I have heard rumors that someone is going to try it.  And I suppose that if Peter Jackson could do LOTR, someone might do Wicked.  But that Perfect Movie might be better in my head.
  2. The Vampire Lestat.  Yeah, yeah.  Forget the Tom Cruise movie for a minute.  First, The Vampire Lestat was a better book than Interview with the Vampire.  The reason it was never made into a movie is Hollywood used its one brain cell and determined it was impossible.  It is epic.  I can't conceive of the cast to do it.  I can't imagine how one would harness the scope of it.  But if that Perfect Movie could be made, I would be in my Vampire Costume for the midnight premiere, Baby.
  3. Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson is my non-fiction pick.  (I hear Spielberg is doing Team of Rivals, and I am not ready to talk about that, yet.)  Chicago, 1893, World's Fair, serial killer.  This movie can be done and I can't imagine why no one has tried.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Was a Guest Blogger

For year two, Carlo Garcia has decided to feature one charitable  cause each month.  For April, he chose Literacy Works, an organization in Chicago that works to, "to fulfill the promise of a basic human right: to read, write, and interpret the world."

I made a small donation and you can find my post about that on Living Philanthropic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wherein I Think "I Told You So"

The Chicago Tribune ran an article, originally from the L.A. Times about a study of the health of business travelers. It seems frequent flyers are less healthy.

Shocking. Here are the stats:

"Extensive travelers were 260% more likely than light travelers to rate their health as fair to poor. Obesity was 92% more common in the extensive travelers. They also had higher cholesterol and high blood pressure."

I had started to notice that my retiring colleagues were all getting healthier. Exercising, dropping weight, ditching some of the meds. I had associated it with leaving the stress of The Grind, but not with the travel in specific.

I know when I am on the road, I don't sleep as well, don't eat as well and only exercise if I had a good day and the weather is nice. I remember a speaker at a conference once saying that she gained however many pounds her first year on the job because she would order cheesecake from room service whenever she travelled. She literally went on a No Cheesecake diet.

I am not giving up Auntie Anne's pretzels.

Interestingly, the article does not talk about other Traveler Afflictions I have heard mentioned. Blood clots is the one that scares me. Back problems from shlepping the luggage through the airport. I have a colleague whose doctor forbids her to carry on luggage. He doesn't want her lifting anything into the overhead bins anymore. Not to mention Airplane Plague - the general cold-n-flu like symptoms one picks up after a time on the road.

I am not sure how the math might change when looking at people that primarily drive to other locations or business. As for me, I am just glad that I am home this month.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Love (Many) Sports

Today at work, I asked a pack of guys which would be more important - watching the 4th quarter of the Bulls game tonight, or watching the 1st period of the Blackhawks game. They are running concurrently tonight.  The response was unanimous:


My mother disagrees. If you really want to hear the story behind this discussion, you can stay after class, but it made me think about the different reasons people enjoy watching sports. I had to explain it to one of my nerd friends once:

  1. It is a contest in which I get to root for someone. Picking a side is fun. Good guys and bad guys. 
  2. That rooting for someone is often regional. A form of community spirit.
  3. Sometimes, I just need to scream about something. I believe I have mentioned that I scream so much during football that my cat is afraid of the theme song for Monday Night Football. Sports are a socially acceptable thing to scream about.  (It is also a socially acceptable reason to drink to excess, but I wouldn't know anything about that.)
  4. It is a relatively safe subject when one is required to converse with strangers.
  5. It is a relatively safe subject when one is inclined to pick a fight with friends or family.
Example: Great Aunt Bev is from Michigan. As in Detroit.  As in Pistons.  One Christmas Day, the Bulls were playing..someone..and Aunt Bev made a couple of rather snarky comments about Michael Jordan. My brother, age 12 or 13, shouted (in his best Monty Python voice) "Burn the Witch!!"

And he got away with it.

For me, sports are great fun when my teams are winning, and not too hard to shake off when they aren't. (I believe Joy said it takes half of Monday morning for me to get over a bad Bears loss.) A low risk emotional investment.

And tonight, I have two teams in the playoffs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The $1 Movement is another organization attempting to Harness the Power of the Internet (or something) in order to do some good. The mission is:

"To socially enable change in the world with one individual and one dollar at a time."

