Tuesday, February 29, 2000

29 February 2000

Well, I finished the project I was talking about the other day - the one I wasn't sure what programming language to use. I decided on PHP3, because I know that better than JavaScript or Perl, though that's not saying a lot. And what was this project, you ask? An online I Ching oracle! Go on, see for yourself! Let me know if you find any typos or have any problems.

Now I'm trying to decide if I want to expand the section to include other forms of divination - Tarot cards, maybe. Any thoughts?

Wow. End of February. All last week, I kept thinking, "I should put together the graphics for the journal for March soon," and I kept putting myself off with, "Plenty of time!" Heh. Guess I should've listened to myself. Well, it'll give me something to do today.

We had a great time on the MeadeHall last night. First, the session itself was great - Braz is still pulling around his plot, and rather than starting to figure things out, I think we're getting farther and farther away from the truth. Jaret now thinks Marten is a doppleganger, or maybe a demon posessing Moon Dancer's body. Lisl and Zoya have figured out that he's on the run from someone - or something - and are trying to get him to help. (Zoya thinks that maybe taking care of whatever's chasing him might aid his memory.)

Marten was too busy to flirt with Zoya last night, so Lisl's teasing only served to confuse Zoya a bit. I'm not sure whether I'm relieved or disappointed. Zoya wasn't designed with romance in mind, but it would've been fun roleplaying through it, because... Well, because she wasn't designed with romance in mind. Damn, but I wish I knew whatever happened to her origin story. (I'm missing just about all of my RPG-based stories. It's irritating the crap out of me; some of them weren't too bad.)

Anyway, in addition to the Hall session itself, we were having fun playing with the computer's voices. Matt, Braz, and Jeff all have Macintosh computers, and they were playing with TTS, which is Mac's text-to-speech software. Matt had his set up so that whenever any of us said a line on the IRC channel where we meet, his computer would say it. Not only that, but he had different voices assigned to each of us. (If you've ever heard Stephen Hawking's synthesized voice, that's about what it was like.)

At first, Matt and Braz were typing in peculiar names of baseball players for the software to try to pronounce. Karen - who couldn't even hear the results - got into the act and started coming up with peculiar words for it to attempt. Somewhat astonishingly, it managed "supercalafragilisticexpialidocious" with very little problem.

After weird words, Matt mentioned that he was sortof tempted to type in some dirty words. So, being incurable punsters, we started slinging around pick-up lines and dirty talk on the Stephen Hawking theme. ("Put your comet in my black hole, baby!") This was so funny (and took us so long to exhaust all the punny possibilities) that we wound up staying up until 11:30. We might have stayed longer, except Matt's computer locked up on him, and we all spontaneously decided that it was time for bed.

One of the ladies in my office is having her birthday today. I had just been wondering the other day whether I knew anyone with a Leap-Day birthday. So, although she's turning 40, this is only her 10th birthday. Kindof cool, huh?

Monday, February 28, 2000

28 February 2000

The weekend was good, but it was too, too short!

Friday evening, Matt decided that it had been too long since we'd seen Chuck and Anita, so we called them and arranged to meet them for dinner. We wound up over at IHOP, where the service was even slower than usual due to a party of about thirty college students.

Heidi - their sprout - is growing fast, and both Chuck and Anita seem to enjoy parenthood. They're already planning for a second. Chuck, as might be expected, is enjoying the ability to buy silly toys and pretend they're for the baby. He had with him a plush ant which, when you squeezed its abdomen, squeaked. He was much more enamored of it than Heidi. Heidi was fascinated with Matt, actually. She couldn't stop looking at him.

At one point, a little boy of about four or so stood up to look across the booth dividers at Heidi. As soon as he realized we were looking at him, he sat back down again, and we teased Chuck that he was going to have to beat the boys off his daughter with a stick.

After dinner, we headed over to the Books-A-Million down the road. I finally gave in to a months-old desire and picked up all three of the Harry Potter books in hardback. Now, of course, I'm waiting impatiently for the fourth. I think it's due out in April.

Saturday, after running a few mundane errands and spending yet more money at Bath and Body Works (I should buy stock) we went to K.T. and Kevin's housewarming party.

It was a much smaller party than I'd been anticipating - all of Kevin's cronies who helped them move were at work, so it was just our usual band of whackos. That was all right; we spent the vast majority of the party in the kitchen munching and drinking.

Since Gateway had finally paid him the bonuses he's been due for about three months, they had a little extra money to burn, and since this extra windfall hit at about the same time as a sudden interest in mixed drinks, Kevin played bartender while we sampled his creations. (By the way, if you take some Edy's Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mint ice cream, and put it in a blender with some peppermint schnapps, some chocolate liqueur, and a little milk to keep it all mostly liquid, you end up with an extremely divine drink.)

K.T. got completely schnockered almost immediately. I think she was a little embarrassed about it, because she kept excusing herself by telling us that she'd had a stressful week. We finally got her convinced that at her own party, in her own apartment, she was entitled to get as drunk as she wanted on her own booze. After that, she sortof relaxed into being drunk-silly.

When the CD player started in on the Zoot Suit Riot CD, I wandered into the living room to dance, and everyone else decided that the seats were more comfortable in the living room anyway and trooped after me. In my own somewhat inebriated state, I got huffy with K.T. when she decided to change the CD player after the first song, and even more grumpy when she finally decided she wanted to hear the entire Wings' greatest hits CD. (I like Paul McCartney all right, but I don't like it enough to want to listen to an entire album of it at one go. Besides, when I'm drunk I can only dance to music I know well, and I'd never heard most of these songs.)

In a surprisingly tactful move, considering both our states, K.T. decided to put on her Dr. Demento album, starting with Frank Zappa's song, "Dancin' Fool." Whether this was a peace offering or an attempt to shut me up, I decided it was better than Wings, and got back up to dance.

Elizabeth, in a wholly successful attempt not to have her own picture taken, had snitched my camera and was taking pictures of the dancing. She took fifteen or twenty shots, but since Greg, T, and I were the only ones dancing, I wound up erasing most of the pictures the next day. The three or so that I kept get across the general silliness pretty well. (If you want to see them, the pictures are in the photo album.)

I'd stopped drinking around eight so I'd be sober enough for the drive home by ten or so. Good timing on my part, too, because K.T. decided to stretch out on the couch and rest around then.

Sunday, I slept in late, and spent the whole morning and a good portion of the afternoon reading. At various times, I'd look up, notice the time, realize I was still in my pajamas, and announce to the universe in general: "I am Slug-Woman!" I didn't actually get dressed until mid-afternoon, when Matt started the laundry and I realized that I really needed my pajamas to get washed.

My triumph of the day was that Matt, while downloading something that was taking longer than he thought, picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and began idly reading it - and immediately got sucked in. By the end of the day, he'd read all three books, too. He made some comparisons that I hadn't even thought of consciously - that Harry Potter is an awful lot like Books of Magic's Tim Hunter, for one; and that the huge, bumbling Hagrid has the "feel" of a Braz character. And he made one observation with which I heartily agreed: "That Malfoy is a stink!"

Now, to slip him Partners in Necessity...

Friday, February 25, 2000

25 February 2000

Well, we helped K.T. and Kevin move last night. Not that there was much for us to do - by the time we were both off from work and had found the new apartment, they and some helpers from Kevin's work had already gotten most everything. When we got there, they'd already emptied the second U-Haul load and were having some pizza.

We had a couple of slices of pizza, and then Matt went with the boys back to the apartment for a final load, and K.T. and I went to pick up her pictures from her trip to New Orleans and unpacked things.

After the last load had been unloaded, K.T. and I drove to the old apartment to pick up the cats. We took separate cars - Sandi and Bear stuck in a car together meow and yowl pitifully in chorus, and it's enough to drive someone quite mad. I took Sandi, and was extremely amused. Rather than yowling the way my cat does, she let off a continuous series of little quiet "meow!"s.

As I told everyone when I got back - it was very easy to imagine that she was saying, "Help! Oh, help! I've been kidnapped! Help! Someone save me!" Her "voice" was somewhat quiet and ladylike, and if I didn't know that Sandi was a huge blob of a cat, I'd have pictured her as being small and dainty.

K.T. had bought a cake in addition to the pizza - one mover's birthday was only two days past, and another's was coming up in only a day or so. Matt was good, but I gave in and blew my diet. (Actually, I don't think I really blew it, but I did stretch it to its limit. The party on Saturday will probably blow it.)

K.T. had gotten a new Pizza Hut cheese-lover's pizza, which I actually rather liked (naturally, since she was unimpressed) - but I'd forgotten about what lots of cheese does to my digestive system. I was up and down several times last night. No fun.

