Wednesday, June 30, 1999

I did it again yesterday - I updated after lunch. So if you haven't read about my enlightenment, you should. It's enlightening.

K.T. came home last night. Apparently, she made a nuisance of herself by demanding to be allowed to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time, so they decided she was strong enough to come home. She's supposed to be resting for the remainder of the week - no work, no housework, nothing strenuous at all - so her bronchitis has a chance to go away. And they've told her she has to go on a diet, and given her a stack of dietary restrictions as long as my arm.

But at least she's home, where she'll be able to rest.

Her father has made an asshole of himself by offering to compete at their diets - he wanted to lay a bet on who could lose X amount the fastest. What a jerk. Hasn't it ever occured to him that it would be more productive to just try to be supportive? Oh, well. I told K.T. that I would be her "diet buddy" and we could bitch and complain about diet food together, and swap recipes, and commiserate about having to eat salads whenever we go out, and celebrate the lost pounds. That sort of thing. We even have about the same amount of weight to lose, though she'll probably do it faster - for one thing, she's got a lot more willpower and stubbornness than I do. For another, because she's dieting to control diabetes, she's got better reasons than I do not to cheat.

But I don't think you'll have to hear me complain anymore that I can't maintain my diet at games, since we'll be backing each other up.

While surfing yesterday, I stumbled across a site which will tell you the Mandarin Chinese equivalent of your name. (All right, I know exactly the path I followed to get there, but do you care? Not really.) Because the name chosen by the program is based primarily on the sound of your real name with a couple of other factors tossed in, there are quite a few different possibilities. The name I liked best was Bai Lanzhi, which means Seeing Wisdom. Well, who wouldn't like a name like that?

At the Meade Hall Monday night, Ashby told us about an online comic that I hadn't heard of before, called Sluggy Freelance. I went and looked, and wasn't very impressed with the individual comic for yesterday, but I started back at the beginning, and it was pretty good. The individual comic hadn't been funny because I was unfamiliar with the characters. So if you follow the link I've given, I suggest you jump straight to the beginning and start reading it in order.

It occurs to me that I should update my Who's Who page, since I don't think Ashby is mentioned. Nor Richard and Carl, who I've mentioned before and will probably mention again, since they're in my AD&D game. Of course, if I listed everyone that I know, that would be a pretty big list. Maybe I'll rearrange the list to be just people that I talk about.

I've got a new design for July all ready to go! I hope you like it; it'll be up tomorrow. There's only one bit that I'm not really happy with, but unless I get complaints, I'll probably just leave it alone for now. See you then!

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Well, for those of you who read in the morning, I posted again yesterday afternoon with a much more cheerful note, so if you haven't read about our new table, go back and do so.

The radio station I listen to has two primary DJs in the morning, with a third who comes in a little later than they do and reads the news. Just so I can tell this story without sounding like a complete idiot, the names of the primary DJs are Jeff and MC (MC is female), and the newsreader is Mike.

When I got in the car this morning, Jeff and MC were on the phone with Mike's wife. Apparently, Mike had recently been named Employee of the Month at the radio station, and they were quizzing Mike's wife like it was the Newlywed Game. It turned out that Employee of the Month is worth a bonus, and that Mike hadn't been entirely truthful with his wife about the amount of the bonus, so they got him in trouble. Or at least pretended to; I'm never really sure with this crowd.

But what drew listener calls was the fact that apparently Mike's wife handles the money for them, and Mike gets a $5/week allowance. The call I heard was some woman who demanded to know - if Mike was just driving back and forth to work and his wife packed him a lunch every day, then what did he even need $5 for? I thought this was really funny, myself, because I know I would go crazy if I didn't get to manage my own money.

When I was in college and dating P., he always said that he wanted to get a job and turn over his paycheck to his wife, and draw some sort of allowance for general expenditures. Though he was thinking of $50 or $100 a week. That idea didn't bother me as long as I was the one handling the money, but I couldn't imagine working to make money and then being told that I only got a tiny fraction of it to myself.

Matt and I have six different bank accounts: My savings and checking, his savings and checking, and our savings and checking. We use the joint accounts to pay for things that are jointly ours: the rent, the utilities, groceries, furniture, Babylon 5 videos, etc. We use our own accounts to buy things that aren't household expenses or that belong to only one of us: books, comics, doctor's visits, prescription drugs, gifts for each other, digital cameras, etc. These rules aren't hard and fast - when we go to Sam's Club and buy several joint items and a few individual items, we pay for everything from the joint account and don't worry about it. But in general, that's how it works.

There are a lot of people who think Matt and I have made our lives unnecessarily complicated with our financial setup. K.T. used to say that we were "divorce-ready" and my mother shakes her head in despair every time I say, "my money" or "his money."

But it works for us. I get wild hairs about once every three months and buy something weird and expensive - a Zip drive or a digital camera. Since I buy them with my money, Matt isn't allowed to accuse me of being a spendthrift, and I'm not dipping into money that we've set aside for the important things. I suspect that, the longer we go, the more we'll come to use the joint account. Sometime soon, we'll probably get a joint credit card so we can make larger household purchases (like furniture). But I like having money that I don't have to account to anyone else for, and I suspect Matt feels the same way, and so we'll probably always have our own accounts. And I like it that Matt has his own money, so I don't have to resent money "wasted" on things I'll never use, like comic books that I don't like.

I've heard that the most-cited reason for the breakup of marriages is money. When you've had control of your money for your whole life, it is very difficult to simply turn it over to someone else, or even to drop it into a pot from which this other person can buy things that you would never have bought on your own. Coming to a good agreement that both people are comfortable with - not merely resigned to - is quite possibly one of the more important decisions a new couple has to make. I'm happy with our system, for all its clunky awkwardness.

I have achieved enlightenment.

Oh, I confess, I'm slightly surprised that enlightenment took the form of a company-wide e-mail offering tips on ways for us to cut down on the costs of conference-calling, but there it was, right at the end of the e-mail, the font changed to a bright purple so that we would be sure not to miss it: Hope this enlightens!!!

I suppose in my enlightened state, I could quit my job and go live on a mountaintop somewhere, taking only those students brave and determined enough to seek me out. But no, I feel that to truly spread the peace of my life, I must stay here and teach by example.

Of course, since it was a company-wide memo, I'm sure most of my fellow employees are likewise enlightened, but who says that the spiritually enhanced cannot learn from one another, eh?

Monday, June 28, 1999

So. K.T. is in the hospital. This is your cue to look sympathetic and say, "I'm so sorry. I hope it's not serious!" or possible, "What happened?"

I'll leave it to her to tell the complete story, when she gets home. The short of it is that she's got chronic asthma, acute bronchitis, a dangerously low iron count, and diabetes. To make matters worse, the drugs are all fouling each other up. The iron count is low in part because she's been having her period for several weeks straight. The estrogen they gave her to stop that is raising her blood sugar. The steroidal inhaler she uses for her asthma raises her blood sugar. The antibiotics they've given her for the brochitis - go on, guess! - raise her blood sugar. The drugs they're giving her to get her blood sugar back down increase her heart rate and make it difficult to breathe. So they're fighting in circles and expect her to be in the hospital for three to five days.

We had gone over to her place on Saturday to game, but she hadn't been feeling well, and had gone to the emergency room. She said she was feeling better when she came back, so we stayed and talked for a bit, then went home. Sunday morning, Kevin called us to let us know that when the adrenaline they'd given her at the emergency room wore off, she'd felt the need to go back, and this time they hadn't let her go home. He'd been up all night and was just getting home.

So we went to see her last night, and she looked quite a bit better; only had a little bit of wheeze to her breath and could actually talk. Aside from the IV shunt stuck in her hand, she even seemed fairly cheerful, in a K.T. sort of way. (Which is to say, she was cheerfully complaining at the nurses who came in to give her pills and shots, and rolling her eyes at us over her mother-in-law's well-intentioned but annoying busy-bodyness, and picking at her mediocre-looking hospital food, and gleefully refusing to eat the lettuce in her salad or wear the stupid hospital gown.) So she seems to be improving and I hope she'll be out of the hospital soon.

