Thursday, September 30, 1999

30 September 1999
We had a nice evening last night. My brother came up and we took him out to dinner, then sat around until 9:30 or so talking about stuff, mostly gaming. It was fun.

After he left, I was getting ready to go to bed and realized I hadn't taken a shower yet. I debated with myself, and decided I'd rather sleep with wet hair than take a tepid shower in the morning. I did what Matt calls the "Indian princess thing" - which is to say I braided my wet hair so it wouldn't get too tangled while I slept.

I got a reprieve from testing yesterday - we were waiting for a new version of the program, with no idea when it might be done, so I got to spend the whole morning sitting at my own desk! (My supervisor wandered by, and I told him that now that I've done my time, I didn't want to be traded to testing ever again!) But the break was good - I got things ready to go to change the graphics and such here in the journal tomorrow with the advent of October. (Yes, it's a Hallowe'en theme. Don't act surprised, either.)

The cat was only a little bit of a pest this morning, but when Matt got up to feed him, it was discovered that Matt's sweatpants had been peed on. Since Matt was stomping and cursing, I assume that the cat did it.

::sigh:: I wish I knew why he does that. His litterbox had been cleaned just yesterday, so it wasn't that. He's usually much more of a pest before he pees on things from irritation. (Or maybe he was much more of a pest, and we were so tired we didn't notice.) At least so far he's only peed on things that can be picked up and stuffed in the washing machine. We're worried about the day he'll decide to pee on the carpet.

It would be one thing if it looked like the result of an aging cat who was becoming incontinent. That would be frustrating, but at least we'd know where to start. But he only pees on things while we're asleep - during the day and most nights, he's perfectly capable of using his litterbox.

Anyone out there have experience with this sort of thing? Anyone know what we can do? Matt rubbed Diamond's face in it like you do with puppies, but I don't know how much good that does with cats.

I know, I know, you really didn't want to read about that this morning.

But at least I didn't cheat and write last night!

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who never check the change history on the front page - All of Karen's pictures from the moving party have finally been posted in the photo album!

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

29 September 1999
Actually, I'm writing this on Tuesday night. Does that matter, much? Will you hate me when you read that this wasn't written on September 29th, but merely uploaded then? Well, chances are good that I'll add something in the morning before I upload.

I'm just tired of rushing through my entries in the morning. Already. I've got three more weeks of working for the testing department, and I'm already ready to strangle someone. (And if my prime candidate doesn't work out, then there's at least a couple of backups waiting in the wings.)

But there's a staff meeting tomorrow - that is, a staff meeting of the department I'm supposed to be part of. It was billed as the "long-anticipated" meeting, so I'm hoping that finally, finally they'll announce the promotions and I'll at least know who I'll end up reporting to. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get some clue as to what my project will be when I finish up with the testing crew. Give me something to look forward to, I suppose.

But that isn't what I logged on to talk about.

I got online a bit ago, checked my e-mail, and then pulled up Netscape to read a journal entry I'd had to leave unfinished earlier. When I finished that entry, I checked another couple of journal sites, then found myself staring at the browser.

I was opening the bookmarks list like a refrigerator door, hoping desperately that this time there would be something different - some exciting URL that I'd forgotten about and which was just waiting for me to rediscover it.

Now, I'm not really a good surfer. I check a number of regular sites, but rarely do I feel impelled to follow links or scan obscure things. I encounter URLs during the course of the day and think, Oh, that sounds fascinating! I'll have to remember that URL! But when I fire up the browser, I always forget. I mean completely - I'm not left floundering to remember obscure addresses; I forget altogether that there was an address to check out.

I'm not sure why this is.

But at any rate, I was staring at the browser, like I didn't dare close it, but wasn't sure what else to do...

I'm not sure why I wanted to talk about that. Let's talk about something else. Matt just called me into the other room, where he was cuddling the cat, to have me sniff the cat and verify that he smelled like cleaner.

And the cat did, in fact, smell like cleaner. Furniture polish, or Windex, or something of the sort.

The maid service came today... I wonder if they dust the cat?

I want to brag, by the way. When I left the office today, I had every intention - every intention! - of checking in with Weight Watchers, then going home and being a vegetable for a while. I didn't want to go to the gym, even for the somewhat pathetic 20 minutes I usually go. It had been a rainy, cold (in the office if not outside), and irritating day, and I just wasn't up for exercise. It was all I could do not to skip Weight Watchers.

Halfway there (Weight Watchers and the gym are only about a mile apart, on the same road) I thought, I really ought to go to the gym. So I compromised with myself: I would go to the gym, and not bother to change clothes - just walk around the track a few times. Just get the blood moving a bit - work out a little of the frustration of the day.

But I wound up doing my regular twenty minutes on the bikes. I even upped the resistance a notch. And when I got to Weight Watchers, I'd lost almost two and a half pounds from last week!

I'm so proud of me!

Wednesday morning: Okay, so I'm actually going to post an anecdote today. Feel better now?

This morning, I woke up and realized it was my turn to feed the cat. So I sat up and started the stretches I do every morning to keep my feet from falling off the ends of my legs. Matt rolled over and gave me a hug, and I kissed him on the forehead. Sleepily, "I'm gonna go feed the cat, sweetie." He let go and turned over to go back to sleep.

I went out into the hallway and leaned on the halfwall that keeps people from falling down the stairs from the side to finish my stretches. Left calf... Right calf... Left again... All the time, the cat is rubbing around my ankles. C'mon, Mom, hurry it up, willya? I'm starving down here!

Finally, I trudge down the stairs toward the kitchen. As I get about halfway down the stairs, a thought manages to force its way past my usual morning cotton-brain. Hey. Didn't the clock by the bed say 12:15? Briefly, I consider this. Damn. My clock's gone screwy. Have to reset it. The cat comes back up two stairs to rub my ankles. C'mon, Mom, I'm starving!

As I walk through the living room, I glance at the VCR. (I'm a clock freak. If I pass a clock, I must look at it. I cannot stand to be in a room that does not have a clock in it, except maybe the bathroom. If I wasn't allergic to metals, I'd just wear a watch. But since I can't wear a watch, I'm a clock freak.) The VCR is glowing a bright greenish-blue: 12:16. The fog in my brain swirls and parts to let another thought through: Huhn. Maybe... Maybe it's really the middle of the night?

The cat, sensing my hesitation, is pausing by the door to the dining room and looking back at me. I know it's early in the morning, Mom, but try to stay with me on this: The kitchen is this way...

I glance up at the wall-clock, which runs on batteries and thus isn't affected by power outages. The little hand is just past the twelve, and the big hand is on the 3. Damn. I turn around and trudge back up the stairs, leaving a disappointed cat behind. Damn. Almost had her this time.

Tuesday, September 28, 1999

28 September 1999
Wow. September's almost over. Matt and I should swing by the apartment complex soon - possibly tomorrow - and turn in our keys. My birthday is in six weeks - checking the calendar, it's exactly six weeks from today, actually!

I need to put together a new graphics scheme for this page, too. Not sure when I'll have the time for that, though, since I'm in testing most of the time. Well, we'll see. Something Hallwe'en-themed, probably. I love Hallowe'en.

And yes, it's really properly spelled with the apostrophe!

K.T. was telling me yesterday about a writing exercise she'd seen in which you pick a topic of positive (or at least non-negative) connotations, like "Things I'd like to do someday" or "Foods I like" or "Good movie quotes" and try to come up with 100 items for the list. I told her that I could probably come up with 100 foods I like, but that I wasn't sure about any other topics!

But in seriousness it sounds like an interesting exercise. Most people get bogged down around 35 or 40 on most lists. Having to come up with more stretches the imagination. I may try to come up with a topic and do it some time.

Working for the testing department seems more and more an exercise in futility. The tests are badly organized and a number of the staff are completely clueless when it comes to computers. (This is not a sin in and of itself - my mother isn't especially computer-savvy... But then, she wasn't hired to test computer programs!) Completely aside from personal dislike of the assignment, the surroundings, and several of the people, I'm beginning to understand why our programs aren't particularly well-tested.

They'd kill me for saying this, but all our programmers should spend a week or two in testing. Then we'd test our own stuff much better before turning it over to the testing department.

The cat has changed his mind about who to wake up in the morning. Yesterday and this morning, he concentrated on Matt's side of the bed, rubbing his face against Matt's chin, knocking Matt's glasses off his bedtable, and generally making a nuisance of himself to Matt.

I'm trying to let this bother me.

Monday, September 27, 1999

27 September 1999
I had a busy weekend. The few blades of grass that sprouted in our yard had gotten long enough that they needed to be cut, and on Friday we'd gotten a wonderful housewarming gift from Matt's mom in the form of two bags of flower-bulbs (daffodils and tulips) and a bulb planter and a couple of information sheets. (Yay, Jill!)

So Saturday morning Matt and I piled into his van and drove down to the Lowe's, where we bought...

