Tuesday, December 25, 2007

White Christmas

It's snowing! I don't remember how many times as a kid I hoped for a white Christmas and was left with maybe a grayish-brown one. Or just gray, cause it was raining the whole time.

I doubt it will stick, but it's lovely for now.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Almost Christmas!

This week has been long. After more than a couple of months sitting on my chair doing nothing but attempt to prevent myself from falling into a coma, going back to doing real work all day long was rather tiring. I was so tired, in fact, that I went to sleep at 6:30pm on Tuesday night after getting home from work.

Both because of the keeping busy part and just because, I LOVE my new job! I really like the people, I like the atmosphere, I like the style of the company, and I like what I do. I'm never bored, and there's always something interesting and amusing to see. Today, I ran across an email address: "hexenweib43" or something similar, which translates loosely to, "witchy woman." The funny part is that she was attempting to buy an electronic item on a new account with several bad debt relations. Not the most brilliant thing one could do and expect to get away with it. So, in case you're wondering - ordering electronic stuff online using free emails with silly handles isn't probably going to be successful.

I watched the Canadian Brass on Wednesday evening with my brother. They were about as schticky as I expected, but also just as talented as I expected. They are all wonderfully technically proficient, of course, and they put on a great show. I very much enjoyed it, and considering I spent only $16 for my ticket, I'm quite pleased with it.

I'm now back at home for the weekend. I have to go into work Monday, quite early. I'm planning on getting there around 7am, because I don't yet have an after hours pass to my building. Then I'll work through lunch and hopefully be out of there in time to beat it to the ferry dock. Thankfully, most people can't order anything and guarantee it arrives by Christmas if they order it on Monday, so there should be fewer bozos to deal with. Everyone else in my department is working this weekend, but since I'm still training, I would actually slow down the progress of my supervisor so I'm not working. I only feel slightly sad about this - and that only because I calculated how much money I make on overtime now.

I'm also looking forward to getting trained to work on business in France, just to see how much French I've forgotten. I do find it vastly amusing that the most useful portion of my Master's degree was my language training. We received an absolutely hilarious email from a customer that quite literally took me back to my days of reading German before it was standardized (essentially pre-1550). If there's a name for the sort of German that corresponds to the English a redneck on his sixth beer at 3am would use, it would apply to this email. It's difficult to misspell in German (at least, I think so, coming from English), but maybe 1/3 of this person's email was spelled correctly. Not only that, but it was utterly nonsensical even if you could read the whole thing well, which you couldn't. Really, an excellent way to start off one's morning. :)

I am told that tomorrow will be a day of baking and food preparing, so I guess my big plans for tomorrow are to bake some gingerbread and possibly go to a movie with my brother. I do like these sorts of weekends.

Happy weekend before Christmas, everybody!

Monday, December 10, 2007

'tis the season

Maybe I was just feeling a little more prickly than usual today. But when I heard the phrase: " 'tis the season to be shopping" on the radio, I got really annoyed. I know that hardly anyone actually celebrates Christmas because they actually believe in Christ, and most people don't celebrate 'Christmas' anyway - they celebrate the 'holidays' - whatever that's supposed to mean, since the word itself comes from Christian holy days anyway.

But even if you don't care at all about or find the reason for the season offensive, the idea that the whole purpose of this time of year is crass materialism is just a little too much for me.

Maybe I need to go watch Charlie Brown Christmas again and restore my faith in humanity, even if the messengers are by turns racist and cruel cartoon children.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Nostalgia


moving on...but first, a break

Today is my last day at this job!! YAY!!!

Okay, got that out of the way. This weekend is going to be quite busy. Tonight, I have a concert with the Wind Ensemble I joined in October. I would like to find an orchestra to play with, though, because playing French Horn in band is boring. I would much rather be playing Euphonium in a band. But anyway, I’m sure the concert will be fine. Tomorrow, I’ll be sitting for the Foreign Service Officer Test for the second time, but it’s the new testing format, so I have no idea how I’ll do. My scores on the practice test have improved, though. I also bothered to study this time. :)

After the test, I’m grabbing my cat and heading back to mom’s place for a few days. Since my new job isn’t supposed to start until the 17th, I figured I’d spend some time with mom, plant the bulbs I’ve been meaning to plant, and just kind of dink around. I also got an order request on etsy to make some special order lace gloves, so that’ll be fun. Since I’m still finishing up the stuff I’m making for my friend K’s baby, I’ll be pretty much crocheted out this weekend.

Hopefully I will have enough money to join a gym soon so I can get rid of this sneaking suspicion that all the muscle/cardio capacity I built up in Singapore is slowly turning to flab.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An Auspicious Beginning to the Holidays

Today is an auspicious day. At lunch, I will go to the post office, and mail not only my Christmas cards (and it’s still the first week of December!!) but also my voter registration. I am currently still registered to vote in Oregon, but I don’t like voting in Oregon, so I’m switching to Washington. I like the registration process in Washington better anyway, because you don’t have to register with a political party. However, because of consolidated voting, I don’t get to vote for a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another, which is really irritating. As an independent, I would like to be able to choose who I think is best for a job based on their positions and experience, not based upon their party affiliation. I really hate political parties.

Anyway, that will also be early, since my deadline is January 18, 2008 if I want to vote in the Presidential primary in Washington (not as though my vote will count, but it’s the principle of the thing). So, I am early in two important areas of my life for the first time in recent memory. I didn’t get my Christmas cards out last year until the week before Christmas, and I’m pretty sure some didn’t go out until after Christmas. But then, traditionally, Christmas is December 25 until January 6 (Epiphany or Twelfth Day), so I always said I had until the 6th. Technically. But of course, no one actually cares about the twelve days of Christmas anymore, it’s all crass commercialism up until the 25th, then the tree gets chucked by the 31st. How sad.

Next week, I am not working. I gave notice to end my current employment on Friday because I can't stand it anymore but because of background checks, I will not be able to start work this Monday, but the following Monday, unless by some miracle my background check comes back early. I sincerely doubt this, because I had 15 addresses on my list in the past seven years (five were from this year alone). So, I’ve decided to enjoy my last week of freedom before I settle down to my average 10-15 hrs of overtime per week job.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What's in a name?

Does anyone else find this utterly ridiculous?

My favorite quotes from the article:

"The teacher's conviction under Sudan's Islamic Sharia law shocked Britons and many Muslims worldwide. It also inflamed passions among many Sudanese, some of whom called for her execution."

"Sudan's influential Council of Muslim Scholars had urged the government on Sunday not to pardon Gibbons, saying it would damage Khartoum's reputation among Muslims around the world."

She let her class name the teddy bear Muhammad, so she should be executed? And not pardoning her would cause Muslims around the world to be offended? What is wrong with these people?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Snow!!

Today, I had the pleasure of going to my friend Michelle's show/booth at the Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, at the Exhibition Hall in the Seattle Center. I got some business cards from some great artists and crafters, and I can't wait until I have money and can go online and buy some of their stuff.

But, most importantly, after I left, it was snowing!! It never snows here, for those of you who may not realize, and it's AWESOME!!! I haven't seen this many smiles in Seattle for quite some time. I'm just finishing up my soup and hot chocolate at the local coffee shop and I can't wait to go back to my apartment and curl up with a book and watch my Netflix movie later tonight.

And... it's December!! Happy holidays!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Aphid on Flower


Aphid on Flower, originally uploaded by naturallyraj.