They have commanded her to lose some weight, so in her honor I am cutting short the deliberate break from my diet and going back on the wagon today. I've promised to be her diet-buddy, and we'll complain about nasty diet food to each other, and keep each other in line and who knows - maybe it will actually work.

But last night, leaving the hospital, I was angry. I told Matt I was grumpy so he would just be quiet and not try to be silly and jolly, but it went well beyond grumpy and into full-blown anger. I'm not sure even now if I can explain why.

Angry at the universe for allowing things like this to happen. Angry at Kevin and his mother for bringing their McDonald's food into the room while K.T. is having to contemplate a diet in which that food would be forbidden. Angry at Kevin for bringing his mom with him at all when he knows very well K.T. doesn't much like her. Angry at Matt for telling me to shut up when I was talking to try to keep things light. Angry at myself for not knowing when to shut up on my own and for letting the surroundings make me nervous. Even angry at K.T. for being so concerned about appearances in reverse: She wouldn't go on a diet because she didn't want people to think she was doing it just to look better, so she neglected to do it for her health.

Talking about it isn't helping, either. Matt just came in to give me some information and I bit his head off. Maybe I'll write more later.

Okay, I'm feeling more cheerful now. so I'll tell you about the good thing that happened yesterday: We bought a table.

Our new table When we got married, my grandmother gave us a check with which to buy a new dining room set. For this reason and that, we kept putting it off, and Grandmom has been getting more than a little impatient with us. We picked this table out from Montgomery Wards back in January, and decided to come back and buy it in June. June almost slipped by us unnoticed, but we managed it!

It was weird, though. We found the table again easily enough, and then went to the service desk. The lady at the desk promised to be with us as soon as she'd finished with this other couple, and we went back to the table to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

While we were waiting, we noticed something odd: There were two different sets we could buy: The table and four chairs, for $500, or the table and six chairs, for $400. HUH? No, you didn't read that wrong, and no, I didn't type it wrong. Apparently, getting two extra chairs would be $100 cheaper. Now, I've seen some weird sales before, but this took the cake!

I theorized that maybe one of the two prices wasn't supposed to be displayed - left over from last week, or maybe in preparation for next week. We pored over the signs, looking for something that would explain it. Nothing.

Finally, a clerk wandered over and asked us if we needed help. Having given up on the original clerk, we told this fellow that we wanted to buy the set. I asked which price applied, and he answered that we were buying the cheaper set that came with more chairs. And then he told us that because they had a 25% off sale going, we were going to get our set for about $300. Holy Windsor chairs, Batman! If we had bought the standard set and the two extra chairs, this would have run us almost $800!

Okay, I'm aware of the fact that the entire set of table and six chairs probably costs no more than $100 fresh from the factory. And I'm also aware that probably no one buys these sets at the displayed price, because there is never a time when there is not some sort of sale. But they succeeded in making us feel superior, so we're enjoying it while it lasts.

Sometime toward the end of the week, they'll call to let us know that the set has been delivered from their warehouse in Maryland, and we'll get my dad to help us go pick it up, since he's got a pickup truck. Of course, we won't actually get to use the new table until we move into our house, but that's only (hopefully) another two months!


Friday, June 25, 1999

Silly HatI did it! I bought a digital camera!

Okay, I actually bought the camera about a week ago - won it on eBay. (I only bid on things on eBay if the person selling them is an agent for a real business, for those of you who are worried about me sending large hunks of money off into the wild blue yonder. I've never been burned, but K.T. was, and I try to learn from the mistakes of others...)

Anyway, for those of you who are curious:
  • It's a Sony Digital Mavica, MVC-FD73. (The link takes you to the write-up for the FD71, but it's the same camera. I haven't been able to figure out what the difference is.)
  • I paid about $500 for it, which was what it would have cost me at Circuit City if they'd had it in stock. I don't know why the FD71 retails for $700 and the FD73 for $500.
  • If I'm taking standard-quality pictures, I can get about 25 pictures on a single floppy. I took some high-quality pictures just to see, but aside from slightly better color quality, there isn't a lot of difference between the high quality mode and the standard.
  • Very happy with it, thanks.
It's got several different save modes, including one called e-mail, which is pretty much pointless if you have any kind of graphics software at all: In addition to the 640x480 image, it saves a 320x240 image for you to send via e-mail. I think it could be useful if it saved only the smaller image, but both? How ridiculous.

But I'm very happy to have it. I'm sure it'll be my favorite toy for the next few weeks. Since one of my major rationalizations for buying the thing is the house we're building, I decided to drive over to the lot immediately after work yesterday to take some pictures to post on my House page. It's about ten miles from the office to the new house. I'd gone about six miles when I realized that I had forgotten the battery. The battery for the camera is a rechargeable lithium battery which had arrived with about half an hour left on it, so after playing with the camera a bit, I'd plugged the battery in to recharge. And left it.

So I turned around and drove back to the office and got the battery, muttering under my breath the whole time. Finally, I got back to the lot, popped the battery into the camera, and powered it up. All the little displays came on, and I aimed the camera at the house.

The little LCD screen that shows me what the picture will look like was black. No image.

I thought maybe I hadn't hit the power button correctly, but no - all the little displays were showing, just no picture. I adjusted the brightness level of the LCD. Nothing. I was beginning to panic when I realized that... Well of course you saw it coming... I'd left the lens cap on.

Stop laughing. I've never had a camera that had a lens cap before.

Diamond says, 'Harrr'So I took some pictures of the house, as you can see if you followed the above link, and then I went home and took some more pictures, of the afghan I finished a few weeks ago and of a miniature I painted and of the cat (lots of pictures of the cat) and of Matt and... Just about anything I could point the camera at, actually.

Somebody said to me yesterday that they expected the digital camera to replace the film camera soon. I don't think that's true. Certainly not for the casual user. $500 is a lot of money to shell out at one time, and the pictures are not - let us be honest - not the best quality. When it comes to important events, I'll be using my film camera again, because the quality of print I can get with film is so much higher than the quality of a digital camera. Let's put it this way. If you take a print and scan it in, a 3-by-5-inch picture loses no quality if you scan it in at a resolution of 900 dpi, which is to say, 2700x4500 pixels. The best digital cameras out there - which cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 and are used only by professional photographers, might be able to match this (I didn't bother researching any cameras which cost more than my car), but the consumer cameras, which range from $250 - $1,000, can not. And that's just scanning in a small print; if you take the negative for that print and create a bigger print, the quality doesn't change appreciably.

So, next summer when I go to my brother's wedding, I'll be taking my film camera with me, because those are pictures that I'd like to have of the highest quality possible. But for hanging out and having fun, I think the digital camera is a great idea. I'll never have to buy film for this camera, or pay for developing. If I take a picture and hate the way it turns out, I just delete it and try again. No extra costs, so I don't have to worry about taking "worthless" pictures. Nothing else to buy, ever.

Except maybe a spare battery.

Thursday, June 24, 1999

Stupid drivers. Everyone thinks that everyone else is a bad driver. People who live one place, and get used to how people drive there, and then move someplace new think that absolutely no-one in the new place know how to drive. That's only understandable, because every place has its own driving patterns. If you live in or near a big city, you're expected to drive as close as physically possible to the car in front of you without actually touching their bumper. In more relaxed areas, you're expected to be able to see at least a little of the street between you while the cars are moving. In very relaxed places, you're considered entirely too tense and rude if you don't leave at least two cars' lengths between you and the car in front of you. That's just an example. There are other things - how you're expected to use things like your turn signal, horn, and headlights and how to do things like make turns, let merging traffic in, etc.

I live in what is commonly known as a "tourist town". Tourist businesses make up well over half of the local areas' revenue, so I try to appreciate their business. And - having been a tourist lost in an unfamiliar place before - I try not to be too impatient with people driving slowly and consulting maps. Especially here. Not only is Williamsburg not laid out in a neat grid, but no single part of Williamsburg is laid out in a grid. None. There are no completely straight roads, and there are very few perpendicular intersections. The traffic patterns change from year to year as the traffic engineers try desperately to find a way to keep certain busy intersections from getting too awful without resorting to adding new lanes. (Progress is just Not Done in Williamsburg - at least, not in the areas that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has any say over.) It's a terribly confusing place to be, even for a local. I hardly ever leave my apartment to go somewhere in Williamsburg without considering at least half a dozen possible routes. Even when I'm going to places I go frequently. So I try to be patient with tourists who are obviously lost, though I sometimes wish they would pull over to read their maps.