A lawnmower and a small gas can.
Grass seed and a seed spreader.
Two barstools for our breakfast bar, and felt to cover the feet with.
Batteries for our dead flashlight.
A bag of hyacinth bulbs.
A tool that looks like a cross between a rake and a hoe and a medieval torture instrument.
Plant food.
A 3-cubic-foot bale of hardwood mulch.

Then we went home and Matt assembled the lawn mower while I went out to get gas for it and my car. When I got back, I gave him the gas can and went to change into some nasty clothes to do yardwork. By the time I'd come back downstairs, Matt had discovered that the gas can sucked - there was no gasket to force the screw-on lid tight, so when he tried to pour the gas into the lawnmower, it dribbled out the base. Argh. I retrieved a funnel from the kitchen that I think I've used once in five years and pronounced it the gasoline funnel. Then I got the rake/hoe thing and went to work loosening the dirt around our bushes while Matt mowed our pathetic lawn.

The topsoil on our lawn is spread pretty thin, so I was still arguing with the clay when Matt finished the backyard and came around the side of the house, the lawnmower belching out more dust than cut grass. (It had been a shiny black lawnmower when we started. By the time he finished, it was pathetic and grey-looking.) We decided to lower the mower blade a bit and try again, and I finished breaking up the ground around the bushes and trees while Matt went around the back a second time.

Then he helped me spread the mulch around the tree and bushes - he poured the mulch out of the bag while I used the rake/hoe thing to even it out and spread it around. Then I decided to plant some bulbs, and he helped - I positioned the bulbs where I wanted them, and then he dug holes. I came behind, dropping a daffodil bulb into each deep hole, half-filling it, placing three hyacinth bulbs around the edges, and finishing the cover. I hope the bulbs manage to deal with that nasty clay we've got all right.

Finally, Matt assembled the grass-seed spreader and re-seeded the front yard. We had a fun fifteen minutes or so setting up the sprinkler so that it would cover the whole front yard without completely drenching the front porch. I got soaked.

After all this fun, we decided we would go into town and pick up our comics, and stop by the William and Mary campus on the way back, to take a picture of K.T.'s giraffe. We were most of the way across town when I realized I'd forgotten my camera. We went ahead and got the comics, and debated whether to just tell K.T. that I'd forgotten my camera and that I'd try again on Sunday.

After we went home and read the comics, we packed up to go to K.T.'s for the evening, and I decided to go ahead and go into campus to take the pictures. So we did.

The Star Wars game was fun, though K.T. hadn't decided on a personality for her character yet. When my characters don't have personality, they're boring and quiet. When KT's characters don't have personality, they're sarcastic and flippant... And Matt ran us through a module in which diplomacy played a huge role! Yike! Oh, well, hopefully she'll decide on a personality for the character before we play again.

Sunday I was feeling bright and energetic, so I finally dug out all the pictures and figured out where I wanted to hang them. Matt humored me by letting me show him where everything was planned and approving the plans. When you're fairly short and trying to hang pictures so that tall people in the house won't feel claustrophobic, you get a fair workout trying to hammer nails above your head. (Not to mention I had to run up and down the stairs about four thousand times for various reasons.) So, though I'd planned on getting out the rest of the decorations when I'd finished with the pictures, it never got done.

When we'd finished with the laundry and the grocery shopping, we went down to my parents' for a couple of hours - we showed up just in time to have B.L.T.s and some four-bean salad for dinner! Then we sat and chatted with them and my brother (he works for a school on the year-round program, so he gets a two-week-long fall break). I told John about the idea I had for my AD&D game, and he thought it was pretty good. We dropped off some stuff my Dad had loaned us, and picked up most of the rest of our wedding presents, leaving behind only some exceptionally delicate and breakable things like crystal candlesticks and cut-glass dishes.

All in all, though busy, it was a very nice weekend. I'm actually ready to be back at work today.

Too bad I'm stuck in testing, still. ::sigh::

I'm collecting stories about a particularly inept tester I'm forced to work near. (I refuse, by ignoring him most of the time, to work directly with him.) When my purgatory there is over, I may post some of the more choice bits. (Hiding his name, of course. He may have relatives who are bright enough to do a web search.) At least most of the rest of the team are pretty cool. Now, if only the supervisor would quit leaning over me and taking the mouse away from me to show me things. Not only do I hate having things done for me, but he smokes some particularly nasty brand of cigarettes, and it's making my allergies flare up.

Ah, well... Into the mouth of the Styx go I...
Mail me!

Friday, September 24, 1999

24 September 1999
Yesterday wasn't as bad as I'd feared it would be. The creepy guy in testing only tried to strike up conversations with me a couple of times, and I think I finally convinced the supervisor not to take the mouse away from me. I sortof partnered up with another person who isn't usually a tester, and we pretty much just spent the day taking turns sending each other e-mail. (The thing we're testing is connected to e-mail; we weren't just goofing off!)

The testing lab is still freezing cold, though. I wore long sleeves and a sweater-vest today, but I'm wishing I'd thought to bring something for my hands.

Around mid-afternoon, I connected to AOL Instant Messenger and chatted with Matt and KT a bit. KT invited us to come over and have dinner and watch a movie with them, and since KT's a pretty good cook, we agreed.

It made our after-work routine a bit hectic; we left work and dashed to the gym for a quick workout, and then stopped at the grocery store on the way home. When we got home, Matt started sauteeing the vegetables we'd promised to bring and fixing the garlic bread, while I ran upstairs for a quick shower. (Ah, bliss - warm water!) Then I got dressed in a hurry and ran back downstairs to finish the vegetables while Matt ran upstairs to copy some stuff to disk that he'd promised Kevin. I was sure we would be late, but we made it to their place by seven.

Dinner was quite good, and even inside my diet range. Cheesecake for dessert was very good, and not in my diet points. Oh, well. I'll try to be good this weekend. And I'm having the leftover veggies for lunch, so that's got to count for something! The movie, Judgement Night was pretty forgettable - group of friends witness a murder and spend the rest of the movie trying to escape the murderers. The beginning was pretty funny, but then they got fairly serious. We had fun mocking it, though. (KT kept pretty quiet. I think she was wishing she hadn't asked us to watch the movie with her, but she didn't ask us to shut up, so maybe she was just tired.)

The movie didn't end until 10:20, by which time I like to be in bed, so we didn't linger very long after it was over. We said our goodbyes and thankyous and headed on home. Almost immediately, we found ourselves in a traffic jam - they were doing some sort of work on the interstate and had narrowed it from three lanes to one on our side. And of course half the cars felt it necessary to go all the way onto the shoulder as they passed the roadwork. It took us about fifteen minutes to clear that obstacle... Bleah. But then we got home and went to bed. Yay, sleep!

As we left the gym yesterday, I was walking on Matt's right. Then we got in my car, and I turned to look at him, and there were long streams of blood coming from behind his left ear - all the way down to his jaw. I gasped in shock and said, "Ohmigod!" Matt's first thought was that I'd seen a wasp crawling around in his hair or something, and panicked. (It turned out to just be a small scab that had come off in the locker room - head wounds bleed so profusely...)

I'm glad it's Friday, though. I'm ready for a weekend! Even if I wind up spending half the weekend working in the yard! Matt and I have determined that sometime very soon, we need to buy grass seed, a spreader for the seed, a lawn mower, mulch for the yard, and some plants - probably bulbs. And then after we buy all this stuff - we have to use it! Still, I'm almost looking forward to it. The only thing that makes us nervous is mowing the lawn - the contractor didn't bother to clean all the gravel and rocks out of our yard before putting down the topsoil, so we have to worry about a rock damaging the mower blades. Also, though we've both mowed lawns before, neither of us have ever had to maintenance a mower, so we're not sure how to. (What kind of oil do you use? Do you mix it with the gas before putting it in the mower, or do you add it to a special oil pan?) Oh, yeah, I guess we'll need to buy a gas can, too.

Ah, the joys of homeownership!

On the plus side, there was evidence in the house yesterday that a crew actually came in and did some work on the place! Holes had been patched in the walls! Whoo-hoo! Now we'll need to get some sandpaper to smooth the patches out so we can paint over them. (The shopping list is neverending...)

Anyway, have a happy weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 1999

23 September 1999
So, I had a bad day yesterday.

When the plumber showed up to fix the showers, of course, the water came out of the tap so hot I could barely keep my hand in it. But this morning? Barely better than tepid. This morning, after I'd gotten dressed and combed my hair? Hot. Maybe I'll try to take my showers in the afternoon or something.

And this testing team that I've been assigned to... Pfah. It includes about three people whom I actively dislike because of the creepy way they insist on trying to make friends even when I'm aggressively ignoring them. And it's going to be a three-week test. For the duration of those three weeks (ish) I'll be working in the testing lab, not at my computer. Which means I can't use AIM or send e-mail or surf at all. Even during slow moments. I'll be sitting in cheap and often broken chairs, using obsolete hand-me-down computers.

