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Friday, December 31, 2004

Manicure and Pedicure

Rick and I have had a rocky week. There was a little stew at Christmas and we just managed to work through it today. We decided to spend the day together to shake it off. We went to lunch at El Torito and treated ourselves to yummy tortilla soup. Then we went to find ourselves a pedicure. Neither of us had ever had one before. We went to a place on El Camino just north of San Antonio. Rick was a big hit. One woman remarked "You've inspired me to get my husband in here. So Rick now has blue toenails and mine are a shiny, candy-like red. It was so nice to have someone soak and care for and rub your feet. Then we got our fingers done too because, well, we're both trying to stop gnawing our nails again. I failed utterly on election night and it's been two months of gnawing. Rick's never made it out of nailbiting before, but he's been noticing his fingers look a bit unprofessional as he's working with the folks at his new job. So now we both have well groomed hands and feet. Then we treated ourselves to a slice of pie and coffee, and headed home to watch "Mean Girls" and "Little Miss Marker" while lounging in front of the fire on our new shieepskins.

Tomorrow is dedicated to finishing up the responsibilities - the last eProtocol tutorial, an oil change, laundry, another call to U-Haul (I'll update you later on that little drama), and oh yes - DANCING! Off to the Friday Night Waltz New Year's Eve Ball for 3 final hours of dancing in 2004.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

New Tivo Tricks

Rick finally got his Tivo up and running in the office. It's on the network, so now the things it recorded are available in the living room by transferring them from one Tivo to another. This is the coolest thing ever. It recorded the Veronica Mars pilot months ago, and now I'm watching it in my living room. Sometimes technology rocks.

In other Tivo news, mom's Tivo parts arrived today, so now I've just got to make it back to Sac to set that up and hopefully all will be right in the world.

In other Tivo news, I tried finding a last minute Tivo gift over the holidays. On Christmas Eve I called a dozen stores to find that there was maybe one left in all of Sacramento. I hope that means it was a very good Christmas for Tivo. Personally, I don't know what I'd do without my Tivo. I'd probably give up tv altogether, though I'm not sure that would be a completely bad thing.

Here's wishing a fabulous new year to all the gang at Tivo!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Survived the Holidays

The holidays always feel like an odd sort of headlong tilt, running as fast as possible towards the goal of Christmas. Fair came and went and was truly the best part of my year. Then I headed to Sacramento to do family things. We went a day early so that Rick could do some work at a site up there. The car was packed to the brim with computers and monitors and our stuff and the cat and the cat's stuff. We arrived really late on Wednesday, unloaded, and fell into bed. Rick had previously said that taking one car would be fine and that I could use the car during the day because he wouldn't need it once he got to the site, but that night he said that he might need to make a run to Fry's during the day, so I arranged to go do my last minute Christmas shopping with my mom. Last minute Christmas shopping was had, mostly without incident (save for the odd woman in the Best Buy parking lot running her stroller into the side of my mom's car, and some tired feet). I also made a stop at Three Women and an Armoire to look for a new dining room table since mine is too large for our dining room, and one of the chairs is broken. It turns out, their old store is now the clearance center and they've got a new store on F Street. It really is a fabulous shop, and I was mentally underprepared for the prices at the clearance center. So, I'm the proud owner of a beautiful 1930's English walnut wardrobe, which will replace the armoire we currently have, being smaller, more functional, and stylistically extremely similar to my buffet. At just $90, I failed to resist. We got home and I started to set up my mom's Tivo. I gave it to her for her birthday, but the first one was dead on arrival, and then we shipped that back and got a replacement and that whole process took a couple of months and then in the end, my mom hadn't remembered that she wasn't supposed to send the accessories back, so no remote, no cables, no ir device. Le sigh. I called Tivo and they're resending all of that back, though not before giving me some measure of grief about it. Granted, my mom messed up on this one, but who returns a product after removing items from the box? It's just not done. So, she dutifully did what every consumer is trained to do: put everything back in the box and return it all for a complete exchange. Only Tivo just wants you to send the main box and nothing else. D'oh! There is a problem in the process there that leads to this sort of outcome. Anyway, Tivo for my mom is on hold, still.