This best part of this picture is entirely accidental - not the flower part, but the little bug and his friend on one of the trumpet petals. He's turned around backwards, which you can't tell until you zoom in really far. It's always exciting to get back your pictures from being developed and see how well something has turned out. That's one of the joys of film photography that I always miss when I use a digital.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good news!!

Okay, so there were two really cool things about my interview today.

The first cool thing is that is went REALLY well, and the last interviewer (there were four, the head of the German department, head of North American department, head of the Japanese department, and the head of the whole fraud department), mentioned that they were really desperate for someone with my language skills. When I mentioned to the head of the German department that I was also competent in French, he looked like I do when I bite into a really expensive dark chocolate truffle. Well, maybe not quite that much, but you get the idea. The French department is still really low-key, but they're always interested in multilingual people.

The second cool thing is that they reimburse me for all of my expenses. This would have been nothing, since I live close enough to walk, so I don't need parking or a hotel, but the HR person assured me that I could get my lunch paid for. So, like any normal person would under those circumstances, I bought myself a really nice lunch at the organic place downstairs after I got back to work. I bought organic root beer, organic peanut butter cups, Sante Fe Chicken Chowder (fabulous!), and a fruit and cheese medley. Now that I've eaten it all, I feel slightly sick. But it tasted really good, and it was free, which is the best part.

Now, I cool my heels and wait for them to call me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

boredom ergo lists

I was very busy at work yesterday. I suppose it’s only natural that I should be less than busy today. But tomorrow – tomorrow, I go in for my huge interview with the largest book distributor in the world. Apparently, they have you meet 4-5 people, and the total interview time is around 4-6 hours, at least for programmers. I have no idea what amount of time it would take for the position I’m interviewing for.

These lists are inspired by my unpacking and current boredom.

Favorite children’s books:
Where the Wild Things Are
Hatchet
Sing Down the Moon
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Tuck Everlasting
Chronicles of Narnia
Heidi
Black Beauty
The Black Stallion
Anne of Green Gables
Little Women

Favorite Classic Mysteries
Murder on the Orient Express
Ten Little Indians
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Sign of Four

Favorite Classics
David Copperfield
Pride & Prejudice
Sense & Sensibility
The Jungle Books
Treasure Island
The Importance of Being Earnest
King Lear
Heart of Darkness

Favorite American works
Tom Sawyer
Huck Finn
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
On the Road
My Antonia
Angle of Repose
The Scarlet Letter

Disclaimer: This list was compiled without the benefit of being able to check what is actually on my shelves. This is because I am currently trying to waste time, and I generally have better things to do at home than make lists of books I like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

modern electronics-less

This morning I slept in. It was glorious. Until I woke up and realized I was going to be late – then it wasn’t quite so glorious.

I got an email from a friend in Vienna this morning that made me slightly nostalgic. I did love living and working there. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to go back, without bankrupting myself.

Currently, I have no high speed internet or TV at my new apartment. As soon as I have the money, I will rectify the first problem, but I don’t plan on getting a TV until I can afford one of those small flat screens (I was thinking a 23” or so, which are only $550 for a Sharp at Costco), and since buying a TV is pretty low on my list of priorities, that will be awhile. I was just thinking last night how much we rely on those crutches to pass the time. Last night, I read a novel, talked to my brother for an hour, tidied my kitchen, played with my cat, and got to bed early. You can bet this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living in a bubble. Then it occurred to me that this was essentially the way I grew up – no internet (since we didn’t get internet until I was in 9th grade), no TV. I find it rather peaceful.

But I’m still springing for wireless internet as soon as I have the money.

Monday, November 26, 2007

gotta love the long weekends

Thursday, my mom and I went hiking. Really worked up a nice appetite for our chicken pasta primavera and bruschetta on ciabatta, with apple crisp for dessert. Not very Thanksgiving like, but after last year's 15 hour cooking marathon, I wasn't interested. I did miss the stuffing, though.

Friday, I enlarged photos and bought yarn and went to a musical. Good musical - 'Whistle Down the Wind' at the 5th Avenue theatre. On Saturday and Sunday, I lazed around my apartment, cleaned things, tidied things, went through all of my photos and decided which ones would make it into my scrapbooks, read a few novels, hammered away at the Count of Monte Cristo (which, even in my abridged version, is still three inches thick), and played with my cat.

The only problem with my long weekend is that everyone else had a long weekend too, which meant that they had no time to evaluate my applications. But, one of my possibles called my supervising lawyer today, and he gave them a nice recommendation, so that should be good. It's the one with flex-time, so I could go four 10's a week, if I wanted to. That would definitely be nice. But still... the siren's call of working in an all-German environment calls to me...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Recap

So, my interview yesterday went well. I won't find out until the end of next week how that one went, because there's a third candidate interviewing on Monday or Tuesday. It is significantly better than what I'm doing now, though.

Today's phone interview went well, I was able to answer all questions well. The part I was worried about wasn't the phone interview - it's the oral test in German. It's actually just a conversation to see how I do with spoken German, but since my spoken German was generally limited to daily conversation, some discussions of politics, and bad jokes in Austria, I'm rather concerned about how well I'll fare. I have no doubt at all about my skill with the written portion of the job - but spoken German tests terrify me. Still, it's an entry level position with the department I'm interviewing with, so I'm hoping they're not going to be overly picky. Plus, I found a German tutor on craigslist and already contacted her.

I got contacted for a third interview yesterday afternoon as well, so I'm feeling rather pleased with myself. I was really upset and worried after finding out about losing the job I currently have, but it seems as though this situation has worked out for the best for all involved. I am certainly not going to regret moving on to a position where there is better pay, better benefits, and options for advancement.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More good news!

This morning, I found an email in my Inbox asking for an interview! Not only is this job significantly better than the one I have now, it's even better than the one I'm interviewing for today. I would even be using German on a daily basis. Can't get much better than that. Anyway, I'll update the results of today's attempt to get a better job, as well as the results of the next one. Maybe I should write a thank you note to my co-worker, hmm?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving break

Tomorrow I have an interview with a contractor for a government agency. Unfortunately for me, I was the victim of office politics – aka, a dissatisfied and insecure coworker decided she didn’t like me/felt threatened by me, I really don’t know – and now I’m looking for a new job. Some people just really need to grow up. Anyway, I’m going to look at it as a blessing in disguise, because now I have the opportunity to get out of the verbal contract I made, and I can look for a better job.

This weekend was spent putting together IKEA furniture and then organizing all of my books and such into it. Those stupid things are a pain to put together. Even following the directions very carefully, I still managed to make a number of mistakes, just from getting certain holes on the top when they should have been on the bottom. Of course, I didn’t realize these mistakes until a few pages further into the manual, so then came the backtracking. Still, the beast is done, even if it did take almost two hours total. It weighs about 200 lbs, too. The kitchen shelving unit was much simpler to put together. Sad thing is, even with my new behemoth IKEA shelving unit, I still don’t have enough space for all of my books and materials. I collect paper.

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving break. My mom and I are having a nice quiet dinner together with some bruschetta for an appetizer, pasta primavera and pan fried turkey for dinner, and pie with fresh ice cream ala mode. Yum!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IQ is relative

My dad once said that usually people of moderate intelligence accomplish things of import in this world, because truly intelligent people are capable of seeing multiple sides to the issue, and are thus far less likely to jump feet first into any one course of action. I think I would like to modify the definition somewhat - people of moderate intelligence who focus all of their energy and intelligence on bettering themselves generally accomplish more than truly intelligent people who are capable of seeing that life is made up of more than simply themselves and their own goals.

