Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanks Given

What a very weird Thanksgiving holiday that was. Some parts were fantastic, some incredibly frustrating, and some just plain weird.

There wasn't anything much happening at work on Wednesday, so I took my day off and headed down to Jenn and Brian's around mid-morning. The plan... the plan was that Jenn was going to ride with me, and we'd follow Brian to Blacksburg.

All was ready. The dogs were loaded in the car with Brian to drop off at the kennel, Jenn and I were in my car, and I turned it on...

...and the dashboard lit up with all kinds of lights and warnings. Most notably, the "Check Engine" light, which can occasionally be merely ignored, and the "Engine Hazard" light, which... probably should not be.


After some discussion, we decided we'd just all ride up together, and Jenn and Brian would head back home a day early so I could keep my schedule. Brian, who is a Car Guy, promised to check out a diagnostic computer from their local auto repair shop when we got back on Friday so that he could read the error codes and decide whether the car was safe to drive home or if we'd need to call AAA to tow it to the local shop and try to find a rental for the weekend.

Despite being a little fretful about the car, we had a good couple of days. Jenn's Aunt Jeanne and Uncle David are great people, and I got to meet her oft-mentioned cousin, Chris. We went for a hike on Thanksgiving morning (apparently a family tradition) that was quite nice, and then came back and had a really great dinner. We broke for a nap and then came back for dessert, and then wrapped up the day with a game of Cards Against Humanity, and inaugurated a homemade question card: "Thanksgiving is incomplete without _____." It would've been perfect if we could've played "Smallpox blankets" as the answer card. I forget, now, what actually won that one, but the game itself was quite fun.

As re-planned, we came home Friday. I have to admit, the drive was much more pleasant with friends in the car to talk to.

When we pulled into Jenn and Brian's again, I figured I should check my car again before Brian headed out to get the diagnostic computer. I started the car up and... the hazard light was gone. Just the check engine light remained. Which rather underscored my suspicion that the car had been pitching a hissy about an electrical hiccup having to do with plugging my phone into the DC power adapter before turning the car on, and made me decide I could risk driving home before taking it to the shop, at least.

So I turned the car back off and went inside to use the bathroom and let them know about my decision. I promised I'd call if I had any more problems, and then went back out... and this time, when I turned the car on, not even the check engine light came on. Nothing. The dashboard stayed dark, innocent as puppy eyes.

Apparently, the gods had just REALLY wanted us to all drive up to Blacksburg together.

So I came home and picked up the kids and life continued apace.

Saturday morning I started putting up our Christmas decorations, exciting the kids to a fever pitch. And that afternoon, we went down to my parents' for my family Thanksgiving, and that was great. Not really anything to report -- it was a pretty standard family gathering. Penny and Alex were pretty fantastic, playing together most of the time so I actually got to talk to my family a bit. Alex hit Maximum Fun Quotient a few times, but being Alex, cheered up again pretty quickly afterward.

Sunday morning at breakfast, a... noise came from the heater vent. A weird, rattle-y, shuddery noise. You know in Doctor Horrible, when the Freeze Ray fails and Dr. Horrible looks around at it and says, "That's... not a good noise"? It was kind of like that. The kids looked at the vent as if it might explode, and then the heater fan stopped working. I poked at things a bit, but eventually had to turn the whole thing off because a sort of burned-plastic smell was leaking from the vents in other parts of the house.

The rest of the day was better -- we got the Christmas tree up, and Penny befriended a couple of cats wandering the neighborhood who had decided to camp on our deck. (They were obviously not actually homeless, as they were well-fed and in excellent health, but she tried to convince me to keep them anyway, as they were very friendly and happy for her to pet them.) We generally had a nice, low-key kind of day, despite the slowly dropping temperature.

I didn't post yesterday because I was at home in the morning, waiting for the repair guy to come and fix the heater. Fortunately, the problem with the fan took him all of about ten minutes to find and fix. Unfortunately, while he was at it, he noticed a pretty nasty leak in the heater's innards that suggested some ugly things, culminating in the news that I need to have an entirely new unit installed. Shouldn't have surprised me too much, really, because this unit is 14 years old, and these things typically have a life span of 10-15 years, so... yeah. He called around and got some estimates, and the price he eventually quoted me is a lot less than I was afraid it would be... but still a pretty big chunk of cash.

So that's scheduled for Thursday. In the meantime, I've only got the emergency heat setting, which works, but draws a lot more power than the usual setting, so I'm trying to keep it set as low as I can tolerate (around 65), and remembering to turn it down to about 60 when I leave for work in the morning, and being grateful that the house's insulation is actually fairly decent, and hoping that the new unit will be more efficient.

