Friday, March 31, 2000

31 March 2000

Today started out as a normal day. Around 4 in the morning, the cat put its cold nose on my exposed armpit, then licked it, and I promptly jumped out of bed (almost literally) and put the cat in the garage. Then I went back to bed.

At 6, the alarms started going off, and Matt and I blearily smacked our respective Snooze buttons until it was about 6:15. I tried to remember whose turn it was to make lunches - the lunch-maker showers last. The overwhelming lunch image in my mind was sandwiches, which I'd made, which meant it was Matt's turn to make lunch, so I had the first shower. I muttered, groaned, and dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom. Brushed my teeth, took my shower.

As I was towelling off, it occured to me that the sandwiches had been on Wednesday and that yesterday I'd had a microwave meal - packed by Matt - for lunch. "It was my day to make lunch, wasn't it?" I called through the bathroom door.

"Yes," came back Matt's voice. "But I made them anyway." Whatta guy.

I got dressed while Matt took his shower, combed my hair, and went downstairs to take my medicine. I scanned an article in the newspaper about grapefruit pie, trying to decide if it sounded really good or really disgusting. Disgusting won. Matt came downstairs, we gathered our various bags and baggage and lunches, and went out the door.
I stopped on the porch, staring in disbelief at my car.

I had a flat tire.

I couldn't believe it. Completely, utterly flat. I looked it over, and didn't see any obvious damage. I thought, perhaps, I'd just lost pressure going over bumps - our neighborhood is very poorly paved, and I used to lose tire pressure all the time when I lived in Blacksburg and kept driving over curbs and such.

I thought I'd just go to the gas station and fill it with air and see if I could hear a hissing or if that seemed to do the trick. Matt followed me to the gas station.

The gas station didn't have an air pump.

I gave up and drove from the gas station across the street to the Merchant's, and left the car with them for a basic flat repair. They're supposed to call and tell me whether the tire was actually damaged or what. Hopefully, it'll be done by noon and I can get a friend here at work to take me over to pick it up.

I'm not even upset about it. I got so many flats in Blacksburg that it's just not something I worry about anymore. You take the car someplace, they test the tire for leaks, they refill it with air or replace it. No biggie. But it wasn't really what I had in mind for the morning.

We're going to see the Harlem Globetrotters tonight. Becky and I were talking a few months ago and I mentioned that I'd always thought they'd be fun to see live. So last week when she told me they were coming to Hampton and did I want her to get tickets for us, I agreed.

K.T. was a little dubious when I told her about it. "You don't like basketball, do you?"

Well, actually, I like basketball better than any other sport - which admittedly isn't saying much. But the Globetrotters isn't really a basketball game. It's a comedy and juggling routine wrapped into a theme of a basketball game. I love good juggling, and I used to watch the Globetrotters on TV when I was a kid, marvelling at the things they could do.

I'm looking forward to it.

Word of the Day: wangle - to make or get by devious means or trickery

I've wangled a fair amount of time to work on this journal by coming in to the office at 7:30 every day. My officemates don't come in until at least 9:30, so I have plenty of time to write.

On the other hand, I can't claim that their presence inspires me to work especially hard, either.

Thursday, March 30, 2000

30 March 2000

Okay, just now I feel like a complete idiot.

Matt and I took a look at our diets and realized that we'd let the lazies creep up on us again. The way our evenings are scheduled, we buy dinner rather than cook it at least twice a week - on Saturdays, when we're gaming, and on Mondays, when we grab subs or sandwiches quickly before the Hall. (To be honest, the Monday dinner is left over from when we were taking water aerobics on Monday nights and didn't have time to cook between getting home and driving up to the office to get online.)

And we frequently eat out on Fridays. But just lately, we've been getting lazy and eating out on Sundays, too. And the occasional Thursday. Which only left us with two nights a week that we were certain to actually cook.

This is not good for diets.

So we decided, in order to force ourselves to stop eating out so often, we'd make up a menu every Sunday for the coming week. This has been the first week, and so of course we did it. On the menu for tonight is a barbeque chicken recipe I like to make. This morning, when I went into the kitchen to take my medicine and water the plants, I opened the freezer door to take out a packet of chicken so it would thaw by the time I got home.

I just now realized that I never actually took out the chicken. I got distracted and just left it in the freezer. It's not a disaster or anything. I just feel sortof dumb.

We had a nice, fairly lazy evening yesterday. Matt had made beef stew in our Crock Pot, so he didn't have to do any work for dinner. I didn't have a Hall session (for once), though I tooled around on my own and came up with what I hope will be a fair solution to the fact that both Braz and I hadn't wanted to move things along quite as fast as they did, though I still need to run it by Braz. I started writing a related story about Zoya that I might post when it's done. (But then again, maybe I won't. We all have our little secrets.)

I watched an episode of Babylon 5, decided I wasn't in the mood for the next couple of episodes, and read my book. It's getting harder and harder for me to get into the Black Company books, so I didn't read much of it. I chatted online with K.T., then watched the last ten minutes or so of The Sopranos and went to bed around ten. I think I actually got to sleep before eleven. Shocking.

My manager's supervisor stopped into my office yesterday to tell me about a new project I'm going to get today. He didn't have many specs, but it sounds relatively simple and short-term. But it'll be nice to have something to work on. Sometimes I enjoy being lazy, but having work to do makes the days go faster.

Word of the Day: proscribe - to condemn, or forbid as harmful or unlawful

Corporate culture is funny. I'm not supposed to use the internet connection for anything but company business (and thus, working on this journal, surfing the net, and chatting with friends are all proscribed). I'm not supposed to install any program on my computer that the company doesn't own - even if I own it. T-shirts and jeans are proscribed as well, even though I never deal with customers or higher managers.

Of course, being corporate culture, there are backdoors to all these policies. The rules for internet use are treated like the laws for speeding - everyone breaks them. As long as it's not causing problems, no one really cares. The programs I've wanted to install were installed to a Zip disk which I take home with me every night. In the unlikely event the company's computers are ever exhaustively audited, I'll simply pop out the disk and let them at it. "Casual Friday" slips around the rules on clothing, and besides - being a woman, I've got any number of nice shirt that are just t-shirts with pretty prints. Guys in the office silently protest the anti-jeans rules by wearing pants that avoid being jeans only by being a slightly lighter weight of cloth and more solid in color. Or else they wear worn, baggy things to which jeans would be a marked improvement.

If you know the rules well, know why they exist, and know how they are enforced, nothing is really proscribed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

29 March 2000

Well, yesterday was certainly interesting.

As had been planned last week, Becky, Jim, Jerry, and I met Matt for lunch at Padow's, a local deli. As always seems to happen when we eat there, we sat around talking after we'd eaten until nearly two. Some snippets of conversation:

"I'm going to start a new section in my journal: Jerry's Opinion of the Day!"
"Ooh, yeah, and you could have a little animated graphic with a pair of glasses and the mustache!"

"Hey, I could've turned into a demon and been tracking him down for real!"

"So lemme get this straight: You had your seventeen-year-old cousin at your apartment for a gathering at which there was alcohol, and then you called a military man after midnight to come over and sleep with her?"
"Well... yeah."

"Here! You can have your cancerous chicken back!"

Yep, we're just a bundle of laughs.

Around five - just as the sun was going down, we had a brief, violent rainstorm. I was surprised - we don't usually get those kinds of fifteen-minute storms until we're well into summer.

The sun came back out just as the storm was fading into drizzle. I didn't notice, much - I'd been watching a Babylon 5 tape while Matt was upstairs checking his e-mail. Suddenly, he yelled down the stairs: "There's a rainbow out back!"

I hit the pause button, grabbed my camera, and opened the back door. There it was - a full half-circle from horizon to horizon, a little faint, but beautiful nonetheless. I snapped a picture.

Then it occured to me to wonder if it would be visible from the front of the house. I took my camera and ran out into the street. Sure enough, if I got about halfway out into the cul-de-sac, it looked like the rainbow was encircling our house. Gorgeous! I took several more pictures, then went back inside, flush with the excitement.

Then, just as I was getting back into the video, the doorbell rang.

Direct USA is a company that sells meat wholesale and in quantity to individual households. Apparently, they'd over-ordered, or a customer had cancelled an order, because they were going door-to-door looking for someone to buy their meat at cost.

Before I knew what was happening, they'd spread more beef (in shrink-wrapped packages) than Matt and I eat in a year on my living room floor. I have to admit, it looked wonderful. I was salivating. But, as I said, it was more than we could eat in a year. I asked the woman if she had chicken.

Her partner dashed back out to the truck, and suddenly there was chicken all over our floor as well as beef. She showed us her own work order, which listed the prices she paid for each case, and her brochure, which listed the customer's prices. She told us that we could have the beef at her cost and $100 off the chicken. When I asked, she said she'd be willing to sell us just the chicken, at her cost. I looked at the gorgeous sirloins, then at the chicken, and dragged Matt into the kitchen for a conference.

