Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Laid low

Sigh. I'd done so well this winter - no really major cold.

Naturally, now that it is March and the arrival of Spring may be more than just a pipe dream, a virus sneaks in with a nasty uppercut and lays me low.

Grr.

It's easy to blame this on recycled air on the flights to and from New Orleans. I felt great during the entire trip (Tuesday through Friday), and felt fine over the weekend. Monday morning, waking with a lot of congestion, I thought maybe it was all in my head (heh), at the idea of going back to work...

No such luck. Raw throat, alternately plugged and runny nose, and rather plugged ears. That last is always interesting, as it affects my balance a bit.

I'm up for half an hour or so, to watch a bit of news, e-mail in to work and take some cold stuff. The biggest question right now is where to go back to sleep - crawl back into bed, or go downstairs and curl up on the couch? There are merits in each. The bed is ultimately more comfortable, but the couch is closer to the kitchen, and hot broth sounds really good right now.

Both those options, however, are dependent on my having enough energy to leave this chair...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday night

Sunday nights are generally "wind down" nights. By dinner, I like to have all the laundry done, lunches for the next few workdays figured out and the Monday lunch packed so I can spend the last few hours of the weekend just relaxing.

Unfortunately, thanks to the holidays and numerous award shows, my usual Sunday night escapism television show hasn't been around since early December. As a result, I've been reading, or streaming an episode of whatever program I'm currently working my way through, or both simultaneously.

Things have been pretty quiet in general lately. I'm not complaining, but it doesn't give me much for blog fodder. A number of friends are dealing with really hard situations in real life, and praying for them is a priority. It hurts my heart that they have to endure these things. I'm working through some things myself - nothing anywhere near as difficult as they are - enough to keep me in a more contemplative, introverted mood.

Soon, however, I'll be forced to mingle and make conversation with two hundred some strangers. Not just strangers, but tax accountants and attorneys. Sounds like a blast, doesn't it? Packed with great information and wonderful firsthand tales of incredible accountancy, these conferences are pretty much a nightmare for an introvert. By the end of the second day, I'm ready to hole up in my room with room service and the television remote, the "do not disburb" sign plastered to the door.

Becoming a hermit would be a shame, as the conference this year is in New Orleans. I've been there twice for a different conference; this particular one is usually in Florida somewhere (Orlando two years ago - worst conference experience ever). Given that this is my third trip there, New Orleans is beginning to feel like home. Or as much like home as it can be for someone who doesn't drink.

Food and music, however, are different stories. I've a plan for a (non-University paid for) special dinner (Antoine's is celebrating their 175th anniversary this year). The conference hotel doesn't have a restaurant that serves dinner, though the lobby bar serves a light sandwich menu all day. Why should they put on a dinner service in a city known for its food? And the concierge should be able to recommend a jazz club close to the hotel. Alas, sitting in an outside courtyard on a sultry night listening to great jazz isn't going to happen - it's only going to get up into the low fifties the few days I'm there.

Which, I should point out, is still thirty-five to forty degrees warmer than it is here (why yes, it is going down to six below zero overnight tonight, with wind chills down close to minus thirty for most of the morning).

The sun shone quite a bit this weekend, enough to remind me that I need to figure out how to clean the giant windows over the patio doors. One can be reached from the loft, but the other means climbing up on the really tall ladder. The outside of the windows will be a snap with the little pressure washer. Of course, I'll get soaked in the process, but sparkling clean windows are worth it.

Hard to believe that next weekend is March. And only two weeks or so until the start of Daylight Savings Time. Boo. I hate the retreat back into going to work in the dark, hate losing an hour, hate trying to adjust my sleeping patterns. I realize I'm in the minority in wanting that extra daylight early in the morning, but honestly, why can't the rest of the world just get up earlier?

Time for me to head off to bed. I managed to go to bed early Friday night, then get up but go back to bed Saturday morning, giving me close to eleven hours sleep. A two hour nap rounded out the day Saturday...you guessed it, I ended up going to bed close to two hours later than usual last night. Getting up at my usual hour this morning (shorting myself those two hours of sleep) has had me yawning since about three this afternoon. Gosh, I really am set in my ways; any disruption to my schedule messes with me for days, even if it's initially getting extra sleep.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

At least you don't have to shovel it

It is...not warm. Actual temperature minus nine when I got up this morning. Wind chills south of twenty below zero. Yet because there is only a wind chill advisory, not a wind chill warning, the kids are expected to go to school.