Can you tell I'm not happy about being part of the testing team?

And to make matters worse, it turns out I am the only programmer assigned to it. At least, I was the only one yesterday. The paranoid side of my brain keeps trying to tell me that the company management can't figure out what to do with me (after all, I haven't had a task lead or a decent project in close to four months) and they're trying to make me miserable so I'll look for work someplace else. Lately, it's become harder and harder to ignore that little voice.

There are other things, too, that I just don't want to bother going in to. Suffice it to say, I had a miserable day yesterday, I didn't get to sleep until midnight, I had another goddamned tepid shower this morning, and I'm in for a miserable day at work.

I just want to go back to bed.

Wednesday, September 22, 1999

22 September 1999
I'm writing from home this morning. The plumber is supposed to come and figure out why our showers don't come up with any hot water at 7:30, and then - since we have to do it before the month is out anyway - Matt and I are going to drive down to the county's courthouse to get our vehicles registered and such. So rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the plumber to show up, I thought I'd go ahead and write my journal entry.

My toe seems to be doing fine - thanks for asking. It doesn't hurt, even if I poke it gently, though I imagine it would if I stubbed it or something. (I almost used it to stop a rolling grocery cart yesterday. Oops!) If I look closely, though, it's obviously not completely healed, which means I have to keep it dry and bandaged.

I did better on the "dry" front this morning, though - I used duct tape and made sure to completely seal all the possible openings of the baggie I put my foot in before I took my shower. Duct tape is your friend! (And not a half-bad depilatory - OUCH!) So my foot stayed nice and dry while I took my (tepid) shower.

One thing I'll say about the cool showers - I've certainly started taking my showers much faster these days...

The good news is that I'm finally going to get a project at work!

The bad news is that the project is going to be helping to test this product. I hate testing.

At least it's not a makework project. The testing department has been having all sorts of trouble testing this product - we're not sure why, but suspect it's because none of them are programmers, so they're not sure what to do with the product in the first place. So I'll be on a whole team of programmers who've been shanghai'ed into testing. But it's only for about two weeks, and then - they tease - I might actually get real work.

But it starts Monday. The good news is that they're not going to make me trash my own computer. I'm not sure whether the box I'll be testing on will be put in my office, though, or if I'll have to spend two weeks in the testing lab. So if my entries get sporadic for a week or two, it's because I'm not at my desk to do them.

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

21 September 1999
All right, to get this out of the way, several people have complained that I haven't bothered to mention the new pictures in the photo album. Karen has been sending me the pictures she took three at a time, and I was going to wait until I got the whole set before mentioning it here, but my readers demand immediate updates! So there you go. Since the list was getting sortof long, pictures that have been up for less than a week are marked with a red New! under their thumbnails.

My slipper has a happy-face!My appointment with the foot doctor yesterday for minor surgery went pretty well. They stuck me in a standard examining room for a while because someone was in the room they use for minor surgeries already. I waited there (thank goodness I'd taken a book with me) for about twenty minutes before they brought me to the correct room. The doctor came in and set up a little screen so I couldn't see my foot, and then we had the only painful part of the procedure - the anasthetic shots.

I like this doctor a lot - he always tells me what he's going to do, when he's going to do it, why he's going to do it, and what I can expect. I told him I was nervous (who likes shots?) and he kept up a running patter while doing them. "Okay, the first shot is going to be here (wiping with the alcohol pad at the inside base of the toe) and the second one here (wiping alcohol over the outside base). Those will sting a bit, and then we'll wait for the stuff to take effect, and then you shouldn't feel the rest of them. Ready? You'll feel a little pinch as I put the needle in... (pinprick) and now I just need to find the right spot... (pinching sensation) Okay, now I'm going to count to three, and when I get to three, you'll feel a sting. Okay? Ready? One... Two... Three! (bee-sting sensation on the inside of my toe, and he puts the needle down on the tray I can see. I wiggle my foot, which seems to help the stinging sensation subside. He picks up the other needle.) Now the other spot. Ready? Okay? Pinch... (pinprick) And one... two... three! (bee-sting, more wiggling) How's that feel? Okay? Now the worst is over."

He went away for five minutes while the anasthetic took effect (and I've had numb lips and mouth before from novocaine, but never a numb toe before and it felt really weird) and then came back and gave me shots in those two spots again, but I barely felt anything. Then he gave me two more shots, on the front and back of the toe, and those stung a little, all the way down to the "knuckle" of the toe. The doctor said that was probably because that was the origination point of the nerve branch.

He sprayed iodine solution all over my toe, and went away for another five minutes or so to make sure the anasthetic was fully in force. When he came back, he had a wrapped package that unfolded to reveal rubber gloves, a scalpel, and some small forceps. I got nervous again, wondering if I'd feel tugging or anything. He warned me that he was going to put a rubber tourniquet on my toe, and if I felt something dangling down, it wasn't my toe, it was the end of the tourniquet or the clamp. He picked up the scalpel and did something on the other side of the screen. "Did that hurt?"

"Did what hurt?"

He just smiled and said, "Good, the anasthetic's taken effect." How peculiar. The last time I had foot surgery, the surgery was a little more involved (though still fairly minor) and they'd numbed the whole foot. The first time the doctor had come in (not the same doctor) to test the anasthetic, he'd poked me with the scalpel on the bottom of my foot and I'd shrieked and yanked my foot away, causing the nurse to yell at me for making her re-do all the disinfectant. They gave me another shot. When he'd come back and tried again (this time with warning, for petesake) it felt like being poked with the eraser end of a pencil. This time, I didn't feel anything. At all. Not even a tugging on the surrounding skin.

So I sat there, wondering when he was going to actually start working, and he's talking to me about the Y2K problems he's having with his fairly old home computer. He actually knows what a "BIOS" is, so I'm trying to help him diagnose his problem, and wondering when he's going to start working. Since the anasthetic test, he hadn't touched my foot, except to fiddle with the tourniquet clamp, which I can feel with the next toe. A minute or so later, I look up and he's taking the blade out of his scalpel! I hadn't felt a thing! (I like my doctor.)

After that, he applies the whatever-it-is to the base of the nail that kills it and makes sure it won't grow back in that spot for exactly three minutes (I saw him watching his watch) and then he bandages up my toe, takes down the screen, and gives me a cute green foam slipper with a happy-face on it to wear home, since I can't get my shoe on with this bandage.

I made an appointment to come back next week for them to look it over, and hobbled out. I stopped at the CVS on my way home to give them my painkiller prescription and pick up the gauze and iodine solution my post-surgical instructions listed. And (while I was waiting for the prescription) about half a dozen other things. ::grin:: I like the CVS.

My post-surgical instructions say I shouldn't get my toe wet. I thought this morning that I would take a gallon-sized Zip-loc bag and tape it around my ankle, and since I was wearing a sock, that would soak up whatever happened to leak past the tape.

Would've worked, too, except I forgot to tape shut the huge gaping hole in the bag caused by folding the edge over. ::sigh:: Oh, well. I'll try it again tomorrow, I guess.

This morning on the radio, they were discussing an item that's up for vote in Virginia Beach this November: whether the city should spend the money to build a light train from downtown to the oceanfront. The DJs thought it would get shot down because people aren't going to want to give up their cars. Some guy called in (he seemed to be attached to the train project) to defend it, and while he made a lot of good points, the one I had to complain about was that he said "Triple-A says that it costs about 51 cents a mile to drive your car - including cost, insurance, maintenance, and gas - and the train will be at most $1.50 each trip. If you drive more than six miles a day, it's worth taking the train!"

Idiot. He completely didn't take into account the fact that most local people will have to continue to keep a car anyway, so they're not saving on anything except gas, and that the vast majority of people will have to drive their cars to the train stations anyway, so they're not even saving that much.

Don't get me wrong - I think the area needs some sort of mass transportation, and it might as well be a train. Once they get feeds laid to all the major areas (not just Downtown to the oceanside - and the guy listed about four other feeds in the works) then it'll be a big boon to the area. With a well-planned train system, the Norfolk/VA Beach area could even hope to become a real city some day.

But I hate listening to illogical and ill-planned arguments. It makes me want to jump the other way just in reaction. (I can think of at least two other examples off the top of my head. If you're really curious as to what they are, mail me and I'll tell you.)
Mail me!

Monday, September 20, 1999

20 September 1999
Oy. Friday evening around six, our phones came back on, but not power. So Matt and I called various people to let them know we were safe and sound, and then went out to dinner. When we came back, we still didn't have power, which was disappointing, and Matt said, "I hope the phone's still on," and went to check. Just as I was thinking Don't be ridiculous, of course it's still on, he started cursing. We had, indeed, lost the phone again.