We don't eat enough beef to have made buying the beef pack worthwhile. But we do eat a fair amount of chicken. We bought the chicken, and regretfully turned down the beef. Half an hour later, we had the packets of chicken labelled and stuffed in the freezer - and now there's a lot less room in the freezer! And we won't have to buy chicken at the grocery store for at least three or four months.

I made pita-bread pizzas for dinner last night. They turned out very well, though I left them in the oven for just a hair too long. Unfortunately, after warning Matt that they'd be very hot, I neglected to take my own advice. Hot cheese pulled off the pizza and stuck to my chin at the same time that still-scalding sauce glopped onto my finger. By the time I'd cleared the cheese, I had an actual blister forming on my finger.

Could've happened to anyone, I suppose, but I feel like a dork: "What, this? Oh, I injured myself eating pizza."

Got Meade?For the third night in a row, Braz and I had a MeadeHall session. This time, Karen joined us so we could continue the discussion that was obviously about to happen just as the 'Hall had closed Monday.

Marten finally revealed the identity of the mysterious brotherhood that he escaped. It's bad, but not as bad as I was afraid it might be. I think we can handle it.

Lisl, damn her impatient matchmaking soul, forced the issue between Marten and Zoya. Braz and I had agreed that it would be more fun to drag things out between them - and the gods know they've got enough reason to be somewhat hesitant. But Lisl wasn't having any of it. She told Marten off for stalling, completely ignoring Zoya's glares and hints, and then sat around congratulating herself until Marten politely kicked her out.

So Braz and I are going to have to re-evaluate that relationship and figure out all over again just what's going on. I'm not too upset about it, though. Just to drive Lisl crazy, I suspect Marten and Zoya are going to decide that just because they've brought their feelings out into the open is no reason to rush things.

That's three nights in a row I've had less than six hours of sleep. Maybe I'll get used to it.

YAAAAAAAWN Or maybe not.

Word of the Day: auspicious - promising success; favorable

The omens - if I were to admit to being superstitious - have been good this year. Almost all of the things I've planted have lived. (Trust me; that takes divine intervention.) A bluebird spent half an hour sitting on our mailbox and looking over our house. The rainbow yesterday was a nice touch.

Yes, indeed. A very auspicious beginning for the year.

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

28 March 2000

Okay, a number of announcements:
  • I added a few pictures to the photo album the other day. Nothing especially exciting - a new kitten, a bird, and some pictures of the yard.
  • I recently joined a webring called OnDisplay. OnDisplay has active participation requirements for its members - most visible to you will be a monthly entry based around a current theme. I probably won't be doing March's collaboration unless I wind up short for something to write about in the next few days. I haven't yet decided whether the collaboration entry will simply be part of one of my regular entries, or if I'll separate them in some way.
  • Yesterday morning I was inspired to write a bit of a short story. It's based on the current situation between Zoya and Marten on the MeadeHall, but I think most of it will make sense even if you're not a MeadeHall regular. It's from Marten's point of view rather than Zoya's, but when I showed it to Braz, he said he was impressed that I'd managed to capture Marten's thoughts and feelings so accurately, and encouraged me to post it. Feedback welcome.
  • If you're a MeadeHall patron, a pick-up session between Marten and Zoya (that falls chronologically just before the aforementioned story) has been posted. And Braz is wrestling with weighty character matters in his own journal, spew! - I confess to being somewhat surprised to learn that he hadn't actually decided how he wants this thread to end.
  • The discussion Braz started on romance in the MeadeHall has gotten somewhat lively, and quite interesting. Come join in!

Got Meade?Having mentioned the MeadeHall (you knew this was coming; it's Tuesday morning, after all)... Last night's session was much less intense than most of them have been lately. Rhys served drinks; Zoya and Marten both ate; Glossaria and Vallel behaved like teenagers in love (which, I must say, was a real hoot); Zoya and Marten flirted just a tiny bit and pretended not to notice everyone else's smirking assumptions, especially Lisl's; Temire stumbled in after taking on a whole gang of kidnappers or slavers and calmly cleaned herself up with Lisl's help. (That was probably the biggest surprise of the night; Temire's a relatively inexperienced adventurer, and to date her reaction to being in a fight has been mild hysteria. Her cool assessment of the fight and her wounds surprised Zoya.)

It was actually nice to have a relatively quiet evening without major revelations or situations or developments. After some consultation with Braz, it certainly looks like Marten and Zoya are going to wind up together (at least for a while) but having made that decision, there's no reason to rush it.

Besides, he's still suffering from culture shock.

It looks like all the travel plans have been made for our vaction this summer. On Wednesday, July 12, Matt and I are going to drive to Washington, D.C. and stay overnight in a hotel near the airport. The next morning, entirely too early, we'll take the hotel's shuttle to the airport, leaving our car in their care, and fly to Montana. The evening of the 13th and morning of the 14th, we'll meet Sam's relatives and watch John and Sam slowly go nuts from stress, all the while insisting that they're not nervous.

July 15th, we'll stand attendant to my brother and his fiancee at their wedding.

On the sixteenth, we'll fly from Montana to Chicago, where I expect we'll stay with Matt's grandparents. I'm not sure what we'll be doing in Chicago - probably just playing things by ear. We won't be there for any major holidays this time, so there's no pressure to do anything in specific. We'll probably visit some of Matt's old friends, possibly go into Chicago proper for a day to do tourist things (and pick up some of the best caramel popcorn in the entire universe) and just relax.

I expect after experiencing the summer heat, I'll concede that I like Chicago better in the winter. But we'll see.

On Saturday, July 22, we'll fly from Chicago back to Washington and then drive home.

We considered going to Chicago first, to spend the 4th of July there, but Independence Day is just far enough from the wedding that it wouldn't actually have saved me any leave-time. Besides, the wedding and its attendant activities is likely to be somewhat stressful, and I'm hoping we'll be able to relax in Chicago.

(Funny, how I name places. We're going to Montana and Chicago. Not Great Falls and Chicago, or Montana and Illinois, or Great Falls and Illinois. Montana. Chicago. There's probably a lesson in there somewhere. Heh.)

Last night after the Hall, we started putting together plans for a group reunion, as well. Since the greatest number of our group of friends lives in Virginia, and the greatest number of Virginians live in our area, and this area is more or less in the middle between all the various extremes, and Williamsburg is where we all met, there's no question about where it will be - only when.

From last night's discussion, it looks like we're going to have the reunion the weekend of June 23rd-25th. At least, that's the weekend that was best for Karen and Jeff, who have the farthest to travel. It still remains, of course, to shanghai Ashby, Braz, and Kris. And to find places for all of them to sleep.

It'll be better than the moving party, at any rate! Matt and I have a guest bedroom now (that'll most likely go to Braz and Kris, they being the only other couple attending who doesn't already live around here) and KT and Kevin have a single bed in their guest room that could put someone up. I guess Ashby, Karen, and Jeff will have to thumb-wrestle for it. And both we and the Hicks' have couches that are reasonably comfortable. (Yes, Jeff, we took the dumb boards out of our couch that were making the cushions fall off.) So there's space for everyone.

Before plans are even really firm, I'm looking forward to it. K.T. wants to have a cookout by the pond behind her apartment, which sounds like fun if the weather cooperates. I think there's even enough space back there for a frisbee or two. We'll get Braz and Kris to bring their ice-cream maker to meet ours. (There's sortof a story behind the ice cream makers that has to be told verbally. Sorry, guys.) The anime buffs will, of course, set up a convoy of VCRs. Braz and Matt and I will attempt to interest Kris in some comics.

The whole thing will be entirely and altogether too short, whetting our appetites for next year's reunion.

Word of the Day: propensity - an intense natural inclination or preference.

I have a propensity for ice cream. And another one for potato chips. I guess that's why I have a propensity toward being overweight.

If you're not completely oblivious, you'll have noticed I have a propensity for romance.

I have a propensity for long hair, both on women and men. (The one guy I ever dated with short hair only lasted five dates. Well, Jeff's hair was occasionally short, but never by his own will.) I also have a propensity toward tall men - I've never gone out on a single date with a man who was less than six feet tall.

I have a propensity for reading, and for writing. Those are probably offshoots of my propensity for introspection and introversion.

And possibly most obvious of all, I have a definite propensity toward babbling.

Monday, March 27, 2000

27 March 2000

I have the greatest husband in the world, and I can prove it: Yesterday, while I was lounging around the house variously reading, watching videos, and napping, Matt emptied the dishwasher, re-loaded it, collected my dirty dishes and took them to the kitchen, and did most of the laundry.

Needless to say, I had a very relaxing weekend. But I think I might need to get him something a little nicer for an anniversary present.