But every now and then, I encounter some stupidity so monumental, I can't stand it.

Last night, Matt and I went over to K.T.'s and Kevin's for dinner. K.T. had just had a fairly distressing visit to the doctor, so she wasn't up to cooking the mediterranean meal she's been planning, but that was understandable. We had spaghetti instead, and watching (finally!) The Man in the Iron Mask. (In case you're wondering, I thought a lot of the acting was a bit wooden - especially John Malkovich's, who spent a lot of time sounding like he was reading his lines instead of speaking them - but because I love swash and buckle action, adore Gerard Depardieu as an actor, and even think Leonardo DiCaprio is nice eye-candy, I enjoyed it immensely.)

Anyway, we didn't leave until fairly late, but we'd been expecting that. ("Fairly late" for me means "after nine.") It was about quarter 'til ten when we pulled off the interstate onto our exit, in the middle of a long string of other cars.

This is sortof unusual. Not many people take our exit, especially not late at night. But I didn't really care - I just wanted to go home and take something for my sniffles and go to bed. Now, this ramp ends in a split, so you can drive in either direction on the road at the end. It's a fairly common design for ramps that aren't expecting a lot of traffic. But there's not a lot of choice, really: every sign for gas, food, lodging, and information points to the left. If you take the right fork, you wind up at Camp Peary, where a moderately tense young man holding an M-16 will ask you to turn around. No, you can't come through the gate to do so. So really, left is your only option, and there are plenty of signs that explain this to you.

The car in front of the car in front of me came to a stop at the stop sign, and its driver looked back and forth. I began to pull to a stop. The car in front of me edged carefully onto the shoulder and pulled up next to the stopped car. What the hell was this? The stopped car hadn't been there anywhere close to long enough to be getting impatient about them yet. Matt and I exchanged a look.

Then we could see that the first car's driver had leaned over and was rolling down his passenger window, and that he was talking to the driver of the second car. Matt and I exchanged another look. There are no choices. After you turn left, you have to drive for another mile or so before there's even a hint of civilization. Why in all the gods' names did these people find it necessary to have conference at the end of an exit-ramp? There was only one reasonable direction to go. There is even plenty of shoulder to pull onto just after you make the turn. There were two or three cars behind me, and we were all waiting impatiently to go somewhere. I honked very quickly. They ignored me, and Matt and I exchanged yet another look.

Finally, after a thankfully brief conference, the two cars decided to go left. My next turn was immediately after this one, so I didn't get to see whether they pulled over again for a longer conference, or what, but boy do I feel secure knowing that these two tourists (yeah, they were definately tourists - their license plates were from Florida and North Carolina, respectively) are visiting my beautiful town.

I think I'll stay out of the tourist end of town for a while.

Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Boy, oh, boy are you in for a treat today! I got a catalog yesterday from Hammacher Schlemmer, which is - as you know if you've ever looked through their catalogs on airplanes - a catalog for people with more money than sense. I have no idea how I got on their mailing list, but I just can't pass up the opportunity to mock some of the more absurd items.

Silent Electric Violin™ Winner of the 1998 Popular Science "What's New" Award, this violin generates sound through headphones to allow beginners, or accomplished musicians, to play or practice anytime without disturbing others. It runs on batteries (included) or may be plugged into a standard outlet with an adapter (sold separately below). ...the internal computer chip enhances the sound digitally to mimic the acoustics of 3 different environments: practice room, small concert hall, or large concert hall. With the cord provided, the violin can also be plugged into a tape or CD player, so a musician can play along with recorded music. ...


Okay, while I appreciate the idea, I'm extremely dubious about this. I don't know how they keep the thing from making real noises, and I don't know that it will accurately capture sour notes and inflict them on the user. Not only that, but this is, beyond a shadow of doubt, the ugliest violin I've ever seen. There's no body. Just enough wood is there for the strings and pegs to attach to, and there's curve of wood that looks like the outer edge of a violin - but only on half. The top half of the violin (the half that usually goes beside your neck) is nothing but a chinrest. Very, very ugly. It wouldn't have hurt the electronics of the system to make a complete body, would it? What's the deal, here?

The Two-Person Submarine This craft allows you to cruise underwater at up to 4 knots without cumbersome diving equipment. The cockpit can be easily entered by swimming into the opening in the back of the hull. Once inside, passengers sit in a fold-out seat and their bodies from the waist up are enclosed in the air-tight cabin. Air pressure inside the cabin matches the water pressure outside to keep water from entering. The submarine's three front Lexan® flat windows allow for easy visual navigation, while the high-intensity 50-watt headlight casts a beam up to 50 feet (depending on water conditions). ... The sub has a maximum depth of 130 feet. The sub can be towed on a trailer behind almost any car and launched from a boat ramp. Must obtain scuba certification to purchase; training provided by manufacturer. Constructed of compression-proof 3/8-inch thick fiberglass. The motors' rechargeable 24-volt battery (included) operates for 4-8 hours.

(Please add $500.00 to regular shipping and handling.)

Three-Person Submarine As above, but the air-tight cabin is larger to accommodate 3 people.

(Please add $500.00 to regular shipping and handling.)

Is this not the ultimate in the more-money-than-sense category? I almost laughed myself sick. I don't even need to mock this one; it mocks itself. Here's a note: If you find yourself with an extra $63,000 to throw around and think a personal submarine would be a good idea, forget it and just send the money to me.

Cordless Insect Vacuum This lightweight, battery-powered device lets you quickly capture and dispose of insects at a comfortable distance without ever having to touch them. Flies, spiders, and bees are suctioned by the 14,000 rpm fan, and drawn into a sealed disposable cartridge (included). Lined with a non-toxic gel (harmless to humans and pets), the cartridge traps and quickly kills insects.

Six disposable cartriges: $29.95

I've used a vacuum to suck up spiders before - I'm not ashamed to admit that. But I've never in my life thought I needed a special tool to do the job. The reach on this thing (from looking at the picture) is only about a foot and a half - nowhere near as comfortable a distance as my four-foot-long vacuum attachment. I also find myself vastly amused by the picture, in which they show this marvel of redundancy sucking up the fakest-looking spider I've ever seen in my life. Obviously, the picture model didn't trust it enough to use it to suck up a real bug.

Genuine Turkish Bathrobe Turkish toweling is legendary throughout the world for its extraordinary thickness and absorbency. This robe is made of that same thirsty, 100% cotton with each square yard of fabric weighting a full 22 ounces (60% heavier than other robes) and containing 69,000 loops to absorb water and help conserve body heat. ... The more the robe is washed the softer and more absorbent it becomes, as the cotton fibers "bloom".


It isn't so much the item which amused me here - I might even like one myself. (Though not for $100!) But in my world, we call it "fraying," not "blooming".

The Silk Sleep Sack For those who prefer the comfort and the unquestionable hygiene of their own bed linens, this travel sack allows a traveler to easily take their own bedding along on overnight trips or for extended excursions. Over 15 feet of 100% washable silk is used to make this sleep sack, but it rolls into its own silk drawstring pouch the size of a wallet and weighs only seven ounces.


This thing is royal blue, so there's no question that your best friend is going to know you don't trust her to put clean sheets on the guest bed. It's both longer and wider than a sleeping bag, so if you take it camping with you, you're going to get that sensation of wrinkled sheets. And it only fits one person, so while you won't be feeling those scratchy hotel sheets, you won't be able to touch your partner, either. All in all, an item for the obsessively tidy only.

Imprevious Tablewear Easily mistaken for fine crystal, this tablewear is actually made of polycarbonate - the same material used in bulletproof glass. Unlike common acrylic tablewear, it is microwavable and dishwasher safe. It won't cloud or craze, even after 2,000 dishwasher cycles. It will not crack or shatter, even if forcefully struck with a blunt object or dropped on a hard surface.