Take for example, our dear President, who is clearly intelligent enough to at least surround himself with people intelligent enough to get himself elected. Whatever else you may think of him, he did manage to get into the White House, which is no mean feat. He is a man I would call more clever than intelligent. He generally seems to be able to get what he wants, which demonstrates that he is clever, but what he wants is generally stupid, which demonstrates his lack of intelligence. For example, there were a number of academics (but who listens to academics anyway?) who prepared a panel back in 2002 on why the invasion of Iraq would be a mistake. Their reasons were well thought out, based on historical precedent, and were careful to consider the questions no one in the government seemed to be willing to answer - what if it isn't a cheap war? What if the Iraqis don't love us as much as we think they will? What if there is sectarian violence? Actually, some of the panelists were disturbingly accurate in their portrayals of what was likely to happen.

However, our dear President knew what he wanted, and set about getting it. This is, I think, the secret to getting ahead in the world. Focus on what you want to the exclusion of all else, and focus on ways you can achieve your goals. The reason why intelligent people - as opposed to merely clever or cunning people - rarely gain positions of power or control is that they generally think about the ramifications of what they do before they take action.

Unfortunately, if one is the sort of person who enjoys using one's brain on occasion, such single-minded devotion to self is rather difficult to justify.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

article endings and bridge jumpers

When I recently sent out an email about my new domicile, I received a reply from one of my old teachers in Vienna, Austria. I haven’t actually written anything in German since May, and I was never a brilliant writer anyway, so I had to look up a couple words (Geburtstermin is baby due date, fyi) and didn’t even bother to double check my articles. I’m sure half of my adjective endings were wrong too. But then, the beauty of writing to a native German speaker is that they never actually expect you to get them all right anyway.

This morning, I kept hearing many, many sirens on my way to work. A little while ago, I was informed by a coworker that a man had jumped off a bridge onto I-5 and stopped traffic and caused a giant hubbub. What is it about people committing suicide on bridges over I-5? Maybe they’re committing suicide because they think no one cares and everyone who has to drive on I-5 and public service personnel will HAVE to care about them for once if they cause a huge problem. I remember being told about a Navy nurse and his buddy who used to have a lot of problems with suicide attempts on long sea voyages. They decided to post a list of effective and ineffective ways to commit suicide because they were tired of cleaning up the mess after someone failed to succeed in their goal.

I will never presume to understand the mentality of someone who wants to end their life because I’ve always been too in love with life to want to end my own. But it seems to me that if I ever changed my mind, I would at least want to get it right, and not inconvenience an important part of a city or medical personnel in the process. There are other people who actually want and need their help who did not choose to hurt themselves.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Federal holidays are nice - IF you get them off

Last week, I made plans to go hiking over Veteran’s Day weekend, thinking that I had a three day weekend to exploit. Well, I was wrong. So here I am, at work on a federal holiday. The only upside is that I get two days off at Thanksgiving, and I only got Thursday off at my old job.

I went walking around in the Theler Wetlands nature park in Belfair with my mom on Sunday. I didn’t even realize it was there until I read about it in a hiking book. It’s really quite fascinating, and so interesting to think that all of Kitsap used to look similar to the preserve. So much of it has been destroyed to make way for housing subdivisions. I’m all for people having their own places to live, but long-term land management doesn’t mean land for me, no land left for my children and grandchildren to appreciate in the future. One of the reasons I hate Wal-Mart so intensely is the way in which they built their stores in Bremerton and Poulsbo. In Bremerton, they decided it was cheaper to pay the fine for building on a wetland than to find a new location. In Poulsbo, the city council voted not to let them build the store, so they just built it right outside of city limits. Evil, nasty corporation. I am beyond glad that they have lost so much money recently.

My apartment is completely unpacked. However, I have not yet bought my shelving unit, so most of my stuff is in piles on the floor. Caesar is finding this to be endless fun, though, and he keeps hiding behind piles, then jumping out and attacking me when I walk by. He is also loving my new trunk, as it is the highest point he can reach in the room. I think it makes him feel powerful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

...to grandmother's house!

Ceasar is bored. This morning, he was sitting on my trombone case, which I have leaning upright against the open closet door, and he was simply staring at me while I ate breakfast. I am apparently the newest zoo attraction for my own cat.

Last night, I got to watch ‘Into the Woods,’ a musical by Steven Sondheim about what happens happily ever after. The first half is so hilarious that it lulls you into thinking it’s a comedy – which it sort of is – but the message of the second half is just so beautiful, it really comes together to make such a wonderful musical. I watched the staging with Bernadette Peters on video with K., and this was my first live performance of it. It was really quite marvelous, and the woman who played the Witch was brilliant! I loved ‘The Last Wish’ that she sang. Her voice could give you shivers.

My favorite comedic element of the musical is the two princes storyline. The best line of the whole musical is when Prince Charming (the elder brother, not to be confused with Prince Charming, the younger brother) tells Cinderella he’s fallen in love with Sleeping Beauty (the younger went after Snow White when Rapunzel died), and she asks him why loving her isn’t enough for him. “I was raised to be charming, not sincere,” he replied, in stentorian tones. The guys who played the princes caught the comedic pomposity of the princes beautifully, not to mention singing beautifully. All in all, a wonderful evening.

Next up, ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ with my mom. I think I’ll see ‘Jersey Boys’ with my brother when it comes out in December, too.

Monday, November 05, 2007

yuppie/hippie hybrid

This morning was a happy occasion because I awoke at 7:20am – the same time that the Bremerton ferry leaves for Seattle. I then took a hot bath in my enormous clawfoot bathtub, ate some yummy Kashi cereal for breakfast, and blow dried my hair in the kitchen because I have no outlets in my bathroom. The place is actually so old that all of the electrical stuff is on the outside of the walls. The window in the bathroom doesn’t fully shut either, so this morning when construction started and the sound of metal striking metal woke me up, it was quiet enough that I thought my upstairs neighbor was eating cereal and banging the spoon against their bowl. I will be getting curtains. And maybe some of that rubber stripping stuff.

On my way walking through the lobby of my building, I imagined that the other people around me had little bubbles detailing their commute. One woman’s read, “Drove from Renton, left at 7:00am, drove bumper to bumper for forty-five minutes, then waited in line for ten minutes to get coffee at Starbucks.” Another’s read, “Rode the bus from Capitol Hill, took a half hour.” A man dressed in a sharp looking business suit with droopy skin under the eyes had a bubble that read, “Drove from Tacoma, there was an accident blocking traffic and it took an hour and forty-five minutes to drive less than thirty freeway miles.” What did my bubble say? “Left apartment at 8:15, took ten minutes to walk in the sunshine and fresh fall air to work.” I was feeling entirely too bright and chirpy thinking about how wonderful my imaginary bubble read in comparison to what others must have. Of course, there are the ones who make piles of money and can afford one of those lovely condos down at the waterfront. I’m not one of them.

My mom is bringing me my cell phone that I forgot at her house last night and she’s bringing along contact paper (which was the only thing that the adorable little grocery three blocks from where I live didn’t have last night. It’s like A Capella, only cuter) so I can finally unload my kitchen. I plan to have my whole apartment completely organized and tidy by the 16th of November (because I can’t buy shelving units and my second steamer trunk until the 15th). I love my new place – it’s about the size of a shoebox, and it’s got more character than my first apartment in Vienna, and I love it. It fits my aesthetic, it fits my budget, and I just love living in Seattle.