Relaxing weekend and nap aside, I'm quite tired today. Matt was watching the Oscars last night, which I don't really care about at all, so I was sitting in the computer room reading comics and sporadically checking my e-mail when Braz popped on Instant Messenger.

We chatted a bit, and eventually got around to talking about the Hall, and Marten and Zoya, and ran through a few lines in character before I suggested that IRC would be a better place for in-character discussion. So that's what we did, until 12:30.

And, of course, since we wrapped up our impromptu session and went to bed right away, I didn't get a chance to wind down afterwards, so I tossed and turned until almost 2am. I'm so sleepy this morning that I'm awake. No, that doesn't make any sense, but it's true.

But it was damn fun. Today I'll clean up the transcript so we can post it, letting the rest of the gang in on the action.

I think Braz has gotten just as caught up in the possibilities of the situation as I have. Maybe more; it's his character who's at the center of the plot, after all. He posted a new question to the forum about romance and role-playing - go, read, answer!

Word of the Day: touchstone - a test or criterion for determining the worth or genuineness of something; a fundamental quality or feature.

The touchstone of life is love. Not necessarily romantic love, but the capacity for some deep and abiding feeling. Without loving, without being loved, you are not truly alive - you merely exist. It is possible to do without love, but why bother?

But is there a touchstone for love? How do you know if it's the real thing? The willingness to sacrifice oneself for the loved one? The desire to put the other's needs ahead of your own? Determining the presence or depth of love has always been a tricky question, and I'm not going to answer it. It may not be possible to answer the question for anyone but yourself.

But like many hard questions, it's worth taking the time to consider.

Friday, March 24, 2000

24 March 2000

We went to K.T. and Kevin's for dinner last night, and had a very good time. K.T. made Greek food, most of which had names I can't for the life of me remember, but most of it was pretty good. I especially liked the meatballs, which were made with ground lamb and had a lemon sauce - it sounds weird, I know, but it was really good. And her baklava turned out very good. I didn't care too much for the stuff wrapped in grape leaves, but then I'm not a big fan of cold rice; I thought if I could have had just the filling, hot, it would've been a little weird, but good.

Kyle, a friend of Kevin's from work, came too, and we spent a fair amount of the night confusing him with references to things he wasn't familiar with. But he really seems like a nice guy, so hopefully we'll be seeing more of him.

There's nothing especially exciting on the docket for this weekend - my game tomorrow evening, and that's about it. I'm looking forward to some real rest-time.

The local radio station we listen to most often has a morning segment called "Battle of the Sexes" which is a trivia game between two call-in listeners, one man and one woman. I don't know exactly how this happened, but on Monday this eleven-year-old kid, Mark, called in and told the DJ's that he thought he should play Sarah, the nine-year-old girl he carpooled to school with. He was sure he'd win, because "Boys have bigger brains."

They set the match for this morning, and I lingered in the bedroom after I'd gotten dressed to listen.

Sarah complained that Mark had told her her brain was "a speck of dust" while Mark reluctantly conceded that "some girls can be smart." Each thought they would win by a landslide.

Sarah won, 3-2, but the only question Mark missed she couldn't answer either. They both go to the same school, and I can see this now. Sarah, flush with the triumph of winning against a boy two years older, will brag. Mark, humiliated by losing to a girl two years younger, will insist that she got all the "easy" questions. And they'll fight in their carpool even more. Still, it was funny to listen to.

Word of the Day: berserk - frenzied, crazed

We say "berserk" to mean agitated, but I honestly did go berserk - in its older meaning of battle-mad - once. I was in the sixth grade, and I took a lot of flak from the other kids in my neighborhood for the crime of being new, and worse, smart. I'd attended private school through the fifth grade, but for various reasons, I'd asked to be moved to public school after that year.

The public elementary school was about six blocks from my house - two over and four up. I walked it every day, rain or shine. Plenty of other neighborhood kids made the same walk. There was one kid, Tommy, who lived on my street, about four blocks over, so we wound up walking the same four blocks up to the school fairly frequently. Tommy was twice my size - a tall, heavily-built kid - and a real bully. He mostly just taunted me verbally, but one day coming home, right near the corner where we'd turn in separate directions and I'd escape him, he started picking green apples off someone's lawn and throwing them at me.

One hit squarely in the back of my head, and it hurt. Everything after that for at least five minutes is a confused blur. I don't remember anything clearly again until a red convertible pulled up next to the curb and the lady driving it yelled at us until we quit fighting. She stayed on the corner idling until we'd each picked up our dropped bags and books and gone our separate ways.

I hated that woman for interfering.

Thursday, March 23, 2000

23 March 2000

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't really care much for dogs. I like some dogs - individual dogs, who have proven themselves to me. And I'm not afraid of dogs (well, not usually) and so I'm willing to give each individual dog a chance or two. But they start out on dubious ground and have to win me over. I just don't care for them, in general.


Well, to be honest, for much the same reason that I don't much like small children in general: They run you ragged with their endless energy and boundless enthusiasm, they never listen to you for more than a minute at a time, they're noisy, they always smell a little funny, there's always something disgusting coming out of one orifice or another, and they have no respect for boundaries of any sort.

I don't blame them for it, any more than I blame the kids. That's just how they are. But just because it's not their fault doesn't make them any more pleasant for me to be around them. And it doesn't hold true for all dogs (or all kids), as I said. The dog Matt grew up with, Abby, is a real sweetheart, for example - quiet, well-behaved, well-groomed, and fairly calm most of the time. And the guy I dated in high school had a dog who was practically a cat. (And a cat who was practically a dog, but that's a story for another day.)

The people who live next door to us have a dog named Princess. She's a small-to-medium-sized dog, and she's always getting out. We had a problem a few months ago where she'd apparently decided that our front porch was the place to be, and she would come up and peer in the windows, causing the cat to have conniptions. She's very skittish, though, so all it takes for us to run her off is to walk outside and try to talk to her. Even when we're not trying to run her off, she keeps her distance.

The people who live on the other side of our next-door neighbor have a couple of dogs. I don't know what kind of dogs they are, to be honest - my guess would be black labs. The guy who lives there trains them, I think. They also have a small child, a girl between the ages of three and five. (I'm terrible at guessing children's ages. I couldn't even do it when I was a child.) Anyway, yesterday I just happened to be looking out the window when I saw the little girl open the door to come outside, then turn in the doorway to say something to someone inside. The dogs, of course, broke for it.

The girl had no hope of restraining them, of course. Their master can barely restrain them - I've watched. She stood on the steps for a minute while the dogs ran around their yard peeing on various things and yelled at them. I could hear her through the window. "Hey! Come back here! Come here!" In her small, high-pitched voice, it was sortof funny. The dogs are young and energetic and she is not the leader of their pack.

This ceased to amuse, however, when they decided that they'd peed on everything in their yard, and headed into our next-door neighbor's yard, and then into mine. Naturally, they headed straight for my mulch beds. I more or less teleported outside (which is to say, I don't remember walking to the door and opening it) and chased them off, but not before they'd kicked up a fair amount of the mulch just by walking on it and taken a dump on my flowers.

About the time I'd convinced them I meant business and they'd headed back towards home, the girl's mother came out and called them in. She apologized to me, and to be polite, and because I knew it was a mistake, I waved it off while I re-packed the mulch as best as I could.

So far, the dogs in this neighborhood are not earning any points with me.

Word of the Day: cursory - hasty; rapidly and superficially performed or produced

I do a lot of things in a cursory manner. Such is life; you have to pick your battles, and decide which things are worth a lot of attention, and which ones can be glossed over.

Most of the time, I give only cursory attention to making dinner. Meat, starch, vegetable. My measurements are approximate, I substitute ingredients to make things easier, and I'm not especially concerned with presentation.

My grooming is somewhat sketchy, as well. As long as I'm clean and my hair isn't in tangles, then I'm fine. That's starting to change, lately - I've started using lotions as my skin dries out, acquired an interest in attractive clothes and makeup and accessories. But to be honest, I'd still rather sleep an extra five minutes in the morning than use that time to make myself more attractive for co-workers who couldn't care less.

The detail in my checkbook is fairly cursory lately, too, though that's something I should work changing. I've gotten lazy, and sooner or later it's going to get me into more trouble than a few dollars in late fees. If I don't start taking care of my financial matters promptly, I'm going to bounce a check.

Afternoon update: I have the worst habit of falling in love with fictional people. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it hits me hard. My junior and senior years at William and Mary I was playing a character on the original incarnation of the MeadeHall, named S'ayad'i. S'ay was a HallMaster with a tragic past that was supposed to discourage the sortof romancing that was rampant on the 'Hall at that time.

It didn't work. Chris Herr played a character by the name of Felis, who fell in love with S'ayad'i and set about winning her. In the process (which because of the tragic past was long and involved and excessively melodramatic and sappy) I fell in love, just a little bit, with Felis.