And of course I'm tired this morning. I managed to dribble juice all over my new shirt while I was taking my medicine this morning. My only consolation is that it was apple juice instead of cranberry juice, so it came out quickly with some cold water.

Work is likely to be boring today. I've reached a point where I can't do any more on my part of the project until some of the other people finish their parts.

I've come up with a project to work on for my webpage, but I haven't decided yet whether I want to do it in JavaScript, Perl, or PHP3, so I'll be looking into the possibilities of each. I may also attempt to work on some fiction, but we'll see about that.

Thursday, February 24, 2000

24 February 2000

You'll be pleased to know that there was no more calculus last night.

I did stay up late reading a book, though. Tonight we're helping K.T. and Kevin move, so we'll probably be up late again. (Here's to hoping that next time they move, Kevin will have a more normal schedule so they can move over a weekend.) So I anticipate wanting to sleep in on Saturday.

I finished the afghan yesterday that I've been working on for the past six months. Except I haven't really been working on it for six months, have I? I worked on it for about three weeks, then dropped it for a while, then picked it back up for a few days, then dropped it again. But I finally finished it yesterday. Hoorah!

Now I have to decide if I'm going to make another one, or make my new project working on the yard - it's nearly spring; time to buy some mulch and edging and grass seed and plants and start trying to make our front yard look less like a long-forgotten mudpit and more like an actual yard. And to decide if I want to actually try to make a garden patch on the side of the house this year, or wait until next year.

Anyone out there who actually has luck keeping plants alive, I'd be terribly grateful for advice...

The cat has been waking us up earlier and earlier in the morning. Pretty soon, if he keeps this up, he'll be waking us up very late at night instead of early in the morning, and we'll just give up and go back to putting him in the garage before we go to bed.

I wish to hell I could figure out what triggers his decision that it's time for us to get up. I used to think it was the pale glow of false dawn, but this week he's started his wake-up games before four, so that can't be it. For a while, I thought he was detecting when one of us was close to consciousness, but that doesn't seem to be it, either.

I've tried to train him to trigger with the sun rising or the alarms going off, but he isn't interested in such mundane signals.

My current guess is that he starts making a pest of himself as soon as orange air molecules outnumber blue ones by a factor of two to one.

On Tuesday, I went out to lunch and blew my diet, leaving Matt and I uneven at dinner. Yesterday, Matt had pizza for lunch and blew his diet, leaving us uneven at dinner.

Today, our lunches are almost exactly matched, so we'll be pretty even at dinner.

Naturally, this occurs when we're most likely to wind up having fast food for dinner and - you guessed it - blow our diets.

Oh, in case you're interested, I updated my dencity account the other day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

23 February 2000

I'm such a geek.

I was still pretty awake when I went to bed last night, and Matt was in the computer room chatting with Braz and KT. So, as I often do, I let my mind wander, and pretty soon I was having imaginary conversations with imaginary people. (Or rather, real people who were only there in my imagination.)

Wait, that's not the thing that makes me a geek! Everyone does that, right?


Um, guys? You can stop laughing, now.

Anyway, I was having these imaginary conversations, in my head. (No, I'm not stupid enough to have them out loud.) And the subject turned - gods only know how - to mathematics.

I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense. I have a master's degree in theoretical mathematics, after all. In this imaginary conversation, I was explaining to whoever it was that sometimes I felt kindof dumb because I've forgotten practically all the math I learned in graduate school. But then it occurs to me that I still know more math than most people ever know. I could still teach calculus, if I had to - how many people could say that?

And then it occured to me to wonder if I could still teach calculus. I've been a computer programmer for five years, and while it's frequently a challenging job, I hardly ever use any math more advanced than algebra. And basic algebra, at that.

I mean, derivatives, I said to myself, my imaginary conversational partner slowly fading away, I can do derivatives in my sleep, except maybe the trig stuff. (I'd been in an accelerated math program in high school that skipped trigonometry altogether, except for a one-week "refresher" on it in my pre-calculus class. As a result, I never was very good with trig.) But could I still do integrals? I was never all that great with integrals to begin with.

I gave myself an integral to do. int( x^2 dx ). (Well, the web isn't really the best place for mathematical notation. In my mind the exponent was properly poised as a superscript, and the squiggly integral sign was out in front.)

I barely hesitated before remembering that if you want nice neat answers, you have to have a coefficient. int( 3x^2 dx ). Wait, wait, don't make it that obvious. int( 6 x^2 dx ). Obvious? I demanded of myself indignantly. I'm not making a test here or anything! I stopped futzing with the question and solved the integral. 2x^3 + C, where C is some constant. (I was proud that I remembered to add the constant. Countless quizzes received only partial credit for forgetting that damned constant.)

Pshaw, myself answered. That's a baby problem.

Well, I said, somewhat defensively. If you've got several things added together, then you can just integrate each piece separately and then add them back together at the end.

What about-

No trig! I reminded myself, interrupting.

- multiplied items? How do you break apart an integral when things have been multiplied together?

Now here, I was stumped. I knew you couldn't break apart multiples and just multiply them back together again when you finished integrating. To prove it to myself, I broke my 6x^2 into 6x and x. Wait! I recalled triumphantly. You can move constant multipliers out of the integral!

Oh, very good, myself said dryly. What about that x^2?

Oops. I'm boring you, aren't I? The upshot of that was that I spent about twenty minutes drawing with my finger on Matt's pillow, and still couldn't remember how to break the formula apart. Finally, Matt came to bed.

"Sweetie? You still love me, right? Even if I'm a complete and utter geek?"

"Of course," he said. "Why?"

I told him that I couldn't sleep because I was stuck on a calculus problem. He looked at me with sympathy - or perhaps it was the sort of pity that people offer to the mentally deranged - and kissed me goodnight.

About ten minutes later, he remembered something he had to do downstairs, and got up. I gave up, turned on the light, and fetched my calculus book from my bookshelf. (Yes, I kept all my math books. Yes, I keep them in my bedroom.) Ah-ha! You can't break apart an integral around multiplications unless you're breaking apart different variables.

With a sense of relief, I put the book back on its shelf, turned out the light, and slept like a baby until the cat woke me up at 3:30.

Tuesday, February 22, 2000

22 February 2000

The rest of my weekend was much less busy than Saturday. On Sunday we did the laundry, went out to eat, and stopped in to visit my parents for a little while before going down to Hampton for the third and final time to feed the assorted critters. Monday - ah, glorious holiday! - we went to Sam's Club and did the grocery shopping, but mostly spent the day lounging around the house in wonderful sloth.

Talking with my parents about plans for my brother's wedding this summer, Matt asked if they knew where they were registered yet. I looked at him in disbelief.

I love my brother, and I adore his fiancee, but our plane tickets to the wedding are going to be $750 each! That doesn't include at least three nights of staying in a hotel, not to mention assorted clothing costs! Mind you, I wouldn't miss this wedding for anything short of a trip to the hospital, but still.

"They're going to get the afghan I'm making," I reminded Matt.

It was his turn to look at me in disbelief. For approximately the past two months, the afghan has been stuffed under the table next to the couch, untouched.

"Well," he said, choosing his words with evident care, "where are they registered anyway, just in case you don't finish the afghan on time?"

Sigh. Thus reminded, I fished the afghan out from under the table and got in about four hours of work that night and Monday. I estimate that another four or five hours will finish it.

Someone brought a bottle of Colonial Williamsburg mulled sparkling cider to our New Year's party, either as a contribution to the party or as a guest-gift, I'm not sure which. I think I remember who it was that brought it, but if I turn out to be wrong, then someone's feelings are going to be hurt, and it doesn't really matter right now, anyway.

The point is that there was this bottle of (nonalcoholic) cider in our refrigerator that we've been looking at for almost two months, and last night Matt decided to heck with it, and opened it.

We each had a cupful. It was actually quite tasty - sortof like apple juice mixed with good spicy ginger ale and rather a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg. In any case, there were about three fingers of cider left in the bottle, and as we got ready to get on the MeadeHall last night, Matt prepared to finish it off. Sweetheart that he is, he offered it to me first.

"Do you want this mulled spider?"

Becky is gone from the office - she's on travel to New Mexico for a couple of weeks. She asked me to look after her plants while she's gone.

I warned her about me and plants, I did!

She didn't quite believe me, so she brought them over anyway, but we put them on the bookshelf that's away in the center of the room instead of on my desk. Hopefully, they'll be distracted and not realize that I'm the one watering them.

We had a fun time on the MeadeHall last night. Braz is running a plot right now where his Werewolf character, Moon Dancer, has returned after a long absence and has lost all memory of us. He claims to be a member of some secret Brotherhood, but is unwilling for safety reasons to tell us anything whatsoever about this Brotherhood. More astonishingly, he doesn't seem to be a werewolf anymore. His first night back, he was engaged in combat and touched with silver - he wasn't harmed by the silver, and his wounds didn't close of themselves.