Christmas Eve was the normal affair with a glorious dinner of turkey and ham and cornbread stuffing. Many presents were had, and everyone is getting much better about buying less and being sure that what is bought is appropriate to the recipient. Grandpa and Grandma gave us all "U.S. Government Gift Certificates" (a.k.a $100 cash) that is much appreciated. I showed everyone the game of Hoopla and had a nice evening whereupon I did not stick my foot in my mouth on religious or political grounds. Whew. I would very much like to avoid repeating last year's affair whereupon my beloved grandmother ended up crying. My grandparents and I live in very different worlds, both of which are valid, but have competing and mutually objectionable world views. There's no getting over that, and it doesn't alter how much I love and appreciate them and view them as great examples to learn from, but it does lead to some uncomfortable moments. C'est la vie.

Christmas Day was less leisurely than I'd hoped, but ended up being fine. We ran out to my Aunt Debbie's place for Christmas lunch with my dad's side of the family. My dad is still the all time master of thoughtless gift giving. He got everyone almonds. It's hard for me to imagine his mindset. I put a lot of effort into finding just the right gift for a person, knowing them for all these years and knowing what would make them smile/laugh/glow. But my dad knows he's supposed to have gifts, so he gets a gift. This year it was a Blue Diamond almond gift pack. Oh well. We're finally getting along on some terms, and he's really been helping me with this house, which I really do appreciate, and I'll have to keep that thought with me during this time of year.

We left Debbie's and raced over to Rick's dad's house where we found the family engrossed in "Welcome to Mooseport". I'd had a small interest in seeing that, so curling up on the sofa and watching that for 2 hours wasn't so bad. They've got a little pug puppy named Otis who thought us new people were the bee's knees. Rick's dad had found a tool set, so now he's got a sander and a rotary saw and a bunch of other stuff he's itching to try out.

We left there and headed towards the finish line: Ian and Sara's annual Christmas night gathering. Good friends in a very casual setting. It really is one of the best things about Christmas. We settle in for a long evening of hot drinks and good conversation. Christyn and Brian were there when we arrived, and Lisa and Acorn, Nicole and Dougie, and Ann and Mario, and Suzi and Sandy, and Terri, and Kimmie, and oh, heck, I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch, but y'know, the Sac gang. We made pagan soup out in the hot tub and Sandy brought us all paperweights and ornaments she'd made in her glass blowing studio. It was so incredibly relaxing. We watched the moon with it's ring in the fog looking up from the hot tub while Suzi rubbed my feet and all was right in the world.

The next morning we blasted out again to meet Christyn and Brian and Lisa at the Fox and Goose for breakfast. A British omelette, crumpet, and coffee were a nice break from holiday turkey. We handed over keys to Frank and Janelle's place so that Christyn and Brian could check in on the kitties. Then we picked up the wardrobe and decided not to brave the weather to drive it all the way home in an open pickup. Rick took the truck back to my grandparents and set up grandma's new scanner. I stayed home and watched Delovely with mom. We made quiche for dinner. Today, Rick headed back to the site to finish the computers, and I slept late for the fifth day in a row. It's amazing how good I can feel after a lot of sleep. We headed home about noon, and then I cleaned the bathroom (because my life is so glamorous). And now, I must be off to the Plough since it's my last chance to dance there for a long time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Joyous Solstice Was Had

I took a nice long walk today enjoying the beautiful weather. It's the darkest day of the year, and yet it was sunny and warm and gorgeous. The sky was the special sort of wintry blue where it's sunny but not overwhelmingly bright. Add to that a bunch of West Wing episodes, a filling at the dentist, and a meeting with my finance advisor (where she said "Good job this year."), and buying a bunch of Christmas presents at Gamekeeper and I'd say I had a pretty productive day. Now to light a candle in the fireplace for Hestia and off to bed.