Not with Chris. I had no problem separating Chris from Felis. I liked Chris - he was a fun to hang out with - but I wasn't interested in him "that way." But at the height of Felis and S'ayad'i's courtship, I was actually having dreams about Felis.

In my second year at VA Tech, I discovered the BBS show Red Dwarf. It was funny, in a silly British kind of way, and after a year and a half of watching my thirty-some movies over and over again, it gave me something new to watch. Beyond that, it was inexpensive to rent (the local video store's promotion was 5 videos for 5 days for 5 dollars for movies that weren't new) - a critical element on my graduate school salary.

I watched those tapes over and over and over again. And after about a month, I realized that I'd done the absolutely unthinkable - I'd fallen in love with Arnold, the character whose purpose on the show was to be a pathetic loser and resident asshole. I wrote a fan-fic in which I joined the crew and "redeemed" him. (Thank all the gods, I deleted the story shortly afterwards. It was awful.) But again, there was no confusion - I hadn't developed a crush on Chris Barrie, the actor who plays Arnold on the show. The crush was very definitely, very specifically, on Arnold Rimmer.

And now it's happening again. I'm spending entirely too much time dwelling on the situation on the MeadeHall between Zoya and Marten. I've written two brief stories highlighting possible events between them. For one of them, I wrote three separate endings, depending on how things turn out. All of it is trite drivel. I have no intentions of ever letting anyone else read it.

And the fixation has nothing to do with Braz. Braz is a good friend, but I can't even imagine being romantically involved with him. (Which is good, since we're both happily married and I like his wife a lot.)

I'm not the only one who does this sort of thing. A mutual friend of mine and Chris' somehow found out his password to the system which hosted the MeadeHall at the time, and confided to me that it was s'ayad'i. Karen was forever in love with movie characters, to the point that we named the condition after her - "Ostertag Syndrome."

Hmm. Maybe it's just that about every two years, I need to be swamped in slightly melodramatic romance, and if there isn't anything in my life to meet the requirement, my brain invents something. Let's see...
  • 1992 - A crush on Felis, a fictional character from the MeadeHall.
  • 1994 - A crush on Arnold Rimmer, a fictional character from Red Dwarf.
  • 1996 - I started dating Matt, which was (to say the least) extrememly emotionally intense.
  • 1998 - Matt and I got married, obviously an intense event.
  • 2000 - A crush on Marten, a fictional character from the MeadeHall.
Yep, that's what it looks like. Most of those started the winter before and climaxed (no pun intended) in the spring. I wonder what actually controls the progression, or if it's just coincidence?

Anyway, that's enough slightly embarassing disclosure for now. You can thank Johanna of Irregular Ramblings for convincing me to actually post this instead of just tossing it after sharing with me her crushes on Lazarus Long and James Bond...

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

22 March 2000

We had another tedious training meeting yesterday. At least yesterday's topics included information that might actually be necessary for us to know. And the topics were taught by the office's second-in-command, a detestable jerk, but a better speaker than the monotoned ass who gave the last few.

I need to remember not to order the salad from that place anymore, though. It was at least a third mushrooms and green peppers, and the lettuce hadn't been washed. The sub was pretty reasonable, though.

I'd been figuring on doing the bills this weekend, so yesterday evening I idly flipped through the collected stack to see what was due. I found two bills that had to be paid before the end of the week, and another that had been lost since the end of January.


So I sat down with the checkbooks and paid the bills. I really need to start paying bills as soon as they come in; keeping the bill desk in our bedroom just isn't working - I don't see it until I'm about to go to bed, and then I'm not awake enough to want to bother. But I really want to avoid turning the dining room table into the de facto desk. We've managed to keep it clear enough to eat off of so far, but both of us leave magazines and mail piled on the edges of the table for far too long.

I suggested to Matt the possibility of getting a small desk to serve as the bill and mail desk and putting it in the kitchen or the unused corner of the dining room. He seemed ammenable to the idea at first, but later told me he didn't think it would be a good idea for us to have our bills out where people could trip over them.

But something needs to be done. Right now, when I want to clean off the table, I just pile everything on the bar, and that's not really an acceptable solution either. Maybe if I could find a small roll-top desk - something that had a top that could be closed when we had company, so they wouldn't see anything - maybe that would work.

Or maybe a policy that the table is completely cleared before dinner each night? I don't want to turn into my mother, but then, I don't want have a dining room table that I can't dine at. Ah, well, we'll figure something out.

My imagination has been caught, I must confess, by the current MeadeHall plot. Yesterday I was scribbling in my gaming notebook some ideas for my AD&D game, and I kept getting distracted by the possibilities for the MeadeHall plot swirling around in my head. I ended up writing a couple of brief story/scene that are possible futures for the story-arc, just to get them out of my head. No, I'm not posting them; they muck about with someone else's character rather a lot, and I have rules about that sort of thing. I promise, if they turn out to be at all accurate, I'll post them then.

But the more I consider it, the more I think that yeah, Zoya's going to fall for Marten. It makes for lovely character development - love vs. friendship; new vs. old; desire vs. duty. A little over a year ago, I fought off the possibility that something romantic could develop between Zoya and Jelarthna. I wasn't ready for that - Zoya wasn't ready for that. But the possibility of both romance and tragedy (or triumph over tragedy) is proving too strong for me - and Zoya - to resist.

It's funny how much role-playing time we devote to romance. It's not as prevalent now as it was when the 'Hall was in its youth, but we still spend a significant amount of time matchmaking.

I think it's because the chase is as much or more fun than the end result. Half of us are in relationships, and I'm not knocking those relationships - they're good, solid relationships with plenty of excitement and fun. But there's a great deal of excitement in the acting out of unfulfilled desire - in courting, and in being courted.

Or maybe it's just that it's spring, and romance is in the air, infecting us with the desire for it like a virus.

Word of the Day: vouchsafe - to grant or furnish a favor or reply in a gracious or condescending way

It has the ring of ages about it. "Vouchsafe me your answer, do." No one in modern times would use the word. It's too long, too elegant. Today, we simply say "give." I sound like old Obi-Wan. "An elegant [word] from a more civilized age." But it's true. The word demands to be mixed with elegant, flowing speech, written with ceremony on rolled parchment. "I vouchsafe thee these proofs, my lord, and beg that the villian be tried immediately." Or, "Vouchsafe to me thy favor, lady, to harden my courage as I enter in to terrible battle." Hmm. There's that romance again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

21 March 2000

Well, the Hall last night went rather well, I think. At least I had fun. Karen was playing Glossaria, an ex-bookworm (literally) librarian whose current obsession for knowledge has expanded into the mysterious world of sex. K.T. brought on a new character, a sixteen-year-old boy who's come to the big city to have his latent psionic ability trained. Glossaria leapt on him like prey. It was fun to watch. (It was especially funny considering who was playing which part.

At any rate, once Gloss makes her conquest, I expect her to mope for a while about how anticlimactic (pardon the pun) it all was - sixteen-year-olds have lots of energy, but not much in the way of skill or control, and Gloss has been feeding her anticipation with the Realms equivalents of Joy of Sex and the Kama Sutra.

Braz's computer was fixed, so Marten was back. He told Zoya he'd stop avoiding her questions, so she finally asked him point-blank what he was doing in Marsember and what he thought was hunting him. Naturally, he avoided the questions, though more narrowly than before. ::grin:: I'm enjoying this, I really am.

I'd spent part of yesterday working on Zoya's history and back-story, so it was all fresh in my mind, and it occurred to me that Zoya was arguing with Marten the way she'd argued with Kevil. When she mentioned it, Matt asked me if I was going ahead with the tragedy - if Zoya was going to fall for Marten only to lose him when MoonDancer returned. I told him I didn't know. It would certainly make for an interesting story arc, though.

It's a grey and rainy day. Spring rain. I didn't want to get out of bed this morning, I really didn't. It was warm and cozy under the blankets. The rain will be good for our yard, but it's not very good for me at work. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and go back to sleep.

Of course, the fact that I was up until after 11 last night chatting after the Hall has nothing to do with it.

Happy first day of Spring.

Word of the Day: propitiate - appease, conciliate. Usually applied to a superior or higher power.

The gods are angry. Can you not hear the drums? Can you not smell the sulfur? Can you not see the omens? The gods are angry, and we will all suffer, dashed to pieces against the rocks of misfortune! Unless...

Unless there is a sacrifice. Yes, a sacrifice. We must butcher the fatted calf, throw our most beautiful virgins into the volcano, wear sackcloth and heap ashes upon our heads. We must propitiate the gods before the drums stop, or...

Foolish woman, do you think you can hide from the gods? Do you think they don't know that you are keeping back the best you have to offer? Bring it forth, I command it!

That's better. This? Is this pitiful pile of offerings all you people have to offer the gods? Do you think this pathetic heap is going to stop the drums? Well. If that's all there is...

