Sunday, November 22, 2015

That first snow...

According to the weather gurus, we received 6.1" of snow Friday night to Saturday noon, shattering the old record for the date of 2.1 inches.

That's about what I would have guessed, based on what is piled up on the patio table. While it's a heavy snow, it didn't stick much on the roadways and sidewalks, which are still pretty warm thanks to our unseasonably warm temperatures recently.

Did I say unseasonably warm? Things have changed. It's seventeen degrees right now, with a wind strong enough to give us a fairly low wind chill. (The forecast says fifty for Wednesday, which will be a one day, "say goodbye to mild temperatures, suckers!" final gasp of autumn.)

As much as one can be ready for winter, I'm set. New gloves, hat, scarf and snow brush. Boots are still fine, though I put new, fuzzy insoles in them. No need for a shovel; the lawn/snow service is doing a bang up job.

There is a healthy stock of hot chocolate in the house, and plenty of supplies for comfort food dishes, starting with salisbury steak for tonight. A pair of fuzzy sock slippers and warm quilts for spending time in the living room (sunken room tends to get chilly). New candle lighter to use to light the fireplace.

Winter is no longer coming; it is here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ornery any way you look at it.

Just got an email from HR telling me I was over the limit for 2016 FSA contributions, and needed to change it, asap. Note that the email didn't bother reminding anyone what those limits are. Seriously? Granted, a two second search found the information, but still, do you think you could make it easier for people?

The really annoying part of this is that I can't put enough into the FSA - even if I put in up to the limit, which I am - to cover my deductible for 2016, now that they have combined the health and prescription deductibles. I should hit that three grand within about six months, and I can only use $2,250 of pretax dollars to pay for it. Grrr.

I've been sick since late last week. I was home yesterday, dozing in the recliner, when all hell broke loose. It wasn't just (multiple) leaf blowers, but some sort of industrial mulcher machine. All morning, and a bit into the afternoon. On the plus side, they got rid of every leaf on the ground, in the patio, in the flower beds...they did a great job. Good thing, too, as the skies opened up after about 2 p.m. and we had high winds and strong rain.

When we get heavy rains, the city of Milwaukee stores the rainwater/sewage in a deep tunnel so it doesn't back up into basements and other places. The tunnel is not only deep, it's huge. Yet somehow, every time we get a heavy rain, it's too much for the system and the city decides to release that combined junk into Lake Michigan. It happened again yesterday.

As a friend said, that's not going to look too good during the commissioning ceremonies for the U.S.S. Milwaukee this weekend. As I said, "look" would not be the particular one of the five senses I'd be worried about.

I gave away my tickets to the commissioning. I'm not sure what I was thinking - outside in November in Milwaukee?! As it turns out, we may well have our first measurable snow overnight Friday to Saturday. The program is at one p.m. Saturday. I expect the Navy, in their quietly efficient way, will have tents and heaters. Still, whose bright idea was it to do this in November? Then the ship needs to make its way through the St. Lawrence seaway, down the east coast and through the Panama Canal to its home port of San Diego. I know the Navy is tough, but so are the Great Lakes, especially in winter.

Fair seas to them.

The couple who took my tickets have a son who went to Anapolis. The kid not only had his pilot's license by the time he graduated high school, but is a concert-quality pianist. He did very well in the academy, then was sent to Pensacola for flight training...until the government let pretty much his entire class go, a result of budget cuts.

Just a bit ornery here. Feeling unsettled. Part of being sick and running a bit of a fever are the odd dreams. A plane must have flown low over the condo the other night (a frequent occurrence, being so close to the airport) - I dreamt that I was looking out the floor to ceiling glass windows of a second or third story condo, and saw a plane crash into Miller Park. No flames, no explosion, no one in the ball park. The valley (Miller Park is set in the Menomonee River valley) suddenly filled with water, and the U.S.S. Milwaukee rushed past on the way to rescue people...

I probably saw too much of the news.

No comment on the refugee issue; I'm just too tired of it, tired of ill informed people, tired of the all-or-nothing approaches, tired of people who don't know how to discuss the issue instead of dissing the opponent. I've a feeling this is rather a watershed moment for our country, and I fear we are going to blow it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Next door to the McDonald's near home is a rather large former car showroom that's been converted to various uses in the last several years. For a while it was a seasonal store (Halloween d├ęcor for a couple of months, followed by Christmas stuff, then a lull in the action until spring), but now I think it's some sort of gaming center.

At any rate, one of the constants, in spite of the changing use of the space itself, is the owners' use of the flagpole.

Over the last two days, the wind has been gusting up to, and in some cases, over forty miles an hour. The rain clouds are supposed to clear out today, eventually, but in the meantime, they make a great backdrop for a quick cell phone snap of Old Glory. The flag has to be around five feet by seven feet, and makes a very impressive display over the building.

Just a few days ago we had a day of remembrance of those who served and sacrificed to protect the freedoms on which this country was founded. Yet two days later, we are back to systematically destroying those very freedoms.

It truly makes me sick.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Excuse me while I clean my brains off the walls....

A young friend who consistently and erroneously uses "then" instead of "than" in her Facebook posts just used "than" when it should have been "then".

My head exploded a little bit.

"Than" indicates an unequal comparison: Jan is skinnier than Carol.

"Then" indicates order in time or place: I am going to work, then to the grocery store. To get to my place, you pass the QuikTrip, then the Post Office.

These aren't even homonyms, like the "you're" and "your" confusion. Or "their" and "there". Honestly people, for the sake of the grammarians in your lives, learn the differences.