I think the attitude of this blog has much improved since my time spent in Singapore. Even horrible news doesn’t tick me off nearly as much, merely because I’m actually happy. Imagine that….

Friday, November 02, 2007

statistics

I did a quick check recently of the Seattle Police Department crime statistics for my new address. While the location is fantastic in terms of how close everything is, it does have its drawbacks. Other than residential burglary and car theft, my neighborhood is one of the statistically worst neighborhoods in Seattle. That is such a happy thought… I’m assuming that residential burglary and car thefts are somewhat lower because there are nicer homes and cars elsewhere.

Well, I’ve always thought that the safety of the suburbs was an illusion. Statistically, you’re far more likely to be hurt by someone you know than someone you don’t, so just living in the suburbs won’t protect you. Still, those aren’t precisely comforting thoughts. The numbers themselves aren’t all that bad, though; there aren’t nearly as many of the most violent crimes (homicide/rape) as there are the somewhat less frightening crimes (theft/assault).

I’ve never been particularly worried about getting things stolen from me, because most thieves are smart enough to realize that I’m a lousy mark. When K. and I were in Austria, and traveling around Europe as well, we never had any problems with getting things taken. But her mom hadn’t even been in Austria a week when she had her wallet stolen. The difference? We looked poor; she didn’t. I’m hoping that this will benefit me here at home, as well. I also take comfort in knowing that I lived in a similarly tough neighborhood in Vienna, but there it was the roving gangs of Turkish boys who liked to beat people up and steal their wallets. I had heard, however, that they considered it beneath their dignity to beat up women. I doubt thieves in Seattle will have such compunctions.

Halloween + moving

Okay, I admit it – mom and I were “those people” on Halloween - the ones who give out a small amount of lousy candy, these little hard sucking candies that mom’s had for ages because no one wanted to eat them. We forgot! I was moving my stuff to my new apartment, not to mention being disgustingly sick. Then the kids started showing up. We gave granola bars to some teenagers. The last group, we didn’t have even granola bars for them, there were at least ten of them. Poor mom, she ended up having to give out the lousy candy. I was too embarrassed to volunteer to do it myself.

On to more interesting news – my new place is totally cute, and I absolutely love it. It’s really very small, but the location couldn’t be better, and it’s my very own little place in Seattle. I did not have to settle for a roommate, thank God! I’m looking forward to painting my allowed number of accent walls (one per room), and figuring out a way to build in enough shelving space to accommodate all of my books and such. Next time, I’m paying people to move me. Luckily, some dude was walking by (I live across the street from a food bank, so that’s probably why), and offered to help. I’m all for handing out cash when it’s been worked for, so I said yes. He carried all the heavy stuff, too. Now, off to IKEA to get cheap shelves. My steamer trunk that I’m using instead of a wardrobe or chest of drawers is arriving this evening. I’m very much looking forward to that as well. Happy Friday, all!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just because

Decade debate

Top Eight reasons why the 80's rocked:
  • Glam rock
  • Day-glo socks
  • Madonna - she was the archetype of everything that was evil about pop music when I was growing up
  • Songs like, "She Blinded Me with Science," or "Whip It"
  • MTV
  • Shoulder pads
  • Indiana Jones
  • Power ballads
Top Seven reasons why the 70's rocked harder:
  • Roller Disco
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Star Wars - when it was actually good
  • Bell bottoms
  • Richard Nixon
  • Mustaches
  • Brown and orange paisley

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

sick as a dog

One of the cover stories today on People magazine was about Ellen Degeneres' dog adopting fiasco. Of course, of all the articles I could choose to see on the cover of People, anything but Britney Spears pretty much tops my list.

Seeing that story is what prompted my metaphor. I am, indeed, as sick as a dog, although I really have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Perhaps it's like happy as a clam - which actually used to be happy as a clam at high tide. The second makes sense; the first does not. Perhaps there's an ending to the 'sick as a dog' phrase that I don't know that would make it make more sense. Or make me make more sense, but that isn't likely to happen given how many drugs are currently pumping through my system.

My coworker kindly provided DayQuil, but I'm a Tylenol/NyQuil fan myself, so my mom is getting me some on her way home from church tonight. I can't wait to down some nasty medicine and drift off into la-la land. I do not see how I'm supposed to continue to work and move and then go back to work while I'm sick, but my sick hours don't start accumulating until the first of the year. And I wouldn't want to squander them this early on anyway. But still... the misery, she had no company, so my coworkers infected me, and now I too am miserable.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend tidbits

Well, I didn’t have carrot cake. Which makes me sad, because I love carrot cake and cream cheese frosting. I will simply have to make some next weekend, and pretend that I did it this weekend. :) We made peanut butter cookies instead, and mom ate ten of them last night. How she manages to remain so thin is beyond me.

My cousin and I visited our grandmas this weekend. Neither of us were very good about visiting once we got out of the house, and then when grandpa died, we felt guilty (for different reasons, I was out of the country, she thought she still had time to visit) and now we make time to visit the grandmas every year. We went to Port Townsend and ate at the Nifty Fifty’s – it used to be more cute, but now it’s run by what appears to be an Indian or Pakistani family. I have nothing against immigrants making good in this country, that’s kind of the point, but a fifties white bread America soda fountain/café with Indian/Pakistani servers? It’s just weird. We also did a little shopping which was detrimental to my pocketbook. Now that I have a job, I keep thinking I have money, which is not true. Alas… but the purse is delightful, as is the necklace, and I LOVE my new sweater coat.

I have only three days left of the evil commute. I move on the first of November, with the help of my Uncle P. and my mom (thanks, guys!). I’m looking forward to being within walking distance of everything – even the grocery store is only two blocks away – and within reach of easy bus lines if I have to go anywhere other than downtown/first hill/Pioneer Square area. I do love living in the city. :D

Friday, October 26, 2007

T.G.I.F.

Today is a rather nice fall day for Seattle. The air is nippy, it’s partly cloudy (although one can probably expect the sun to come out shortly), and there’s that lovely crisp freshness of autumn welcoming the coming winter that is lurking, undefinable, behind the long shadows of the high rises.

Today is also Friday, and as most offices downtown have a casual Friday, Seattle is a veritable sea of jeans this morning. I looked closely, and saw only one pair of black slacks entering the Washington Mutual building when I walked by. My building must be slightly more dressy because the woman in front of me going up the elevator was dressed in lovely black fishnet stockings, cute black wedges and traditional business attire. Still, I’m pleased with the amount of casualness I see – I doubt this would work very well on the east coast, which I’ve heard is far more fashion conscious than we are.

Today is also the first night of the weekend before Halloween, meaning lots of Halloween parties all throughout the area. My cousin is coming up to visit, and we will have carrot cake with cream cheese icing in celebration. I hope that many people will have fun this weekend. I read an ad recently in craigslist for writers writing about loneliness in Seattle. The ad contended that while other cities had their fair share of lonely, depressed people, Seattle has a unique culture of loneliness and depression. Some blame it on the weather, some blame it on the mouth-breathing males, some blame it on the stuck-up females. I do not agree with this hypothesis, however – but what do I know? I don’t actually even live in Seattle yet. Here’s to hoping there are some great parties this weekend and lots of people have lots of fun and feel lightness in their hearts.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Definition

I learned a new word today. While reading about various campaign strategies being employed by various Democratic frontrunners, I came across the word ‘sclerotic.’ It was used in reference to Edwards’ attempt to characterize Hillary Clinton as part of the Washington establishment. I know the root word is similar to sclerosis, so I thought perhaps it meant something about being twisty and decided to look it up. According to Merriam-Webster Online:

sclerotic: having to do with sclerosis.