This smacks of something sinister.

My character, Zoya, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, but she doesn't want to destroy Marten (the name 'Dancer is using in his amnesia). She especially wants to be careful about how she goes about her investigations - it's entirely possible that 'Dancer had a very good reason for subsuming his true personality and having the wolf removed, even if we didn't even know that was possible.

Of course, "possible" doesn't mean "probable" and I rather suspect this suspicious Brotherhood is using 'Dancer/Marten for their own ends, so I hope we'll be able to get to the bottom of the matter soon.

More disturbing, Marten was flirting with Zoya last night.

Zoya doesn't handle intimate relationships very well. To begin with, she's sortof odd-looking - six feet tall, thin to the point of emaciation, and has bright white hair (well, that's not as odd as it used to be, since her hair used to be purple.) And her voice is that of a man, the result of a magical accident during her apprenticeship. She did have a couple of romances as a young adventurer, but they ended quite badly for her, and she has since devoted herself entirely to her studies. (Truth be told, she still carries a tiny bit of a torch for her master, long dead and far away as he is.)

Marten's flirting could have disastrous results.

If she lets him through her barriers, then she is only setting herself up for disappointment when his memory of being Moon Dancer returns. Nor have I discounted the possibility that - consciously or not - Marten is following some order of his Brotherhood that demands some sort of mischief against Zoya, and that this is the method he is using to get close enough to her to do that.

Luckily, Zoya is as oblivious as she is clueless, and she believes Marten's attentions were merely a reflection of his own interest in retrieving his missing memories.

No matter what happens, it should be interesting...

Sunday, February 20, 2000

20 February 2000

I had a lovely, if fairly busy, Saturday. We started out at Staples, buying a new mouse for my computer. The old one had shocked me rather badly Friday when I went to use it, and then stopped working. Matt took it apart, but didn't see any visible damage, but even after rebooting and re-loading the drivers it continued to function wrongly, so we gave up and decided to buy a new one. We debated for a while picking up one of the new optical mouses (don't bother sending me e-mail; I only use the word mice to describe a plurality of small rodents) but decided that we weren't really ready to invest $70 in one just yet, and picked up a basic Microsoft wheelie-mouse. (I'm addicted to my wheel - I'm strong enough to admit it.)

It took us at least three times as long to get rung up at the Staples as it did for us to select the mouse. I wasn't terribly surprised; there are two things that are always true for me at Staples: Any piece of electronics retailing for more than $50 will not be in stock when I want to buy it, and it always takes entirely too long to get through the checkout lines.

After that, we stopped in at the Cube for our weekly comics. As Mark (the owner) says, his shop on the weekends has exactly two states: Completely empty, or full to overflowing. There's never "just a few" people in the shop. (Of course, that perception isn't helped by the fact that the shop is so crammed with merchandise that four people have trouble maneuvering around each other.) At any rate, it was crammed when we got there - mostly with Pokemon kids and their parents.

I cancelled one comic (Kabuki - I keep getting suckered into buying sketch collections and issue re-prints when all I want is the story; I guess I'll just have to wait for the trade paperbacks to be released) and paid for the two comics in my box. Matt poked around a little and bought his stuff, and then we were on the road.

When we got to the mall, we had lunch and then split up for a couple of hours. I don't know what Matt did, but I went shopping for clothes. I wound up buying three shirts that showed off my, um, assets quite nicely. One of them is a real dare for me - I don't usually wear bright colors, especially orange and yellow, but I pulled this lemon-yellow shirt off the rack just for kicks and was astonished when I got it on at how cute it looked. It was on sale, so I took a chance.

I also resisted about six dresses and jumpers that looked great but that I wasn't sure would be comfortable enough or dressy enough for the office. I don't dress up on weekends much, so buying a dress - no matter how attractive - that I'd only wear once every six weeks or so just wasn't in the cards. I did pick up a sexy satin bra, and a new strapless bra (I finally found a place that carries them!) in case I need one for John's wedding.

I swung by a cheap accessories shop and picked up some hair decorations - K.T. and I had discovered them almost two months ago, but my hair is so fine I wasn't sure they'd stay in. But K.T. let me try the ones she bought, and they seemed stable enough, so this time around (yes, I only go to the mall about once every two months or so) I picked up a couple of sets for myself. I wanted about five packs of them, but at six bucks a pop, decided I should confine myself to two until I knew how often I'd be wearing them.

I rounded out my trip with a stop in the Bath and Body Works for some girly-smelling gunk. It tooke me about four tries to get a combination of tubes and bottles and bars that all matched the sale, then picked up another tube of some sparkly stuff that wasn't on sale, and debated very seriously picking up a little makeup tube that was a lip pencil on one end and a tube of shiny gloss on the other. But I hardly ever wear makeup, so I contented myself with using the store's display and paying for my lotions and soaps.

After that, we got back in our car and drove down to the movie theater to see what time Galaxy Quest was showing. By a stroke of incredible luck, it was just starting when we got up to the ticket window, and we bought our tickets and hurried down to the theater, in time to catch most of the previews.

Galaxy Quest wasn't a great movie, but it was hysterically funny, especially for those of us who have been to science-fiction conventions, and encountered people who take their fandom just a little too seriously. It spoofed science-fiction TV quite well, picking up the stereotypes and archetypes beautifully. I especially enjoyed the non-regular crewman, Guy, wailing and bemoaning his imminent death. "I don't have a last name because I'm not important enough to have a last name! I'm the crewman who gets killed before the first commercial break to prove the situation is serious!" I also loved it that for a while, the rest of them bought into it: "We've got to get back to the shuttle before Guy gets killed!"

At any rate, if you like science-fiction television - especially Star Trek - or have ever been to a sci-fi convention, you'll really love this movie. If you don't meet those categories, you can probably give it a miss; most of the humor involved is the inside jokes based on those themes, and without understanding that humor, it would probably be a pretty awful movie.

Of course, Matt and I both loved it. We giggled about various scenes all the way over to K.T. and Kevin's apartment, where we took care of their assorted animals, petted the cats a little, and headed back home to prepare for the Skiffy party.

Matt and I had both been members of Skiffy, which is short for The William and Mary Science-Fiction and Fantasy Club. (So now you know why we call it Skiffy. The was once a motion to change the club's name to Psi Phi, but the fantasy fans objected.) At any rate, the current bunch is slightly better organized than we ever were, and they'd decided to throw a party for the 25th anniversary of the club, inviting as many alumni as they could find. There was supposed to be a general gathering for a couple of hours and then a dance party. (The dance, as we found out, was actually a separate function, held a couple of times a year. Since it happened to coincide with the other party, they decided to combine the two.)

The year I'd come back from graduate school, I actually wrote a newsletter for Skiffy, and I had found that disk just a few days ago while I was looking for my old stories to post on my dencity page. So I printed out copies of each of the newsletters and copied the files onto a fresh disk and donated them all to the club's archives. The current crop of Skiffy members is just as wacky and bizarre as we were, much to my relief - I'd been worried that all this organization bespoke a change in personality as well.

Only five alumni showed up - T, Greg, and Dave (who graduated just last year and who I only barely remember from my last year there) but on their sign-up sheet, we wrote down all the names and e-mail addresses we could think of. I'd taken my camera, but forgot it in the car, so I'm afraid I don't have any pictures.

Which is too bad, because there were many moments worth capturing. Watching T and Greg flirt with all the girls was an entertainment unto itself. And T really hammed it up on the dance floor - actually, I wished I'd had a video camera, because mere still pictures couldn't have done him justice.

I danced some, marvelling at everyone else's boundless energy, ate a little, talked a lot, and had a really great time. It was almost surprising, because I usually don't do well in groups where I don't know at least half. But this was Skiffy, after all, and these people were just crazy enough to relax around. Matt and I are thinking of going to future dance parties, if we can find out when they are.

We left when things were obviously winding down and my feet were starting to really hurt. (I'd done a dumb thing and sat down to rest them, forgetting that like muscles, they need to be cooled while stretching or they'll tighten up.)

So I'm limping a bit today, but feeling quite satisfied with my weekend so far. Today's agenda includes doing the laundry, a trip to the drugstore, a possible trip to Sam's Club, and a possible visit with my parents. Things are pretty much up in the air, but after all the running around we did yesterday, I'm okay with that.

Friday, February 18, 2000

18 February 2000

Yesterday, about an hour before lunch, I started to feel it - an ache in my back in the mid-to-lower right. I sat up carefully and put my lumbar-support pillow behind me.

It didn't get any better. The ache faded, to be replaced by a sharp pain when ever I moved that muscle group too quickly. The lumbar support didn't help any. I went on my usual daily walk in the hopes that a little exercise and fresh air might have an effect. No good.