53-ounce pitcher: $34.95
10-ounce tumbler (set of six): $39.95
17-ounce tumbler (set of six): $44.95
14-ounce pilsner (set of six): $59.95
7-ounce champagne flute (set of six): $49.95

Did I read that correctly? Bulletproof tableware? Well, no, but it's made out of the same thing as bulletproof glass, and isn't that close enough? For those people, I suppose, who just can't bear the thought of serving lemonade by the pool in plastic cups. How absurd.

Without quoting the flavor text, I hope you can appreciate the absurdity of these, too:
Plush Carpet Car Floor Mats (monogramming extra): $179.95
Golfer's Sandals: $86.95
Cordless Insect Vacuum: $49.95
Electronic Pants Presser: $329.95
Remote-controlled Variable Speed Fan: $89.95
Cracker and Chip Electric Crisper: $69.95
Microwave Flower Press: $49.95
Floating Trampoline: $5,999.00
Pressure-Molded Water Float with Ergonomic Headrest: $124.95

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

The car is still in the shop. When I called yesterday at two, they still hadn't taken the dashboard apart to see exactly which piece had broken. But according to Chuck, the guy working on my car, it's going to be one of two pieces, and the labor will be about the same either way. The two pieces are only about thirty dollars apart in price, so it's going to cost me slightly less than $200 to get my car fixed. Again. It might be ready by this evening.

Matt and I are supposed to have dinner with K.T. and Kevin tomorrow evening. This time, she's trying a Mediterranean menu. I'm looking forward to it.

It felt good to take yesterday off. We did the laundry, read the comics, and generally loafed around the apartment. It felt nice. Today I'm back at work, hoping like hell that I'll actually get some work to do, but not really expecting it. Oh, well. I need to do some work for my game, anyway. Since everyone has characters now, I need to do some introductions and get ready for the opening game. I hope this goes well. I've taken a little flak already for letting Carl have as much equipment as I did, but I did what I told everyone I would do: I looked at the list and didn't see anything on it that the character - being sent out into the world by loving ex-adventurer parents - wouldn't give him. And most of the value of his equipment was tied up into his horse and armor, and the first adventure isn't going to be heavily combat-oriented, anyway. (Most of them won't be. As a GM, I prefer puzzles and dilemmas to plain combat most of the time.) I don't think I was especially unfair (everyone else gets to pick their own equipment as well) and I'm not all that worried about it as such. I'm just a little concerned that this is symptomatic of the game as a whole. I don't want to be running a game where the players are mad at each other because they all think the others have better stats or better equipment or the best treasure. I'm trying to keep things as fair as possible, but... Oh, well. We'll see what happens, I guess. I'm wondering, though, if I should have given them points to distribute for their stats and a fixed amount of cash to spend on equipment. I've been jealous of other people's characters before, though, and I think the worst thing is being part of a party and not being able to do anything useful. So I'll have to keep a close watch on that, and make sure that both fighters are challenged, that the mages' spellbooks have different and complimentary spells, that there are locks for the thief to defeat, and for gods' sakes something for the cleric to do besides play medic!

At any rate, I made a lot of concessions during character creation that I suppose some of my players wish I hadn't made. And Carl is the sort of player who will take full advantage of every bit of leeway I give him. I'll have to be careful if I'm going to keep him in check. But I'm a little hurt that the other players don't trust me to do that. (K.T.'s not the only one - she's just the only one who posted something I could link to.)

Oh, well. Hopefully once the game gets underway, they'll feel differently. What I'm really hoping is that, if I can balance things just right, they'll all feel grateful for each others' skills, and learn to really work together as a team.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, June 21, 1999

Friday afternoon, my car had been fixed. Turned out that two of my spark plug wires were arcing, and all of the plugs themselves were shot. So Merchants replaced the wire array and gave my car a tune-up, and when K.T. dropped me off it ran like a dream all the way down to her house. I was pleased, despite the shitty traffic. (An R.V. had overturned in Newport News and backed the traffic up for approximately thirty miles, according to the radio, which told me about the traffic snarl just after I'd gotten stuck in it.)

So by the time K.T. and I got to her place we were pretty hungry. We went to Darryl's for dinner, which was great. They had a spinach, avacado, and cheese dip that I thought would be nasty (since I don't like avacado and I'm not the greatest fan of spinach) but turned out to be fantastic. They ran out of baked potatoes for our dinners (apparently a party of twenty had come in about five minutes before us) but we were so full by the time we'd eaten our steaks, we didn't want them anyway. Then we went shopping at Pier One for a while, until they threw us out.

"Excuse me ladies. You've got about fifteen seconds to finish your shopping because we closed at nine."

Well, we didn't know what time it was!

Then we went back to her place and sat around and talked until Kevin came home, and a bit later, and then I got into my good-as-new car and went home. (I'd only had three drinks all night with an eye to being able to go home instead of sleeping on K.T.'s sofa. I'd brought a change of clothes just in case, but I don't like sleeping on sofas. I never sleep very well, and then I feel off-kilter for the whole next day.)

Saturday afternoon, I was having K.T., Greg, Carl, and Richard over to work on characters for the AD&D game I'm going to start. I hadn't finished my handouts yet, though, and I'd left my Zip disk at the office, so when I woke up Saturday morning I decided to drive up to the office and get it, along with a few other errands. There was a fair amount of condensation on the windshield, so I turned on the defroster and headed up to the office. After a mile or so, the condensation had pretty well evaporated, so I switched from defroster to vent, and went to turn the temperature down. The lever that controls the temperature in my car stuck about halfway down the scale. I wiggled it a bit, then felt and heard a quiet pop! behind the panel. The lever all the way over to cold, but it was canted at a peculiar angle and the tension was all wrong. I tried to slide it back up to hot. It went halfway and stuck. I wiggled and pushed. No luck. And despite the fact that the lever was stuck on the cold half of the scale, the air coming out of the vents was definitely hot.

I cursed. I muttered. I pleaded. I grumbled. I tried all the settings on my controls, but all of them continued to blow hot air at me. (Even turning off my environmental controls altogether resulted in a leak of hot air around my calves.) Certain that Merchants had rigged it to break (I don't know much about cars, so I'm certain that mechanics make work for themselves because we can't catch them at it) I took it to a shop that I passed on the way to the bank. They didn't do that sort of work. I asked for recommendations. The dealership? I don't take cars to the dealership for work unless they're under warranty. Well, then, the only other place in Williamsburg he could think of that might be open on Saturday would be Merchants. I sighed. I took my car to Merchants.

To be fair, the guy I talked to at Merchants looked at my car immediately as soon as I told him I'd just been there the day before - he was willing to concede that they might have damaged something while replacing my spark plug wires and that they'd fix it right away for free.

Unfortunately, the problem is behind my dashboard, nowhere near the spark plug wires, which are in the engine. So much for that hope. He tells me that their mechanic who is good behind the dashboard doesn't work weekends, and makes an appointment for my car for Monday (today).

So, I go home and try not to get too irritable about the car by working very hard on my game. Eventually, after Greg and Carl get off work, everyone comes over, and we have a very fun evening creating characters and telling stories and talking. About 9:30, Matt came home, and that made the evening even better. He'd brought me several presents, including an apron that reads, "Don't make me POISON your food!" I laughed a lot.

Sunday, we went over to my parents' house for Father's Day. We took them out to dinner at the Country Grill - which was almost a disaster. Not only was it Father's Day, but several local schools had just had graduation. We managed to show up during the lull between lunch and dinner, and only had to wait about five minutes. Then, after we'd ordered, the waiter came to tell us that they only had two racks of ribs left in the entire restaurant, and since our table had ordered three racks altogether, someone would have to change their order. Matt changed his order, and we all told each other how that it was like Outback running out of steak, or a Chinese restaurant running out of rice. After dinner, we went to see Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace again. We'd all seen it before, but we all wanted to see it again. It was just as fun the second time around, which made me happy.

It was a good evening. Matt and I decided we weren't going to work today - Matt has lots of leftover hours from travelling all day Saturday, and as far as I know, I still don't have a project anyway, so I'd rather spend the day with him.

Besides, we haven't done the laundry yet.