Because I am pure, and because I am close to the gods, I shall carry your offerings to them. I shall plead your case before the might and fury of the gods, and beg them to spare your miserable lives. Each of you - go back to your hovels and pray. Pray! The gods demand a sacrifice!

. . .

That noise? Oh, I got them praying to cover the sound of my escape. Turn off that abominable drumming, and let's get out of here.

Monday, March 20, 2000

20 March 2000

So, we had a pretty good weekend. We stopped in at Target on Friday evening to pick up some things I've needed for transplanting my herb garden, and wound up also getting chairs for the front porch. That had been delayed for a long time because Matt didn't want to consider cheap molded-plastic chairs, and everything else we'd seen up until then was entirely too expensive.

But these were fairly nice and only about $20 each. They're folding chairs with plastic armrests and tight-woven plastic canvas for the seat and back. They're fairly comfortable, which was my only real requirement, and done in shades of sand and black, so they're relatively attractive.

It's not very often that Matt takes a stand on issues of furniture or decoration for the house. Usually, in fact, it's the opposite - he wants our things to be comfortable and functional and as long as it's not hideously ugly, he's fine with whatever I want. This time, it was the reverse - I would have even been okay with the cheap molded-plastic chairs, as long as they were sturdy enough to hold me. But Matt rather vehemently didn't want them, so I was happy to go along with what he wanted. I'm glad we finally have something, though. It won't be long before it's nice enough in the evenings to sit on the porch and watch the neighborhood kids playing.

Friday night, I made meringue kisses for K.T.'s St. Patrick's Day party. Meringue kisses are almost absurdly easy - three egg whites, a cup of sugar, a dash of vinegar and a dash of vanilla, plus whatever things you want to mix in for the fun of it - chocolate chips and green food coloring in this case.

The first batch was pretty gooey in the middle, which is wonderful fresh out of the oven, but gets stale really fast. So I decided that for my second batch, I'd use a trick I'd picked up doing my Christmas holiday baking - I'd tape a decorative icing tip to a corner of a large Zip-lock bag, and make little tiny meringue kisses. They cook faster and I like the way they turn out. You can't put chocolate chips in them with this trick, but there are always sacrifices.

The last couple of time I'd done this, I'd used a lot of Scotch tape to attach the decorator tip to the plastic bag. It worked, but the meringue would eventually work its way past the tape and get all over my hands. This time, I decided, I'd use duct tape, and hopefully the leakage problem would be avoided.

To make sure it would work, I tore off a couple of thin strips of duct tape, and carefully taped the decorator tip to the corner of the bag. Perfect! The innermost seam was covered, and I didn't think the meringue would leak anywhere else.

Fifteen minutes or so later, the meringue had been whipped into perfection. I used a spoon to glop it into the zip-lock bag, angled so it would all run down into the corner with the decorator tip. I sealed the bag, carried it over to my wax-paper-lined cookie sheet, held the end of the decorator tip with one hand, got a good grip on the bag with the other, and squeezed. And squeezed again. Nothing was coming out. I repositioned my hands and tried again...

Oh. Yeah. You have to cut the corner off the bag before you attach the decorator tip. Um. Oops?

So, carefully, I had to peel off the duct tape, squish the meringue back away from the corner of the bag, snip off the corner, and put the tip back on. One edge of the tape got curled over in this process, which eventually let the meringue through and all over my hands. But next time, I think, I'll remember to do it right, and the leakage will be even less.

Matt's watch had been dead for about two weeks, so Saturday evening, after a lovely day spent lazing around the house, we decided to go to the mall to get the battery replaced and have dinner before heading to the party. The guy at the watch place wasn't the brightest cookie we've ever met, but he didn't charge Matt for the battery, so that was all right. And while I was waiting, I wandered into Claire's (an accessories shop) to agonize over some nifty temporary tattoos and pick up some weird little hair doohickeys.

After we'd eaten (Chik-fil-A) it was still too early to go to the party, so we wandered around a little. I stepped into Bath and Body Works and had to forcibly restrain myself from buying something with their new Tangerine Spice fragrance - it smells divine, but I really should use up at least some of the smelly stuff I have at home first. I used up all my willpower walking past that display, though, because I finally caved in and bought one of their liquid lipliner/lipstick sets. As long as I was there, I decided to freshen up for the party, so I used the display lipstick, and picked up some glitter lotion and sparkled up my face and hands.

Matt laughed when he saw me, but since I'd been expecting that, it was all right. We poked around in the Waldenbooks for a while, but I didn't see anything new that I wanted to read. (Besides which, I've already got about four books at home that I haven't had time to get to yet.)

K.T. and Kevin had really dolled their place up for the party - green streamers everywhere, printed clovers and horseshoes stuck to every flat surface, and every bit of food that could be green, was. The party itself was pretty quiet, though - mostly groups of people sitting around talking.

My brother and his fiancee, Sam, came. I was happy to see them both. I wound up spending most of the party after they got there sitting in the kitchen talking to them. I felt a little bad about it, but Kevin's friends from work were talking tech, which didn't interest me, and I see most of the rest of them fairly frequently. But K.T. sat in on a good amount of the kitchen chatter, so I didn't completely feel like I was being a bad guest.

Around 11:30, the party had pretty much drained away to just John, Sam, K.T., Kevin, Matt, and I. We kept talking for a while, but I was slowly getting sleepy as I sobered up, and when K.T. whispered to Kevin that she was thinking of turning in, I took the lead and told Matt it was time to go home. Sam offered to help K.T. clean up, but K.T. was feeling entirely too tired to even want to think about cleaning up yet. Matt and I each picked up about a dozen cups and plates that earlier guests had left lying around on available flat surfaces and threw them out, collected our remaining two ciders and the empty tupperware I'd brought the meringue kisses in, and said our farewells.

Sortof. John likes to talk, so it took longer to actually get all the way to the door and out, even though he was leaving, too. I don't blame him, though - he's stuck in a conservative backwater town where a teacher was actually fired just recently for being mentioned in a public website for being Wiccan. I'm sure if any of his students' parents knew that he played Dungeons and Dragons, he'd be out of job, too. So when he comes up for visits, he talks a lot.

Sunday we spent being gloriously lazy. I think I was actually up and dressed before one, but it was a near thing. I watched about four Babylon 5 videotapes (that's eight episodes) and helped listlessly with the laundry. In the late afternoon, Matt and I popped over to the pharmacy to pick up this month's prescriptions, and I bought another hair-color kit.

I decided not to bother with red this time - everyone who's ever dyed their hair that I know uses red of one shade or another. It's been Done. So I decided I would look pretty good with dark brown hair instead of my usual medium. I waffled over the various kits, and finally picked one that's supposed to last for about 3-4 weeks. (No, I wasn't going to pick up a permanent kit. My hair is over two feet long; it would take ages to grow it all out if I hated it.)

Of course, when I got home and read the box, I found the fine print: "If you select a shade darker than your natural hair color, it will not wash out in 24 shampooings." Damn. So how long would it last, then? Six weeks? Eight? Would it be permanent? To that, there was no answer. I guess I'll see if I can call their "hotline" and find out before I do something I might regret.

I'm not really ready to be back at work today. I need about six more hours of sleep. But I've got a book, and some new weird clippy-things in my hair, and tonight's the Hall...

Word of the Day: This is a new thing I thought I'd try for a while. Merriam-Webster's website offers a Word of the Day. I thought it might be interesting if I took each day's word and wrote about it a bit, just as a writing exercise, to see what turns up. It'll always be the last thing in an entry, so if you don't care for this sort of exercise, feel free to just skip it.

Today's word is lycanthropy, interestingly enough, since I was just speaking of gaming and the Hall. As a gamer, I've run into werewolves from all angles. One of my earliest experiences with them was actually an illusion of a werewolf that my character believed was real. If the GM had been a little better, he could really have done some interesting things - make me role-play having been bitten and perhaps even going a bit mad when the moon turned full in the psychosomatic belief that I'd contracted the disease. But I was an inexperienced role-player, playing under an inexperienced GM, and panicking, and he finally gave me enough bonuses to accept the illusory nature of the beast. I've played true werewolves, in the White Wolf game Werewolf: The Apocalypse. And on the Hall, I've played companion to werewolves. At any turn, the question of whether the creature is a beast or a victim has fantastic possibilities for debate.

Friday, March 17, 2000

17 March 2000

Technically, given my ancestry, I should be wearing orange (I'm part Scot and no part Irish) but I look much better in green, so there you are. Besides, I'm pretty well situated to enjoy St. Patrick's Day. My maiden name is Luck. Hey, it didn't occur to me when I was going through that tedious name-change process after I got married, but I can now say, "Luck is my middle name!" How cool is that?