Matt was so angry he could barely stand up straight and I was feeling grimy and filthy. So we packed a bag and went to my parents' house for the night. They had power and a working phone, so we called Bell Atlantic (who explained that the phone might well be on-again-off-again for some time, since the main cable had been damaged and needed to be spliced in several places) and VA Power (who, after we tricked them into answering the phone by pretending not to have a touch-tone phone, said they thought we'd have power back mid- to late-morning on Saturday). We talked with my parents for a while, then went to bed. When we got up, we had - wonder of wonders! - a hot shower. A very long, very hot shower. It was lovely.

Saturday morning we thanked my folks and went back home, where - surprise! - the power was back on, and apparently had been on for some time. We unpacked our things and re-packed and just after noon we left again for the D.C. area.

Our friend T had invited a lot of people up to a small press expo in Bethesda, MD (just north of D.C.) to attend a wrap party for his comic book. After looking at the guest list, Matt thought it would be fun to go. We had some trouble with our MapQuest-generated directions (they suggested that, from I-95, we take exit 170A onto I-395, and then take exit 170B onto I-495, and then forgot to tell us that I-495 was in fact the Beltway that it said we should merge onto - if I hadn't done it once before, we might still be roaming pathetically around the D.C. area! And then they got us most of the way to the street we were supposed to be on, but didn't tell us how far it would be until we actually encountered the address we were looking for) but managed to make it to the hotel.

The hotel's parking garage was full, so we followed their directions across the street to a public parking garage equipped with parking meters. We put enough change in the meter to pay for three hours, then went over to the hotel. (It turned out later that this was unnecessary, as the garage is free on weekends.) We found Greg right away, in the line forming for Neil Gaiman's autograph, and he told us where to find T. After we'd greeted T, we stopped by Mark Oakley's table, where Matt introduced himself. Mark seemed happy to meet Matt (Matt maintains an absolutely fabulous fan website for Mark's comic) and Matt got a glimpse of how I feel all the time - Mark is at least 6'6"!

By then, Matt's bag was starting to separate his arm from his shoulder, so we checked into the hotel and went to fetch our things from the car. We found ourselves especially amused by the door to the balcony which had been screwed shut and displayed a small plaque reading: "Balcony sealed for patron's protection" or something more or less obnoxious like that.

I had realized when I saw Greg in the Neil Gaiman autograph line that I had forgotten to pull out something for him to sign. However, just about anything Neil Gaiman wrote is a reasonably good bet for me, so I figured I'd just buy something at the table. Matt got in line with me, and we chatted amiably with the people around us. It turns out that we timed things just right - we wound up about fifth from the end of the line! As we were standing in line, I noticed Linda Medley's table, so after making sure the people around me wouldn't mind, I had them hold my place in line while I dashed over for her autograph. After some discussion with various people around us, we discovered that his name is correctly pronounced "gay-man" and not "guy-man" as I had always pronounced it. Damn it, now I have to try to correct myself.

When we got to the head of the line, I bought a chapbook with two stories in it (which turned out to be okay, but not my favorite of his work) and the annotated script for the Babylon 5 episode he had written. Neil seemed very nice, if quite tired, and signed my books. He actually got a joke in on Matt's, but I'll let Matt tell you about that.

By then, my feet were feeling a bit ache-y, so I went to sit with T and Greg at T's table. I spent most of the remaining hour and a half or so of the expo there, helping T hawk his book. By the time we'd packed up, I was starving, so the four of us went in search of food. We wound up at a restaurant about half a block from the hotel which was pretty good. Then we went back to the hotel, and we sat around Matt's and my hotel room until fairly late - 11:30 or so - reading comics. I got a great picture of the three guys sprawled around the beds, comics strewn everywhere.

Sunday morning I got another lovely hot shower, and then we collected Greg (who had begged a ride) and headed home. We thought about having breakfast first, but the hotel's restaurant was (as we should have expected) absurdly overpriced. If we'd been especially hungry, the buffet wouldn't have been too bad of a deal, but $3 for the single glass of juice we each wanted was a little steep, so we just left, stopping near Richmond for possibly the very worst McDonald's experience we've ever had - Greg started out with a burger instead of the grilled chicken he'd ordered; they forgot the lemon for his water; they neglected to put tartar sauce on my fish; and when I asked them for some tartar sauce, they took a drink cup and filled it halfway with the stuff. The bathrooms were a treat - Matt and Greg assured me that the men's room was, in particular, especially classy. The women's room hadn't been too bad, except for the six-year-old boy in it with his mother. (My personal opinion is that if the child is old enough to go to school, then they're old enough to go to the correct restroom!)

Anyway, we finally made it home and had an uneventful evening. We got the laundry done, but didn't get around to doing the grocery shopping. Guess we'll have to do that tonight.

This afternoon I have an appointment with my foot doctor. He's going to deal with the perpetual ingrown toenail by cutting a sliver of it off and cauterizing the base of the nail so it won't grow so wide anymore. My brother had this done in something like eight different places on six different toes, so I have a reasonable idea of what to expect. That is to say, I expect to be hobbling and limping for a few days, and then I expect I'll finally be able to wear close-toed shoes without wincing again!

I'm tired this morning. I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so I didn't really get to sleep until around midnight. Then the cat started being a pest around 3:30. Matt's alarm clock had apparently been mis-set and went off at 4. At 5:56, four minutes before my alarm would finally go off, the cat decided it had waited just too long and in revenge peed on the bathroom rug. I gave up and got up. But today's going to be a doozy.

Friday, September 17, 1999

17 September 1999 The view from our front door at the beginning of the storm7:00 AM - Shortly after I finished typing yesterday, the power went out. For a while, this was not much of a problem, since it was still light enough to see. I read my book and Matt paced.

At one point, I opened the front door to take a picture or two of the lashing trees. Fifteen minutes later, a ferocious gust blew the door open again. We realized later that I hadn't shut the door hard enough to actually click the lock into place, but for a while we prepared to curse the builder up one side and down the other.

Matt decided to see if the phone was still working, and picked up the cordless - which wouldn't turn on. Oh, yeah; the base unit has no power. (We spent a lot of time doing that: I think I'll fix myself some toast - no wait... Well then, I'll make some popcorn - hold it... Okay, then I'll just watch a movie...) So anyway, he went upstairs and picked up the phone on the desk. Just as he was about to curse the dead air, he heard a voice: "Hello?" He'd managed to pick up just as Jeff was calling to check on us.

Our only noticeable hurricane damage, and my cheap fixAround 12:30, I wandered into the kitchen and saw that the wall over the stove was streaked and the paint bubbling. As I got closer, I saw thin streams of water pouring from under the stove hood. I looked long enough to figure out that the wind was lifting the vent flaps on the outside of the house and shoving the rain through, which then dripped down the edge of the hood. I duct-taped some paper towels to to the edge of the hood, and made a mental note to remember next time we're expecting a major storm to go outside and tape the vent shut.

By 1:00, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, though the wind remained fierce. Having finished my book and with nothing else to do, I went upstairs to take a nap.

I had been jotting down these little events on a slip of paper so I would remember to write about them here. Matt jotted down, while I was sleeping, that at 2:35 the street traffic resumed. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac - which (in case you haven't heard the term before) is a dead-end street with a turnaround at the end of it. Why so many cars feel compelled to drive down these roads, I'll never know. I'm not talking about the slow, hesitant drivers who are obviously looking for a particular house they've never been to before. And there's nothing on our cul-de-sac to inspire sight-seeing. But at least every half hour or so, a car will drive smartly down to the end of the street, turn around, and drive just as smartly back out. I don't get it. But Matt's note says that the first cul-de-sac cruiser came by around 2:35, while I was napping.

The view from our back door during the storm.  Note the water level in the ditch!I woke up around 3:30 with the realization that we hadn't heard the phone ring when Jeff called because two of our three phones require electricity for basic functions, and the one "normal" phone wasn't plugged into a working jack. Matt took that phone downstairs and plugged it in, but came back to report that the line had gone dead, so it was a moot point.

Around 4:00, we were seeing glimpses of sunlight, and the wind had started blowing more gently and from a different direction. Matt complained of boredom, and at my suggestion we fished out the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game he'd been given for Christmas. We played two games (each winning one) but then stopped because the questions were either absurdly simple for any sort of Star Wars fan (Who said "We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life,"? - C3PO, for those of you who aren't fans), or absurdly obscure (What alien language was created by combining African and South Pacific dialects? - Ewokese).

By then, we were hungry. We decided to pack up a little food and head down to my folks' house - the wind had mostly died down, the streets were dry, and it was possible (if unlikely) that my folks had power. We stopped at the Farm Fresh on our way out - they had a generator running, and were operating with harried employees. The interstate was dry and clear until just south of Williamsburg, when we ran into a traffic jam at near-stop, tooling along at about 3 miles per hour. Eventually we saw why: All traffic was being diverted down one exit.