Friday, June 18, 1999

There was good news, and there was bad news. After work yesterday, I decided to drive by the house lot and see if they'd managed to do any work, despite the rain that's been hanging in the air all week. And they had! They'd put up the frame for the roof, and some windows had been delivered. Given that we've just had three days of rain clouds hanging fat and low in the sky (and frequently opening to dump rain), I was surprised they'd managed anything at all. So that's the good news.

The bad news is that, on the way home, my car's "Check Engine" light came on. Now, I knew the car was having problems. For the past few weeks it's been shuddering, hesitating, and stalling like a virgin bride. But I'd been hoping it would last until Matt came home before I had to take it to the shop. But no - once the light comes on, it's time to take it in.

So I went home and called Merchant's. They person I talked to told me that they do a shuttle service and could get me to work. That settled it. So this morning, bright and early, I drove up to Merchant's. Checked in the car. And then found out that they don't operate the shuttle until 9AM, because that's when everyone comes in, and where was I going? NORGE??? That was too far. So I told them they could take me home instead, which was five miles closer. When the shuttle was available, that is. I sighed, and sat down in their waiting area, glad I'd brought a book with me. Then the guy called me back to the desk and said they'd call a cab for me.

"I don't have enough cash on me to pay for a cab."

"Oh, no, we'll pay for it."

And add it to my bill. Right. After telling me it's going to cost $65 just for you to tell me what's wrong with the car, you should pay for it.

But I didn't really want to sit in their waiting room for another hour and a half, so he called a cab for me.

The cab driver was very nice - soft-spoken and sympathetic about my car. He wouldn't accept the tip I tried to give him when he dropped me off. So now I'm at home. I'm not going to be doing anything at home all day that I wasn't going to do at work, since I still don't have a project, but at home I'm not going to get paid for it. (Or rather, I'll get paid, but I'll have to burn leave time.) This makes me slightly irritable, but I'll get over it, I suppose.

I'll be spending the evening with KT (and unless I get my car back, the night as well, since I'm hardly going to ask her to drive me home after midnight when she lives a good thirty miles from me.) We spent yesterday making plans via e-mail, but it was mostly just listing the possibilities. We'll be playing it by ear, mostly.

And the weekend promises to be nice - the weather is shaping up to be very pretty and spring-like, I'm having people over on Saturday, Matt is due home Saturday night, and we're taking my parents to see Phantom Menace as a Father's Day present to my dad on Sunday. So my mood will improve. I promise!

Thursday, June 17, 1999

My supervisor told me yesterday that I should be getting work to do soon. He didn't say how soon, but I have hopes.

But I hope it's not today. I'm completely exhausted today. I couldn't get to sleep until after midnight last night, and then I woke up at 2:30 with awful abdominal cramps that lasted for half an hour or so. All I want to do today is stare into space.

And get my diet back on track! Experimental cooking keeps me from thinking about being lonely, but I absolutely need to rein in. That, or undergo attitude adjustment so I can stay where I am without the self-recriminations.
Crusade was fantastic last night! Okay, the plot was a little obvious at times, but anyone who knows of my penchant for dragons will understand why I liked it. And the acting was much better than in the first episode, which I was pretty sure would be the case. Crusade Dragon

I talked to Matt for a bit last night. It sounds like he's working hard and looking forward to coming home. I'm trying to figure out if I can do any of the chores on Saturday before he gets here, so we can sleep in without guilt on Sunday. The difficult thing is that Sunday is Father's Day, and I was hoping to take my parents to see The Phantom Menace for it. But that means we'll have to finish the chores in time to get to my parents' house and then go to the theater. But on the other hand, I want Matt to be able to sleep in and relax Sunday morning. ::sigh:: Oh, well, it will work out somehow.

On the bright side of the universe, tonight is the last evening I'll be spending alone! Tomorrow KT and I are going to have a "Girls' Night Out" since Matt will still be out of town and Kevin will be at work. We haven't decided exactly what we're going to do, but the possibilities that have been mentioned include:
  • Going shopping at Pier One
  • Going out for fuzzy girl drinks
  • Playing with my henna kit
  • Watching movies
  • Eating foods that our husbands scorn
I'm sure it will be fun. We just need to remember to do the henna before we start drinking!

Hey, I've got a question for my four faithful readers! Do you think this journal could use work? If so, where? Do you like the posts but wish I'd acquire a sense of design? Do you like the design but wish I'd write about something else? Do you wish I'd quit writing every day and go back to only writing when I've got something to say? If I added a daily, weekly, or monthly survey in this journal, would anyone answer it? Would it depend on the questions? Would you answer silly questions more readily than serious ones or vice versa?

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Had a nice evening last night - I met my friend Richard at the Barnes and Noble, bought a few books, went to IHOP for dinner, then went to the mall for a while. We talked about books and gaming and stupid people and all kinds of things. It was great. Infinitely better than sitting at home getting maudlin about being alone. I even got to bed before 10:30!

While we were at the mall, we stopped at a kiosk selling... How do I describe it? I think it was called "Mighty Thumbs" or something like that. It's essentially a massage tool, only instead of vibrating (get your mind out of the gutter) it's got two knobs that move in small circles - the motion that makes a backrub really good. There were about a dozen or so chairs set up at the kiosk, and each one had one of these things in it for people to try. I must admit, they look a little spooky - but we sat down and didn't move for almost half an hour except to reposition the doohickey. Oh. My. God. It was fantastic. The guy running the kiosk showed us how you can position them to work on any part of your back, legs, arms, or neck. I tried it out on my calves, because they are always tense. It wasn't as good as the calf massage Matt gives me, but this is a machine - it could go for much longer than Matt. I took a flier with me when I left. The Thumbs is about $200, and I'm seriously thinking about it.

It turns out my supervisor was in the building yesterday, but he was stuck in a meeting all day, which amounts to pretty much the same thing as being out of the office. I'll try to catch him again today. I'm not like Jeremy, who works because he loves it. I don't hate programming, but I probably wouldn't do it if I wasn't being paid. (I certainly wouldn't do as much of it.) But as long as they're paying me, I'd rather be working!

Tuesday, June 15, 1999

So here I am again. I decided yesterday morning to camp out in my supervisor's office until he gave me something - anything - to work on. Unfortunately, I discovered that he's in California until very late tonight. So I spent yesterday surfing and playing with style sheets. Today, I remembered to bring a book.

I got to talk to Matt last night. They're working long hours, but it doesn't sound like especially heavy work, so that's okay. (Matt's job is to sit at a station and handout installation CDs to the vendors who come up and ask him for one.) He says the food they're serving at the convention is fantastic - they ate out last night not because they were bored with the convention's food, but so that when people asked, "So, where did you eat in New Orleans?" they wouldn't have to answer, "We just ate at the convention hall." So he's certainly not on a hardship tour. He says he's trying to decide what to get me for a present - he asked if I wanted a preserved alligator head. Apparently they're very popular tourist items. (In case you're curious, I told him no.)

I'm losing a lot of sleep with Matt out of town. It's not so much that I go to bed and toss and turn for hours because I miss him; I'm going to sleep relatively quickly. I'm just not going to bed on time. Saturday night I was at K.T.'s until fairly late because of the game. Sunday night I went to bed at 10, but sat up reading until 11:30. Last night I went to bed after I got off the phone with Matt at 10:45, but got up again at 11:00 because I thought I'd figured out where a disk I'd lost was. (But after half an hour of looking, it's still lost.) And I'm waking up early - the latest I've slept since Matt left was Sunday morning, when I managed to snooze until 8:30. (Of course Monday and today I was up with the alarm around 6:15.) And I don't see it improving anytime soon - I'm making plans to meet a friend for coffee tonight or tomorrow night, which is sure to last fairly late.

Oh, well. Better to be dragging around the office yawning than dragging around whining and sighing melodramatically, I suppose!