And as long as I'm mentioning Lucky things, the day Matt and I got married, one of our guests found a four-leaf clover in the church yard. He picked it and held on to it all the way through the ceremony, and gave it to us in the reception line. We've still got it - we pressed it in our guest register.

At any rate, for the majority of us, St. Patrick's Day is a pretty bloodless holiday. Wear a little green, tease people who forget, do a little drinking. I understand Chicago goes to some trouble for the holiday, dying the river green and having a rather elaborate parade. It sounds like fun, but I'm not sure I'd want to fight the crowds for it. So for a holiday that's fun and doesn't really carry much significance, I'm willing to play along. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

K.T.'s having a belated St. Patrick's Day party tomorrow (late so that her husband and his friends from work - all of whom have to work tonight - can attend.) Which means, I suddenly remember, that I really need to go to the store tonight and pick up some eggs and something to drink. Heh. Excuse me while I just jot a note in my PDA...

K.T. dropped by our house last night while Matt and I were eating dinner. She was on her way home after her salary and benefits negotiations, and was feeling too excited to go home and sit by herself until Kevin got home at 11. For the first time in over a year, she's got a real job. (By "real" I mean a full-time job that isn't a temp position.) She's pretty happy about it, despite the rather long drive she'll be making.

I'm happy for her, myself. She and Kevin have been having a lot of financial trouble lately, and Kevin is getting fed up with being jerked around at his job. Steady work for her means that they can start to pay off the accumulating bills and Kevin can start looking for something better.

The local cable company is going to be laying a new main cable - we got a notice in the mail asking us to let them know if we'd laid any underground sprinkler systems or lights. Yesterday, the NoCuts people had come by and sprayed our whole side of the street with orange and pink paint, marking other buried lines, like power and phone lines. Our yard is studded with little flags and paint. Annoying, but temporary.

And that was it, until K.T. wondered aloud last night, "Look how high up into your yard the paint goes. They're not going to dig up your yard, are they?" Then I started wondering just where the new cable would be laid. Would they dig up our new mulch bed? Disturb my plants and tree? Surely not! But then again, perhaps...

So I'm fretting. I don't really care if they dig up our grass; there's not much of it anyway. But I'm going to be quite upset if they dig up my plants.

Thursday, March 16, 2000

16 March 2000

The collection of floppy disks I've filled with pictures taken on my digital camera has finally overflowed the section of the floppy box I'd set aside for it. It works out to a little over 20 megs of pictures, and I decided to go ahead and put them on a Zip disk. (When I get to the point where I've filled several Zip disks - which won't be for years, if I keep going at this rate - then I'll put them on CD.)

Last night I finished copying the last of the pictures over. Of course, it wasn't as simple as just copying all the files over; they're all named similarly on each disk, so as I copied one disk's files over, I had to rename them. And it seemed logical to rename the files based on the date the pictures were taken so aid in organizing them.

So now I'm contemplating a database for the disk to keep track of each picture, when and where it was taken, what it's of, what the event was (if there was one), who's in it... Everything I might ever want to know about or search for particular pictures of. But that'll take a good long while; there are well over six hundred pictures so far.

But I was going through them last night, briefly, in order to rotate the pictures that were taken sideways, and it was interesting to watch things change - or not change, as the case may be. It was especially interesting to watch the last couple of months of the house being built. I tend to look at our yard and think it still looks only half-finished, but when I look at the pictures from June and July, I realize how far it's come. (We still need to work on grass, though.) To be honest, remembering that stress, I'm amazed we ever made it through. I'm even more amazed that we managed to move in on time.

Looking even briefly at pictures from our various parties made me smile. We throw good parties, if I do say so myself. (I teased Matt at the beginning of February - we'd thrown a party at the end of August, the end of October, and the end of December, so obviously to continue the pattern we'd have to throw one at the end of February. He wasn't amused. But K.T. ended up throwing her moving party, so at least someone had one.)

I hope the collection will continue to be interesting as the years go by. I love going back through my old photo albums. Every now and then it occurs to me that I should write down people's names and the circumstances of each picture soon, before my memories grow even more fuzzy. I love pictures. They're windows into the past.

In the fuzzy haze of my mostly-asleep brain this morning, I decided that it was Matt's turn to put the cat out when he got to be annoying. And when the cat came in and started playing with my alarm clock, Matt grumbled and groaned about it, and that decided it. I gave it a minute or so in the hopes he would volunteer, and then gently shook his arm. "Sweetie? Would you put the cat out, please?"

He sighed, grunted his assent, and sat up. The cat, alerted that someone was moving, raced to the foot of the bed and curled up. It was like catching a four-year-old roaming the house after bedtime and watching them run back and pretend to be asleep. Matt, who by this time was standing, looked at me. "Do you still want me to take him out?" he asked hopefully.

Knowing, as I did, that if we simply went back to sleep, the cat would just be a pest again half an hour later, I told Matt to go ahead and take him out. "I can't believe he did it again, though!" But now we know: At four in the morning, the cat doesn't really want to be fed, nor does he want attention and affection. He just wants us to be awake.


Wednesday, March 15, 2000

15 March 2000

I really ought to start writing things down right away. Last night at dinner, I made up about four things completely off the top of my head in response to questions from my brother. I can remember thinking, "I should tell the journal tomorrow what a fantastic bullshit artist I am," but of course I can only remember one of the examples, and it wasn't all that impressive.

Oh, well. Matt and I decided to hell with the diets (amazing how that matches the year-ago link) and had dessert - hot apple pie with extra brandy-butter sauce - Mmmmmm... And we went to Barnes and Noble after dinner and I bought a couple of books to get me through the month of not being allowed to buy things before our anniversary.

Speaking of which, does anyone have any ideas of what to get a guy for a romantic gift? I keep giving Matt goofy, silly presents, and while some of them have been obvious hits, I feel sortof dumb because I can't come up with an idea for an anniversary present that's actually romantic.

I've got three ideas for things to get him this year, and they range from childish and silly to completely bizarre and silly. Maybe I should push for him to pierce an ear so I can spend a couple of years buying him jewelry. Would it be really lame if I got him porch furniture or a new battery for his watch?

Of course, he's been complaining for weeks now that he has no idea what to get me, either. I'm sure he'd appreciate any suggestions you have.

Three-thirty this morning, the cat jumped up on the bed and started batting at my alarm clock. This is a noise that drives me crazy, so it woke me up right away. Groggily hoping that if I gave the cat enough room to lie down, he would, I scooted over, then reached out and forcibly turned the cat away from the clock.

He looked at the newly-cleared space, shrugged, and lay down. I closed my eyes gratefully, thinking it would be at least another half-hour before I'd have to get up to put him in the garage.


I opened one bleary eye. The cat was still lying down, and batting at the cord. I sighed and sat up. Usually, the cat would jump up and precede me down the stairs, trying his best to trip me on the stairs. This morning, he lay there and looked at me.

I put on my sweatpants, stood up, and looked at him. He looked at me, and then rolled over into my space just a little bit further.

"You faker!" I told him. Matt woke up. "Huh?" Oops. "Nothing," I said. "Go back to sleep." Matt didn't need to be told twice.

I picked up the cat, and he started purring. Sigh. Slowly, mindful of my bad feet, I plodded down the stairs and deposited the cat in the garage. He was quite happy to stay there, as long as I put the food dish in with him. Dumb cat.

I plodded back up the stairs to bed, and while I'd been gone, Matt had taken the Oatmeal Bear (a small teddy bear I'd given him for Valentine's Day) and placed him carefully on my pillow. Irritation melted, and I crawled under the warm and cozy covers and snuggled up to my husband and went back to sleep.

Tuesday, March 14, 2000

14 March 2000

Mike lost his cat yesterday. I don't mean she ran off and hasn't come home, yet. I mean that Friday evening she got hit by a car and yesterday morning the vet told Mike that he thought she should be put to sleep, because the alternative was for her to live the rest of her life crippled and in pain. After a lot of agony, Mike agreed with the vet.

It was a somber, quiet day in our office. There was work to be got on with, and we got on with it, but the usual jokes and goofing around were absent. It was a poor welcome-home for Becky.

In the afternoon, I got an e-mail from him explaining what had happened. (When he came to the game on Saturday, he'd thought the cat would be able to pull through.) Except for a brief eulogy to Viber, I've summed up what he said, so there's no need to publicly post his pain here.

I actually want to discuss the very first part of his mail, though, the part where he said, "I'm not good at speaking words, so I figured I'd write down what happened. It's easier for me to explain things this way."

I knew what he meant. I've been keeping this journal for over a year, and a lot of the stories and anecdotes I tell here are also told to friends verbally. Some of them are much better stories when I can include facial expressions and body language. I've omitted stories from this journal because they had no impact, written down.