Taking from the idea "if we all gave one dollar", Vonate picks a couple of worthy organizations each month and member pick which to send $1. One becomes a member by registering online and paying the $15 fee ($1 per month for a year plus $3 to support Vonate's expenses.)

So here I am thinking, "This is cool, but am I overextending? Shouldn't I be focused on the places where I volunteer?" I was going to discuss it with my mother, but her response would be, "I don't even want to talk to you about $15."

So I signed up. Then I went to look at the two organizations for the month of April.

This is how they get you. How do you choose between The Starlight Children's Foundation and the Walkabout Foundation?

Anne's Answer:

You flip a coin. Then blog about both.

Look me up if you decide to join. My profile is here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

BTT - Cover

The Booking through Thursday question was:

Can you judge a book by its cover?

I recently read a thought by a writer - I want to say it was Salman Rushdie - that there is a way to judge a book by its cover.

If the author's name is larger than the title of the book, then the book isn't worth reading.  The assumption seems to be that if the marketing people are trying to sell the book on the strength of the author's popularity, something must be wrong.

If you think about the darlings on the Bestseller Lists, there is a lot of truth to that.  However, as I look at my own TBR pile, I find it needs some qualifiers:

  1. If the name is larger because it has more letters than the title, it doesn't count. Maybe there is a Font Size standard.  On my copy of Salman Rushdie's Fury, for example, his name stands out more than the title, but the font is the same size.  This led to;
  2. If the book is in its upteenth printing, and the author's name is in larger print, it gets a pass.  How the marketers choose to sell a later edition is going to be different, particularly if a publisher has the rights to a whole bunch of one writer's work.  I am looking at my Ward Just novels, here.
  3. In fact, since most paperbacks are second printings, the rule might apply there, as well.
  4. There is absolutely no reason for an author's name to be larger than the subject of a biography.
  5. Shakespeare doesn't count.  Even the "histories".
I wonder how much control the authors have over this concept.  Because while I am not sure this idea is a deal breaker when I am looking for books, but I am certainly judging by it.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011


We've all been hearing about the financial issues that the U.S. Postal service has been having.  We've all been hearing that changes are inevitable.  The Chicago Tribune reported on some of the local glitches as USPS makes adjustments:

"In Highland Park, residents complain they have received mail as late as 7 p.m. In Barrington, the village newsletters were delayed by up to a week, so the calendar listings were outdated by the time residents got them. Mail also is arriving later in Park Ridge."

Interestingly, there was no discussion of the possibility that Saturday service will end.  As I have chatted with people about that, I find many aren't terribly bothered by the idea of not receiving snail mail on Saturday.  But one of my techie colleagues said, "It is a problem for me.  This is a 24/7 world and killing Saturday delivery is a step in the wrong direction."

"Huh,"  was my riveting response.

For the record, I can manage some patience as USPS retools its business model.  I don't particularly care what time of day the mail arrives.  I can live without delivery Saturday service.  The week late deliveries, though, are a problem.

I have also had late newsletters, periodicals, and promotions delivered.  Last weekend, I received notice of an awesome sale.   From two weeks before.  First world problem, I realize.  But I rather wanted to complain to someone.

I didn't want to complain to USPS.  It seemed like kicking them while they are down.  The vendor, perhaps?  Eh.  They'll just chew out the USPS for me.

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, are what blogs are for.

Blanket 14

Another from the fleece swap.  These are monkeys.  You can tell because there are bananas.  In case you couldn't tell.  Is there such a thing as an albino monkey?

Used leftover yarn!  Loops & Threads Impeccable in Aran.

Blanket 13

This was another piece from the fleece swap.  My mother thought I should go back to the store and make one for Alex.

The yarn was Lion Brand Pound of Love in White.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blanket 12

The first of the fleece blankets from the Project Linus Starbucks night.  The deal with these blankets, I may have mentioned, is that they are prepared by cutting any edges off the material and then using a rotary cutter with a special skip stitch blade around the edges to create holes through which you crochet.

For two earlier blankets, I did this prep work and hated it.  The measuring.  And in a straight line, even.  Bleh.  So Penny of the YouTube video gets her peeps together to prepare the material.  We bring her new material and swap it for the prepared stuff and start stitching.