Since it was a nice sunny day for most of yesterday, I drove by the house to see if they'd done any more work on it, and they had! The framing for the second story is done, they'd started putting up the sheets of foam insulation that go on the outside of the house, and most of the pre-assembled roof struts had been hauled up to the second floor in anticipation of putting them up. Hurrah! We might actually have a house by the end of the summer! ::crosses fingers::

Monday, June 14, 1999

I spent the weekend keeping very busy so I wouldn't notice how quiet the apartment was without Matt in it. Not that Matt's a noisy person, but I don't like to be alone, and there's something about knowing there's no one else there with you that makes it even quieter. Well, if you know what I mean, then you know what I mean, and if you don't, then I can't explain it to you. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Saturday morning Matt and I got up at just about our usual time to go to work, and he left a little after seven. By then, I didn't want to go back to bed, so I watched two episodes of Babylon 5 that were on. I made meringue kisses and tuna-stuffed tomatoes to take with me to the game that evening, and that was time-consuming enough to go most of the way until I had to leave for the game.

When I got there, it turned out that everyone except for Greg was in a bad mood, for various reasons that I won't bother listing here (why spread it?) and we delayed quite a while before starting. We thought about not playing, but decided that we needed to get into combat so we could work out our aggression. (Who says gamers don't have good anger management skills?) But then we spent the evening playing detective instead of just rolling into the combat, so the fight is still waiting for us. But I felt much better after that game, really, because I actually got to come up with what I thought were some really good ideas.

Sunday I puttered around all morning doing the laundry and going to the grocery store, then went down to Newport News. I've finally decided to go ahead and buy a digital camera, and I wanted to go to the Circuit City to see what they had. I played with the eight or so display models they had, decided on a model, and... Of course they were out of stock. Not only were they out of stock, but the other Circuit City, down in Hampton, was out of stock, and their warehouse was out of stock - all of which meant that I couldn't even special-order the camera. So I went a couple of doors down to the Office Max, without much hope. They did, in fact, carry the camera I want. They, too, however, were out of stock. ::sigh:: So today I'm looking around for one on the web.

Then I went to visit my parents. I haven't seen them for a few weeks, so we had a nice visit. We talked about the house and called my brother, and had a very nice dinner.

So now I'm back at work and praying like hell that I get a new project today, because I didn't bring a book with me. If I don't get something to do, I don't know what I'll do to fill the time...

Friday, June 11, 1999

So KT wrote last night that she was finally and completely over the situation from three years ago when Matt broke up with her to start dating me. If you've been wondering what happened, her rendition is a bit one-sided, but more or less accurate. The comments in red are mine - she let me see her rough draft before she posted it.

We stopped by the house yesterday, and they've begun putting up the struts that form the ceiling of the first floor and floor of the second. My dad called last night and we talked about it for a bit. I think he's almost more excited than I am. He thinks that if they can get the roof up by the 15th, then we're probably safe to not renew our lease.

Dad also told me that he and Mom are thinking of getting themselves a computer for Christmas this year. This coming school year is my Mom's last year before she gets to retire - she's been looking forward to it for several years. But once she retires, she won't have e-mail anymore. So they're going to get a computer. Mom uses a Mac at work, so that's what she wants at home. I get the impression Dad doesn't care, so that's what they'll get. I wonder how irritated Dad will be when he discovers that the Mac interface isn't exactly what he's used to. It took me a good while to learn the Mac interface to my satisfaction. (Because of course I'm not happy with just being able to open files and run programs. I've got to be able to much with the settings and stuff.) They want Matt and I to sit down with them and help them decide what they need and where they should buy it.

We're going to have a busy evening. Matt needs to go to the bank and get some cash for his trip to New Orleans next week, and we have to go to the card store to pick up cards for Father's Day and both of his siblings' birthdays. We also made plans with Chuck and Anita to drop by their place to see their new daughter, and of course we want to go see today's progress on the house. And, of course, since Matt is leaving town tomorrow morning, we'll want to spend some time alone together.

I think I'll be starting my AD&D campaign around the first weekend of July, so I've started gathering ideas for plots. I've actually found several very good, entertaining ideas. Isn't the web marvelous?

I think I'll finally finish Exiles today. I don't think I'll be buying any of the sequels, though. For pete's sake, the book is 850 pages long! If you can't get your plot done in that many pages, you're being way too wordy! Okay, that's not always true. But I've identified at least three chapters that are entirely unnecessary, and at least half of each chapter contains perfectly useless information. I bet I could condense this book to 500 pages without losing any of the salient plot points. And the extra text doesn't even make me care more about the characters - several of them have died, and I wasn't especially moved. I'm more intrigued by the villians than the heroes, too, which is a bad sign.

Thursday, June 10, 1999

I got an e-mail from my brother's fiancée this morning asking for some advice on wedding planning. Have I mentioned before that I adore my future sister-in-law? I do; but I think she's going to be a nervous wreck by the time they have this wedding.

Matt and I dropped by our house last night, and they've completed the framing of the first floor! We climbed up into it and wandered around trying to visualize where things would be. We'll go back this evening to see if they get the second floor done. We also met our next-door neighbor, Mike. Mike has a wife, a three-year-old daughter, and two dogs. (My poor cat...) He seemed very friendly and nice, and he told us that by the time we move in, our little cul-de-sac will be home to a Marine, a Newport News police officer, and a state trooper. (Mike himself is an ex-Marine, actually.) We'll have the safest damn block in the neighborhood. Who's going to cause trouble with that combination? My mom thinks we should arrange block parties and offer to fix people's computers.

KT tells me that Richard and Carl aren't going to be in the Werewolf game anymore - the game was getting way too full, so she had to ask several people if they'd be willing to drop out. They'll be joining Kevin's AD&D 3 playtest game, but Matt and I can't be in that game. (We just can't handle two games on one weekend on a regular basis - especially not since Kevin's game is scheduled for the day when we usually do our laundry and go to the grocery store.) So I won't be seeing as much of Richard and Carl. I'm a little sad about that - I really like them and was happy to "find" them again. It gives me just a little more incentive to get my AD&D game started, though, since they'll be in that.

I joined a web burb yesterday - Non-Pussies. It's a burb for people who write their own HTML code, instead of using WYSIWYG editors like FrontPage. The name came from The Mighty Kymm, who has long maintained that "only pussies use HTML editors." I actually use an HTML editor - HomeSite - but I don't use the WYSIWYG part of it, and I write my code by hand, so they graciously allowed me to join. I want to make it clear right now (because I have friends who use FrontPage) that my scorn is reserved for the HTML editors themselves, not the people who use them! ::grin::

KT and Kevin came over last night to watch the pilot episode of Crusade with us. (KT had called to ask us to tape it for them, since they don't have cable, but we hadn't been able to get our VCR to work quite right, so we invited them over instead.) I enjoyed the show, though like all pilot episodes, the acting was a little wooden in places, and the plot seemed slightly rushed and moderately contrived. (Only slightly better, really, than the stereotypical AD&D beginner, You're in a bar...) But the main characters were very strong, and I'm looking forward to seeing some character development. I'm quite irritable that TNT cancelled the show before they even finished the first season's production. Still, according to this post at the Lurker's Guide to B5, there's some hope that either TNT or the Sci-Fi Channel will pick up the second season next year.

Wednesday, June 9, 1999

So yesterday afternoon, about fifteen minutes before I was going to leave, my task lead came in my office to apologize for ignoring me for the last two weeks - he'd been really busy with wrapping up another project. I told him it was all right, because I'd been out sick most of last week anyway, and so what was on the agenda for us now?

"Well... Not much of anything, really."

So I still have no work to do. Any my supervisor is supposed to be out of the office today, so I don't have a lot of hope in that direction, either. Maybe I'll work on this site today. I've been told that Next / Previous links would be good things to have in the journal entries. I almost never use them myself, and I've been putting off adding them here because it would take so long, but what the hell? I don't have anything else to do!

Some of you may be wondering why I care. It certainly seems like it would be a good thing to get a paycheck without doing any work! But when it comes time for my annual review, I have to fill out this form that explains what I've been doing for the past year. And if I don't have anything to put on the form, then my raise isn't going to be very impressive. It almost happened to me this past year - I'd finished a major project just before Matt and I got married, and then I spent a whole year with mostly little piddling little obnoxious projects. I'd do a few days' work, and then spend weeks with nothing to do. When it came time this past March to fill out my review form, I could only think of two or three little baby projects. And while my raise was still respectable by industry standards, it was the smallest raise I've ever gotten - measured by percentage points or plain dollars - that 3GI has ever given me. Now, I'm sure some of the reason for that was that when I started working here, my salary was way below industry standards (because I wasn't actually a programmer when they hired me - they hired me cheap because I'd have to learn everything on the job) and they spent a couple of years giving me pretty amazing raises to bring it up to par. So it may be that this last raise was just a "standard" raise. But I'm pretty sure that if I spend another year working on my web page and reading novels, my next raise will be pretty pathetic.