Sitting on the couch at home was even worse, and finally I got Matt to come with me to the drugstore where we picked up a heating pad. I spent twenty minutes leaning into the heating pad's highest setting, and the pain subsided enough to allow me to make dinner, though I returned to the heat as soon as I had my bowl of food. A half-hour or so of heat just before I went to sleep let me drift off to sleep without too much pain, and I hoped fervently that a good night's sleep would take care of it.

It doesn't seem to have worked. I'm going to give it until Monday, because a trip to the doctor means I have to hunt down our incompetant HR person and collect the insurance information that they still haven't sent me yet. Besides, I'm pretty sure it's a pinched nerve or something similar, so I don't know what the doctor can do about it anyway.

Still, I refuse to let it change my plans for this weekend! I don't actually get in the mood to shop very often, so when it rolls around, I need to let it have its way! And for whatever reason, Matt and I don't get to the movies very often, so since we've actually planned to go this weekend (to see Galaxy Quest, since you're curious) I don't want to change that plan, either!

Now that Valentine's Day is past, Cadbury has released their stock. I'm not actually a big fan of the Cadbury Creme Egg - too much sugar and not enough flavor - but I really do like their Caramel Eggs. I was crushed last year when I couldn't find any.

I discovered in the drugstore last night that they've got a new flavor this year (at least new to me): Chocolate Creme Eggs. Oh, my. Now that I've got to try.

Didn't I just start my diet back up...?

My mom sent me a slightly belated Valentine via my father yesterday. Imagine two Hershey's kisses, stuck together at their bases. Then wrap them in pink cellophane, and attach that and a fake leave to a wire by means of some florist's tape. The whole thing looks astonishingly like a rosebud. Very clever, whoever thought it up!

It's so cute I'm reluctant to take it apart!

I've been kindof slack at work this week - since so much of my project depends on what my co-workers are doing, there really hasn't been all that much for me to do. But yesterday I managed to come up with a list of about seven things that need to be done, at least four of which I can do before getting anything else from the others. So I should actually attempt to get some work done this morning. Shocking, isn't it?

Oh, by the way, I've got a holiday on Monday, so even if I do write that day, it probably won't be until later in the day. Just so you know.

Thursday, February 17, 2000

17 February 2000

K.T. had invited us over last night to watch her new copy of Vampire Hunter D - subtitled, which I've wanted to see for ages. (The straight Japanese version is somewhat confusing, and the dubbed version is awful, as most dubs are.) But whenever we go over to their place during the week, we wind up staying later than we should, and I'm tired all the rest of the week (it's so hard to get caught up on sleep).

But then K.T. found out that due to circumstances beyond her control, she was losing her job - such are the vagaries of life as a temp - and we decided that, lack of sleep or not, we should go over and offer our sympathy and support.

K.T. told me that they had no food at their place (which I didn't actually believe - the lesson K.T. took away from her late-college years of poverty was to have food on hand at all times, and lots of it - but I was willing to believe that they weren't in the mood to prepare any of the food they had) and asked Matt and I to stop at McDonald's to pick something up on our way over.

Well, I'm trying to go back to my diet, and I'm sure you can imagine that McDonald's is definitely not a diet-friendly place, but I counted up what I'd had to eat, and decided that if I had a salad as my main course, then I could afford to satisfy my craving for french fries. So I agreed, and took their orders.

On my way over to 3GI to pick up Matt (whose van was at the shop for an inspection) I thought that maybe I'd rather have a sub, actually - if only to wash away the nasty taste of the sub I'd had at the Stupid Meeting on Tuesday. There aren't any Subways on our end of Williamsburg, or even conveniently planted on the route between our place and K.T.'s, but there is one on one of the possible routes between 3GI and our house.

So we took that route home, picking up a couple of subs (Matt's trying to diet, too) on our way. We picked up Matt's van - and there's a story to that which I'll leave to Matt to tell - and went home and collected the last of our spare boxes for K.T. and Kevin to use in moving, and dropped of some other odds and ends, and I made myself some popcorn to stave off the french-fry craving. We headed out, finding the interstate almost suspciously clear, and remembered miraculously to drive past K.T. and Kevin's place to the McDonald's.

Since K.T. had made a difficult request (no bacon on her Arch Deluxe! Astonishing!) Matt and I were prepared to wait a while. While we were waiting, a couple of girls approached the register, and both asked for a grilled chicken salad. The person manning the register stepped back, peered into a refrigerator, and told them, "Only one left."

The girls had a short conference, and one of them said, "All right, I'll have a garden salad, then."

The cashier didn't even look this time. "None left."

I was as astonished as the girls were. Out of salads?

Good thing I'd decided to have a sub!

Vampire Hunter D was very good, subtitled. Enough so that I'm tempted to pick up a copy for myself, despite the fact that I haven't watched any of my anime for several years. But D was one of the first anime movies I'd ever seen, and so it holds a special place in my heart. (The very first anime I ever saw was a Dirty Pair movie, which I thought was hysterical. If anime wasn't so expensive, it would probably be one of my actual hobbies. As it is, I watch a tape or so every six months and wish more subtitled stuff was available at reasonable prices.)

I slept much better last night, but was having very disturbing dreams near morning. There was some sort of troupe or show that I was part of, and the show we were doing climaxed with the hatching of a spider's egg sac and the flight of the baby spiders. (You've read Charlotte's Web, haven't you?)

Of course, in my dream, they weren't nearly-invisible baby spiders; they were all the spider I'd seen walking across the kitchen ceiling and then lost yesterday morning while I was making our lunches. It wasn't big, but it was definitely visible.

I couldn't get away from them, and I was almost grateful when the cat jumped up on the bed and started batting around my eyeglasses on my nightstand to wake me up.

I finally activated my Dencity account yesterday. I've decided to make it an archive of my fiction stories and am hoping that it will prod me to write more. I'm also thinking of using it for some of the older pictures from the photo album, and possibly as an information archive for active RPGs.

Nothing like good intentions!

Of course, nothing's there right now except the title page. I'll try to let you know when I get things up and running over there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

16 February 2000

Well, I got some much-needed sleep yesterday. Unfortunately, some of it was during the boring meeting, and I let my notepad slide out of my hands and off my lap to the floor. Heh-heh-heh. Then I made the mistake of leaving my notepad right-side-up on my chair when I went to get my lunch, and someone noticed the elaborate doodles I'd been making. Heh. Okay, so I don't do well in meetings. I did come up with several ideas for my game while I was sitting there doodling, though, so the three hours weren't entirely wasted!

After I got home, I changed the cat's litter, put my new county sticker on my car, and then lounged on the couch to read. When Matt got home, I greeted him and then went back to my book when Matt went upstairs to check his mail.

The next thing I knew, Matt was turning on the light, waking me up.

I went to bed early, but it was something of a rough night.

Around 2:30, I rolled over and woke up a bit when the cat pulled his tail back out from under me. He doesn't often snuggle down into the bed between Matt and I, so I smiled and petted him a little and went back to sleep.

Then the weird dream hit.
I got up to go to the bathroom. After I flushed, I took a step off the bathmat to head back to bed, and my sandal made a soft splash noise. Oh, no... I thought, and turned around to look. There was not one, not even two, but three toilets in the bathroom, every one of them the sleek and glossy black of a sportscar. Where'd the extra toilet come from? I thought, and went to ask Matt.

"Why do we have three toilets?" I asked him.

Sleepily, he suggested that the third had been delivered by workmen when we weren't home, and hadn't been installed yet.

"But it
flushed! I protest.

Closer examination reveals that the toilet is taking water in from somewhere, but dumping it on the floor. Irritably, I go to get some towels to clean up the mess. After a long and confused while during which I have to climb over obstacles and hunt through innumerable bags to find a towel, I return with one. Matt has in the meantime gotten out of bed and - for reasons best known to him - taken all the clothes out of the closet.

"Look at this!" he says. I follow him into the closet where the wall, now revealed, is black with mold and rot, and peeling away from the supports.

I am aghast. "We need to call the builder to fix this right away!"

I go back into the bathroom and start wadding the towel up on the floor. I see another towel in the spare shower
(spare shower?) but can't figure out how to get to it. The spare shower is at the back of a nook at least ten feet deep, and there's no floor between the door to the shower and the tub - you have to jump to get there, and the floor on which to land looks awfully slippery...

There's a loud clatter behind me, and I turn around but don't see anything but the three glossy toilets and the counter. Matt comes in. "The damn skylight fell in!" Skylight? I look up, and sure enough, there's a vent leading up to a skylight which hasn't been attached to the roof, but propped into place by three boards that look sortof like railroad ties. One of them has fallen to the floor, and the skylight itself is slipping...
No, I don't get it, either.