Monday, November 09, 2015

It's been over a week, so a few quick thoughts...

All this fuss over a plain red cup. Honestly, when will my Christian brothers and sisters stop expecting the world to behave like believers? And how stupid is it to be a snarky ass and insist your name is "Merry Christmas" in order to have it written on your cup? Deeds witness more loudly than words.

The Republican debate circus is coming to town. Several candidates are doing events in other parts of the state, as long as they are "in the neighborhood". The good news? One year from this Wednesday, the election will be, for better or worse, over. Three hundred sixty-six - oops - three hundred sixty-seven (2016 is a leap year, as is every presidential election year - you would almost think the politicians planned that so they would have an extra day of campaigning) days to go. Maybe I should put a countdown clock up in the sidebar.

The dinner party Saturday was perhaps the best of the five "Supper for 12 Strangers" I've held. Once student simply didn't show up at the carpool; the other four both tried to contact her and waited an extra ten minutes, all in vain. Boy, did she miss out. Much fun, conversation, laughter. Two of the young ladies were international students, from China and Kenya. While internationals can be very reserved, particularly the Chinese, both girls were chatty and fun. A friend of mine came as a sort of "wing woman", helping to keep the conversation going when I needed to be in the kitchen.

The only down side? I gave away all the leftovers (this is apparently very much a Wisconsin, though not an American, custom, as I explained to the internationals and the native New Yorker (the student from Wisconsin understood it- the impulse to offer any leftovers to your guests, for them to take home for lunches or a quick dinner).

The heat came on when I was getting ready this morning, and stayed on for a good five minutes. It turns out the outside temperature was only 28 when I left for work this morning. It may be time to consider changing from the light spring jacket over to the heavy winter one, finding the scarves, mittens and gloves.

Forty years ago this afternoon, the Edmund Fitzgerald set out on Lake Superior, headed to Zug Island, near Detroit. Shortly afterward, a gale warning was issued for the lake. By seven-thirty the following evening, the ship had sunk with all hands aboard. While the Gordon Lightfoot song is probably the most well known tribute to the tragedy, today's JSOnline has a nice article about it, centering on the memories of one of the crew members' brother.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday afternoon

Half an hour or so left of the workday. Considering I've only been in the office two days this week, this has felt like a very, very long week.

A young friend is coming over tonight for a craft "night". When we set it up, I promised that if we did a Friday night, I would stay up past my (unreasonably early) bedtime. Indeed, if 9 p.m. finds me still upright and engaged, I can go for another two to three hours before crashing.

My plan is to work on some things that need to be finished - if only to move them on to their intended recipients and free up space in the studio. For instance, a stack of seven or so fleece blankets had the owls embroidered on them back in the summer. They need to be bound, but I'd like to use the binder attachment on the sewing machine to do it. I've never used it before, and you need to cut actual bias (stretchy) strips to an odd (1 1/8") width to use it. So tonight I cut and sew together binding strips.

Along with that, I'd like to cut out the pieces for the stuffed owls that will go with the blankets. It's easy enough to cut pieces for multiple owls all at once; in fact, it will make assembly line sewing for them a snap.

Those two things alone should take me through the evening.

The rest of the weekend? Saturday is supposed to be wet and cold, so a book, some soup and a fire sound perfect. Sunday, once things dry off a bit, will be dedicated to a final clean up of the patio and taking in of all the things. Well, the patio umbrella, anyway. The table/chairs and bench have nice canvas covers to protect them in the winter.

Our development is posted no trespassing, no soliciting, so we get no little treat seekers. I'm not much for Halloween, anyway. There's quite a bit of irony here, as childless me is much more equipped to make fantabulous kids' costumes from scratch than pretty much every mom out there. God has a sense of humor.

Anyway - quiet weekend for the most part. How about you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home again

Back to work after a few days of tax conference in Chicago.

Having the conference close to home is always nice; I took the train down and back, avoiding both the traffic and the horrific parking fees the hotel charges. My round trip ticket on Amtrak cost exactly $1 more than one night of self-park at the Drake.

Speaking of the Drake...I like historic buildings on principle, but not so much in reality. The hotel is lovely, but weird. Multiple half stories in odd places, back door kinds of ways to get around the meeting and public places - it's a wonder people didn't die while wandering around, trying to find the place they needed to be.

While the content of the conference was great as always, the organization left a bit to be desired. The meeting room was a bit too small for all of us. The ladies' rest room, always a busy place during breaks, had three stalls. Does no one check this stuff ahead of time?

Back home. I managed to avoid the debate last night, but will not be quite so fortunate next time. I wasn't paying enough attention, and didn't realize the next debate is here in Milwaukee. We'll have two weeks of nonstop local media snarking at candidates, running "polls", drumming up faked controversy.

Why the heck are they coming here, instead of going to Chicago?

It may be that they expected Walker to still be going strong at this point, I guess. No matter the reason, it means tied up streets and lots of inconvenience, I'm sure. Sigh.

They announced the location of next year's tax forum...Baltimore. The only saving grace is that they moved it to September, rather than late October. Besides, by then the candidates should be set, and somewhere out in the rest of the country, campaigning, right? Just have the usual East Coast craziness to deal with.

The (tentative) plan would be to take a few extra days before or after the conference. I've a dear friend who moved to Maryland a year ago, who very much wants me to visit. We'd do the dreaded tourist thing in D.C. and generally run around and have fun. We'll see.

Time to dig out from under what's piled up while I was gone. I was able to check email and clear a few things while I was in Chicago, but sometimes I swear our email server deliberately holds back a bunch of missives, and delivers them to the box overnight instead of instantly.