Enough of that. My dad called last night to tell us that he'd dropped by the house after he got off from work, and they've delivered all the framing lumber! Yay! Maybe that means they'll start building today or tomorrow! Matt and I are planning on dropping by this evening to see for ourselves. It's a little nerve-wracking, because we'll have to decide soon whether to renew our lease for an extra two months. I think it may depend on how far they get in the next few weeks.

We're also going to call our friends Chuck and Anita to see if they'll be home this evening for visitors. They had their first child a couple of weeks ago, but I was sick then so we didn't visit. (I'm sure the last thing they need is for us to give their new baby a cold. Or give them a cold.) But I'm mostly better now and I'm pretty sure I'm no longer contagious, so we're going to try to swing by and see them and the baby.

Matt found out yesterday that to catch his ride to the airport on Saturday, he's going to have to leave at just about our usual time for leaving for work Saturday morning - about 7:15. I'm grateful that it isn't any earlier, but I'd been hoping it would be a little later. A 7:15 departure means that I'll be able to wake up enough to say goodbye, but by the time he leaves I probably won't be able to go back to sleep. ::sigh:: Maybe I'll go shopping. Though the malls don't open until 10. I'll think of something, I suppose. Maybe I'll get domestic and make cookies or something for Saturday night's game.

I got an issue of Cooking Light yesterday. The first half of the magazine had nothing whatsoever to do with cooking - it was about fitness and such. Hmph. I signed up for that magazine because I need recipes, not exercises! But there were a few recipes in there that I might try. They had a recipe for fish fillets where you coat the fillet with potato flakes and then pan-fry it that I might try. (I don't usually like fish, but I'll happily eat fishsticks and other breaded fish. I'm hoping that this recipe will have the same effect.) There's also a tomato soup recipe that I might try, and a whole section on low-fat Crème Anglaise that looks like it makes wonderful desserts.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Jealousy. It's an ugly thing. I'm talking about it today because it reared its ugly head last night - briefly, thank heavens - and I want to tell you something about me: I can be a jealous, competitive bitch once in a while.

All my life, it's been that way. If I have a friend or family member who can do something better than I can, then I don't want anything to do with that activity, because I'm not the best. I don't like to play games if I don't have a reasonable chance of winning (though, weirdly enough, I'm okay with losing if I think I had a chance of winning).

I could give you specific examples, but what would be the point? It's something I don't like about myself, but I seem to be powerless to do anything about it. The best I seem to be able to do is to pretend like I'm not jealous or a poor loser until I have a chance to escape. (At least I learned better than to throw my temper tantrums where people can see them.)

Does it help me somehow to tell you about it here? I don't know. Probably not. After all, I've always known how trite and ugly it is. But it's not something I have control over. Maybe this is something like a confession - maybe if I tell you when I act like an ass, then I'll learn to control it better. Who knows?

KT, in her journal, talks every now and then about the voices in her head. It's sortof astonishing how many voices we share - I wonder if they get paid overtime or what? But I need to add two to her cast of characters:

Worry-Wart - This is everyone's mother. Or possibly grandmother. This is the voice that goes into hysterics when people are late by more than ten minutes: "I know it, they've been in a car accident and right now they're on their way to the hospital and they don't have your phone number in their wallet and it'll be two weeks until someone remembers to call you and by then it'll be too late and they'll have slipped into a coma and they'll never wake up and you'll never get to tell them..." Like that. She doesn't care for travel much, either: "What was that bump? Just turbulence? Don't you just turbulence me - do you know what turbulence can do? What's that on the wing? Look! It's falling apart!" The Worry-Wart cannot be quieted with a safe return, either. She simply sniffs and says, "Well, it turned out all right this time..." Matt's getting ready to go out of town for a week next week, and the Worry-Wart will be a primary voice while he's gone.

Miss Perfect - "Look at her. She's so cute. Why don't you do something like that with your hair? And look how slender she is. You really should work on your diet more. Oh, and there's that guy who's only about forty times smarter than you are. How come you can't be creative and imaginative like that? He probably makes almost twice your salary, too, you know. You're not very good at your job, you know. Maybe you should look into a different line of work. The car is rattling again - Why didn't you pay more attention when your dad was trying to teach you about the engine? Then you could fix it yourself instead of having to take it to the shop! He's so handy, and you're completely useless around the house. By the way, you're due for an oil change, and have been for the last two months. Oh, check her out! She's so confidant. She's actually happy with herself. How come you're not that happy?" (Yeah, every one of those people I mentioned are real, and that's exactly what Miss Perfect says to me every time I walk past them. Annoying, isn't it?)

Yesterday morning, my supervisor, D, came into my office to talk to Jeremy about something, and I told him I needed a new project. He agreed, and spent an hour talking to Jeremy about whatever. Before he left my office, I told him again that I need a new project. He promised to get me something. I didn't see him again for the rest of the day. I spent the whole day writing e-mail, surfing the web, and reading a novel. I never did get a project.

I don't really mind not having work to do - if they want to pay me a programmer's salary just to keep my chair warm, that's fine with me. But I'd really like to know what I should be charging it to!

Monday, June 7, 1999

Well, I had a nice weekend. Spent Friday evening hanging out with Jeff and K.T. (and Matt, of course). We sat around and talked, and went to Denny's for dinner, and then sat around and talked some more. I made stuffed tomatoes and apple pie, and K.T. and Matt both had some of each. Jeff had tried the stuffed tomatoes the first time I made them and didn't care for them much. And by the time we got around to the apple pie, he was very full from dinner. I tried to get him to take some with him, but he didn't want to. I maybe think the idea of a custard-base apple pie disturbed him and he was just being polite. Matt discovered Saturday that the pie is much better when warm.

Saturday Matt and I slept in a bit and then went to our company picnic. That was fun, though I'm still congested enough that I didn't want to try doing any of the more active activities. It's too bad, because the frisbee circle looked like it was having a lot of fun, and I normally enjoy volleyball, and the weather was just about perfect. Oh, well. We picked up a little sun, so we don't look quite as geeky. K.T. had invited us to come over and watch movies at her place after the picnic, but by the time we got home, I was exhausted (Okay, Matt slept in Saturday morning; I was up at 8) so I just took a nap.

Sunday we loafed around all morning. We'd been thinking of going to visit my parents that afternoon and evening - we haven't seen them for a few weeks - but by the time we got the chores done, it was already almost dinnertime, so we just stayed home. A bunch of the pie-topping had dripped off the pie when I made it Friday night, and I hadn't cleaned it up yet, so when Matt made dinner, the whole apartment filled with smoke. Except for the fact that it made our eyes water a bit, it was pretty funny. And I made meringue kisses - and then ate half of them. ::grin:: So much for the diet. (I'm back on it today. No, really!)

I'm trying to prepare for his trip next week. He volunteered to work a conference in New Orleans next week, so he'll be leaving this Saturday and coming back one week later. It sounds like a fun trip, actually, and I wish I could have gone as well. A lot of the other people on the trip are friends of ours, so I'm sure he'll have a good time. He promised to bring me a present, even. But I'll be spending a week by myself, which tends to make me a little melancholy. I'll be spending most of this week trying to mentally prepare - figuring out what to do in the evenings and such to keep myself occupied. But if I sound a little depressed next week, that's why.

But I'm sure it'll be fine. It's only for a week, and unlike most of the trips he took for Syscon, this one is definitely not going to be extended at the last minute. Anyone out there getting the impression that I worry too much? Nah...

Friday, June 4, 1999

I had promised to think about running an AD&D game tonight, but if my voice doesn't improve drastically during the day, I don't think it's going to happen. There's no way I can talk for several hours straight - especially attempting different voices for different NPCs. So maybe we'll just hang out and make stuffed tomatoes and talk or watch movies. Nothing wrong with that, either.