At the end of the exit, we discovered they had blocked off one of the possible directions; there would be no going back to Williamsburg, and must continue on toward my parents' place. But after another half mile of only slightly-faster traffic, it became clear that this stretch of raod was open only far enough to allow vehicles to turn around and go back to Williamsburg via the interstate. So we turned around.

We drove the length and breadth of the city, and found a lone island of electricity about two miles from our neighborhood. Aside from a hotel, though, nothing was open. As we were pulling into our neighborhood, we decided on one last stop - our friends Chuck and Anita live about half a mile from our house, so we thought we'd drive by and see if they had any lights on. We saw candlelight glowing in their windows, so we stopped and knocked on the door. We sat and chatted with them for an hour or so (ah! human contact!) before Matt started getting sleepy (he hadn't had a nap, after all) and we headed home.

With no other lights to confound them, the stars seemed to have multiplied and dipped closer to the earth. You could even see the pale band of the Milky Way, and I glimpsed the bucket of the Big Dipper in a break in the trees. If we hadn't been so tired when we got home, I might have sat on the porch steps a while and just looked.

This morning, as I predicted, is mild and beautiful. Matt had made some talk about going in to the office even if the power isn't restored, if only for the human contact. We need to wait until at least 9:30 or 10, though, in case the plumber actually keeps his appointment. (With no phone, there has been no way for us to confirm the appointment or for them to call to cancel it.)

2:30 PM - As expected, the plumber didn't show. Matt and I left the house around 10 to come in to the office, and were astonished to find almost everyone had come in. The office has power and phone lines, though not an Internet connection. I took advantage of the phone line to call my parents and K.T. and let them all know that Matt and I were all right, knowing that they would have tried to call us yesterday evening after everything cleared up, and been worried when they couldn't get through. I had assumed that they would have just heard the phone ringing over and over. Dad told me that there was actually a message: "The number you have reached, XXX-XXX-XXXX, is being changed. The new number may have not been selected. Please try again later." HUH???? I dialed it myself, and sure enough... How peculiar.

K.T. reassured me that Sara had made it through just fine, though she's got a bit of mildew in her house. She also suggested that if Matt and I were still planning on going up to D.C. for T's comic book wrap party and the comic con that we try to contact T at his parents' house in Virginia Beach to see if the wrap party is still a go.

I spent some time contacting Bell Atlantic and Virginia Power, to make sure that our neighborhoods were on their repair lists. It took forever to get through to Bell Atlantic. I kept getting "circuits are full" messages. Heh. Sortof ironic, calling the phone company... Anyway, we're told we should have phone service by sometime this evening, but the power company still didn't have an estimate for our electricity. I told Matt that if the power wasn't back on this evening, then I wanted to go down to my folks' house tonight (the road is clear again - my dad made it to work up here in Williamsburg this morning) so we can at least take a shower! Especially if we're going to be driving to D.C. tomorrow.

The thing that strikes me, in the midst of all this, is how nice everyone is making an effort to be. The evacuated woman in front of us in line at the Farm Fresh was laughing with us over peculiar marketing schemes. The extremely harried employee at the Farm Fresh who seemed to have an extra set of arms, he moved so fast (ringing and bagging the groceries with one set, taking money and making change with the other) actually took the time to say "Have a nice evening" before lunging for the next pile of groceries. The customer service people at both Bell Atlantic and Virginia Power, who I'm sure have been fielding calls from frustrated and irritable people all day, were calm and polite and careful to give me as much information as they possibly could. The woman with VA Power even laughed a little over the confusion. People at the office who have also been without power and phone were sympathetic with us, and by unspoken agreement, no one is complaining about our lack of showers because (like talking about hot weather) thinking about it just makes it worse. Jeremy agreed to drive Matt and I back to our house after lunch so we could check on the state of our phone and power and see if there was any food in the freezer that was salvageable (we had planned to bring it back to the office and put it in the office's freezer until our power came back).

The unspoken consensus is, things could have been worse - let's be grateful for what didn't happen. Or perhaps, things are bad enough - let's make an effort not to make them worse. Or maybe both, I don't know. But even without understanding it, I find myself making sure to smile and stop to ask how things are going and commiserate and be pleasant. How come it's so hard the rest of the time for people to get along?

Del, who is Jeremy's and my supervisor, didn't come in today, though he lives in Williamsburg and almost certainly has a clear drive. Jeremy and I are theorizing that a whole day without any kind of phone, pager, e-mail, or other access put him into shock.

Thursday, September 16, 1999

16 September 1999
9:05 am: I'm not at work today. Matt and I woke up when the radio turned itself on this morning, and we listened to reports that multiple stretches of road were closed due to flooding, including one uncomfortably close to us. The consensus of our household was that while we were fairly certain we could get to work, that the question of getting home again was up in the air, and rather than be stuck overnight at the office, we decided to stay home. We'll have to either try to make up the lost hours over the rest of the month, or use our vacation time. (I suspect it will end up being a combination of the two.)

I'm relatively certain that no one else is at the office today, either. At least, I hope not. According to the Weather Channel, Floyd should hit this area sometime around noon. Of course, if you look at the pictures and satellite images, it's already here - what they mean is that the strongest winds and whatever's left of the eye will cross around noon. In any case, I still can't connect to my e-mail or the company-owned spot where I keep my webpage, so it'll be a good while before I can upload this entry. The Springfield office is probably gnashing its collective teeth - our office handles their e-mail as well, and they're practically paralyzed without it. (You think I'm joking? It takes approximately five minutes to completely reboot the computer that handles the mail. It's good that we don't have to do that very often, because when we do, the company president is usually on the phone to us less than two minutes after the process begins to complain. It's gotten to the point where we have to call and warn them first about a five-minute pause in service. It's pathetic.)

Anyway, Floyd's eye closed almost immediately after it made landfall (around 3 this morning, around Wilmington, NC) and when Matt and I turned on the Weather Channel at 6:30, it had been downgraded again to a Class 2, but picked up speed. The weatherpersons still aren't sure whether it will have time to degrade completely to a tropical storm before it reaches us, or whether it will still technically be a hurricane. If it's still a hurricane, that'll be a first for me - I've never been through one before, just the skirts.

Of course, I won't be through one this time, either. They expect the real center of the storm to hug the coast, so the Southside (which is local-speak for the conglomerate of 6 or so cities just south of the James River) to will probably be pretty battered, but since Williamsburg is the far north end of Hampton Roads (which is local-speak for the conglomerate of 6 or so cities just north of the James River) I suspect we won't see winds any higher than, oh, 40mph or so, with gusts up into the 60s or 70s. That's just a guess, of course. I'm no meteorologist.

Last night, we got a call from T. (You'll remember I mentioned him yesterday has having already lost a car to floods down in Savannah.) He had fled Georgia and come up to stay with his parents, who live in Virginia Beach. But he wasn't calling to let us know he'd evacuated Savannah safely. He was calling to look for another friend, Sara, who had said she might come to stay with us to get out of the weather.

This was news to us.

Matt and I both hate having plans made for us. Especially if we're the last to find out. Matt is even more irritated by this than I am. But on the other hand, this is a hurricane, and the area Sara lives in is close to a river (the York River - if you look at a map of Virginia, the entire coast is one long succession of rivers) and well below sea-level. So when she called, an hour later, to ask if she could come stay with us and bring her three cats (who were, she confessed, prone to peeing on the floor and fighting with each other), Matt told her that she was welcome to come, but not the cats.

It's possible that if we'd been asked about this earlier, we would've managed some way to handle the cats - an enclosure in the garage, perhaps, easily cleaned and far away from our cat, who does not handle the presence of other animals of any sort with anything like grace. But she had waited until well after dark to call, well after the time when we would have been willing to leave our house in the driving rain, and to make matters worse, she had planned to use our house as a refuge apparently hours before telling us this. And she isn't exactly one of our closest friends. It's not that we don't like her - we just don't know her very well. And she has been the blithe and cavalier center of a bunch of romantic complications that played (and are still playing) havok with the hearts and hopes of friends with whom we're much closer. None of these things individually would have caused us to be so rude to her, but added all together...

We were rude. I felt a little guilty about it. I hate it when people are rude and inconsiderate, so I try to actually be polite and considerate of others - but not enough to invite cats into our new house who had been admitted to being ill-trained. There's a difference between being considerate and being a doormat. To make matters worse, T called back to see if everything had been settled, and before I even could tell him that Sara had decided to reconsider her options, he wanted to know if Matt and I were going to be able to go down and help Sara move and store her stuff!

I felt much less guilty at that point. Sheltering someone who has to flee her home, yes, I would do that. If I had been the one to answer the phone when she called to ask for shelter, I might have been persuaded to make arrangements for the cats. But now T was asking me to drive in the black of night and in a driving rainstorm further into danger? How much stuff does an evacuating person need? A suitcase of clothes, and perhaps a few special treasures that can't be replaced! T never did tell me what all this "stuff" was that needed storage, for petesake. To be honest, this imposition made me more than a little irritated at T. I don't know him much better than I know Sara, and in my book, even close friends should hesitate at asking these sorts of favors!