Argh. All my stuff is elderly and starting to fail.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Too Much TV

I find myself once again in the position of doing three jobs instead of my usual two. Which is seriously cutting into my blogging time.

Also, it has several weird side-effects on my brain, which are probably interrelated, and can most adequately be summarized as: I'm freaking scatterbrained. Like, even more than usual, which if you've been around here long you will know is pretty damned scatterbrained. So I apologize in advance for the random, almost Joycian, tone of this post.


When I go home at night and am done with work for the day, I don't want to do anything remotely intellectual, so I end up watching a lot of TV.

As of this weekend, I'm all caught up on Sherlock. Still loving it. Can't wait for more. Which is fantastic because I generally don't like mysteries. (Yeah, I know, I watch Castle, but that's all about Nathan Fillion and the characters, not the mysteries themselves.) I think possibly my very favorite thing about Sherlock is how everyone, everyone, everyone thinks Sherlock and John are lovers. In my mind, it happened over a few beers in the writers' room:

"You know the entire internet is going to be shipping these two."

"God, yes. But I don't see any way to discourage it."

"Then let's not. Let's just run with it. Make it part of the show bible that everyone just assumes they're sleeping together."

"That's horrible. And brilliant. Do it."

It fills me with utter glee every time it happens, or every time Watson mutters under his breath about people talking.

(Do I ship them? Absolutely. But in a strange way, because Sherlock is very asexual to my mind. But the fact that John can't keep a girlfriend fills me with delight.)


Holy shit, I think I just linked Sherlock and Collin, a little bit. Because I'm a nerd.


Speaking of my being a nerd, yesterday I got restless and went out shopping, and I bought Christmas decorations I probably didn't need and also I bought a pair of shoes. They are simultaneously the hippest and nerdiest thing that I currently own.

Hip, because, well. They're Converse. Not even cheap knockoffs!

And nerdy, because the reason I got them was because I'm putting together my Doctor Who cosplay costume:
(The shoes are red in that picture, but he has an apparently unlimited supply of them in various colors.) Complete with working up a Doctor-appropriate (happily excited!) patter about a somesuch field that had been bombarded with thisorthat particles that must have caused a radical rearrangement of certain physical characteristics -- tall to short, thin to fat, and, yes, male to female. And yes, I did in fact order a sonic screwdriver with some of my birthday money. I need to hit up some thrift stores for a buttondown shirt and a tie, though.



I'm only just beginning season three of the new Doctor Who show, though, which makes me wonder if I'll be able to catch up before MarsCon. I love it, but I find I can't watch more than about two episodes at a time. It's heartbreaking, even when I'm laughing hysterically.

But I just finished season three of How I Met Your Mother, which is almost as heartbreaking at times, but I pop through those shows like candy. It helps that they're shorter, I suppose. And that I know everything is going to end happily for everyone, no matter how painful it is to get to.


And now, my dear friends, I have rambled enough. Or possibly just a bit too much. It's hard to tell. But at any rate, I'm still doing three jobs and at least two of them are pinging urgently right now, so I'd best get to it. I'd promise to try to write more regularly, but... it's probably not in the cards for this week, at least. If I don't post before then, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Best. Birthday Present. EVER.

Sometime last week, Penny asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told her, "You know what I'd love? If you wrote a story for me, because you have such a great imagination."

I fully expected her to start writing, then forget about it and just make me a card instead. That would've been fine, really.

(And let me interject here that Alex wrote me a card. It says "I LOVE YOU MOM. TO MOM FROM ALEX" It's worth noting that a) he did not ask for ANY HELP in writing this; b) he spelled everything correctly; and c) he wrote all the letters and words in correct left-to-right, top-to-bottom order (which has been a challenge for him up to now). So that's a 100% awesome birthday card to receive from a not-yet-5-year-old.)

But Penny really did write me a story. And she made it into a little book, with pictures, and she decorated the front and back with lines that are obviously intended to make it look like it's a leather-bound book.
Real hand-drawn leatherette look!
And the story itself is beyond awesome, on many levels, for many reasons. So because I'm so ridiculously proud, I'm going to share it with you. With annotations.

Once there was a princess as beutiful as a rose and as fierce as a lion.(*) She was to be a queen. But she wanted to be a worrier(**). The king and queen kept telling her to act like a princess not a warrior. She kept sneaking out at night to practice to be a warrior. She was a complete warrior by 1202 June.(***) She was to get married in three days! What should she do!!

I know she said. I'll sneak out and "kill" my future "husband".(****) Her warrior friends took her with them on thier next adventure! They told her that they would have to take her to some friendly lion to answer a question. She loved the idia of geting to see some real live lions so she speed up to a run. She was so exited that she was there it twenty seconds.