I woke up just a little when the cat climbed over me and jumped off the bed, and then woke up rather more when I realized the cat was making the hrrk! noises that accompany his hairballs. Matt and I both sat straight up. "No!"

I looked over the side of the bed, and he'd already deposited one hairball on my sneakers. I picked him up and tossed him into the bathroom (checking quickly to make sure there was still only one white toilet) to finish his business. I rinsed off the sneaker, decided to leave the rest of the mess until morning, and went back to bed.

Naturally, at 5:15, the cat decided he wanted to be fed and began rubbing his face against my chin. I woke up and groggily led the way down to the kitchen and into the garage, and went back to bed.

So, while I probably got ten hours of sleep yesterday, I'm still feeling tired, because the longest uninterrupted bit of sleep I got was only about five hours.

Tuesday, February 15, 2000

15 February 2000

Valentine TulipsValentine BalloonsI had a lovely Valentine's Day. Matt had 70 tulips sent to me at work, though we were both slightly confused by the flower people choosing to send them in two separate bouquets of unequal size and non-matching colors. (One bouquet was obviously intended for Valentine's day, consisting of twenty tulips - ten red, five pink, and five white, and the other was a bunch of fifty orange tulips.) The Valentine bouquet is very pretty, and the bunch of fifty looks quite impressive on our table, even if the only thing I had that was big enough for the whole bunch was a juice pitcher.

I'd arranged to have a bunch of balloons delivered to Matt at work, along with a small teddy bear wearing a pair of boxer shorts that almost match a pair of Matt's - white with red hearts on them. Matt seemed pleased, at any rate. He says he knew something was up when the receptionist called him up to the desk, and as he came up the last flight of stairs, he noticed a gaggle of office people standing around. Heh.

Because of the texture of its "fur" Matt called the teddy bear an "oatmeal bear." Over the course of the evening, the bear shook its behind at me, did a couple of little kick-dances, mooned me (the boxers come off), kissed both of us goodnight, walked all over us, bapped me on the nose a few times, and used my arm as a playground slide. I think Matt likes it.

The MeadeHall was pretty intense last night. Jeff's naive girl-character Temire slipped sideways into the ether, and my mage, Zoya, spent most of the evening trying to talk her out, with the assistance of Glossaria (Zoya's librarian, who helped cast the spells necessary for Zoya to communicate with Temire) and K.T.'s vampire-hunter Nacheyla, who was standing by with an ether-sword (which I teased her looked an awful lot like a light-saber to me) ready to pierce the fabric that divided the two planes in case it seemed that Temire was stuck.

Luckily, I managed to talk Temire back through to the correct plane (somehow, she's been falling through her own reflection for weeks, and hasn't bothered to mention it! Foolish girl!) just in time for her to rematerialize in the middle of a fight.

The long-absent MoonDancer (played by the often-absent Braz) had returned, but with a distressing turn of events - he remembers none of us, and he's lost the skills, abilities, and restrictions that were native to his race. (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague. Suffice it to say that he appears to have turned from a being of somewhat impressive power into a simple human.) Trying to bring out those inherent powers, Jaret (Matt) had engaged him in combat.

Temire, because Jeff can't do a thing simply if it can possibly be complicated, rematerialized in the middle of this combat, taking a punch meant for Jaret square on her face. With instinctive reaction, she stabbed MoonDancer. (At least she's got reactions now.)

So Zoya, still breathing hard from her efforts to help Temire, succumbed to the urging of her god (did I mention Zoya had been recruited as a priestess for the ex-Hall-patron-now-god Erdian a while back?) and healed MoonDancer. Which was odd, because healing isn't a normal part of Zoya's spheres - I can only assume that Erdian was taking a direct hand in things, using her as his vessel.

So he was healed, and we explained that it wasn't the norm for us to attack visitors, but that we thought he might have actually been the person he resembled, his memory suppressed for some reason. By then, we'd run over our time by almost an hour, so we agreed to let him stay in the Hall and finish healing while we look in to the mystery.

When we mentioned at the game this weekend that there were online journals in which he was mentioned, Mike asked for URLs. So yesterday morning, I mailed him three - mine, K.T.'s, and Matt's. Yesterday afternoon, he started poking around.

I could tell he was reading this journal backwards, because every now and then he'd laugh and read something outloud that had amused him. I must say, it was an odd sensation, knowing that he was sitting just on the other side of the room, reading what I had written. But then, I can say from experience that it's a slightly odd sensation to read something that has been written about yourself, so I suppose we're even.

Monday, February 14, 2000

14 February 2000

Happy Valentine's Day! Matt and I couldn't stand the wait this morning and exchanged our presents before we even got dressed. Wait, that's not what it sounds like!

I gave him two comedy CDs, and he gave me the Gary Larson book, There's a Hair in My Dirt!, which I've been wanting for a while and never getting around to getting. He's got another present coming later today, too.

We don't have anything special planned for today. Monday is the day we usually do the grocery shopping and get on the MeadeHall, so there isn't much time for anything. We might have a belated dinner out, later this week, when we're less likely to have to stand in line for hours. We thought about meeting for lunch, but I'm starting back on my diet today, which makes it a very bad day to go out to lunch!

We had a pretty good weekend, though. I already wrote about the circus on Friday (the pictures are up in the album, by the way). Saturday evening I picked back up the reins of my game, and as I'd guessed, Mike fit into our group pretty well. We didn't get a whole lot of actual gaming done - since Mike was new to our group, we took the opportunity to tell him all the stories we're tired of telling each other, and so the conversation kept getting sidetracked.

Which was all right, because while I've got the general outline of the current plot set up, I don't have all the intermediate details worked out. Since the next game won't be for another month (due to various conflicts) this will give me some time to plan, now that I know what the party's composition is.

We subjected Mike to trial by fire - we let Greg drive all of us to dinner. Greg's a fairly reasonable driver when he's familiar with the roads he's driving, but when he's unsure of himself, his skill falls by a factor of ten. Of course, I'm sure it doesn't help to have us all in the car, laughing and joking and teasing him. He takes all it in fairly good grace, which I'm not sure I'd be able to do.

Matt did get some humor points in. He's playing a dwarven priest, and when Mike decided to play a dwarf as well, they played off each other. They had a schtick going for a while where they were "snoring" in concert while I rolled the night's random encounters. At one point, K.T.'s character took a long pole, slipped it through the entrance to Matt's character's tent, and poked him with it, trying to stop the snoring.

Matt grunted, wiggled, and muttered (in his deep and gruff dwarf voice), "Rock rats!" and resumed snoring.

For some reason this struck all of us as extremely funny.

And I had to use a fair amount of GM fudge-factor to keep K.T.'s character alive. The party was attacked by stirges while K.T.'s character was on watch, and she failed both perception and surprise rolls, and wound up with two of the little bloodsuckers attached to her. The whole combat was partially fudged at any rate, because stirges, once attached, are supposed to do 1d3 points of damage every round. I decided that they did the 1d3 points when they attached, but that subsequent rounds only did a single point. Which is good, because otherwise the party - all first-level characters - would've been in big trouble.

K.T.'s character was down to a single hit point when she fumbled.

I don't like for characters to collapse on a fumble. If she'd been healthier, I'd have had her take some damage and lose some time recovering. But any damage at all would have knocked her unconscious. I thought about breaking her sword but not having it do any damage, but that would've left her without any weapons at all.

Last night's group didn't include Carl, the power gamer, so I wasn't forced to be the hardass GM. I gave her the choice, and she opted to have her sword break. Probably the best choice - it was taking a while to mop up, and if she'd been an nonmoving target, the remaining stirges would have had a much easier time getting to her.

At any rate, it was a good combat. Everyone was sweating a little, and I think I managed to fudge things just enough to let the party prevail while still keeping it exciting.

Sunday was fairly uneventful; we didn't leave the house all day. I took a stab at doing our taxes, and boy I hope my dad can find something I did wrong, because otherwise we're going to owe the IRS over $500!

Matt insisted that since I'd done the taxes (or at least tried) and put the dishes in the dishwasher in the morning, that he should do the laundry. I figured the fair trade would be to let him sort it and carry it downstairs, and then to take the clean stuff back up the stairs. Moving laundry from the dryer to the basket and from the washer to the dryer isn't especially taxing anyway.

He would come down to check on the laundry, realize I'd already moved it, and come in where I was reading and make little hmph! noises at me, chanting "Sit-and-rest! Sit-and-rest!" After a while, I kept doing it just because he was so funny. (Sorry, sweetie.)

I've got another stupid training meeting tomorrow. Well, two of them, but they're back-to-back, so it might as well be one. At least I know what these two are about. Quality Assurance and Configuration Management. Zzzz. Oh, well, at least we're getting fed again.