I had mostly gone for the sports stuff, but I saw this little piece of fleece and took it:

Little fairies or whatever the size of a baby blanket.  But you know what that yarn is?  The leftover from the Ice Cream Blanket.  I can't believe I found a way to use the remnants of that yarn!

Basic stitch, two rows around. Loops & Thread Impeccable Yarn in Neapolitan.

The Keychain Dilemma

Christmas, 1992.  My parents gave me a leather dual-sided key chain from Coach.  And a car, but never mind that.  We're talking about the key chain.  Eighteen years and it just died on me.  The snap came out of the leather.  So I went to look for a new one.  Yes, I probably could have Krazy glued it.  But the seams are also fraying and really.  Eighteen years.

I liked the snap thing.  It allowed me to easily disengage my car keys from the rest of the keys.  I wanted just exactly this same thing, but new.  So I looked around the usual places.  No luck at the department stores.  Very blingy things they have.  And nothing with two sides.   I went to the Michael Kors store.  Nothing.  I searched far and wide for a week, walking around with two sets of keys in my coat pocket.

I was desperate.  I went to the Coach store.

There is nothing wrong with Coach.  They have some quality stuff.  I just have a problem carrying the same bag with the same logo as every other person at the airport.  It demonstrates some lack of imagination. know.   The logo says "Chicago Bears".

The Coach store staff was very impressed with my keychain.  They had never seen anything like it.  Meaning that it has not been manufactured in years.  They did have a leather thing with a ring on one side and a clamp on the other.  But the clamp seemed to be for attaching the keys to something so that one doesn't lose them.  Not for more keys.  But they did have this:

Two sides and if you turn the knobby, the rings are separated.  Not as pretty, more money than I really wanted to spend (and omg I paid retail) and I doubt it will last eighteen years.  But it serves my purpose.

Sad day.

Blanket 11

The Punky Brewster Blanket:

This was during the blowout sale of the house brand yarn at Michael's.  I was pulling some brighter colors when I realized they had the entire rainbow.  I had never seen that.   I planned to outline it in purple, then reconsidered.  The corner:

I wonder if this wouldn't have looked better with yellow in the middle.  Loops & Threads Impeccable Yarn in Claret, Pumpkin, Butterscotch, Kelly Green and Royal.

Checking In

I have had a crazy, crazy week. 

Stuff was happening at work from the second I got in Monday morning.  Wednesday was my usual gig at the Rescue and after that, I went to a meet up at Starbucks for Project Linus where they sent me home with enough fleece that I have become one of those crafty people that have crafty stuff spilling out of the closet.

On top of that, I am exhausted from staying up for the playoffs.  I was watching the Bulls gamecast from the Library last night, in between helping customers and pricing new donations and trying to knock out one of said fleece blankets.  I got home in time to see the 'hawks score the first goal.

In addition to setting up on, I have signed on to the Living Philanthropic Year Two Challenge:

"I pledge to donate at least $1, volunteer, or do a random act of kindness every day for as long as I decide to challenge myself. I know I can follow and join the LivingPhilanthropic team projects at Crowdrise:"

The "every day" was a bit intimidating.   But between fostering birds and making blankets, I probably have that covered. 

So I realize that I have not been all that online, but I have at least three blog posts for the weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I was reading an article in USA Today about two young girls throwing an event - a sleepover party - where their friends produced pajamas for a shelter and holiday decorations for a hospital.  I love these stories.

My fondest little dream is that my nephew might grow up to be one of those kids that writes, "In lieu of gifts..." on his birthday party invitations.

Then I saw a link on the page.  It said Kindness.  USA Today has an entire section featuring stories about volunteering and charitable giving.   This newspaper, once known as the periodical for people that only read the headlines, (ok, it is still known as that) is also the place that has some good news.

I can get behind that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sigmund: Then and Now

I decided to use pictures of Sigmund, the African Grey parrot I am fostering, to feature my Crowdrise project for the Rescue.   It struck me then, how much progress he has made.  This pic is labelled June 2010:

And I took this last night:

You can see he is still over grooming.  And he will pull feathers when freaked out.  But wings!  And tail!