But some things are easier to convey through the written word. Especially dark or hurtful things. When I was laid off from 3GI, feeling betrayed and hurt just at the very moment I'd begun to rediscover enjoyment in my job after months of dissatisfaction - I couldn't have spoken anything as eloquent as the open letter I sent to my notification list. It's a trifle melodramatic, but still, I think, very good. (If you're not a member of the list, you'll have to join before you read it. Now that I have a journal again, it's a very low-volume list.)

Today's year ago link is another good example. I couldn't have told Matt that it bothered me that we watched a lot of television. It would have come across as whiny nagging. But written, I was able to explore the vague feeling of frustration I felt without letting my emotions get carried away and over-exaggerating.

That's what the written word does for us: It allows us to lessen the intensity of our emotions and therefore keep digging beyond the point where the spoken word has dried up in our throats. As a result, the written word is both more distant and more intimate than the spoken word, at the same time.

My brother is coming to Williamsburg today. He'll have lunch with my dad and me, then run some errands during the afternoon, and then come and have dinner with Matt and me this evening. (With gas prices the way they are, I'd suggested that he make just one trip to Williamsburg instead of two.)

It's funny. I'd thought that by the time I was this close to thirty (and my brother into the second half of his twenties) we'd be independant adults. And we are - John's been on his own for a couple of years, living on his own and scraping together a living as a teacher. I just bought a house, for petesake.

But we all still treat each other like my brother and I are still in college. My dad tells me that Mom fusses at him to take me out to lunch more often. When John comes to town for a visit, we all leap to take him out to lunch or dinner.

Do we ever stop feeling the need to take care of our siblings? Will there ever be a point at which I meet with my brother and can listen to his troubles sympathetically without trying to help him out?

Guess I'm just feeling introspective today.

Monday, March 13, 2000

13 March 2000

It started with my mom looking at my Zaurus and being interested in it. She wanted to borrow it for a while and see how she liked it. She offered me her Palm Pilot in the meantime, but I waved it off and let her walk off with my Zaurus.

Then it was time to go to work, but I thought I'd go in late so I could spend some time with my daughter. I picked the baby up and cuddled her and took her over to Anita's to show her off. She was a beautiful baby. Her big blue eyes kept rolling around, searching... "She's definitely a daddy's girl," I told the others who were there. "I haven't actually been able to hold her since I got home from the hospital." The others chuckled, assuming I was exaggerating, but I wasn't - Matt insisted on doing all the baby-carrying, and the baby just pandered to him.

A whiff told me that she needed to be changed, and I realized how much I'd grown used to Matt caring for the baby - it hadn't even occurred to me to bring along the bag with diaper-changing equipment. Anita laughed and gave me a diaper to use, and then mixed a vitamin D powder up with some milk to put in a bottle for her. (I felt like a terrible mother - I hadn't even known you were supposed to add vitamin D powder to milk.)

While I was feeding the baby, I realized that it was already after noon, and I should call work and tell them I just wasn't going to make it in today, so I handed the baby to someone to hold, and picked up the phone... and realized I had no idea what the number was for my office. I guessed a couple of times, wrongly, and then remembered I had it in my Zaurus... And then I remembered that my mom had borrowed the Zaurus.

And that dream is why I'm still tired this morning.

Our front yardWe did a lot of work on the yard this weekend.

Friday, after verifying that my part of the project did what I'd wanted it to do by that preliminary deadline, I went home early, and decided that I'd start breaking the ground where we were going to plant some plants and put down a mulch bed.

A blister formed on my thumb in the first five minutes of wielding the shovel, but I'd only barely started, so I decided there was no point in giving up so early. I thought I'd keep going until I'd turned over the dirt (clay) - and I'd let Matt break it up and add peat moss to it when he got home. I remembered the gardening gloves I'd bought, put them on, and kept going.

Forty-five minutes later, I'd turned over all the dirt and broken up most of the bigger chunks of clay. It looked terrible, like some dirt monster had puked in a triangle around our tree. So I thought, it wouldn't take much longer or be much more effort to go ahead and turn in the peat moss. I lugged out the half-bale we had left and dumped shovels-full of peat all over the triangle.

That barely took five minutes, and the CD I'd popped in Matt's boom box was still going, so I started to turn the peat under, breaking up some more clay as I went. I finished that at about the same time the CD ran out, so I sat down on the porch and drank several cups of water and looked proudly at what I'd accomplished.

Then I looked at the plants destined for the mulch bed, which were sitting on the porch. I was going to have to plant them anyway, I reasoned, since Matt had made it clear that this was all my "vision" - so I lugged myself up and carried the pots down into the yard, then went into the garage for my gardening tools.

I had four big pots of sturdy decorative grass ("mondo grass" for the curious), and my original intent had been to cut each pot into several chunks and spread the chunks out over the bed, so they'd spread to cover it. I gave that up when even with a knife, I couldn't cut through the tight-woven root network in the first pot. Quickly re-evaluating my plan, I dug shallow depressions in the dirt and dumped the roots and their attendant dirt in. Roots that thick will probably spread the plant without my help anyway.

The three pots of strawberry parfait dianthus (light green plants with beautiful pink-and-fuschia flowers) went one to each corner of the triangle I'd dug. I discovered one of the plants was disintegrating - I think it had been under-watered during the week it had spent on the porch - but the rest of it looked relatively healthy, so I'm hoping it will recover now that it's in the ground and getting watered regularly.

With nothing else to do until Dad brought over the mulch, I packed up my tools and put them in the garage (and boy do I need a set of shelves for gardening crap), turned on the sprinkler, took off my muddy shoes, and collapsed on the couch. A few minutes later I heaved myself back up to get a band-aid for my blisters (which to my astonishment hadn't burst after I put the gloves on). The whole thing had taken me about an hour and a half, including time spent leaning on the shovel and wheezing.

Matt harumphed at me anyway when he got home a bit later.

Saturday, my dad and brother came over in the morning with a truckload of mulch. I'd told Dad that there was no way Matt and I could use more than half a truckload - and even that would be a lot - but he'd gotten an entire truckload anyway. (It was still cheaper than buying mulch in bales, since Dad's truckload was only about $10.)

John was there only to visit with me and Matt, so he mostly just stood around chatting while Dad and Matt shovelled mulch into the wheelbarrow and hauled it over to the designated beds and dumped it, and I scooped it around the bases of the plants and raked it smooth.

I'd been worried about the mulch covering and killing my grape hyacinths, which are all still fairly low to the ground, but Matt came up with the idea of taking the pots left over from the mondo grass and dianthus and putting them upside-down over the flowers while they shovelled the mulch. We werent' sure how to protect the daffodils - which were taller than the pots - until I thought that maybe the pot the tree had come in would be tall enough.

Mulching the new triangular bed and the area around the bushes only took about an hour and a third of the mulch. (There are pictures in the photo album, go look!) When it was over, we took Dad and John out to Second Street for lunch, and then went home to relax and prepare for my AD&D game.

Due to some pretty ugly storms on the Southside, Greg called to cancel, but K.T., Mike, and Matt did all right after I'd scaled down the forces they'd be facing a bit. I'd been worried that the plot I'd cooked up wouldn't have enough for K.T. to do, but she managed to make herself very useful, actually. And as usual, the players surprised me, though once I thought about it, I realized it shouldn't have.

The plot involved helping a dwarven woodsman rescue his children from the clutches of an orcish tribe - the orcs had taken them to be slaves. This tribe actually had a fair number of slaves, and when the three crazy dwarves started actually winning the orcish women, children, and slaves who hadn't been chained to the wall - the broken ones who'd been serving at the feast - ran for it. They took a hidden passageway to escape, and at that point I'd assumed the characters would free the captives chained to the wall, loot the place, and go.

They left the woodsman watching over the freed captives and pursued - not to kill the remaining orcs, but to free the rest of the slaves. As I said, I should have expected that, but it hadn't been part of my original plot. I had to very quickly invent something, because it was clear that they had no intention of stopping until they'd tracked them down.

When I told Matt later that everything after the dwarf's children had been freed had been made up on the spur of the moment, he was surprised, so I guess I carried it off pretty well.

All in all, I had a pretty good weekend, even if my back is still sore today. I'm still mildly obsessed with gardening, but I have plenty of directions to take it. If nothing else, my tulip sprouts are starting to look wilted and brown - I think I put too many of them in a single pot - so I may attempt to transplant some of them to a new pot and hope that helps. And there's still the neverending battle to make grass grow on our clay.

Sometime this week, Matt and I will take my brother out for dinner, and Saturday K.T. is hosting a St. Patrick's Day party. (It's a day late, but Kevin and the people he works with that they want to invite are working Friday night.) She's asked everyone coming to bring something that's either green or Irish (potato skins, for example) to the party, so I need to come up with something for that, and make it.