She fell into a hole and spraned her ankle. She had hard time walking her companions helped her. Over a couple of nights they camped! In a couple days they reached the secret door that heled the riddle. It said fion - f + L and at the end s equals what? They said Lions and they could enter.(*****) They asked the question and then left.

A cheetah was waiting by the door. They could tell by the black tear marks near the eyes.(******) It purred at them to get on. So they did. It started to walk. Next it walked fast. Then it joged. Finally it ran so quick all they could hear were the leaves. They got back to the castle. She knew what awaited her.

She went inside and there wasn't what she expected. There was no prince no ring no suitors. She saw that the king and queen awaited her insted. The people gatherd in rows. She steped up to the queen and king. They awarded her to be the most brave, skilled, clever, and smartes princess there ever was. She got two swords a pet dragon and she was allowed to be a warrior.(*******)

* - Best opening line EVER. But I may be biased.
** - I've left in all her spelling and grammar mistakes, with this one exception: she spelled "warrior" as "worrier" all the way throughout, and while I knew what she meant, I've fixed it for you for the rest of this transcription, to avoid it being too distracting.
*** - I love this precision.
**** - No, I don't know what's with the quotes. Or the violence.
***** - Penny wrote a similar "clue" in the card she made me as to what my present was.
****** - This is a fact about cheetahs she read somewhere. But it's a real thing. Google "cheetah tear marks" if you don't believe me.
******* - Yeah, that's right. My girl wrote a story about a warrior princess that didn't marry a prince at the end, but instead got a pet dragon. (I admit to being a little relieved that she forgot to actually "kill" the future "husband", though.)

I can't even tell you how proud I am that my girl wrote me this story, or how pleased to have such a fantastic birthday gift.

I should also note that as soon as we got home, she started making a storybook for Alex. That one is about a puppy who is being teased by some other dogs and learns how to handle the bullies.

That's my girl.

What The-?

This is the sort of thing that happens to my brain when I check Facebook before I've had my coffee:

Perfectly reasonable thought: I will click over to my timeline to see the birthday greetings my friends have posted!

What I see:
Thought #1: What the hell is Mike wearing on his face in that picture?

Thought #2: Oh, it's probably a glitched image. Weird. I don't think I've seen an image bork like that before.


Thought #3: No, wait. It's two completely different images. HERP DERP DERP.

What I should do at this point: Shut up and pretend I'm perfectly normal.

What I actually do at this point: Grab a screen-capture and tell the universe all about how brain-dead I am before I've had my coffee.

Happy Birthday, Me!

Hey, it's my birthday! I'm now officially 40-ish.

Things actually kicked off yesterday, as Jenn took me to lunch and Caren gave me a present, which was sweet of them both.

I confess it was a little weird to wake up this morning and not have gleeful kids or presents waiting, but I had Facebook greetings from the book club and a couple of cards to open from my aunt and uncle (addressed simply to "Liz" -- I should mention in my thank-you note that I'm not planning on changing my name back). And I made myself some chocolate-and-peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast, so I'm not entirely treat-less.

I have a metric buttload of work to do today, but it should move relatively quickly, I think. I'm hoping so, at least, because I want to skip out of work an hour or so early, so I can stop by the bank and cash an editing check and then do a smidge of shopping before I go pick up the kids. Then I'll take them out to eat, because I don't want to cook or eat leftovers on my birthday. (If anyone wants to join us tonight, shoot me a text or an email!)

Tomorrow evening I have a couple of friends coming over for dinner, and then on Sunday, we're having dinner with my family. So, yay, birthday weekend!

I'd say, let the festivities begin, but first... buttload of work. Stupid work.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Yesterday was writing blog day, so I didn't come over here to weigh in on the election. Everyone is sick to death of it now, but I do want to throw out a few notes, for my future self, if nothing else.

Voting: I heard of some lines -- only half an hour from me, even -- that were hours and hours long. There were polls that didn't close until two in the morning, for pity's sake.

I, on the other hand, picked exactly the right time to go, apparently, around 8:30 in the morning. The before-work voters had all either done their thing or decided they didn't have time and left, and the people who weren't working that day were mostly all still in bed, I guess. Penny and I stood in line for all of about ten minutes, and I expect the longest part of the whole process was the time it took me to read through the two proposed state referendums, which took longer than even their thick legalese would warrant because Penny kept interrupting me with questions.

When it was done, I wanted a picture of Penny and I for DFTVA, and a fellow voter, overhearing me explaining this to Penny, volunteered, with the caveat that I would then take a picture of her with her two sons, the elder of whom had just cast his very first vote ever. (I am enough of a patriot and dork that even now, two days later, typing that gives me chills and chokes me up just a little.)