I'm thinking of starting up a game of my own again. Now that people are living in the area, and they all have more-or-less regular schedules, it might actually last for more than three sessions. When I asked Richard what he thought, he even offered to GM once in a while. And as good a GM as K.T. is, I miss playing AD&D sometimes. But being a GM is pretty time consuming, so I'm still waffling a bit.

So last night I went to bed around 9:30 or so, and the cat curled up beside me and Matt, who wasn't sleepy, kissed me goodnight and then went back out into the living room to watch TV. Around 11:30, the cat woke up and decided it was time to go out, which has been his pattern for the past week or so. He got up and climbed onto my nightstand and started trying to get behind the window blinds, which woke me up. So I got up. The cat, knowing that I would let him out, stopped pawing at the window blinds and followed me out into the living room. I mumbled something at Matt, and headed over to the door to let the cat out. The cat walked about halfway across the living room, looked at me standing by the door, looked at Matt sitting on the floor... And laid down. ::sigh:: I get no respect.

Today is what we call a DressCon 2 in my office, which is to say everyone has to dress in "business casual" clothes. No jeans, collared shirts. DressCon 2 days are usually greeted with sighs of martyrdom around here, because the usual mode of dress allows jeans and inoffensive t-shirts. Anyway, I didn't feel like bending all the way over to open the pants drawer on my dresser this morning (yeah, I'm that lazy in the mornings) so I'm wearing a dress. I only mention it because it feels so weird to be dressed up nice but to have this froggy voice...

I brought a book to work with me today because I thought I'd be formatting cards again today. But I'm not. Apparently the formatting was mostly finished yesterday, so I don't know what I'm doing today. Reading my book, probably.

I'll need to stop by the grocery store on my way home. I need some cream cheese for the stuffed tomatoes, and some extra tomatoes won't hurt anything, and one of the mailing lists I'm on has been doing a recipe exchange lately, and someone posted a recipe I really want to try for Sour Cream Apple Pie. And since I've got a spare pie crust in the freezer, and Jeff and K.T. will be over anyway, it seems like a good time to try it.

Thursday, June 3, 1999

I'm back! I woke up at 6:00 this morning and decided my throat still hurt too much to go to work, and fell back asleep. I woke up again around 9:30 when the phone rang, but the telemarketer hung up before I got to the phone, so I went back to bed. When I woke up again at 11:00, I felt much better, so I took a shower, ate some lunch, and headed on in to work.

Even better, I'm helping Jeremy format cards today. Formatting cards is a boring, tedious process, but it requires almost no actual thought and I can do other things on my computer while it's going. Like, write a journal entry. Or surf. Not a bad way to spend my first day back at work. (And it may well be what I'm doing for most of tomorrow as well, which wouldn't hurt my feelings, because I've got almost a week's worth of surfing to catch up on...

So I'm not entire well (I'm still congested, and every time I sneeze it feels like a cheese grater is being dragged along my throat) but I'm back.

I'm a little hurt that no-one wrote e-mail or in my guestbook to wish me well, though. *snif*

Ah, well, nothing especially interesting has happened for the past few days, because I've been too miserable to do anything interesting for the past few days. We went to see The Matrix again on Monday night with Jeff, Jeremy, and Elizabeth. Jeff hadn't seen it yet, and he agreed that it was a really good movie. I think I'll buy it when it comes out on video. After the movie, we went to Denny's for dinner, which would have been fun except for the fact that my sore throat kept getting worse. (The pattern of the cold has been for the throat to feel much worse in the evening than during the day, for no apparent reason.) Tuesday we stayed home and I managed to eat a real meal for dinner, and last night we took Jeff and went over to KT's for dinner. We stayed up later than I should have, but we were having fun talking.

This Saturday is our company picnic. The company provides hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken, and everyone brings some sort of other dish - a salad or dessert or something - to round it out. I'm bringing an appetizer I once made a few years ago called Tuna Tomato Teasers, which is, essentially, tuna-stuffed cherry tomatoes. It's very good, but hollowing out cherry tomatoes is pretty tedious work, so I don't make it very often. But Matt offered to help, so it should go faster.

It might even go faster still - if my throat is healed enough for my voice to have recovered, I told KT, Matt, and Jeff that I'd run an AD&D one-shot game Friday night. If they're all willing to help in order to get the game started earlier, then it should go pretty quickly. (And I'm pretty sure KT, at least, will be willing to help since she's had this recipe before and loved it.)

And I just got e-mail from my dad saying that they've delivered lumber to our house site! Hurrah, they're finally going to do some more work on the house!

Yeah, I know it's pretty boring, but right now, I like boring.

Tuesday, June 1, 1999

I'm sick.

Okay, I heard that. It isn't funny. I mean really sick. Had a tickle in my throat Friday night, spent most of Saturday feeling congested, Sunday I had a fever of about 101. Yesterday the fever was gone, but the throat hurt much worse. I decided to take today off from work, so that's why this entry is being posted later in the day - for those of you who have been frantically checking every half hour or so. My throat still hurts like hell, but it's not quite as bad as it was yesterday, thanks for asking. I don't plan on going back to work until I can swallow without making a face.

So I didn't have the peachiest of holiday weekends. But that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about money and work.

The thought was spurred by a brief conversation with Jeremy on Friday. We were filling out our timesheets (my office collects timesheets twice a month, on the 15th and the last day of the month) and Jeremy commented that he'd worked an extra twelve hours or so. I said something about how it was unfair that we don't get paid for overtime, and Jeremy disagreed, and I dropped it. It has been observed previously that Jeremy and I have vastly different ideas about working.

But I kept thinking about it, and here's what I think. I think, if I'm going to be a salaried employee, then I shouldn't have to put in forty hours every week if I can finish my work in less time. And I think that demanding that I put in forty hours a week, even if I'm not working for ten or more of those hours, and then not paying me when I'm forced to work overtime, is absurd. I know it sounds like it should balance out - if I'm not working for a lot of the time I'm at work, how can I complain when I have to work extra? But it doesn't work like that. Not working at work is not the same as not working at home. When I'm at work with nothing to do, I can't go to the mall, or take a nap, or even get comfortable. I have to continue pretending to work - I have to look busy, even when I'm not. Not working at work is sometimes even worse than having to work overtime without getting paid.

Jeremy tells me that he feels that there are other rewards for unpaid overtime. He didn't say so, but I assume he's referring to out-of-cycle raises and the positions of responsibility that are given to those who behave like good little wage-slaves.

That came out a little more sarcastic than I was intending. I'm glad that Jeremy feels fulfilled in his work. But I don't. The raises I've had from 3GI have been fair, and more than fair - don't get me wrong. But the one position of extra responsibility that I was given merely forced me to work even more unpaid overtime, and since that project ended, I've been back to the same old same old. No more responsibility for Liz. I don't know if they think I handled it badly, or if it was just someone else's turn, or what. No one tells you these things at 3GI. But it's a little frustrating to say the least. I feel like I'm being punished because I do my work too quickly. Like they won't give me any more responsibility because I haven't been putting in extra hours. I only work late when I have to. I've never yet been behind the deadlines given to me. In fact, I've almost always been early. Doesn't that deserve more reward than some slowpoke who is always at the office because that's the only way they can meet their deadlines? (I'm not talking about Jeremy, here. Jeremy, like me, manages to finish ahead of deadline more often than not.)

I'm trying to figure out why Jeremy always has four or five projects going while I spend half my time with nothing to do. Possibly it's because of that different attitude I mentioned before. Jeremy is endlessly enthusiastic about his job, and for me it's just a path to a paycheck. He's also much more technologically imaginative than I am, so he's always coming up with ideas for things to do. And he's got a knack for understanding the technology that I don't, and may never, have. So he deserves the extra projects and responsibility that he's been given. I don't begrudge him that.

But all I want is for someone to give me something to do, and then leave me alone until it's done. I want to collect my paycheck and go home. What I want is to be paid by the job, if that's what it takes. Or paid by the hour. That might inspire me to work longer hours or to take on more projects. But right now I get the exact same paycheck whether I spend a week playing Minesweeper or designing code modules. And unlike Jeremy, I haven't seen that any benefit came from those times when I had to bust my ass to finish a job on time.

I'm in it for the money, dammit.