But I still felt a little guilty about Sara. If she came to harm because she refused to abandon her cats, I was going to feel at least partially responsible.

A bit later Colleen called, also looking for help for Sara. Colleen came up with the brilliant idea of letting Sara have the key to our unused - but paid to the end of the month! - apartment. This, I thought was a good idea. I didn't care if Sara's cats damaged bits of the apartment, they wouldn't upset our cat, and Sara would be able to either leave them there with a clean conscience to stay here, or take a sleeping bag and stay there with them. Either way, she'd be out of her potential flood, and I wouldn't have to feel guilty for not helping someone in need. I told Colleen to call Sara and let her know about this plan. (I don't know Sara's phone number, in case you're wondering why I didn't just call her myself.)

Colleen called back about an hour later to say that Sara's landlord had offered her the use of part of another house next to her own which was built on higher ground, with reinforcement designed to withstand flooding, and that Sara had opted for that option, since that way she wouldn't have to figure out how to transport her stuff. I felt ever-so-slightly guilty again, but agreed that it was Sara's decision, and that it certainly sounded easier.

Now I'm trying to figure out if I actually had a reason to feel guilty, or if it's just that whole Southern-hospitality upbringing backfiring on me again.

Well, it's after 10:00 now, and the force of the rain outside my window is really picking up. Time to go watch the Weather Channel some more.

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

15 September 1999
Oh, all right. I'll talk about the hurricane. Hurricane Floyd is somewhere between a Class 4 and 5 hurricane. Which is to say it's one scary mutha of a storm.

Now, I'm not particularly worried about it. Why is that? Have you ever taken a good look at a map? Here's what happens: Hurricanes that threaten our area form in the south Atlantic and head pretty much straight for us, though they may stop to devastate a few islands along the way. Almost inevitably, the jet stream pushes them ashore where North Carolina sticks out into the Atlantic. The Outer Banks were formed this way, and I expect that one day they'll be destroyed in the same fashion. In any case, washing ashore in North Carolina sucks a lot of the power out of a hurricane. By the time it hits us, it's just a bad thunderstorm.

My mother, who grew up about 45 miles from the coast of North Carolina (the real coast, not that overlarge tourist trap of a sandbar), has seen numerous hurricanes. She thinks they're sortof fun, actually. She especially likes to go outside when the eye passes over. I grew up and still live here, about twenty miles from the coast of Virginia, and I have never lived through more than the skirts of a hurricane.

Historically, I know hurricanes have made it to this area, and done some impressive damage. But it doesn't happen very often. I'm not all that worried. The one tree near our house that might have blown down and hit it was blown down in the opposite direction during the last major storm a couple of weeks ago. So we'll see some heavy rain and have to shovel most of our dirt back up into our yard when it's past. We'll see some heavy wind and have to clean some branches out of our yard. We'll lie awake for most of a night listening to thunder and watching the room light up from lightning. And that'll be it. (By the way, the prettiest weather you will ever see follows the day after a hurricane passes.)

But I've been thinking about the number of people that I know who live south of here who might actually be in the path of the hurricane. T, who lives in Savannah, Georgia, has already lost one car to flooding this year. Jeff, whose research advisor is still making him come in to work in Columbia, South Carolina. Jeff's parents live just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, which will probably see an impressive storm if not the full-blown hurricane. My brother, who lives fairly far inland in North Carolina, but who will also see some storms. (Are you kidding me? Have you seen the satellite photos? Floyd could easily eat the entire Eastern Seaboard, and still have Chicago for dessert!) My mom's family, including my aunt and uncle, and two cousins who are married and have children, all live less than 50 miles from the North Carolina coast.

Well. That's a lot of people to fret over, and I'm sure most of them are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. I don't think any of them are actually the sort of idiot who refuse to evacuate, given the order.

But if you don't mind, I think I'll worry about them anyway - just a little. Be careful, everyone!

Tuesday, September 14, 1999

14 September 1999
So after calling the electrician three times, the secretary finally told him she was sick of fending me off and to just talk to me, for godsake. He was surprisingly cordial, and was happy to agree to pick up our housekey from the model house (we'd left a copy for the realtor to put in our file for just this purpose) and said he'd come by the house during the day to fix our nonworking outlets and phone jacks. He asked if I wanted a dual-line plate installed on the office jack - that is, one jack for line one, and one for line two. Well, we'd had to separate plates put in, but I thought What the heck? and told him to go ahead and do it.

When I got home yesterday evening I wasn't feeling very happy - the podiatrist's nurse had taped my foot just a hair wrong, and I was forming a blister; and in an attempt to walk as little as possible I'd been juggling too many things on the trip from the car to the house. But I dumped my stuff by the door and limped up the stairs to see if our phone had actually been fixed.

Sure enough, there was a two-jack plate installed, and a phone was plugged into the lower jack. I picked it up. Dial tone! Hurrah! I plugged the phone into the top jack and picked up the handset. Silence. Not so hurrah.

I was a bit tired, so I made a leap of intuition: Since it was the second phone line that didn't work previously, I assumed that the line on which I got a dial tone was the main line, and the line on which I got nothing was the second line.

Well, dammit.

Forget the electrician. It costs, but I figured I'd call Bell Atlantic and get them to send out a technician who would actually test all the lines before he left the house. Matt came home while I was navigating the endless sea of automated menu systems that is the Bell Atlantic Customer Service network, and after I'd finally talked to someone and asked them to come Friday, I explained to Matt what was going on. He was as annoyed as I was. I told him that I'd been too irritable to reconnect the modem and such, and he decided to go do that - at least he could check his e-mail on the main line.

I folded myself up on the couch with a book. As Matt will tell you, when I'm reading, I notice nothing around me. Two chapters into the book, I vaguely registered him coming down and picking something up off the coffee table, but didn't pay much attention. A few minutes later, he came back downstairs and patiently collected my attention.

"How much do you love me?"

This is a frequent precursor to a gift or surprise of some sort. "A lot!"

He handed me the cordless phone. "The computer is dialed in, and I'm getting a dial tone on the main line."

It took a few seconds for that to sink in. If the computer is connected, then it's using a phone line. If you get a dial tone on the main line instead of modem squeal...

We have our second phone line! Hurray!

One slow, agonizing step at a time, we're getting the house we paid for.

Monday, September 13, 1999

13 September 1999
I was a bit tired when we went to the grocery store last night. And I'll admit that when I'm tired, I'm not the quickest cookie on the block. So when I saw a sign cheerfully advertising LEMON CHOCOLATE COCONUT MERINGUE pies, I nearly choked at the imagined flavor.

Conjunctions are important. Conjunctions and punctuation.

It's looking like the dogwood tree in our yard might actually survive! The branch ends are green, and it's sporting a few green leaves.The grass in our yard is still a bit on the sparse side, but I think we're going to have to re-seed it ourselves. And I'm still trying to decide what to do with the rest of the yard. At the least, we probably ought to buy some pine mulch (I saw some for sale outside the grocery store last night) and put it around our bushes and the tree. But what do I know?

The exterminator came Saturday morning and we signed a contract to have them come once a month and spray as a preventative against all manner of vermin. (Not termites, of course. Termites are a whole different ball of wax.) The guy sprayed along the baseboards in the dining room, and behind the counters in the kitchen, and around the pipes in the bathrooms, and in various places outside. The fumes from the spray made me light-headed and dizzy and gave me a headache and a weird taste in the back of my throat, but we haven't seen any ants since. Thank goodness. And the fumes didn't linger too long.

If we just called and had them treat when we had problems, then it would cost us around $100 a treatment. Monthly spraying costs $32 a month plus a startup fee, which is to say around $400 a year. So if you assume that we'd have less than four invasions a year, then the monthly treatment is more expensive. But then, it's worth the extra to me not to have to worry about stumbling across an invasion, or dealing with it between finding it and getting the exterminator out to the house. I'm a big fan of preventative measures. Also, if we do have an invasion of some sort, then they'll come out and treat it at no extra charge.

Have you noticed that each decade seems to have its own color scheme? Sure you have.

The 70's were all about earth tones - brown and orange and olive green and yellow-gold.

The 80's were in love with dusty country colors: rose and powder blue, primarily, though there were some greens thrown in for variety.

The 90's brought us the deep, vibrant jewel-tones that I personally fell in love with. Almost everything in my house is based on those colors: our plates (and shower curtain, incidentally) are Amalfi patterns, and I've picked accessories and throw rugs to match.

Recently, flipping through magazines and shopping, I've assimilated the colors for the next decade. They are a lovely dusty lavender, a rich yellowy cream, and a rather less attractive olive green.

I've already caved in, actually. The curtains in our office at home are purple and beige, and this weekend I bought new placemats in a much darker version of the lavender, with tan accents, and others in light green (not, I wish to emphasize, the hideous olive) with patterns in cream. Why have I caved in so quickly? Because the jewel-tones are getting harder and harder to find, and I actually like lavender anyway.