That being entirely useless, I looked up sclerosis.

sclerosis: 1. pathological hardening of tissue; 2. an inability or reluctance to adapt or compromise. etym. from the Greek, sklerosis, to harden

I am very much in like with my new word. I think there are a lot of people to whom it would apply nicely. However, I do not think that it applies in this case, being that Hillary Clinton is probably one of the most adaptable politicians in Washington, one who is perfectly happy to compromise if it suits her goals. There are many other people for whom this word is far more appropriate. Donald Trump, I think, is the epitome of “sclerotic.” Perhaps also the Queen of England. But probably not Hillary.

Monday, October 22, 2007

no, really, my master's is TOTALLY helping me here

Today's filing fun:
  • the cities of Redmond and Bellevue have so many sub-folders that I spent an hour filing and only found the correct folders for half of my loose papers
  • there are three different locations where a file MIGHT be... they could also be in an office or at someone's desk. It's entirely random
  • by far the best was a piece of paper faxed to the City of Bellevue saying that the lawyer would like a Roast Beef & Cheddar sandwich. I filed it under "Meetings"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Budgeting

One of the things I always enjoyed about reading classic non-fiction literature is the chapter headings. Rather than trying to find something funny to say, such as "Flaming Toasters," a chapter in a Dave Barry book I read about toaster pastries getting jammed into a toaster, lighting on fire, and burning a house down (the name brand toaster pastries do indeed burn at heights of a foot or more, more than enough to light your cupboards above the toaster on fire, which Dave Barry apparently tested himself, in the true spirit of scientific discovery), the chapter heading would have read something like, "On Dumb Things That Can Burn Down Your House," or perhaps just, "On Stupidity."

Today, I wrote up my first budget in awhile. Not having money makes budgeting rather a waste of time. There isn't anything coming in at all, so how is one to organize one's expenditures? Well, now there is money coming in, although deplorably little in view of my spending habits to date. I have a lot of traveling expenses to pay back to my cards. Yes, plural. Although, I did lose one of my cards - I know it wasn't stolen because nothing's been charged, but I was actually dumb enough to simply lose it. Anyway, the budget - my apartment in Seattle will eat up a significant chunk of my monthly income, approximately 35% of my monthly income after taxes. I feel that that is an acceptable percentage, if not ideal. Until April, I'm still in hardship deferral on my giant student loans, but as soon as I start paying them back, they will eat up approximately 23% of my monthly salary. So, until April, I budgeted 23% of my income for "me" stuff - I'm getting my brother a camera, I'm getting myself a new lens, and I'm buying some sort of loveseat/couch and some art prints for my new apartment.

I have found that the primary problem with a budget is not not having one - I've never really had a budget I could stick to - the problem is when your income is spotty. When it's nonexistent, you realize that, and plan accordingly. When it's spotty, for whatever reason, then you get into the "I know I have $25 remaining, so I can safely buy $20 worth of groceries" mindset. Then you realize that the National Park Service has finally deposited the $5 parking check you wrote four months before, and you actually have $19 in your account, and your $20 worth of groceries just pushed it over the edge into "fee-land." "Fee-land" is a place where the bank, correctly deducing that you have no money, has decided to charge you for the privilege of pointing out that you have no money. Then, once they charge you to the point that you not only have no money, but you won't for quite a while, they charge you again for having the temerity to have no money in your account. It's a happy place, and it ought to be entirely illegal. I would vote for someone who promised to adjust banking laws regarding overdraft charges. It should be a percentage of what you overdrafted (what Bank Austria did on my account in Vienna), or a flat fee, whatever is LESS.

But I digress. Now that I have a steady income, and I have bothered to work out some sort of budget, I'm looking forward to not receiving any more of those nasty little postcards in the mail that informed me - and not particularly politely, either - that I had, once again, entered "fee-land."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Big storms, power outages, oh my!

Yesterday, the tail end of a Pacific cyclone hit the Seattle area (and other parts of the NW, but mainly us). It was delightful when ensconced in a high rise in downtown Seattle, and it was even bordering on balmy when the wind wasn't knocking me over walking down to the ferry.

I was mildly perturbed when I heard over the ferry intercom that the Port Orchard ferry had been cancelled due to weather, but I thought - I'm going to my hiking class at OC anyway, doesn't matter. But, when I got onto the bus, I heard the power was out at OC earlier, and they have a habit of cancelling classes on the drop of a hat, not to mention for a giant storm and power outages. So I rushed off the bus, hoping to find the fabled Port Orchard ferry replacement buses, but they weren’t there, so I asked the ticket seller, and she said that the ferry was there, and I’d better hurry!! geez… I made the ferry with about one minute to spare. It was pitching and rocking like crazy, though, quite a fun ride. I’m glad it takes a good half hour for me to get fully seasick, because if I’d had to deal with that for much longer, I would have puked.

The guy who filled in on the Access bus last night has my enormous gratitude for taking me directly to my house, because downed trees had knocked out power lines all over the Kitsap Peninsula, and the entire city of Port Orchard had no power. I tried calling the taxi company, but they were out too, and my mom was out of town, so if the bus driver hadn’t taken me all the way home (which is out of the city limits, so he’s not technically supposed to), I would have had to walk home in the dark and stormy night. That sounds very dramatic, and I would really rather not have that sort of drama in my life.

It was quite fun digging out the candles – mom doesn’t keep them in a special place that I know of, so I went out digging in the garage for my own candles that I put there when I moved back from Eugene last year, using my cell phone screen to see. Scented candles burn quickly – they’re pretty silly. They took about two hours to burn down completely, whereas the tall white taper only burned about two inches. I was hoping that the power outage would stay going until the morning so I could be late to work, but no such luck. It was back on around 2am.

Today promises to be much less exciting than yesterday. I don’t mind though – what with the stress of this commute for three weeks now, I am perfectly happy with an utterly uneventful Friday evening.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday. yay! Of course, I still had to wake up early and go to work all day, but it's still my birthday. I didn't really do anything fun except talk to my brother and cousin, but I went to the symphony with the coolest artist in the world on Friday night, and I'm going somewhere with my mom this weekend. So, birthday celebrations will be had. Tonight I also had a baguette and some cheese. It was good.

My job continues to be slightly mind-numbing. We had my first review today, and I was told that they thought it was a good idea to get me up to speed - but slowly. So, I'm still stuck filing dozens of old items that previous secretaries dreaded doing to the extent that there is plenty from way back to 2002 lying about. Hey, at least it's something... I still haven't seen hide nor hair of the IRS stuff I was supposed to be starting on. But, it's a good job, I'm getting paid well, and I'll be able to move to Seattle by November 1. Life is good!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Payday

Tomorrow is payday. I like payday. But there's always something slightly enervating about the fact that all of my money is spent before I see it. For example, my hiking class is more involved than I thought it would be. Buying the proper equipment so I don't kill myself hiking in the mountains is a little more difficult - and expensive! - than I thought it would be. Caesar also needs new flea medication (and he's currently got a kitty cold that I hope gets better soon).