Ahhhh....

The last weekend of Dickens was as great as the others. I've been running at top speed since Saturday morning. The fair was a crazy kind of crowded on both Saturday and Sunday. At around 1:45, I was looking out on the crowd, aiming toward a batch of customers, but then looking at the floor. Dave intercepted me and had me sit for a few saying, "No need to add to the melee just now." Very true, though there were customers waiting to dance. Oh well. Dragging them into that crowd wouldn't be fun. Thankfully, the Saturday crowds died down a bit in the late afternoon. We danced through the end of the night, and did carol out, which ran a bit long since the exit sweep parade got stuck waiting for some customers making purchases. Much singing later, we were told that 101 was a bit of a parking lot, so I headed the other way, down to 92, off to Gaskells. I made a quick stop at the Hillsdale Whole Foods for some hot supper and gas across the street. In the grocery store, so many people asked what I was dressed for. I always said Dickens Fair, even though I was in my evening ball gown. Responses varied from "Oh, I heard about that," to "Oh, is that now? I really wanted to go this year." It occurred to me that just touring a few grocery stores would be good advertising on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Anyway, finally on to Gaskells where I danced up a storm with lots of Fezziwiggers who I've been missing out on dancing with the past few weeks. At the end of the night, I actually considered going to Au Coquelait for afters, but though my body was up to it, my mind overruled, knowing that sleep was more important than food. Home for a shower and sleep and up again the next morning. I made it in time for the Major's on-time-treats. Then I still went down to Mr. Brown's for my last bowl of morning oatmeal with blueberries and chicken apple sausage and perfect coffee. Around 4 I had my last Scottish Meat Pie of the season. In between was a very strong scene with Fredrik that apparently actually brought tears to his eyes, partially for it's power, and partially because it was our last time. Next year, I will have a new Ebeneezer. I had a last dance with the Major and then we sung our way out. It was over, and there was nothing left to do but raise a few toasts and drink champagne. Long lingering goodbyes were the order of the evening. I don't think anyone wanted to go. Home at last, I took a long hot shower, and fell into bed, thoroughly asleep before I knew it. The next morning, I hopped up and headed back out again to help tear down the set. A dozen of us came to pull it all down. After that, I hoped to catch up with Lizzie, but didn't catch her, so I went Christmas shopping instead, catching a few more items. I ended the day with my first trip to the Plough for dancing in at least a year. It was really nice. I danced my heart out, very thankful for the Dickens Fair boot camp to build up my stamina. I got to see Forest's new car, and hear about Siannan's upcoming trip to see Thom in Germany. I drove home late, passing two freeway closures on the way home to start my post-Dickens time of year. Whew!

So today I've got an appointment with Dorothy and then off to visit the dentist. I'm wrapping up the day with catching up on a bit of West Wing while doing some mending. Tomorrow is last minute shopping and housekeeping, and then off to Sacramento for Christmas.

Hmm...

I'm genuinely curious about whether or not there's a real problem with George Bush. This isn't a particularly well put together video, but it does illustrate an important issue -- George is not the man he once was. He comes across as an idiot now, but it wasn't always that way. Is it drugs? Is it a degenerative illness? What's the scoop here?

Still amazed that he got reelected.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Working From Home

Sure, it's the last day before I get two weeks off, but there were no meetings today, so why drive in? I'm testing from here. I've gotten a lot of testing and fix done. And I have these occasional small breaks where the cat comes over and curls up next to me and purrs as I scratch him. After five or ten minutes, he gets up and wanders back to the other end of the sofa for a nap, but those little interludes are such a treat. He seems really happy today. Lately he's been a little put out because we don't want him to go play in the neighbors' yards and because Rick is back at work. I think a day home with me is just the ticket for him.