But dammit, I liked the jewel-tones!

Friday, September 10, 1999

10 September 1999
So our yard isn't completely hopeless. I mean, yeah, the dogwood tree they planted is either dead or dying, but for one thing, they planted it too deep, and for another, it didn't get much water for almost a week after they planted it. (That second part is my fault - we should have bought a hose right away, but we were waiting for a couple of hoses my dad had promised us, and for the whole week after we moved, it looked like it was going to rain Any Time Now, so we thought it would be okay.)

But now that there's been some rain and some sun, the grass is actually growing, so the soil isn't totally useless. It's a little sparse, and will need to be re-seeded, but that's mostly because the three days after they seeded the lawn were extremely windy, and all the protective straw got blown away, and then the seeds got blown around as well. But since it grew the first time, it'll grow again. Matt was being surly about it this morning, but I actually feel pretty positive.

Now I'm trying to decide what to do with the yard. It's tempting to say I'll just let it go until the spring, but I might at least want to plant some bulbs - if I remember correctly, fall is actually the time to plant bulbs, and bulb flowers are really pretty in the spring - daffodils and tulips and irises. I'm also thinking about sowing wildflower seeds around the ditch, where they didn't bother clearing the plants. Durn it, I need to get a gardening for dummies book or something so I don't accidently kill every living thing in my yard.

I'm sortof annoyed about our phone jacks, though. I won't bother trying to explain it all here - suffice it to say that we're currently paying for a second phone line for our house, but we're unable to use it. Very annoying. I called the electrician last night and left an annoyed message on their answering machine about it, and if they don't call me back by 10 this morning, I'll try again.

Going to be a busy weekend. The exterminator is coming Saturday morning to take care of the ant invasion (luckily, they didn't come back yesterday), Saturday evening is Richard's game, and Sunday I'm going to a baby shower. That means that sometime Saturday afternoon before the game, I need to go get a shower present.

But right now, it's dark and rainy and all I want to do is crawl back into bed.


Thursday, September 9, 1999

9 September 1999
The horror... The horror... Due to a close-proximity lightning strike, my office was isolated from the internet for about twenty-four hours, starting Tuesday evening. I couldn't get e-mail at all (because I use my office account for everything), I couldn't surf while I was at work, and no one could get in to my site. It only came back up last night thanks to a brave soul from our Springfield office who volunteered to make the three-hour drive down with the necessary pieces of hardware to fix the problem. (This is what happens when your service provider is three hours away - you do not get good repair service. This has been illustrated to our office on more than one occasion, and we hope fervently now that the situation will be rectified, by choosing a local provider, or at least a provider with a local office!)

I got home from work yesterday and went into the kitchen to make dinner (it being my turn to do so) and saw a couple of ants on the counter. I killed them quickly before they could bring friends. But it was too late - I saw a line of marching ants travelling all along the edge of the counter, down the bar, around the side of the bar, and out under the back door.

I hate ants.

Luckily for me, they hadn't found the food yet. So I got the bottle of Clorox out of the garage, and proceeded to wipe down my counter with it, indiscriminately slaughtering ants as I went. While I was doing this, my friend Richard called, and he reminded me that Windex works just as well to kill the ants and get rid of their scent-trail without having to worry about damaging the linoleum or my clothes. So I fetched the Windex from the closet, and that worked even better. Whoosh! and the whole swarm of them milling around the corner of the door collapsed instantly. Whoosh! and they stopped coming through. (I don't know whether it was because they'd lost the scent trail, or if ant corpses had plugged whatever hole was letting them in. I zipped along the baseboard, whoosh-ing as I went.

I then called an exterminator - the same one my parents use, since they've had good luck with them - and although the person in charge of Williamsburg had already left for the evening (it was almost 6 by that point) the person still there took my name and phone numbers and promised that I would get a call today. I've known since we moved in that we needed to contact an exterminator to set up a schedule of preventative treatments (it's much harder to get rid of an invasion in progress than to discourage one from starting) but I didn't think I'd need them this quickly.

Oh, well. Everyone I know is having ant problems right now, so I guess I shouldn't take it too personally. I suspect the heavy rain of the past week has washed out all the ant tunnels, and the rapidly fluctuating air pressure is driving them to seek controlled environments. I can understand that.

I just don't want it to be my environment!

Wednesday, September 8, 1999

8 September 1999
I have three phone calls to make today. The first is to Carl, the "Customer Service " guy for the company that built our house. Yesterday we dropped off a key to our house and a list of maintenance issues with the realtor at the model house. I want to make sure that Carl got both the key and the list. I'm not saying that we don't trust the realtor to have given it to him, but... Okay, I am saying we don't trust the realtor.

The second call is to the plumber for our house. Our showers have a safety block in them that keeps us from getting the water too hot. That's all well and good, but I like hot showers, and the water coming out of our tub is barely lukewarm. Ideally, I want the safety block removed. We don't have any little kids, and college-educated adults are presumeably intelligent enough to adjust their own water temperature.

The third call is to my podiatrist. I suffer from a condition called plantar fascitis, which is to say the fascia (which is similar to a tendon, only it connects muscle to bone rather than bone to bone) that connects my heel to my toes is overstretched and coming unattached at the heel. I have it in both feet. Sounds painful, doesn't it? When I was in graduate school, I went through a lot of treatments for it - cortisone shots, six weeks in a cast, even minor surgery. Nothing fixed the problem for more than a few weeks at a time. For the last couple of years, it's been more of an annoyance than anything else - I have to stretch my calf muscles every morning (they take up the slack for the overstretched fascia) and I feel a little stiff for the first hour or so of the day, but once I get warmed up, I'm generally all right. If I spend more than an hour or so on my feet I'm likely to be extra sore for a few days or a week afterward, but it's manageable. But since the move, I've been getting shooting pains in the back of my right heel, which is new. (The pain usually hits in my arches.) I think the problem is that I have to get out of bed and go straight down the stairs (to feed the cat) and the extra stretch of going down the stairs is straining things. This morning the usual stretches hurt my heel before I felt the stretch in my calf, which can't be good. So it's time to see if there's anything else my foot doctor can do for me.

Also, I want him to look at my perpetual ingrown toenail again - I wear orthopedic arch supports in my shoes all the time because of the fascitis, and it pushes my feet a little higher and further forward in my shoes than they're really meant to be, which has resulted in an ingrown toenail. It doesn't usually get infected, thank goodness, but it's always a little sore, and for whatever reason that's the toe that I'm always stubbing. The usual treatment for ingrown toenails is to pack cotton behind them, which does two things: It encourages the nail to grow out away from the toe (sortof like tying a tree into the position you want it to grow), and it places a soft barrier between the sharp edge of the nail and the irritated flesh, which allows the flesh to heal. If you ever get ingrown toenails, I highly recommend this treatment - do it right after a good hot shower, so the nail is as soft as it's likely to get, then tear a tiny wad of cotton from a cotton ball or Q-tip and pack it (I use a pointed nail file sterilized with alcohol to do the packing) as far behind the ingrown bit as possible. Change the cotton once or twice a day, but don't go without it except in the shower for about a week. You'll feel this weird pressure when you walk, but most of the time, it reduces the pain almost immediately, and the toe heals in a few days. Except with this perpetual ingrown nail I've got - the cotton trick works for about a week, and then it starts hurting again. I may have to have the nail surgically narrowed. What fun. At least I'm not worried about what my feet will look like - all feet are ugly.

My wrist is hurting again, too, which hasn't been a problem for five or six years. The last time I had a problem with it, the doctor couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. I had x-rays taken to see if there was a spur or a hairline fracture, I was tested for arthritis, I was given special exercises to do... Nothing worked, and there didn't seem to be any actual problems. It just happened that if I moved my wrist wrong, or too fast, or sometimes with no reason at all, I would feel shooting pains. No one could figure out why. About halfway through my junior year of college, it went away, and I thought maybe it had been the last of my growing pains or something, and forgot about it. But now it's back. I should have it checked again - this time I'm concerned that it's carpal tunnel - but it's just going to have to wait in an ace bandage until I get my feet taken care of.

Boy, am I pathetic today, or what?

Tuesday, September 7, 1999

7 September 1999
I'm not promising any quality, here. I've got a throbbing headache just behind my right eyebrow, and all I really want is to crawl back into bed.

That said, I actually had a pretty nice weekend. Saturday we went over to my parents' house to celebrate my mom's and brother's birthdays. Mom made Frogmore Stew, which is a summer favorite for us. (It's shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, and onions all boiled together and seasoned with Old Bay, then drained and dumped on a newspaper-lined table - one wears a towel as a bib and eats with one's hands. It's messy and fun.) I gave Mom the blue and tan afghan I'd made for her birthday present, and she cried.