Today I was lucky enough to go hiking in Green Mountain near where I live, and then go to an awesome little jazz club in downtown Seattle for dinner. I felt no guilt whatsoever about my calorie intake after hiking seven miles. It was wonderful. It will also be wonderful to get my first check tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hump Day

I find the nickname for Wednesday rather strange... but now understandable. Today being Thursday, I know that I now have only two days remaining of my workweek. My workload has picked up, thank goodness, mostly because I'm proactive in chasing work. Now, my big project is back filing. I guess because everyone else hates filing, I'm often stuck with such projects. It doesn't matter though - at least I'm occupied, all day long.

Sadly, due to my commute, I have not had time to watch the Daily Show this week. I have been grateful ever since I saw that comedycentral put the entire show online (thank you, YouTube!) and I watch it faithfully. Except for this week. Hopefully I'll have time on Saturday. If you haven't watched the interview with Chris Matthews yet, you need to.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Of mountains and paperwork

My job is so easy. I sat at my desk attempting to amuse myself most of the day. Unfortunately for my compulsion to work all the time (while I'm getting paid for it), the lawyer who I was hired to support was out today with her ill son. So I had nothing to do. Until I get trained on the IRS paperwork I'm supposed to be working on, I'm getting paid excellent money for twirling my finger through my hair, reading the news, and staring off into space.

Saturday I went to the Mountain with my mom and her friend. It was raining, as usual at this time of year, nice and overcast, and we went in from the north, over to Ohanapecosh River. It was absolutely lovely! I hope some of my pictures of the trees turn out. It's so difficult to capture the majesty and beauty of a giant tree with a standard lens - or a lens of any variety, really. It's the inability to fit the entire tree into your field of view that makes it so impressive. The trees in this part of the Mountain were about one thousand years old. It makes me sad that there were such trees all over Western Washington before they were summarily destroyed, but I'm glad some have survived. Something like those trees - which started growing in the ashes of a giant fire before the Normans invaded England - deserves to be cherished and protected. Paradise was also lovely, covered in the first snow of the season. I have a feeling I'm going to get quite a lot of use out of those hiking books I bought. It's a good thing I like rain - I do believe I'll be hiking in quite a lot of it.

Side note: This picture, which I posted on flickr three days ago, got 30 hits in two days. Clearly, men in kilts and fleeces is the most interesting subject in my photostream.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Peasant hats and Gothic statues

Today on my walk up to work (my employer confirmed today that my trial period was successful, yay!), I saw a young Afro-American male wearing a style of hat that was popular during the 16th century, when Peter Bruegel was painting. Except, instead of thick homespun, this young man's hat was made of blue mesh fabric. Most odd. On the bus, another young Afro-American was wearing gangsta-style clothes, the flat brimmed hat, gangsta brand pale blue jacket, the half laced sneakers, etc. But he lives near my mom - I don't care if you are black, you are NOT gangsta when you live in the suburbs.

Here are my two favorite statues in Europe. These are from the Mirabellgarten in Salzburg, Austria.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Public transit

Wakeup - 5am
Leave for bus - 6am
Catch foot ferry - 6:30am
Catch Bremerton-Seattle ferry - 7:20am
Arrive at office - 8:40am
Leave office - 5:00pm
Catch Bremerton-Seattle ferry - 5:30pm
Catch foot ferry - 6:45pm
Catch bus - 7pm
Walk home - 8pm

No, I am not kidding. The bus schedule changed, so I had to walk home tonight, took about 35 minutes. At least I get rides three other days a week, and I actually get the car on Thursdays. It'll be good to move to Bremerton when I have the money, if only to cut this list down to "catch Bremerton-Seattle ferry."

It's dinnertime.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dungeness Spit

Last week, my mom asked me if I wanted to walk the Dungeness Spit with her, the longest natural sandbar in the United States. It's just north of Sequim, WA, and I've been there twice before, but never managed to walk even halfway. However, this was a long time ago, and she promised me that it was only five miles. Five miles, I can do that even on a bad day, I thought, so I agreed.

Turns out it was five miles there and back - JUST on the spit, not including the mile walk to get to and from the spit from the parking lot. Getting to the lighthouse at the end wasn't all that bad, in fact, it was pretty nice. Very overcast, rather blustery, even rained a bit on the way out. I enjoyed it immensely. However, after puttering around the Lighthouse, taking some pictures, and getting cold, I realized my hips hurt. I thought - hmm, that's stupid. I walk 5.5mi, and it's my hips that are hurting? I figured it would go away, but it didn't. So by the time I finished walking the 5.5mi back to the car (which took about 3 hours), I was barely coherent from the pain. So that part wasn't fun. I'm assuming it was just the walking on the sand part, legs don't like sinking into the sand step after step. Next time I decide 11mi sounds totally do-able, I'll smack myself. Of course, I've never had that problem before, so I guess it would be difficult to predict that sort of reaction.

Anyway, for my hiking class, we won't be going on any sand. Just hiking in the Olympics and Cascades. :) I'm quite pleased I had the idea to take this course, it's going to be a lot of fun. The instructor is really into ultra-lightweight packs, so I won't have to do any of that 40lb pack/massive hiking boots garbage that M. had to go through when she took the class in 2001. I think the overnight trip will be most interesting. Last time I went camping, I had no problem sleeping on the ground, but it was a thick sleeping bag in a nice tent. I have a feeling I will forgo fluffy sleeping bags and big tents for more practical sleep needs, since I'll have to carry it all in with me. Should be fun! But no more of this walking miles on sand and rocks stuff. No thanks.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Paranoid, insular and inept"


This is a recent description of the military junta in Myanmar. They continue to rule in the same way they have ruled since quashing the 1988 rebellion through brute force and placing Nobel Peace Prize Winner (1991) Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest after she won elections. Recently, they cut off the internet, and are now restricting visitors to the country.

The part I find most fascinating about all of this is the influence of the monks. When I went to Myanmar, there were monks everywhere. They are constantly interacting with the people, although they didn't really seem to say much, other than an 8 year old monk who told us that his parents wanted a monk in the family and he was the one chosen to join. Their moral support really invigorated the protests, and now the military has basically occupied the monasteries to prevent more of this sort of behavior. Myanmar is Theraveda Buddhist, a minority part of the Buddhist family, and is a very devout country. It would seem that the junta has decided not to kill the monks in the protests, as they are currently killing the civilian protesters, because of the public uproar it would cause.

There's not much about President Bush's policies that I like or admire. There's not much to admire. But at least someone is paying attention to Myanmar now - certainly no one was in 1988. The scale of poverty in that country simply breaks your heart. It's about time they got a better deal than they have been, but petty dictators seem to have a way of holding on long after they ought to have been gone.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yummies

Last week, I convinced my mom to buy a carton of nectarines. These very quickly attracted gnats, which didn't make her at all happy, so I had to do something with all those nectarines - and fast - or they were all going into the garbage. So, I did what any sane person would do, and instead of freezing them for future use in, say, smoothies, I made nectarine butter. Half a dozen pint-size and half-pint size jars each. I now have more nectarine butter than I possibly know what to do with. I remembered that Market of Choice used to provide small containers of nectarine, apricot, and apple butter with their cheese medleys, so I decided to dip my chipotle cheddar into nectarine butter as a snack tonight. It was SO GOOD. Seriously. You have to try it.

My grandma is joining in on our day spa excursion in celebration (which, of course, I am paying for) of my new job. Massages, manicures, and chipotle cheddar in nectarine butter.... doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, the places you'll go.....