As I have become more active volunteering, I am more aware of how much time, effort and money are required to keep charitable organizations going. I am not good at this fundraising stuff – this asking for money.

At the same time, my family has gotten better at charitable giving. My grandfather in particular has made an effort to make Christmas less commercial. When, for my birthday, I asked for dontaions to the Refuge, he was very happy to contribute. But two things went wrong:

1. Whatever P.O. Box my mother sent him was no longer active; and
2. The Refuge, as an all-volunteer organization, isn’t exactly speedy in acknowledging gifts.

Such that, if not for the first problem, I wouldn’t have know the gift existed. Enter a new tool: is a website that is part social networking and part fundraising tool. I can set up all of the groups that I support and point people to it if they would like to sponsor the efforts. This is particularly awesome for me because I rarely have an event like a walk/run (although the Refuge is trying to pull one together for this year) or a food drive as an excuse to spread the word around. Crowdrise spotlights the efforts of the average volunteer. They also run contests and have some kind of point system for the competitive people. So that’s fun.
I like that one can use a credit card to make a donation, and get immediate documentation.  And I as the participant can also record donations that I receive offline.

I set up my page, which you can find here. I have some more building out to do, but I think this is a good start. If you are using it, please let me know so I can check out your profile!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

White Jazz, by James Ellroy

Book 25

I like Ellroy a lot, but I have to take him in small doses.   You know how long it took me to finish this book?   Nearly a month.  We might blame the fact that this was my "carrying around" book.  Lunchtime, coffee, standing in line at the grocery store..  But also, there were times that I would read two pages and something so crazy would happen that I would have to put it down.

So.  1958 Los Angeles.  It seems that all of the cops are on the take and the Feds  are trying to take them down.  Our "hero" Dave Klein, a Lieutenant, has been a mob enforcer for years.  He gets caught in the middle of some burglaries and murders and side jobs with Howard Hughes that start to intertwine until he is totally screwed.

This book is ugly.  With the violence and the racism and the sex (read as: prostitution, rape and incest) that I don't even want to talk about.  And let's not get started on my issues with wondering just how close to any reality these police stories may be.

The reason I read this stuff is the trying to figure out, among all of these bad guys, who The Bad Guy actually is.

Another reason that this took me awhile is style that Ellroy employs.   Klein has this clipped sort of train of thought when he is working things out.  By the end of the novel, one gets used to it, but it is slow going to follow at first.   He has a theory, shoots down a theory, remembers something someone said, runs through the options.  In a few dozen words.  I'd have to read some passages three times to put the thoughts together in English.

I will need at least twelve months before I pick up another Ellroy.

But that was fun.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mornings on Horseback, by David McCullough

Book 24

This biography of a young Theodore Roosevelt, has been in my library for some time.  I picked it up after a conversation with my friend Jamie at our last book club.  He said that he was reading one of the Edmund Morris biographies of TR.  Then, with a scrutinizing look, he said, "I bet you are a fan of Ted."

Why yes, I am a fan of the old boy.   Being a fabulous president, practically hand-picking a successor, then deciding the bloke was doing it all wrong and starting a third party?  That's just good stuff.

I have read a non-zero number of books on the family, but Mornings on Horseback goes into some great detail.   And I really do love McCullough.

Roosevelt came from a very tight and very New York family.  You may think Edith Wharton, as she was a childhood friend.  Ridiculously privileged, but I can't hate 'em for it, because as a whole they made some good use of themselves.

A good part of the book talked about his early health problems, and how because and in spite of them, he very much valued being in the Great Outdoors.  Also connected to that is the time he spent in the Dakotas after the death of his first wife.  The better part of three years as a "ranchman".

I could have done without the descriptions of every poor beast the man ever shot.  But the book could not have done without them, because they are so very Roosevelt.

I don't have to like everything about the guy.

In the end, I think it is his sincerity that makes me like Roosevelt as a person and a politician.  Dude had a temper.  Dude could change his mind.  Talked rather too much.  But if he ever lied, it was only to himself and that is worth a lot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Project Linus Shout Out

Carlo Garcia, whose blog I have mentioned, is closing in on the end of his year donating something to a different organization every day.  For Day 355, he chose Project Linus.