Which means I not only have to remember to get something that will taste okay at room temperature, but I have to find something on the menu that at least pretends to stick to my diet. Hmph. Well, I'll do my best.

But the meetings themselves promise to be mind-numbing. I mean, QA and CM are necessary evils in a software company, and I'll agree that we need to follow the procedures. But what's going to drive me crazy is that they're not going to just tell us how to go about testing and saving versions. They're going to tell us details that are completely insignificant to us. All I want to know is, what do you want me to do? and who do I talk to if I have ideas or questions? But that would be too easy. A free lunch isn't worth this much hassle.

Hmm. Maybe this time I'll bring my notepad and work on my game.

Saturday, February 12, 2000

12 February 2000

Yeah, we went to the circus last night! It was great! Matt and I wound up being about fifteen minutes late meeting everyone, but we were plenty early for the show. Our seats were almost the same as they had been last year, but slightly closer to the center ring - pretty good, actually! The pre-show entertainment on the floor was fun to watch, though like last year, we didn't bother to pay the no-doubt exhorbitant fee to get in.

I got a laugh from the vendors, too - most of them were walking slowly up and down the stairs yelling loudly: "Popcorn! Fresh hot popcorn!" "Ice-cold soda!" "Cotton candy!" Then a different one came by. He wasn't yelling. He was talking barely loud enough to be heard, actually: "Ben and Jerry's... Ice cream here..." He knew his product would sell, even without loud hawking.

I confess, I teared up several times after the show started. I love watching acrobats. The way they make it all look so effortless, while I know for a fact that I can barely walk from my front door to my car without stumbling. One team on a trampoline had a kid who couldn't have been more than twelve, and he was turning somersaults in the air and landing on someone's shoulders, then jumping back off. The twelve-year-olds who play on our street slouch over their bicycles and scuff their feet on their way to the bus in the morning.

The act that really got to me were a pair of rope dancers. She hung by her hair fifteen and twenty feet off the ground while the rope swung in lazy circles around the ring, and juggled bright pins, sparkling rings, and flaming torches. Her skill choked me, but what had tears literally streaming down my face was her partner in the center ring. He wore plain white tights and no shirt, and he didn't do anything sparkling and flashy - but he was truly poetry in motion. Tied to the end of his rope were two long leads with loops, and he hung from those loops by his hands or his feet and he twisted himself around the ropes and his own body, flowing from position to position with astonishing fluidity. Simply considering the physical effort made me breathless. At one point it occured to me that this man was dancing like the most graceful of ballet dancers - but doing it holding himself taught twenty or thirty feet off the ground. It was fabulous.

The tigers choked me up, too, from their sheer power and beauty. I tried to take pictures, but they turned out too blurry to keep. The trainer didn't have much to show me that was impressive, but the gorgeous animals held me attention anyway.

Tightrope climaxI was actually slightly disappointed with some of the second half of the show - it seemed like that was where they had put all the less-well-rehearsed acts. Horses that trotted in circles? They were beautiful animals, but after the impressive riding demonstration the show had opened with, tricks that consisted of trotting around the ring in alternating colors wasn't very impressive. The trapeze artists didn't do anything special, especially given the number of them standing on the platform posing. What they did was pretty - and certainly I couldn't do it! - but only their climax hinted at real skill. I was disappointed at first by the seeming ineptness of the tightrope walkers as well, but their climax convinced me that they'd been shamming. (I should have guessed by the fact that they were working without a net.)

The other thing that detracted from the show for me were a duo of clowns. One of them did some impressive pratfalls and balanced a number of intertesting and ill-balancing items on his chin, but his "partner" - of whom much was made - was merely a very small midget who did nothing more than caper. My guess was that they were trying to capitalize on the popularity of the "Mini-Me" character in the second Austin Powers movie. I was slightly irritated that the circus was giving the title of "clown" to a person who would have been in less politically correct times nothing more than a freak-show attraction. (I'm not insulting midgets, here. There was another, slightly taller, midget in the show who actually participated in the clowning - taking falls and throwing pies - and he deserved the title. But this Mini-Me impersonator was resting on the laurels of his odd looks.)

Human cannonballThe real clown of the duo, however, provided the show's final climax - helmetless, he climbed into a giant cannon, and was launched across all three rings! It was quite impressive, I must say - a fitting end to the show. And this year, since we weren't at the very last show, they did their final musical number with all the glitzy, glittery costumes that I'd missed last year.

All in all, despite some minor disappointments, I had a fantastic time. I have a few more pictures, and pretty soon, I'll get them posted in the photo album, so keep your eyes open!

Friday, February 11, 2000

11 February 2000

I'm going to the circus tonight! Whee! Yeah, I'm ready for the weekend, why do you ask?

It promises to be a busy weekend, at any rate, with the circus tonight, the game tomorrow (it is really Friday today, isn't it, K.T.?) and some errands that I want to run mixed in. But it'll be fun, so bring it on!

This morning on the radio, as I was driving to work, the disc jockeys were talking to a seven-year-old boy. It was adorable.

"If I gave you ten dollars right now, Jimmy, what would you buy with it?"

"Basketball cards!" No hesitation.

"Do you have a girlfriend, Jimmy?"

(long pause) "Um, there's this... Not really."

"How do you know your parents love each other?"

(with mild distaste) "They kiss a lot."

"Do they ever go out and leave you at home with a babysitter?"


"What does the babysitter let you do that you're not supposed to do, Jimmy?"

(Jimmy's mom, muffled) "His mom is standing right here!"

I laughed. Kids are so funny sometimes.

We're coming up on spring, which means it's about time for my annual bout of wistfulness about babies. This happens every year: As the flowers begin to bloom, I suddenly find myself wondering if I might not want to change my stance on children. I notice cute kids more readily than obnoxious ones. I imagine the comforting warmth in my arms and the powdery smell...

And then sometime in late spring, when the leaves on the trees have grown to just about their full size, it fades away and the scent of baby powder sours into curdled milk and soiled diapers.

I suppose if it ever sticks with me through summer and autumn, then it might be time to actually think about re-evaluating.

I need to resign myself to wasting an evening working on our taxes, soon. Since I consider myself somewhat more intelligent than the average American, I thought I might attempt to simply follow the directions in the book before I give up and take our forms to my father.

At least I won't be making any trips to the library. I discovered last year that I can download the forms I need from the IRS's website and print them out. (A link? You want a link? Oh, for petesake... Here. You're welcome.)

I've always done our taxes pretty easily in the past, but this year is different. This year, we moved into a new house, and in the four months that we lived in the house, we paid several thousand dollars in interest. Next year, when we've lived in the house for a full year, it will definitely be better for us to itemize our deductions, but this year I'll have to do the math both ways before I know for certain.

But I need to get on with it. I like to have our claims in the mail before March.

So the meeting yesterday was just as boring and pointless as I thought it would be. The point was to tell us how standardized the company's procedure's are, according to this chart. They went through - mercifully quickly - all the various areas that have to be evaluated. The whole time, I was snarling mentally. All I need to know, I thought at the speaker, is what procedures you want me to follow, and where to go in case I need to ask someone about the procedures for some reason. That's all I need. I don't care what heaps of paperwork the managers have to suffer through - that's what managers are for - to keep me away from the paperwork!

But, alas, one of the required procedures turned out to be that all employees have to be trained in the procedures, so I ate the lunch the company bought for me (next time I need to remember not to order food that's meant to be eaten hot) and doodled on my notepad.

First I took notes in an outraged tone about how absurd it was for us to be in the meeting - the speaker even admitted in the first ten minutes that this wasn't information we really needed to know. Then I huffed over the fact that they were eating up valuable time in which I could be working (despite the fact that I hadn't gotten any work done that morning). Then I sketched out a few ideas and some pseudo-code for my project, just so the two-and-a-half hours wouldn't be a total waste of time.

About then, lunch arrived, and I admired the efficiency of the receptionist who brought it in - she'd gone through the bags and bags of food beforehand and wrote our names on each container so it only took about five minutes to parcel out all the food. (I'd been envisioning half an hour of "Okay, who ordered the chicken?" and "Where's the salad I ordered?") Next time, though, I need to remember to order food that isn't meant to be eaten hot. My soup was fine, but the chicken fingers were only lukewarm.

After I'd eaten, I mellowed a lot, and spent half an hour or so doodling designs I could use with henna, testing my free-hand drawing skills. Finally, finally, it was over, and we all piled outside and headed back to our offices. The Two Mikes and I agreed that the meeting had sapped our energy and enthusiasm - we could barely concentrate on our work.

Ah, well, I managed to get through my goal for the day, so that was good.

It has become cool in certain circles lately to deny Valentine's Day, even among those who have the necessary equipment (i.e., a significant other) to celebrate it. Having given it some thought, I deny those people.