It rained for most of the day Saturday, and all night, and when I woke up Sunday morning there was good news and bad news.

The good news was that the tree on the lot next to ours fell away from our house when it fell, and landed in the street hurting no one and nothing. Someone came out with a chainsaw sometime around nine or ten and unblocked the street.

The bad news is that apparently the window in our back door wasn't caulked properly, because enough water slipped inside to badly damage the paint job. So today I get to call our builder again and try to get it fixed.

In other house news, little tiny shoots of grass have sprung up all over our lawn, but they're so scattered that we still think the lawn will have to be re-seeded. And the dogwood tree they planted in our front yard is dead-dead-dead.

I've got to get back on my diet. I skipped two weeks' worth of Weight Watcher's meetings because of the move, and I spent those two weeks eating whatever and whenever I liked. I'm dreading going to tonight's meeting.

I've got to go back to being extremely strict, again - no more "blown" days. If I eat all my points early in the day, then I've got to have salad and broth for dinner. We're less than two months from Hallowe'en, which is less than two weeks from my birthday, which is only three weeks from Thanksgiving and Matt's birthday, and then only a month until Christmas. Which is to say, I'm only two months away from the scary time of year, weight-wise. And yet it was from mid-October through mid-February that I lost most of the weight that I've lost last year. I just have to grit my teeth and do it.

I was having conversations with imaginary people this morning.

Or rather, with real people who weren't actually present. I was ranting at my bosses about the fact that it's been over two months since I had a project worth working on, and that they don't actually listen to me when I tell them what I want to do. That it's stupid that the reason I haven't had work to do for the past two months is because they haven't announced the latest reorg yet, so I don't (officially) know who I'll be reporting to.

They didn't listen to me any better in my imaginary conversation than they did in the real ones, though.

I'm going to go have breakfast now. Maybe that will make the headache go away.

Friday, September 3, 1999

3 September 1999
Sleep? We don' need no stinkin' sleep!

I was so tired yesterday afternoon that I dozed off at my desk. I told Matt on the way home that I thought I'd take a nap before my dad came over to help us around the house. Dad was waiting out in his truck when we got home, though, so I didn't get my nap.

Not that I'm too upset, mind you. A lot got done. We have a mailbox now, and blinds in the bedroom window. I don't have to get dressed in the closet anymore! Yay!

When Dad left last night, it was 9:00. I was going to go to bed, until Matt said, "Did you want to log on for the last half of the Meade Hall session?" Well, yes, actually, I did. So I didn't get to bed until about 10:30. That sounds fairly reasonable, actually, but I'm still trying to get caught up from a week of sleeping no more than 5 hours a night. And the cat woke us up at 5 this morning and continued pestering us until my alarm went off.

Today promises to be interesting. Matt and I are leaving work early, because the cable guy will be coming to our house sometime between 12 and 4. (What good is an on-time guarantee if you still have to take a whole half-day off from work?) While we're home, we'll try to call our builder to come and finish the last things that need to be done inside our house, and Dad promised to come over in the early afternoon to help us with the rest of our blinds. Though I had been hoping, if the cable guy came early enough, to go down to the county courthouse to take care of our vehicle registrations. We'll see, I guess.

My brother is coming home sometime tonight, and tomorrow we'll have a birthday party for him and my mom. I'm looking forward to showing him our house. Maybe he'll have some advice on decorating.

One of the things that sold me on our house was the closet space. The walk-in closet for the master bedroom is almost the size of my freshman dorm room. When we were showing Braz and Kris around, Kris saw this closet, punched Braz in the kidneys, and told him, "Braz! We need more closets! And babies!"

Thursday, September 2, 1999

2 September 1999
Dammit, why doesn't it rain? The sky has been grey and forbidding for the past three days, but it hasn't done more than spit a few drops at us. I'd feel irritated about this even if I didn't desperately need the rain to water my non-existant lawn and revive my all-but-dead dogwood tree.

We didn't get very much done yesterday. We went to the grocery store, which was badly needed. Then we came home and talked to my dad, who decided that he would put off bringing his drill and post hole digger over until tonight. (Meanwhile, I'm still getting dressed in the closet and worrying about what mail we're missing.) Then K.T. and Kevin came over to pick up some stuff and they invited us to tag along with them to dinner and then over to Colleen's for the last episode of Crusade. Since Matt didn't want to cook and we both wanted to see the episode, it was a good plan. So we didn't get much done in the way of unpacking, and we were up pretty late, but what the heck; we've got a long weekend coming up.

Sunday morning, after the move, I woke up bright and early and couldn't go back to sleep. So I wouldn't wake up the houseful of guests, I crept quietly down the stairs with the intention of planting myself at the table and writing in the journal for a while. Sleeping in the living room were: Jeff, on the couch; Jen, on the air mattress she brought; and Greg, curled up on the floor. As I came down the stairs, Jen was shivering under her thin blanket. I carefully climbed over Greg and picked up a blanket that had been left in the dining room and draped it over her, then went back into the dining room and wrote for a bit.

When I came back out, she was shivering again and carefully wedging herself up against the couch, where Jeff's blanket draped down. I watched her for a few seconds, and then had a vision of the future: Jen would first crawl under the excess blanket draped over the edge, then get a grip on it and roll over, pulling the blanket off Jeff. I looked around and saw my stained-glass afghan in a bag on the floor. Quietly, so as not to wake up Jeff and Greg, I said, "Jen, I have another blanket you can use."

Jen replied, sleepily: "No, that's okay. Jeff doesn't mind sharing."

Wednesday, September 1, 1999

1 September 1999
All right, here we are at the beginning of September, and those of you who complained about the garish orange boxes can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Today is my mom's birthday! Happy birthday, Mom! (She doesn't get her presents from me until Saturday, though.)

I don't have much to talk about today - or rather, I have entirely too much to talk about, of which maybe 5% would actually be interesting to my readers. So in the interest of stopping the talk and getting the pictures I took this weekend up as quickly as possible, I'll just offer a few anecdotes from the weekend.

Sunday morning, most of us were sitting downstairs chatting when someone upstairs found our gong. (Matt and I have a gong that was a gift from relatives in the Far East.) Since Matt and Braz were the people upstairs, it doesn't seem surprising that the gong was then struck. Repeatedly. After we'd all yelled for Braz to stop it, the two of them came downstairs. Braz was holding a shoe in one hand, and a golf club in the other. Matt, grinning like a maniac, was holding the gong.

Once the move was fully in swing, Kris, Karen, and Jen took charge of packing up everything that remained at the apartment. When the first U-Haul load arrived at the house, the boys beseeched Becky and I not to send them back to face the "Mad Packers" - they were apparently wrapping, boxing, and taping anything that wasn't moving, and they were afraid that if they stopped to rest for a moment, then they'd be packed, themselves.

Jeff asked Colleen out to dinner on Sunday night, and she told him that she was working Sunday, but that he should call in the evening and leave a message on her answering machine. He did so. Around 7, just as Jeff was getting irritable that she hadn't called back and the rest of us were advising him to go pick up a bunch of flowers and show up on her doorstep, she arrived. She came in and flopped, completely exhausted, onto our couch. While she complained about her day at work, Jeff slipped quietly out and drove off. The rest of us kept her distracted. Finally, after a bit of rest and a Mountain Dew to wake her up, she sat up and looked around. "Where's Jeff?" She looked out the window. "His car's not out there! Did he go out to get himself food?!? I just needed to rest a little!" Just as she was working herself up into a royal fit, Jeff returned... With a bouquet of flowers.

Monday night, Matt and I went to Lowe's to get some things. One of the things we needed was an extension for our washing machine's drain hose. We went to the appliances department and talked to someone who admitted to knowing nothing about drain hoses. He led us to another person, who told us with great authority that no such thing as an extendor kit existed, and that we'd have to... I have no idea what he suggested we do, because he started speaking in tongues, and Matt and I were both too tired to remember any of the foreign words. I went back Tuesday morning and talked to a person in the section of the store dealing with pipes and hoses, rather than appliances, and he helped me find a hose that I suspect is meant to be the primary hose, but which fit the end of the hose we've already got.

Matt and I put some laundry in the washer, added soap, set the settings, and pulled the knob... Nothing. We looked at each other. I leaned over and checked the plugs. I pushed the knob back in and frowned, wondering what the problem could be. Matt said, "Do we need to turn on the water?" It hadn't occurred to me that they would have hooked everything up and left the water off. Matt got a flashlight so we could read the pipe valves, and sure enough, they were off. I turned them on, pulled the knob, and whoosh! the washer started, just like it was supposed to. We hovered over the washer for a while like nervous parents with a new baby, making sure it wouldn't leak, but when it finally went through the first drain cycle, no water leaked from the place where the hoses were joined, and it definitely sounded like the water was running down pipes and not just into the wall.

Which is good. I wasn't looking foward to coming to work today in my pajamas.