It seems those Bloomingtonians stick together.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The Blog of Note today on iGoogle was Ah the Possibilities!, written by Sarah.  She is a list maker and when a friend accused her of being "bossy" with her To Do List, she asked for opinions.

Her commenters were almost all list-makers.  I feel that I must speak for the minority:

OK, I do them sometimes.  When I feel like I have too much going on at the same time and I don't want to miss anything.  When I want to feel like a responsible grown up.

But they are.  so.  boring.

I tried for awhile to make lists to go grocery shopping.  I seem to recall it was advice in a "How to Save More Money" column.  No kidding, I would leave the lists in the car.  I could remember to bring my reusable shopping bags, but the grocery list?  Forget it.  Then I tried putting the list in my bag before leaving the house.  I would walk around the grocery store with a list in my bag and not take it out even once.

When I returned to the office from being on the road, I made a To Do list.  That was two weeks ago and it isn't finished yet.  Perhaps I am rebelling against The List.  Once a task is on The List, it becomes a chore.

Through the whole of my childhood, I don't remember my mother ever giving me a To Do list.  (Maybe I have blocked it out.)  But at the same time, she is the type that will plan ahead for the route she will take to drive to the gas station.

I have done several personality profile things that call it by different names: Low Systematic, Unstructured, Spontaneous, Perceiving (as opposed to Judging), Cluster Thinking.   It is preference.  I still get to work every day.  I meet deadlines.  I am not late for appointments.  I just don't like lists.

So.  Do I think list makers are bossy?  No.  Not unless they are trying to get me to use one.

Blanket Ten

Just as I was finishing that last blanket, Michael's had a serious sale on its house brand of yarn.  So I am going to be doing this stuff for awhile:

"What the heck with the pink?" one might ask.  Two things:

  1. All of the yarn was on sale.  I had to mix it up somehow.
  2. That variegated yarn?  It is actually called "Neapolitan".  As in ice cream.  I stood in a store and chose to buy yarn so that I could make "the ice cream blanket".  That's just good marketing, folks.  This is how the corners turned out:

So.  Neapolitan, Aran and Soft Rose.  Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last year, in my annual review, my boss asked about my plans for professional development.  I had a list. One of the items was doing pro bono work.  I had stumbled across the Taproot Foundation last fall while researching resources for a retirement planning conference we hosted.   Their mission is, "to lead, mobilize and engage professionals in pro bono service that drives social change." 

While I do my share of volunteering, I haven't tried anything that involves using my professional skills.  The deal is that "pro bono consultants" sign on to a six-month project using their expertise to help a non-profit that needs the resource.  They estimate about 100 hours of work - 3 to 5 hours each week.  And would you believe that HR people are in demand?

My boss thought it was a great idea.  I have been with the same company for 14 years - my entire career - and I could really use a reality check on the real world.   Yes, I do realize that the Land of Non Profits is not quite the Real World.  But it is close enough.

I applied, was accepted and attended the orientation session today.  They are trying to up their game by increasing the number of projects this summer.  Right now, they have about half the volunteers they need to staff them, so the facilitator begged us all to spread the word.  The website specifies web/tech, marketing/creative services, strategic/financial and project managers.  They work out of Chicago, Washington, LA, San Francisco and New York.

I have now completed my first assignment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Apple Tech Support

Somewhere resembling Day 4 with the MacBook, I noticed that the charger wasn't charging.  Jiggled the cord and it worked fine.  Over the next day or so, I had the same problem and ran my own personal diagnostics involving different electric sockets and swapping in and out the extension cable.

Jiggle the cord seemed to be the fix.

Late-ish last night, I called tech support to make sure that "take the bad cord into a retail store" was the correct answer.  It took 30 minutes and two techs to tell me it was.  But I was to take the entire machine with me also, just in case.

Just in case of what?  In case it isn't just the cord and they have to replace the entire machine.   Apparently, Apple has a 30 day DOA policy.  In fact, last night, the guy offered to send me a new machine right then. But that seemed like a waste.

They made me an appointment in the store by my office.  This store is in what I think is still the largest shopping mall in the state of Illinois.  The store was packed at the lunch hour, so they were a few minutes late to my appointment.  Nothing tragic, but it bothers me to have an appointment and then be sent to the queue.