Friday, March 10, 2000

10 March 2000

Spring is spoinging all over my yard! Last weekend, we planted a tree, and all week I've been telling Matt, "The buds on it are getting bigger!" He's been humoring me, but I could tell he thinks it's in my imagination. This morning as we left the house, I pointed to it: "Those are almost leaves!" He was forced to agree with me - off quite a few of the limbs of our tree are small, red leaves. Hurrah! We didn't kill the tree!

One of my daffodilsgrape hyacinthThis morning, I have two fully-bloomed daffodils and at least a dozen thriving grape hyacinths! I was so excited (after being certain a few weeks ago that improper planting had killed both) that I took pictures this morning. The little herb starter-kit that I bought and set up on my kitchen window has shoots in all six pots this morning! (That's two pots each of lemon basil, catnip, and spearmint. I'd have bought the kit just for the spearmint.)

About the only thing that isn't sprouting at the moment is the grass seed I put down early this week. We've been watering every day, but it doesn't look like anything's happening in the grass department. I'm not sure if we need to give it longer, or if the seed we had was too old (left over from last September), but we'll probably give it another week before deciding what to do about it.

Assuming I don't have to work late tonight, my chore for this evening is going to be starting to dig up the bed where we're going to plant some decorative grasses and flowering plants in a mulch bed around the tree. Our yard is 99.9% packed clay, so before any real plants go into it, it needs to be turned over, broken up, and mixed generously with peat.

Depending on how that goes, I may also start breaking some ground on the side of the house for a small garden bed. One of the things I've always said I'd do when I got a house is plant tomatoes - I really miss fresh tomatoes in the summer. And the south side of our house gets plenty of sun. It would just be a narrow bed, but depending on how much effort I'm willing to put into it, there's plenty of room for a couple of tomato plants and maybe a vine of squash. (Hmm. We may need more peat.)

Tomorrow, assuming clement weather, my dad is going to come up with a truckload of mulch and help us put down our mulch beds. The bushes up close to the house could really use a heavier layer (though we'll have to be careful not to smother the flowers) and then we'll put down the bed around the tree. I plan to be up and in the yard working fairly early, because I'd like to get all this finished by early afternoon so I have a little time to plan for my game, which will be tomorrow night.

It promises to be a busy weekend. See you on the other side!

Thursday, March 9, 2000

9 March 2000

I'm right at the end of a project at work, and it's been consuming so much of my mental energy that yesterday, driving home, I was trying to think about what I'd write about this morning and not having any luck. I mean, it's one thing to talk briefly about interesting projects, or to complain about people that drive you nuts, but I'm pretty sure even my most fanatic reader doesn't want to hear about how I spent nine hours today tracing through something like two thousand lines of code line by line, looking for the stupid pointer error that was making the whole thing blow up in unpredictable spots.

So that's all I'll say about it. But I was despairing of having a halfway decent journal entry: "Work hell. Tree budding. Flowers growing." Like that.

But then T made dinner for us.

I'd like to state in his defense that T isn't a very experienced cook, and that Matt and I were hovering around the kitchen while he worked distracting him rather a lot. And if it had been only one or two minor blunders, I probably would've just shrugged and moved on.

But the first mistake or so got him flustered, which contributed to more mistakes, which got him even more flustered, which...

Let me start at the beginning.

T had told me that he was planning on making beef stew, which I know from experience is best if allowed to simmer for several hours, but can be rushed for a reasonable meal in about an hour. T lives just about an hour away from us, so I was figuring he wouldn't get to our house until about seven, which meant dinner would be ready around, oh, 8:30-ish. A bit later than we're used to, but not horribly so.

T called around 6:45 to say he was on his way, and didn't get to our place until 7:30. (This is actually pretty amazing, considering the usual state of traffic on the main roads between us.)

Matt and I helped T bring in his bags of groceries and unpack them. T had assured me that he needed nothing more than a large pot and a spoon from my kitchen, so I got those out for him as well. Assuming he knew more or less what he was doing and would need only guidance around an unfamiliar kitchen, I sat down on a stool at the breakfast bar to watch.

It swiftly became obvious that T didn't know very much about onions. He'd brought two gorgeously huge onions - each one the size of both my fists put together - but one of them was sprouting, and he was struggling to get the skin off. I, being the onion freak that I am, started twitching and finally offered to chop the onions for him. He relinquished the cutting board and knife with something like relief, and I started chopping, stripping out the center which had gone mealy as the onion sprouted. The second onion was rotten, but since it had rotted from the inside, this wasn't T's fault - those are pretty hard to spot. I replace it with a couple from my own stash, and soon had a bowl full of stew-sized onion bits.

In the meantime, T had asked Matt if we could spare some butter. His recipe called for two tablespoons, and since he was halving it, he only needed one. Matt pulled out a partial stick of butter, left over from my spate of holiday baking, and put it on the counter. When next he looked around, T was melting the whole six tablespoons of the stick in a second pot. (T had mentioned the marks on sticks, so he knew they were there - I guess he just assumed that what Matt put in front of him, since it had already been cut, was the amount he'd asked for.) While Matt showed T the marking on the wrapper that corresponded to one tablespoon, I got the butter dish and scooped out the unmelted bit, leaving him with perhaps four tablespoons. But since the butter's purpose was for sauteeing the onions, the extra wasn't going to hurt anything.

T dumped the onion pieces into the pot with the butter, nearly completely filling the pot. (There were a lot of onion pieces.) Following his recipe, he then added the mushrooms, though since each mushroom slice was almost as long as my hand and half as wide, they could have stood a little chopping first, too. This caused the amount of food in the pot to heap over the edge of the pot rather significantly, and after some thought, T decided to transfer the meat - which was done browning anyway - to a strainer, and put the onions and mushrooms in the big pot. I applauded the decision and fetched out the strainer.

Safely once again underway, I sat back down on my stool. Matt asked T if he could help, and T consulted his cookbook and asked Matt to measure out a cup and a half of broth and add to it a cup and a half of flour. It's probably indicative of how drained I've been from work that this didn't set off any warning bells. After Matt had combined the two and complained about the flour being lumpy, I fished out a wisk to help him, and then curiously leaned over to glance at T's recipe, mostly because I was getting hungry and was hoping it would be done soon.

Just as Matt was pouring the broth/flour mix over the beef, I saw it: 3 Tablespoons flour I put my finger down on the book. "T..." He looked down. "Three cups of burgundy wine," he read.

"No, above that," I corrected.

He looked at the book. He looked at the pot of paste-covered meat. He looked at the book. Horror began to spread over his face.

This was the point at which I more or less rudely shoved him out of the way and took over. I did this for several reasons. I've been cooking since I was about eight, and while I don't usually enjoy it, when I put my mind to it I'm very good at it. T had made a series of mistakes that any beginner could make (and probably every beginner has) but it needed a more experienced cook to recover the meal. I started adding water to the thickening paste and told T and Matt to open the bottle of cooking wine.

They struggled with the corkscrew for several minutes before Matt decided to take the plastic wrapping off... and the plastic screw-cap popped off in his hand. We dumped everything into the large pot with the onions and mushrooms and added about half the bottle of wine. When I'd added enough water that it looked like the flour would stop baking itself to the bottom of the pan, I dragged everyone out of the kitchen and we chatted while the mess simmered.

Half an hour later, we were back in the kitchen. I gingerly tasted the broth. It tasted like beef-and-onion flavored paste. So I had Matt fish out the beef and as much of the vegetables as he could, and dumped them into a bowl. With most of the pasty broth gone, the beef and vegetables were actually pretty reasonable.

But this morning, the downstairs still smells vaguely like burnt flour.

Just so T won't think I'm picking on him exclusively, I've made some pretty spectacular blunders myself.

My very first experience with cooking was when I was five or six - my first grade class got together as a group and made cupcakes. There were three teams: one made the cupcakes, one made and spread the icing, and the third decorated the lot with sprinkles. I was on the team making the cupcakes, and since I was the best reader in the class, it was my job to read the directions off the box to the others.

I got my first hint that something had gone wrong when the cupcakes were still mostly liquid at the end of the baking time. They firmed up after another five or ten minutes, but by then I'd consulted the box and knew what had gone wrong: The directions called for three egg whites. I'd told them to put in three eggs.

Everyone agreed that the cupcakes looked lovely, that the icing was very tasty, and that the cupcakes themselves were disgusting. I can remember sitting in my chair, miserable, wiping the icing off my cupcake with my finger and eating it (like the rest of the class) and being sure that they were all staring at me - that they all hated me for messing up their cupcakes.

It was a valuable lesson in reading the directions.

Only a year or so ago, I decided to make a pair of peanut butter pies. This is one of my favorite recipes, and I'd made it several times before. Part of it involves whipped cream, and I think the pie is best if I buy real cream and whip it myself. On this occasion, I stood over the cream with the mixer for at least twenty minutes before I checked the box and realized I'd bought half-and-half instead of whipping cream.

It was a valuable lesson in checking ingredients.