Today I had my third interview in my job hunting process. Thankfully, my job hunt is now over! I have been offered a position at a boutique law firm with only five lawyers here in Seattle. I will be a legal assistant/secretary, doing a lot of dictation and IRS forms. I start on Monday, and I am ecstatic! It's a good job with excellent benefits in the location I wanted. Two of the lawyers commute by ferry as well, so they are very nice about coming in at an odd time (8:35-8:40am). Best of all, it's a salaried position, so I will be judged on the work that I do, not the hours I keep. Mom and I are going to a day spa on Thursday to celebrate. :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Circle of Life

My title, which is in reference to a rather exciting and rousing Disney anthem - if you're six - is about how every animal on the African savanna (incidentally, most of which are in grave danger of extinction by 2050) depends on each other for survival. In this case, I am using it to refer to the fact that everything we do as humans has a reaction somewhere else, and usually the ones to suffer are animals who are doing no harm to anyone.

This picture is of a common pond frog from Wisconsin, according to Yahoo!, which has been infected by parasitic worms as a tadpole and now has two extra deformed hind legs. Why, might you ask, is this frog saddled with two useless legs, which will certainly make it more vulnerable to predators? The answer is an increase in nitrogen and other chemicals found in fertilizer that leach their way into ponds and waterways from farmland, and in a fairly complex chain reaction, cause deformed frogs.
I have been asked before what the difference between organically produced and conventionally produced food is before. The area I live in is quite conservative, mostly due to the high numbers of military personnel stationed here at various bases, and for some reason, a lot of conservatives in this area think that the label 'organic' is a liberal Seattle trick to get them to pay more for produce. The difference is that organic produce uses no pesticides or fertilizers. Conventionally grown produce does. I can't tell you how sick it makes me to think that because of our irresponsibility in finding ways to feed ourselves, we're destroying the natural environment in which we live. And honestly - that poor frog ... that's just wrong.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Costco processing

I have a Costco card for one reason and one reason only - I have a film camera, and I LOVE their processing (I also like getting Odwalla Superfood at $3 cheaper per jug). The Costco in Silverdale now does everything in house, so things are even better than they use to be now. It's also the cheapest place around to get some pretty decent prints of photos. Since I have elected to remain with my film camera, low costs for development are absolutely essential. It does make me feel somewhat better to know that the cost of prints for digital photos is the same as for film (I just have to pay extra for the processing). I have also begun to get the CD of my photos, which is vastly preferable to scanning if one has the money, and the quality is so much better than I expected! I'm very pleased with the investment I made. I have probably, since I take so many photos, balanced out the price difference between the film and digital versions of my camera at this point. But it's still fun to hear the film advancing and the shutter opening and closing and all that. Here's my favorite picture I've ever taken:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hat shop



Every time I go into a hat shop, I have the irresistible urge to try on half of the hats, even though I don't wear hats. There was this cute little shop with Victorian clothing, patterns and accessories in Virginia City, and I just had to try these hats on. Yes, that makes me a dork - but it was fun!

p.s. Today is another interview... I hope I do well.

Hoping this is that window

In the Sound of Music, Maria says that when God closes a door, he opens a window. I always liked this better than the other phrase, when God closes one door, he opens another, because if there had been two doors, you would have seen them, but missing a window is an acceptable mistake to make. Anyway, I was passed on for the first job I interviewed for (seriously - four interviews... no job) because the attorneys couldn't agree between me and another person, so they scrapped us both. Well, yesterday my recruiter told me about a new job opportunity with a really fantastic firm that offers better benefits and pay and they're interested in setting up an interview Monday. So, I guess this is the window. It's always good to have options... and I hope that this time is the charm. :)

Today I'll be dropping off my film (way too many rolls, I don't even want to think about how much this is going to cost me) in Silverdale and also dropping off the t-shirt Mom and I bought for my Uncle P, the one who roped me into helping with lieutenant assessments, in Virginia City, MT. It says:

Feed the Bears.
Squat with your spurs On.
Let your kids ride the Elk.
Picnic on poison Ivy.
Drive fast and pass on Curves.

We thank you for your support.
Montana Paramedics

Monday, September 17, 2007

Farm Life


One of the best things about visiting the farm is how slow the pace of life here can be. Yesterday, I spun some Cotswold sheep fiber into yarn, enough to add to my collection of handspun yarn that I made back in June when I visited. I didn't dye it, so it's the same color as these sheep (if they were clean), which is to say it's a dusty off-white. It takes hours to spin, but it's rewarding when you're finished. I'm planning on knitting it into a large winter shawl. I don't knit well, I prefer crochet, so we'll see how this one turns out.

The animals are very demanding. They have to be led out to their feeding pastures each day. There are multiple varieties of sheep and goats, but especially the Cotswold sheep and Angora goats, Angora rabbits, and Alpacas. There are also cattle, horses and everything else you'd think of that lives on a farm, but those are over at the neighbor's, my grandma's relatives' place. It's a huge family farm, the farmhouse we're currently staying in was built around 1909.

Staying here always reminds you of how separated you are from the earth and from nature when you live in the city and buy your beef in a styrofoam container wrapped in plastic. When we visited about eight years ago, we all took a nap after our drive only to be awoken by shouts of "Fire!" The small lamb barn next to the rabbit hutch had caught on fire, and my grandfather, who was partially disabled due to a stroke, was attempting to fight the fire. We all ran down, and my dad managed to contain it to the small barn with a garden hose until the volunteer fire department arrived while my mom and brother and I attempted to get the rabbits to safety away from the fire and smoke (we put them all in the back of a truck together -- a lot of unplanned pregnancies resulted from the event). A couple of lambs died as well as an adult ewe. We were lucky that the wind was blowing the opposite direction or the large barn with all of the hay, sheep, and cows would have burned as well.

Just as frightening as fire can be, especially for a farm around harvest time, is the lack of water. You never hear as much talk about the weather because someone is seriously interested in the weather as you do on a farm. In fact, my aunt said grace over dinner last night and her final petition was for more rain. Too much rain, the crops rot. Too little, they become too dry and die. Everything we eat and live on in the civilized world is grown on farms just like this (my grandma's operation is organic and hormone/chemical free, but her relatives' portion of the farm is conventional), and they're being hit hardest by the increase in overall temperatures and the changes in weather patterns due to global warming. People in cities don't see this, of course, beef doesn't moo, it shows up at the store already packaged that way.

I enjoy being on the farm for a couple of reasons, not the least of which because I rarely ever feel stressed here (the barn fire being the one glaring exception). I plan on staying an extra day and returning tomorrow. I hope that I hear back about my interview soon... today is supposed to be the day.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Montana madness

For the past week, I've been in Montana (taking the long route through eastern Oregon and southern Idaho) and it's been so much fun. I'll be posting pictures soon enough, but there were so many amazing places I went on this trip. I assume that I'll be working nonstop from now until I don't know when, so this was sort of my last fun trip without worrying about finances, rent, or really anything else, thanks to my mom.

So far, I've visited:
  • Union Historical Hotel - along with the Model T's and Model A's in front
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Virginia City, Nevada City, and Bannack ghost towns - LOVED the picture taking opportunities
  • Yellowstone National Park - we only got to go through part of the lower loop, but that includes Old Faithful and the bubbling paintpots
  • Lewis & Clark Caverns
  • Gates of the Mountains - where the Missouri River meets the Rocky Mountains
  • Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Heritage Site
  • Great Falls nightlife
One of the best things about visiting places with my mom is that she's super active for a American, so we can do lots of things we couldn't if she weren't so into going interesting places.