Appointments are for the purpose of avoiding the queue.

The tech in the store didn't ask to see my machine, she just said that she would go get me a new charger.    Several minutes later, she came back and said they did not have any in stock.  She would order one and call me when it was in.

I asked her to call the store nearest my house.  Several minutes later, she confirmed that they had one and they would put my name on it.

I arrived at the store after work.   The store was packed.  The first guy that intercepted me had no record of a call on my behalf, so he put me in the queue.  20 minutes later, a guy arrived to help me.  Then another customer, one who had made an appointment, got to budge.  Whatever.

When it was my turn, I explained the problem.  Tech wanted to run a diagnostic.  He said, "if it is the charger, we will replace the charger.  If it is the computer, we will replace the computer."  He gets a network cord, plugs it in, then thinks again.  Test the charger first.  Mine - bad.  Store sample - good.

"I don't think I need to run a diagnostic."

He made all of the notes on my original case file, gave me a new charger and sent me on my way.


Sunday night:  Two techs, 30 minutes
Monday lunch: One tech, 30 minutes
Monday night:  Three greeters, one aborted attempt, one tech - 40 minutes

Every single person I spoke with was perfectly pleasant.  They were all interested in solving my problem.  But really, this was a lot of time and effort for a charger.  I guess I should be happy that they were all trying to be absolutely sure the problem was solved the "first time", and not taking the User's word for it that it was just a charger cord.  But really.  A lot of time.

Note to self:  The thing costs $61, in case you just want to buy a new one and be done.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Assignment #365: Tax Time

What is your strategy for doing your taxes? Do you get them done as soon as you can get hold of the paperwork, put them off to the last minute, or something in between? Do you hire someone, do the work yourself, get your spouse to do it, or share the load? Do you mail forms or e-file?

Extra Credit: Have you ever had to revisit a tax return after filing, due to an audit or other circumstances?

Once upon a time (read as: up until this year), I pulled my paperwork together as soon as humanly possible and loaded up the Turbo Tax.  The faster one files, the faster one receives the refund.  Assuming that one is entitled to a refund.

I always found it fun - Turbo Tax is good stuff.  While I am not the most organized person in the world, I can generally keep my tax information in one place.

This year, for the first time, I used an accountant.  My finances became a bit more complicated and I figured it was time.  Here is how it worked:

First, the accountant reviewed my last two returns.  He asked a couple of follow up questions, to be sure that I had claimed all of the deductions possible.  I might have missed something for an energy efficient improvement to my home.   But otherwise, I seem to have nailed 'em.  Ha.

The next thing was to pull together my 2010 information and complete the questionnaire.  At the time, it felt like..If I am going to complete this thing, I might as well do my taxes myself!  Then I mailed it to the guy and waited.  I required no in-person appointment, or even follow up phone calls.  Just a couple of e-mails.

A few weeks later, I received the return and the instructions for filing.  Well before the 15th, thank you. And once I read the thing, I realized that I made the right decision.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

BTT - Visual

I have the great fortune of a room in my house that is..85% dedicated to books.  The 15% is that its closet holds most of my clothes.  And all of my chargers are in there, too.  

However, because this is a spare bedroom, it is on the second floor and thus "tucked away" so I am hardly showing it off.  Since I still have those old V.C. Andrews and V novels, I consider this a good thing.  

Further, the bookcase that holds my To Be Read books is in my bedroom.  You couldn't see the books anyway, because in front of them are..more books.

I don't think so much about whether anyone else can see my books.  I think things like, "Do I really want to have to run downstairs at midnight when I want to find something?"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blanket Nine

This was my first Doing Something With Leftover Yarn project.  And I think it turned out just fine.  In fact,  I think I will try this "pattern" again (in as much as that brand of yarn was on sale  for real this week).

Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn in Seaside, Cadet and Forest.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shout Out for Project Linus

William, who blogs at Philanthropy in Motion, took the lead from Carlo Garcia and is writing about daily donations to worthy organizations.  His angle is a bit different.  First, his focus is primarily on children's charities.  Second, he takes inspiration from the honorary days (and months) celebrating different causes.

He posted today about Project Linus, in honor of Stress Awareness Month.  Check him out!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend Assignment #364: Ahead in the Clouds?