The problem is, I agree with them on a number of points. Romance shouldn't come only once a year, on a day mandated by the government and controlled by the merchants. There isn't any rational reason for being any nicer to your lover on February 14th than any other day. Flowers and chocolates and gifts aren't the cornerstones of a good relationship.

On the other hand, the lesson we've been trying to get through for centuries is that lovers shouldn't have to need a reason for giving each other gifts, be they silly tokens of affection and friendship or expensive expressions of passion and regard.

It's been my experience that couples who are secure and happy in their relationships - who have romance all year 'round and are nice to each other because of their love and not an advertising campaign - look upon Valentine's Day as an excuse to indulge in each other rather than an effort on the part of the government and the stores to dictate our feelings. It's been my experience that it's good for a relationship to pull out all the stops occasionally and dedicate some time strictly to romancing each other.

So to the people who poo-poo Valentine's Day, I say:

Fine. Reject the commercialism and timing. But for petesake pick another day when you and your lover will plan to pamper each other. Spontaneity is all very well, but the results of a little bit of planning can't be beat.

Thursday, February 10, 2000

10 February 2000

Well. Today I get to spend two hours in a meeting which looks like it will be rife with corporate buzzwords. The title of the meeting, even, is the "Capability Maturity Model Orientation." How many is that? Did anyone score on their Buzzword Bingo cards?

Two hours. And next week, there are two more "Orientation" meetings, an hour and a half each, back-to-back.

My consolation is that my officemates are stuck in these meetings with me, so maybe we can sit together and write rude notes back and forth.

I'm trying to decide what to do about my daily walk in light of this meeting. On the one hand, the meeting is sucking up two hours of time in which I could be working on my project. On the other, after two hours of this nonsense (coupled with a high-fat lunch provided by the company) I'm going to need to take a walk. I guess it'll depend on how productive I am before the meeting.

So it looks like Random will be joining our gaming group. We spent some time yesterday talking about gaming, and I think he'll fit into our group pretty well. I asked him what kind of games he likes, and what he said boiled down to wanting a reasonable amount of combat - one or two encounters per game - and that he liked there to be a point to the adventures - the party is out to accomplish something, rather than just aimlessly wandering around killing monsters and collecting treasure. Which meshes fairly well with what we've got. He's also got a weird, surreal, sarcastic sense of humor that should go over very well with our bunch.

He's even willing to (gasp!) try new things. So I gave him directions to K.T.'s apartment and her phone number, and we'll see how things go. It looks like I'll be GMing tomorrow, barring an unforseen appearance by Richard, so I should probably put together a set of maps and stuff for him so he can decide where he'll be from and everything.

Okay, is it just me, or has everything gone insane?

Matt and I were in the grocery store the other day and we noticed a cereal called "Flakes, Twigs, and Granola."

"Flakes, Twigs, and Granola"

What were these people thinking??? What the heck is their demographic? Flakey twigs and granolas? Sheesh.

I swear, I ought to do a whole journal entry on stupid cereals. Take my notebook to the grocery store and just walk slowly down the cereal aisle a few times, writing down the ones with stupid names, or dumb gimmicks, or whatever. "Flakes, Twigs, and Granola," indeed. Hmph!

Yesterday afternoon, sitting at my desk and attempting to justify my salary, I very badly wanted to go outside and play.

It was a weird sensation. Quite distinctly, I did not want to go for a walk, or sit and enjoy the weather, or do exercises. I wanted to play. I wanted to find some kids and play Tag or Hide-and-Seek. I wanted to grab a handful of friends and play volleyball or netless badminton (which is way more fun than badminton with a net). I wanted to run around shrieking with laughter, duck behind walls to avoid detection, jump out suddenly to yell "Boo!" or have a humongous pillow-and-tickle fight that ended in a big gasping pile of laughter. Like that.

I don't know what caused it, but it was an exhilarating feeling. If only I'd been able to act on it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2000

9 February 2000

Tired. Tired tired tired. I was asleep by ten last night. I didn't wake up once the whole night, not even when Matt came to bed. The cat was in the garage, and so I slept soundly all the way through until my alarm went off at 6. And then I dozed until it went off again at 6:07. At 6:14, I decided I really ought to get up and take my shower. I wish I knew why I was still tired, though.

Not to mention cold. Yeesh. Somebody turned off the thermostat in the office again last night, and I didn't figure it out until almost 9. Now my fingernails are blue, and it'll be noon before the building is comfortable again.

Wow. I'm feeling amazingly un-talkative today. Maybe it's because I spent most of yesterday in an exhausted stupor, so there's nothing new to talk about.

Actually, I finally found a missing disk with some pictures on it from January. Most of them are from various snowshowers, but there's a sortof amusing one of K.T.'s cat being completely oblivious. I'll get around to posting them eventually.

I ordered some Girl Scout cookies yesterday. Well, to be accurate, I had Matt order some Girl Scout cookies for me yesterday, since the person taking orders is at his office rather than mine. I had trouble restraining myself. I love Girl Scout cookies. (Restraint, mind you, was six boxes of cookies. If I'd ordered all the cookies I wanted, it would've been closer to fifteen.)

I wish they'd bring back the other low-fat cookie, though. The apple-cinnamon cookies are all right, but kindof bland. (I know, I know, I'm one to talk about bland!) But the old cookie, though they called it an oatmeal raisin cookie, was much more like a ginger cookie, and was very good dunked in milk.

What's funny is that I don't really eat cookies most of the rest of the year. I went a little bananas this year, making Christmas cookies, but that was because I was unemployed and had all this extra time on my hands for baking. Usually I assist in one batch of moon cookies, make one or two batches of fudge, and then that's it; there just isn't time for anything more.

But most of the time, I don't eat cookies. Once every couple of months I'll get a yen for something and buy some cookies. (I'm especially vunerable to Nutter Butter cookies, and despite what K.T. and Kevin think, I could easily get addicted to their chocolate variety.) But it's not something that happens very often. When I think, "snack" then I think chips or candy. When I think, "dessert" then I think ice cream or pie or cake. Cookies are just a kindof weird niche for me, I guess; I don't think of them unless I specifically decide that I want a cookie.

Sorry this is so disjointed. I just can't really pull my brain together in order to talk about anything coherently.

Tuesday, February 8, 2000

8 February 2000

The circus is coming early this year. I usually associate the arrival of the circus with early spring - March-ish. Last year, we went to the show on March 8. This year it was sheer luck that I noticed the circus was in town. My "home" page for my browser at work is a local newspaper, and when the page loads, random articles are selected from various sections to display on the "front" page. Yesterday when I fired up my browser, the section called "Things To Do" had randomly selected the circus, which is in town starting Wednesday and running through Saturday. I could've missed it, not looking for it for several more weeks!

I dropped Matt an e-mail, asking if he wanted to go. He suggested we ask our friends. I asked K.T., but the only night Kevin has off is Thursday, and they're feeling sortof strapped for cash at the moment anyway. Jim and my dad joined Becky and I walking around the circle yesterday, so I asked them. Jim and his wife are going to be out of town this weekend, but Dad thought that Mom would want to go, and I bullied Becky into agreeing. (It didn't take much. "You know you want to!" "Um... Okay!" Like that.)

Becky's friend (boyfriend? Even she doesn't know!) Todd decided that he wants to go, too, and it turned out that the best time for everyone was Friday evening. So, I just logged off from TicketMaster's website, and we have six tickets! (It took the database some time to find six seats all together. I'd been hoping for second-best seats, but had to settle for third-best. Oh, well, at $19 a pop it's probably for the best. But I'm glad I didn't wait any longer to order the tickets!

Karen chided me last night for abusing chocolate by putting it in coffee.

"But!" I protested, "Chocolate is a slut! It'll go with just about anyone!"

K.T. reminded me last night of a brilliant revelation I'd come to last week that I wanted to share with you. No, wait, come back! This is even better than the cat theory!

It started because K.T. and I were talking about cheese. K.T. adores cheese. I like it okay, but consider it just an accessory. (We'd been talking about Mexican food, but our difference becomes clearest when we're eating Italian or pizza: as far as I'm concerned, the cheese is just there as a decorative topping and to keep the tomato sauce - the real reason to eat these foods - from escaping. In K.T.'s mind, the cheese is the primary ingredient, and everything else is secondary.) Anyway, I mentioned that where cheese was concerned, there were about three cheeses that I especially liked, one or two that I knew I disliked, and most of the rest got shuffled into basic categories of color, texture, and sharpness. K.T. immediately listed about twenty different specific types of cheese that she really likes - really, it was like that Monty Python sketch.

"Actually," I realized, "I feel about cheese pretty much the same way I feel about music: There are a few things that I feel passionately about, and the rest of it is just background."