Rest of the Day: I'd promised Penny that she and I could spend the rest of the day together, just the two of us, so that's what we did. We went and got pedicures, then went to the used bookstore and used up some of my massive pile of credit there. After lunch, we went to see Hotel Transylvania, which I thought was cute, if a bit twee, but Penny guffawed all the way through it, so it was totally worth the price of admission. (Also, note for the future: kid's combo snack was perfect, just about 35 carbs with a diet soda, which is a big snack but not unreasonably so, and Penny didn't have to share.) After that, we wandered New Town for a little window shopping, and I bought some gourmet mini-cupcakes to save for dessert.

Election Watching: After I got the kids to bed, I settled in to watch the results roll in. That's a slow process, though. I thought at first I'd be on a YouTube hangout with the Green brothers, but that didn't pan out. So instead, I loaded up CNN's auto-updating results page and watched a couple of Doctor Who episodes while I watched results pop up.

It was insane how close the results were. Even in states which weren't hotly contested, quite a few states came in with less than 5% difference. I intended to stay up until Virginia was called, but I didn't make it; I went to bed around 11:30, not long after the race had been declared for Obama. (The other VA races had been projected by this point, so there was nothing left to bite my nails over.)

Results: So if you know me at all, you know I'm a fiscal moderate and a social extreme liberal, so I'm ridiculously happy with the results this year. Obama's return, an increase in the numbers of women in Congress (though the ratio is still pretty horrible), multiple strides forward for gay rights. I don't have a personal stake in the recreational marijuana thing (and how crazy is it that I didn't even hear about those issues until election night?!) but I'm glad they passed, too. Puerto Rico as a state isn't going to happen any time soon, but it's kind of exciting to watch that water swirl anyway.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't Judge Me

Here's the deal: work is insane. My documentation specialist is having some personal issues that have severely limited her ability to, well, work, and so I've been doing all the documentation for the last couple of weeks, on top of my own usual work. Plus there's a proposal going on, and while I'm not directly sucked in, I'm still getting a lot of documentation-style requests, getting tables prettied up and spreadsheet formulas double-checked and stuff like that. Eventually I'll have to do a scrub on the finished product, too.

It's been a busy week or so at home, too -- we had a Hallowe'en party on the 27th, and then there was Hallowe'en itself last week, and then I had a Girls' Night party this past weekend, all of which required some level of preparation and shopping and cleaning and such. To go with that, there's all the usual life stuff going on -- school conferences and taking the cat to the vet and paying bills and "No, you're not wearing that to school, now march right back upstairs and change," and snuggling on the couch and reading with the kids and making birthday plans for this weekend. Penny wistfully told me that, since Matt and I had separated, she never gets to spend time alone with me any more, which is a fair complaint, so I'm taking off work tomorrow (when she's out of school anyway) and spending it with her.

And my second job -- the writing/editing gig -- has really taken off and exploded lately. I don't know if I'd mentioned it on this blog yet, but I'm being promoted to editor of the entire short story line for Torquere. It'll be official in January, but I'm starting to get pulled in now, learning the ropes by way of assisting the current shorts editor, helping to vet submissions, hashing out the 2013 themes and calls, etc. On top of that, I'm still proofreading, still editing for JMS Books, still the editor for an anthology that's due out right after the holidays. And still, when I can squeeze it in, writing. (I woke up early Saturday with a story idea and wrote almost 1000 words before I even got out of bed. Thank goodness I keep the iPad on my bedside table.)

I come into work in the morning, and there's always something that needs to be done immediately, if not sooner. And when I get home in the evening, it's usually the same. So when I do get an evening or a day off, I tend to spend it like I spent yesterday -- loafing on the couch watching a really unhealthy amount of television. For the record of shame: two episodes of the BBC's Sherlock (DVD/BluRays of which would not be an unwelcome birthday present, by the way), three episodes of Doctor Who (2nd new season), and... I lost count, but at least six episodes of How I Met Your Mother (because they're like popcorn or candy and everyone, everyone, everyone on that show is gorgeous and lickable, even the wacky sidekicks). But, you know, I also did the grocery shopping and several loads of laundry and made an amazing pot roast for dinner, so I wasn't utterly sloth-like. And I watched about a dozen episodes of SciShow, too, so I didn't entirely let my brain melt.

So now I'm off to work like crazy (I had three tasks waiting in my inbox when I logged in on top of the usual Monday stuff, and I took off this twenty minutes to let you all know why I haven't written in the last week -- don't you feel special?) and hopefully after this week, things will settle down a bit and I'll be able to get back on the blog.