//old geezer comments alert//

When I was kid, we didn't have all the fancy advisories and warnings. The weather people were able to tell you the actual temperature, but it was up to you to realize that the "feels like" temperature was "too damn cold".

We wore big, clunky boots with two pairs of socks and carried our inside shoes to school in plaid "shoe bags". A coat with a hood pulled up over your stocking hat and one or two scarves wrapped around your face, plus mittens worn over gloves (the mittens kept from being lost by virtue of being attached to one another by a string that ran up one sleeve, over your shoulders and down the other arm) completed the ensemble.

Oh - and snow pants, those puffy, hard to get on and off, rubberized exterior, instruments of torture.

And we walked to school. Recess was rarely indoors (what teacher wants to be trapped all day in a classroom with thirty stir-crazy elementary age kids? At least letting us out into the cold kept us quiet when we came inside...until we thawed out again).

//old geezer comments off//

On the plus side, it is magnificent sleeping weather. The getting out of bed part, not so great.

My office at work is at the very end of the steam heat run; it gets little heat at the best of times. There is nothing but open air under the concrete floors - our office sits mostly over a street level open parking area. It's almost as much work to dress for a day in the office as it was to put on all the outside clothes when I was a kid.

This too, shall pass. The local weather gurus keep putting up graphics that say "X days until spring" or "Y days until Opening Day", as if nature will flip off the switch on the freeze pop machine on that day. We in Wisconsin know better.

(As an aside, the station that monitors the cyclical weather pattern known as the LRC claims we may be at risk for the cold portion of this year's cycle recurring in mid May - and giving us a possible late frost)

Now excuse me, I have to go get another cup of hot coffee.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fat Tuesday

Or Shrove Tuesday ("shrove" comes from the old English "shrive", which has to do with confession of sins and asking of absolution), Pancake Day (based on an old pagan holiday where pancakes symbolized the sun, and the object of eating pancakes was to help the gods to usher in spring) or Mardi Gras (a belief in drinking and partying until you wake up with a killer headache and no memory of the previous three days)(but technically the name for the day spent eating the fatty, rich foods one is giving up for Lent).

As a Catholic university, we lean towards the "Shrove Tuesday" definition (at least officially - the students may have a different perspective). We have a long tradition in our office of...food. Every quarter or so we have a donut day for the entire department, held alternately in our building or a couple of blocks away, where the student services section contingent works. It seemed a natural to have this quarter's mixer on Fat Tuesday.

In Milwaukee, in addition to other places around the country with a larger Polish immigrant population, there is an additional sweet incentive for the day: paczki. The link will provide an explanation along with a mouth-watering picture. I'm not much for filled doughnuts, nor for things covered in powdered sugar (I've been to New Orleans twice, soon to be three times, and have yet to have a beignet), but for these, I'll make an exception.

If you take a look at the recipe at the end of the link, you'll see why paczki are a fitting treat for Fat Tuesday: the dough, with 20 egg yolks for four dozen doughnuts, is incredibly rich. The two traditional fillings are prune (actually quite tasty) and raspberry, but I see that Grebe's is offering a new flavor for the year that includes...bacon.

Whether your town offers true paczki, a smorgasbord of pancakes, hurricanes or a simple jelly filled doughnut, have a sweet treat today; Lent begins tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday follies

After a half day at the mechanic and a hefty bill, the "check engine" light came on this morning. The odds are that they simply forgot to reset something, but it does mean a return to trip, which is majorly annoying (add to which this was at 6:05 this morning, and I can't call until the lazybones open up at seven). There is an appointment I will.not.miss later this afternoon, so I'm hoping this really is just a reset issue. (edit: car set for 1:30)

On the plus side, it means I can leave early. We'll see what they have open for slots. Or rather, I'll tell them what time this beginning-to-be-irate customer will be coming back in.

The weather took a turn for the frosty overnight, and will be getting worse as the weekend progresses. Highs of maybe ten tomorrow, with sustained winds strong enough to make the wind chill hover in the minus twenty to twenty-five degree area. Thankfully, once I'm home from my appointment, I won't have to go out again until church on Sunday.

The all-important appointment? A touch up for my hair. Or rather, at this point, an entire recoloring. My original appointment was set for January 22nd. I go four weeks between retouches, so I'm now a full seven weeks out from the last coloring. A best guess is more than two inches of outgrowth - and a good look at how grey I really am. There is a lingering temptation to have it all cut short and let it go grey - but I hate most short hair cuts.