My Winter shut down won't be quite as shut down as last year. Mark will need me to test occasionally. I need to write up the job aids for Leave of Absence, Employment Update, and Termination. I've got to create a web based tutorial for Lab Animals eProtocols submitters. And if I'm feeling really generous, I'll also update the panel management job aids for Valerie. But the beauty thing is that in all that, I can do it from the comfort of my sofa, with feet up, in my pjs or overalls, with Pixel at my side. That doesn't suck.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Benefits of Stanford

Working at Stanford is cool for a lot of reasons. Reason number 104 is that it's awfully nice to know that I could be sick for 8 weeks straight before I run out of sick leave.

Office 2003

I can't say I'm disappointed exactly, because I wasn't expecting much. But yet, yeah, I think Microsoft managed to disappoint me. I've been using Office 2003 for 3 or 4 days now. New functionality? Improved features? Easier to use? Nah! Don't be ridiculous. But it does have a nifty new animated clipboard when you cut and paste. Ugh.

I Love Tivo

Tivo is the coolest thing to happen to TV in ages, and while that isn't saying much in and of itself, it is actually incredibly high praise.

And now, Tivo gets even cooler. Just in time for Christmas, Tivo is GIVING AWAY their product. For free.

So, if you're free and in the area tomorrow, stop by with your Comcast bill and a donation for The Family Giving Tree charity and walk away with a new Tivo. Because Tivo is cool like that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Gorgeous Weather

It was such a beautiful day today. I was down at the hospital around 1, and the only thing to tip you off that it wasn't a beautiful day in May was the angle of the sun, already on its way to setting. The hills on the drive in were cradled in swaths of fog, but campus was sunny and green. I love my little urban paradise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I Love Dickens Fair

Dickens Fair has always been a lot of nuisance for a little joy. It steals away every weekend in November and December. Every year at the end, I question whether or not it's all worth it. Not this year. This year, the joy is way outstretching the nuisance, so much so that I haven't even noticed the nuisances. If you asked me now why I do it, I could answer so easily and without reservation. It is one place where almost all of the interests and hobbies and pleasures of my life converge and I get to share it all with others. I get to dress up in a pretty outfit from another time. I get to dance all day long. I get to share the joy of dance with others who've never tried it before. I get to act. I get to act like a complete fool even. I get to share good food with good friends, including rarely enjoyed treats like tea and scones and meat pies. And I get to spend time with friends I wouldn't otherwise see. I get to meet new friends who will hopefully become a part of my life during the rest of the year. I get to be part of a tight knit cast that really does feel more and more like family every year. I love it. All of it. I'll take the minor nuisances (like getting up early on the weekends, sore feet, and singing way too many Christmas Carols) any time.

This weekend, I spent time having lunch with Arthur, discussing various things like funding a business for Ebeneezer and Mr. Marley, tea shipments, and Ebeneezer's complaints over the costs of trim for my new dress, and so on, all for the benefit of the elderly gentleman who sat across from us, who kept smiling as we went on. I danced with Mr. Lowe, a law student at Stanford who has been coming every weekend, and is so taken with Dickens that he wrote us a long thank you note, and announced his intention to join the cast next year. I danced a Congress with a blushing young man who swore he couldn't possibly dance, and enjoyed it enough to stay for more dancing. I walked past Dark Garden and saw friends of many shapes and sizes modeling corsetry, including a lovely scene where Pandora receives a telegram, and a box. I sat back stage and talked with Janelle about stuff and nonsense. I learned the joys of the Mr. Kettle's Hat game. I giggled with girlfriends over a first date. I broke Ebeneezer's heart in two distinctly different ways using the very same words - once in anger, and another in sorrow. I threw myself to the ground as the stagecoach hit the largest bump in Yorkshire, in a heap with Mr. Pillicody, Mrs. Pillicody, Mary, the Goose, the Red Ribbon, and the Green Skeleton. And when it was all said and done, I went to a birthday dinner for Emily, and spent Sunday night over a meal with 10 good friends.