Weekend Assignment #364: Ahead in the Clouds?

Suddenly the marketing departments of Microsoft and other tech giants are all about "the cloud" or "clouds," the practice of storing large files online and streaming them rather than everyone storing them locally on their hard drives. Do you think this is a good idea, a bad idea or both?

Extra Credit: Do you still buy CDs and DVDs?

A few years ago, my laptop started sending me warnings that the hard drive was going to crash.  It was imminent.  I pulled my school assignments off to a thumb drive and my iTunes were backed up on an external drive.  But I had all those pictures in Picasa.  I didn't want them mixed up with iTunes and there wasn't room on the little drive with my stuff for school.  So I uploaded them to my web account.

Worked like a charm.  Such that this past weekend, when I bought the new laptop, I did the same thing.  And now I am wondering if I should bother to download those files again.

I have enjoyed streaming video from Academic Earth and from  But it is sort of like books.  There are things I borrow and things that I buy.  I still buy DVDs (though not nearly as many as in the past).  I still have a half-full DVR of things I am not watching.  I haven't tried Netflix yet because I don't want to add another monthly expense.  

Music is a bit of a different story.  Generally, if there is a song that I want, I will download it.  But if I want the entire album, I go with the CD.  The only exception was The National, whose CD was twice as expensive as the download.  So apparently, I have a tipping point somewhere.  But again, once it is "mine", I back it up on an external drive.

Overall, I still think of online more as a place of "sharing" rather than "owning".   So maybe I am just wading into the clouds.  But I certainly don't have enough experience to judge.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Shack, by William P. Young

Book 23

I somehow missed that The Shack was a huge bestseller of the spiritual journey variety.  "Over one million copies in print."

I read a few of the reviews on Librarything, and it seems to me that readers judge the book based on how close Young gets to their own theology.  The Catholic really didn't like it.

The premise is that a guy whose young daughter was murdered receives a note in his mailbox, presumably from God, inviting him to meet up at the cabin in the woods where the daughter was killed.

This book is one guy's imagining of how God might show up an answer some questions and show the way back to a life filled with more love and less judgement.  While I found the narrative rather affected, and heavy-handed, it wasn't a bad imagining.

The one theme I found objectionable was that God continually repeated that people looking for "independence" were delusional and living in the matrix.  Actually said, "the matrix".

The best line was, "Mack wasn't sure what 'made it from scratch' meant when God was saying it."

Apparently, God likes to cook.  OK, then.

I am glad that I read this, but it didn't exactly change my life.

Again with the Cupcakes

About five minutes after professing that I am not a crazy cupcake lady, and that it is just a Washington thing, I saw a window sign in the Glen Town Center that a cupcakery  was coming.  Cup of Cake opened sometime when I was on the road and I went in on Thursday before heading to the Library.

They have tables, which is good.  And Hot Chocolate, which will make me very happy, assuming it is any good.  There are a few more bakery items along with the cupcakes.  The cupcakes are $2.75 each, which 25 cents less than the truck in DC and 75 cents less than the cupcakery on 7th street.

I ordered a cake pop, which seems to be the Next Big Thing (meaning that even Starbucks has them now).

I believe I read that it is cake mashed with frosting dipped in chocolate.  Read as:  sugar bomb.  I will not be ordering this again.

The really bad news is the operating hours.  They don't even open until noon and are closed on Sundays.

Happily, it seems I will not become Crazy Cupcake Lady.  But I am glad to have them.

Edit:  I just read that Facebook page that I linked to and it seems that their hours are changing and they will be open on Sundays soon.  Also, Friday and Saturday they will open at 11:30 a.m., which is better.  Somewhat.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I finally went for a new laptop and the crazies convinced me to go with Mac.  My brother called me a traitor.

I haven't done much with it yet.  I think I need a Dummies book for the operating system.  But I managed to connect to the Internet and transferred my iTunes.  The secret is to have your entire library backed up on an external drive.

Am I happy?  Not sure yet.  It has already dropped the wireless twice and don't know what the learning curve is like for people that have lived in Windows their entire lives.  But I can say without hesitation that this is the fastest machine I have ever worked with in my life.

That's good stuff.