Sewing to do this weekend, and lots of cleaning. Groceries coming tomorrow, with some cooking to do tonight. Home made chicken soup, and perhaps a chicken divan casserole. Something warm and comfort foodish.

Catching up on some reading will happen. In January I finished only one nonfiction book; the beginning of February was spent plowing through a historical novel. The goal, if you recall, is two nonfiction books per month in 2015. I'll admit I'm easing into it; my first read was an enjoyable, wonderful book, but falls into the "Christian nonfiction chick-lit" genre. Sadly, the one I just finished (at the car place yesterday) is much the same. The book I hope to finish yet this month is one on decluttering. Nonfiction? Yes. Hard reading? No.

If it kills me (and it may), I will get through James White's What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an by the end of the year.

Reading, comfort food, a place by the fire while the wind howls outside (a warm quilt over me and the electric space heater at my feet - that gas fire doesn't put out a lot of heat) - can't think of a better weekend.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The value of being a Luddite

Luddite

1. One who fears technology (or new technology, as they seem pleased with how things currently are...why can't everything just be the same?)

2. A group led by Mr. Luddite durring the industrial revolution who beleived machines would cause workers wages to be decreased and ended up burning a number of factories in protest

A luddite generally claims things were "just fine" back in the day, and refuses to replace/update failing equipment/software/computers on the basis that they were just fine 10 years ago

Source: urbandictionary.com

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Revelation 13:16 - 18

Much has been made in the last week regarding Samsung's smart television. A handy feature allows you to use voice commands to change channels, just in case you happen to lose the remote control. Unfortunately, as stated in the fine print in the manual, the microphone that picks up the channel command will also pick up any speech within the reach of the device. More than that, the recordings will be transmitted to a third party.

Yes, that "cool factor" that made you buy that television is enabling massive data mining and putting your personal information at risk.

It isn't just Samsung. As the so-called "Internet of Things" continues to invade our lives, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep our personal data, well, personal.

For as long as I've had a smart phone, I've refused to enable the location function. It's true that it may be an issue should I be vocally incapacitated and need to call 911 (and I'm sure there are other ways for them to determine my location in that situation), but I'm not thrilled with the number of applications that insist they need that location data as well.

For instance, last night I wanted to know the flavor of the day at Culvers. If it were a favorite, I'd swing past after work and buy a pint. The Culvers app on my phone (don't judge - what apps do you have on your phone?) came up and I discovered that unless I enabled the location function, the app would not find my local Culvers.

Needless to say, I didn't have ice cream last night.

It's not just phones and televisions. Wireless technology is creeping into everything. Cars? You can now buy one with its own personal wireless system. Refrigerators, ranges, home thermostat systems...the list goes on.

This article, while lengthy, does a great job of highlighting the risks of an always-connected society. At the rate at which the tech is expanding, it may soon become almost impossible to opt out.

What does this have to do with the mark of the beast? Everything. The next logical step after installing this technology in all the things is to install it in all the people. This isn't a science fiction, future times dream: the technology exists today. It's not so much a question of "can we?", but more "when will we?". All it takes is a society that has been inured to the dangers and sold on the convenience factor.

I'd say we are pretty much there.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Mechanics of car stuff

On Friday, I took the car in for an oil change and for a check on any damage from an encounter with a pothole. It turns out that I will be needing front brakes soon, as well as one of the ball joints in the tire that took the brunt of the pothole jolt.

Naturally, they couldn't do it right away because they were jammed. And truly, in over ten years of going to this place, I'd never seen quite that many people in the service waiting room.

Burning another vacation day for car repairs isn't my idea of a fun day off. Still, it's better than using their van service to take me to and from work: not only does it take much longer, it increases my anxiety level all out of proportion. No idea why.

Thursday I'll be taking the car in at 7:15 a.m. Too early for me to go to Panera for a while beforehand (somehow I'm not sure their van service would drop off and pick up at Panera - though I suppose I could ask). The bag of entertainment (Kindle Fire, regular Kindle (in case the battery wears out the first), journal, pens and an actual book (in case the batteries both...I hate the idea of being without a book)) will go along. I'm willing to wait at the dealer for up to three hours; if it will be longer, I'll ask to be taken home.

Given that my car is now twelve years old, it is probably time to consider getting a new(ish) one. Small SUV (emphasis on "small"), I think. A bit of cargo space would be a good thing. All wheel drive not necessary, but 4WD available if at all possible. I put on less than 7,000 miles per year, so something coming off of a lease program, or a used car with under 40,000 miles would work.

With those general parameters, what would you recommend?