K.T. then realized that she, too, felt about cheese the same way she felt about music, which is to say, she's passionate about the entire category, she likes a wide variety of it and every one is distinct and different in her mind.

And thus was born the Theory of Cheese and Music! Further testing will have to be done, of course, to discover whether the correlation is one of cause and effect (in one direction or the other), or whether they are both caused by an as-yet-undiscovered third parallel.

Monday, February 7, 2000

7 February 2000

I'm back from SheVaCon, and there are pictures! Get ready for the rundown; this is likely to be long...

Friday: Matt and I both left work early and came home around noon. We had some lunch, packed, loaded the car, double-checked all of our things, and swore a lot as I looked for the few Magic cards I'd kept because of the artwork (I wanted to take some for NeNe Thomas to sign) and Matt looked for the first book of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, which had gone missing. I found the cards, but Matt never did find the book.

Around three, we hit the road. Fortunately, I'd been planning on leaving town around three. Unfortunately, I'd only remembered one of the four errands we needed to run before leaving town. So I was somewhat grumpy by the time we'd put gas in the car, ordered some flowers for Ashby's father's funeral, stopped by the Cube for our comics, and stopped at the bank for some cash. (The one I'd remembered was the bank. No, I don't know how I'd thought I'd make it all the way to Roanoke on a quarter-tank of gas.)

But we were on our way out of town by four. I spent two years living in Blacksburg, driving back to Williamsburg to visit at least once a month, so I've done the drive to Roanoke (which is just a bit before Blacksburg if you're driving south on I-81) multiple times. I've only ever been in Roanoke three times, though, so I was a little nervous about being able to find the hotel. The directions from MapQuest were fairly clear, however, and it sounded like the hotel was immediately off Roanoke's beltway, I-581. Matt, remembering that the dome light in my car is burnt out, wisely memorized the directions before the sun went down, and helped scan the radio stations for something - anything - to listen to. (I swear, my next car will have a tape or CD deck in it!)

Luckily, the hotel was immediately off I-581. We could see it as we approached the exit. It's a good thing, too, because MapQuest's directions would've gotten us hopelessly lost. First, though they told us to take the exit onto Hershberger Road, they didn't tell us which direction. Second, they suggested that once we were on Hershberger Road, we'd turn left into the hotel's parking lot. Um. Well, we did turn left into the hotel parking lot, but only after we'd made two right turns onto the side street the hotel is actually on! This is at least the third time that I've had bad directions from internet map services. I think from now on I'll insist on personal directions for at least the last few stages of trips!

The view from our hotel room balconyI can say without reservation that the hotel was definitely the nicest hotel I've ever been to a con in. It was even one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in at all. The room was fairly standard - narrow entryway, bed, desk, annoyingly un-fitted sheets on the bed, dim lamps - but the public areas were simply lovely, and we had a real, if small, balcony which overlooked a very attractive courtyard. We got checked in and our things deposited in our room, and headed down to the convention area to check in.

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, authors of the Liad UniverseSince the whole reason I'd wanted to attend SheVaCon in the first place was that Steve Miller and Sharon Lee would be there, I insisted that my first stop be the dealer's room, where I planned to find their's publisher's table and hope he had some idea of where they might be. Stephe Pagel, co-owner and editor for Meisha Merlin Publishing, turned out to be one of the sweetest people you'd ever want to meet. He chatted with us about his dog, and how he and his partner chose the name for their company (it's named after their two dogs), and some of the other books he's released recently, and half-a-dozen other things. While I was talking with him, Steve and Sharon came in, and I finally got to meet them.

Steve, Sharon, Leila, and LizI knew from being on their mailing list that they were friendly and personable and didn't - like so many authors do - look down on their fans as being lesser people. (In fact, I got to sit in on a panel where Steve disparaged authors with this attitude, which was fun.) I was unprepared for their memories, though. I don't post very often to the list, so I'm not one of the more prominent members of the society. But they read the name on my badge and immediately knew who I was. Steve remembered that he'd been the one to send me my copy of Carpe Diem over a year ago when I'd posted a complaint to the list that I couldn't find it anywhere. They introduced me to another list member, Leila, who'd arrived earlier.

Just one of the mighty battles we witnessedImmediate need satisfied, Matt and I gave in to the urgings of a large man with a sword, who suggested that we check out the Festival of Fools. This was a sort of medieval faire, with games, palm-readings, tarot-readings, and body-paintings. You paid for your turn at the stations with tickets bought at the door. I paid two tickets for a henna wristband, and Matt played a ball-tossing game. In the middle of the room was floorspace set aside for a series of gladatorial combats, played with foam-and-duct-tape weapons, which was very entertaining to watch. There were four or so small children who were barely taller than the weapons. Some of them weren't quite sure what was going on, and some jumped right in with admirable ferocity. And some of the older folks obviously had spent some time practicing with these weapons and were quite skilled. It made for a fun show.

Saturday: Matt and I had looked over the schedule on Friday, and each picked out several panels and workshops we were interested in attending, starting as early as 10 on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the writer's workshop and found that there were no attendance restrictions. Allen Wold ran a wonderful workshop, and I got some very good feedback from the panel (which included Sharon Lee!) on my story.

Matt and I decided to have lunch at the hotel's restaurant. Matt, trying to stick to his diet, ordered what looked like the most healthy thing (short of a salad) on the menu - roasted chicken. The waitress warned us that it would probably take fifteen or twenty minutes to prepare, and left after our reassurance that we weren't in any hurries. A minute later, she was back, apologetically explaining that because the roasted chicken wasn't a very popular item, they didn't have the ingredients in stock! She didn't even have the guts to lie to us and say that they'd just run out! Matt and I were flabbergasted.

Liz with Peter WoodwardAfter lunch, I agonized. There were two panels I wanted to attend, one by Peter Woodward (who played Galen on the B5 spinoff, Crusade) on the future of Crusade, and one with a panel of guests called "Humor in SF." (I should say here that the writer Guest of Honor, Tad Williams, had been forced to cancel at the last minute due to a family crisis, and so the rest of the guests were working double-time to make up for the holes in panels and shows.) I thought I'd start with the Crusade discussion, and then leave half-way through to go to the humor panel. But Peter Woodward turned out to be such an interesting speaker that I stayed for his entire talk. He spoke briefly about Crusade's future - in short, no one really knows - and moved on to the future of science fiction in television in general. The audience was fairly small (it was a smallish con) and we wound up spending about forty-five minutes asking him questions that may or may not have had anything to do with the topic assigned. It turned out that he's not actually a science-fiction enthusiast himself - his passion is for historical weaponry. He talked to us for a bit about the documentary he's suggesting to the History Channel, and I hope they take it, because it sounds fascinating.

That evening, while Matt participated in a LARP, I went to see the Guest of Honor speeches (which turned into a general discussion with the audience again), Masquerade, and charity auction.

Ugly costume Phantom Menace costumesThe Masquerade was in general not terribly impressive - mostly "period" costumes of greater or lesser authenticity, a few cute kids, and a couple of embarassingly revealing costumes worn by aging and sagging women who really ought to be taken aside and gently told. There were a couple of costumes of note. To the left, we have the actually well-put-together dress made of hideously ugly metallic pink quilted material (and worn by yet another woman trying to act flirtateous and coquettish and failing miserably). To the right, the Masquerade's winning set - beautifully rendered Phantom Menace costumes made by the children's mother. (Their father, who is cut off in this picture, made a very good Qui-Gon Jin, but since it was the tiny Amidala costume which was the most impressive, that's what I'm showing you here. You can see all three of them in the photo album.)

Sunday: We left relatively early on Sunday, after picking up a few last-minute things from the dealer's room. There weren't any panels on Sunday that we particularly wanted to attend, and while I usually enjoy art auctions, we really couldn't afford to stay quite that late. So we sat in on the tail of a panel so I could say goodbye to Steve and Sharon, and were on our way by 11. The cat was glad to see us, and we even managed to get all of our laundry done before bed!

All in all, it was a very good con: small enough that we actually got to talk to the authors and artists, but not so small that it was boring. They had some really good panel topics (and some really bizarre ones - I went to one panel on "Heretics in SF" just to see what it was about only to discover when I got there that the panelists had no idea, either), good food in the con suite, and a nice variety of dealers in the dealer's room. (Buttons! I haven't seen decent button dealers at cons for years! And I bought some jewelery I can only wear to other cons, and some drape-style shirts that I hope I can get away with wearing to work once in a while. And books, of course.) There were some slow moments when I went back to our room to relax, and that was good too, because I always need to get away from people for a little while at cons. I got to meet some authors I admire, and learned about a book coming out that sounds very interesting.

And I got to swipe some Bath and Body Works shampoo from the hotel.