Word has it that if the fair doesn't turn a profit this year, there won't be a fair next year. I think that would be a real shame. I'm hoping for the best, but I'll also cherish this season for a long long time.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Dickens Fair

Fred put it best:
There's only one more weekend of the Dickens Christmas Fair. Attendance has
been good, but we absolutely need one more blockbuster weekend in order to
guarantee that the fair will continue next year and beyond. Some come on
down, help us celebrate Christmas in Victorian London, and help save the
Dickens Fair!

If you'd like to dance a waltz with me (or some other lovely partner), listen to some delightful Christmas carols (or perhaps some bawdier tunes), watch an outrageous Christmas pantomime (or an over-the-top melodrama), or simply stroll through the streets of 19th century London to see the sights, partake in some food, and get a start on that Christmas shopping, come to the Dickens Christmas Fair:

DICKENS CHRISTMAS FAIR
http://www.dickensfair.com/

LAST WEEKEND
Saturday and Sunday
December 18-19
11:00 - 7:00
at The Cow Palace

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More Quiz Silliness

Deck the Halls
You are 'Deck the Halls'! Let's be honest, it
isn't Christmas you are celebrating, is it? In
fact, you know full well that there were no
shepherds in the fields in December, and that
the date of Christmas was put at midwinter
specifically to coincide with the older
celebrations of Yule and the birth of Mithras.
An unashamed Pagan, you take great glee in the
number of carols referring to holly, evergreens
and Winter's end, and will sing them with
gusto. You know where they really came from.
And you do enjoy the seasonal celebrations,
regardless of their name... A merry Yule to
you!


What Christmas Carol are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ahem.

Well, I've always known I'm a bit of a true Gemini. Apparently, too true.
You are 93% Gemini







Um, yeah. Can't really argue. It's a good thing I don't believe in astrology, eh?

From Cell Phone to Sunflower

This is the coolest freaking thing I've heard all day. Rule Britania indeed!

Buy Blue

This is interesting. It breaks down who contributed what to which party, with the intent of encouraging you to buy Blue. For me, the only real surprise was Costco. Go figure. Well, and maybe Shell.

Dickens Second Weekend

Another great weekend of Dickens Fair. Saturday my mom showed up completely unexpectedly with her friend Nelda. Nelda seems a very interesting person. I danced an extra few sets and actually felt tired at the end of the day. I also had a great chat with Forest, catching up on the bits and pieces in his life. That night I drove home, fetching some quick burritos from Los Charros on the way, and curled up on the sofa to watch Star Wars on the really big screen. I had the digital projector from work for the demo I was doing on Monday, and we decided to try it out. We've been thinking about whether it would be best to invest in a larger tv, or to get an LCD projector instead. The projectors are actually proving cheaper in most cases these days. Well, after trying it out, projected against the vinyl shade in the living room window, I'm completely sold on the projector. Star Wars totally rocked. You could see the veins in Leia's hands. That's cool. Off to bed too late, but still made it in time the next morning.

Rick rode up with me on Sunday. I grabbed a bowl of oatmeal with a chicken apple sausage and a cup of coffee for breakfast from Mr. Brown's and made a reservation for tea at 2. I made it for 8, knowing that with Cyrus, Athena, Lee and Stacy visiting, we'd have 7, and then there'd be room for 1 more if the need arose. Turns out, Lee and Stacy brough Rachel Nador with them, so it was perfect. Tea at two for eight. The scones and egg mayonnaise sandwiches were perfect, and the tea was just the right refreshment. I bummed around shopping with Athena for a bit after tea, tried on several outfits for Cyrus, and finally headed back for more fun at the warehouse. Miss Lily got a 3 page telegram complete with a proposal from Mr. Kettle (you know, Thomas Kettle, or Mr. T. Kettle.). Mrs. Fezziwig swooned and I stepped in, noting that Lily is Mrs. Fezziwig's YOUNGEST Daughter. Mr. Kettle played along beautiful and cowered perfectly. Hoop skirts do have a way of making a five foot two person a little more intimidating. Mr. Kettle is good fun to play with too. We made more fun of it for the rest of the day. Also, I bumped into Miss Estella Havershim in the street, and talked her into tormenting the young barkeep at the Green Man. Poor young Thomas had a kiss on one cheek but not the other, so we marched over and remedied that. And then later, Mike put us up to taking care of his forehead too. I finished my day with learning a new segment of Stagecoach, getting kissed by both Ebeneezer's at once, and lofting cards for the Hallelujah chorus.

Taking Monday's off work is best and kindest thing I've ever done for myself. I came in today feeling like it was Monday after a nice relaxing weekend. I keep being surprised by people talking about work they did yesterday. What's funny is that I did come in and do that training yesterday. Still, leading a training demo is the best, easiest part of my work, and I'd happily do it on a Sunday.

Thank You Weather Fairy!

Oh, and let me just say, I was dreading the weather this weekend. On Thursday, the forecast said it was to be rainy and windy all weekend. Rainy days at Dickens can be interesting, with backstage floods or soggy skirt bottoms or the rain being louder on the roof than the band can play. But it didn't happen. The wind didn't kick up until Monday, and the rain happened over night. It's back to blue sunny skies, and it's about 10 degrees warmer than last week. Nice.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Pixel Pics

Pixel has a gift for being wildly endearing. He's known for doing cute things like hopping into a backpack and hanging out.

Or climbing onto our shoulders to snuggle.

Or sitting in the window til I get home.

Or just being his normal adorable self.

I'm just so glad he walked up that night. He may well be the most spoiled kitten ever between his custom built car ride platform and his new front pack carrier bag and his endless parade of toys, but he's worth it. How could I deny anything to a fuzz face like him who wants nothing more in life than to nuzzle my face?

Repetition=Truth

One of the things that kept bugging me during the presidential campaign is that the American people seem so deluded, taking rumors to be fact. I thought "How gullable are Americans?" I mean, something like 70% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the World Trade Center attack on 9/11. It's this weird mythology that's developed and is now the truth in most people's minds. At least a third of Americans believe that we did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but none were ever found. There seems to be a situation where if I hear it from someone I trust, or if I hear it enough times, it must be true.

Now here's the rub. All of the above is true, and that is worrisome, but it's also nothing new. The Boston Massacre was not a massacre. Richard the Third was not a murderer nor a hunchback, though most history books say so. (In truth, it was his successor, Henry VII who had the princes put to death.) And heck, who knows what Jesus was really crucified for. It was a common punishment for all sorts of civil crimes and the cross only became a symbol of the religion after the crucifiction. Some conjecture he was no more than a common horsethief, though lack of any primary sources dating back that far means we'll never learn the truth of Jesus's life.

And any rate, the human animal is far more likely to believe the simple mythology it is told repeatedly than to be concerned enough to investigate independently. If they've heard the same thing three times from three different sources, it's probably true. History is little more than the propaganda of the moment that managed to stick and usurp any inconvenient facts. I guess I had wrong-headedly assumed that in this modern age of the internet, enough folks would be publishing primary sources and calling out lies that kings and politicians would be less able to paint the picture as they pleased, but they have the forum to provide extensive repetition. And in the mind of a human, repetition = truth.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bleh!

It's sounded good when I bought it. It sounded good when I heated it. It even sounded good when I smelled it. But then I put it in my mouth. The Weight Watchers "Roasted Chicken with Sour Cream & Chive Mashed Potatoes" is the worst frozen entree I've ever tried to eat. The chicken was not a piece of chicken; it was reformed chicken bits. The gravy tasted of perfume. The mashed potatoes tasted like the box they came in. After four bites, I could eat no more.

Jo-Ann and I went over to Ciao, the cafe in the building two doors over. The Tuscan Chicken panini was quite a treat after that entree. Fresh basil, fresh tomato, hot chicken and cheese grilled together. Yum!

I usually bring lunch to save money and eat fewer calories. That doesn't work if the brought lunch is inedible. Still, getting an opportunity to try the Tuscan Chicken was an unexpected treat. Good thing it was tasty!