Of course, I went with my Aunt T (who is a whole two years older than me) on the last bulleted outing. I kid you not - one place we went had a large portrait of John Wayne on the wall, along with line dancers and a mechanical bull. You don't get much more Montana than that.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Numbers

........Town P ....................Town E
Population
Female 3650 .....................70,353
Male 3163.........................67,540

Median age 39.3 .............33

Race
White 88%.......................86%
Hispanic 4%.................. 5%
Asian 3% .......................3%
Black 1%........................1%
Native American 1% ....2.5%
Other 4% ....................2.5%

Median income $44,000.......... $33,070

Median house cost $245,800 ............$187,000

Education
High School 86.8%..................91.5%
College 29.5% ........................37.3%
Graduate school 10.2% .......15.4%

Below poverty line 9.1% ..........19.3%

Lesbian couples: 0.2%........... 0.6%
Gay men: 0.3%................ 0.3%

Conclusions:
  • There's more competition for females in both towns
  • The midwest may SEEM like the homeland of the WASP, but they don't hold a candle to the Pacific Northwest
  • I'm surprised at the poverty numbers in Town P. I thought they ran all of the poor people out of town by now
  • I am surprised that the numbers of homosexual couples are so similar, considering Town E's reputation
  • My belief that my hometown's housing prices are out of control has been confirmed
  • My not knowing anyone who dropped out of high school has been explained - very few people dropped out of my high school
  • There are a lot of old people in Town P

Saturday, September 08, 2007

San Juan Island.... sans camera

Today mom and I went to San Juan Island with some friends of hers from Bellevue. It's an absolutely lovely place. I went there once before, to Friday Harbor, when I was in high school by whale watching boat. I got seasick. That wasn't so much fun. But today was wonderful. If I had been organizing the trip, I would have done things quite a bit differently, but I wasn't. For example, it's not exactly a large island. I would have preferred to rent a bike and see the island that way. Instead, we rode around in a big van. Also, we went on a short hike, and one of the ladies is rather overweight and could barely manage the 2.5mi or so. She's a lovely person, but she would probably do well to be more active. There was also a huge kayaking group, and it was such a beautiful day today, just as good as yesterday.

Unfortunately, I had only a disposable camera that I bought at the general store in Friday Harbor. Still, the place is simply so beautiful that my pictures will be good regardless of the inferiority of my equipment. There was one point, walking along the coastline, that I had to stop and just absorb the beauty all around me because it was so overwhelming. I didn't appreciate my home enough while I lived here before. I won't make that mistake again. Speaking of cameras, I believe I'm going to buy myself a new lens if I successfully get this job in Seattle. My current standard lens is fairly low quality, and I want to take better pictures. The camera body is quite good, but the lens really makes or breaks the picture, and I can see that clearly with the difference between the pictures I take with the telephoto lens and my standard, because the standard is a low quality consumer product and the telephoto is a medium quality product. I would like to get an actually good lens and see what I can do with it.

Last night, I saw '3:10 to Yuma' with M. It was wonderful!! I have always loved Westerns, it reminds me of going to visit my grandpa. We always watched the Sunday morning Western re-runs. I don't know how many reruns of Bonanza and Gunsmoke I've seen, but Marshal Dillon (played by James Arness) was my hero as a kid. (The Westerns were mainly because we weren't allowed to watch anything else but painting shows and the news, and you can only take so much Brillo-head before wanting to watch something else). Anyway, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale OWNED their parts, and Ben Foster did a fantastic job as Charlie Prince. I really, really enjoyed the performances in this movie. When I get Netflix, I'm going to order everything Christian Bale has ever done that I haven't seen yet. I am, as ever, completely blown away by his talent.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kayaking in Liberty Bay


My uncle P. told mom and I at our barbeque on Saturday about a kayak rental place in P-bo that he and my aunt used to rent kayaks from and go tooling around Liberty Bay. So, mom and I made plans today to go kayaking, and it was a blast! It's not too expensive, either, so it was easy on the pocketbook and hard on the shoulder muscles, exactly what we were looking for. :) It's absolutely wonderful to be back home in Kitsap. I love this place more than anywhere else in the world, and that includes Vienna. So, that's a lot.


Today was my phone interview for the legal assistant position in Seattle. It went well, so I'm heading in for another interview on Monday morning. After that, there will be another final interview, if I pass muster, with the lawyer that I will actually be assisting. This will be a total of four interviews, but all that I'm concerned about is making a good impression and getting a good job. This particular job has benefits. Benefits! I'll be able to go to the dentist... most exciting. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fire Officer Assessments and Legal Assistantships

Today and tomorrow, I have the pleasure of assisting my uncle, a fire chief in my county, with his fire officer assessments. He roped me in on Saturday because he didn't have enough actually qualified bodies to perform the assessments. My aunt has also been roped in. :) Anyway, it was quite interesting, I'm assigned to the presentation-resume portion of the assessment. Some of those dudes are seriously ambitious. They definitely have a better work ethic than I do to do all of the community service, training, and regular work that they do. Plus, 3 of 5 were married, so they have families to consider as well. One thing I came away with today - if these guys are any indication of the kind of men we have serving in our fire departments, I feel perfectly comfortable about paying taxes to pay for their stuff.

On another note, it appears that the only field I'm remotely qualified to enter that would actually pay my bills is legal support staff. Unfortunately for me, I didn't go to school for all these years to be an assistant, but getting one's foot in the door is quite difficult. So at the moment, I'll be happy with whatever doors open and then go from there. It does appear, however, that I will be moving to Bremerton, within 15-30 min walking distance from the ferries. Those of you who know anything about Bremerton and are now groaning and telling me I'm crazy, you just be quiet. Bremerton is having a resurgence, and the downtown area isn't so bad. Besides, I won't be able to hack my commute for more than a couple of months before breaking down. A bus, two ferries and another bus is simply too much if I want to reach wherever I'm working in Seattle by 8am.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pictures!!

I have uploaded pictures that my brother very graciously scanned for me while I was in Singapore, and I will finish uploading the rest later this evening after I finish scanning the rest in. You can say what you want about film, but I love it. :) Anyway, if you're interested, take a look - I've also updated my Favorite photos section. Here are my three very best pictures from Istria, for your viewing pleasure.



Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ape Caves

Two days ago, I had the pleasure of going with my mom, her friend, and his friend and son to the Ape Caves at the foot of Mt. St. Helens. They're called the Ape Caves, not because there are any apes in this part of the world, but because the explorers who found them in 1951 were part of a local club called the 'Apes,' a somewhat less popular variation of the 'Eagles,' I would imagine.

Anyway, it was about 2.5m total crawling and walking through caves, which was at first boring - the lower cave was almost entirely walking until the very end when we got to army crawl - but got better, as the upper cave was mostly giant rock falls. I was afraid of the dark when I was a kid, but have since moved on to water, so dark enclosed spaces aren't much of a problem for me, and it was really quite fun to climb around in a cave with nothing but a tiny light clipped to my Glacier National Park visor (better souvenir than one of those resin figurines). The third picture was taken of three of us inside a lava tube created by a tree - the tree burns while the lava flows around it, but doesn't entirely burn up until the lava has cooled, at which point a tube is formed. I don't recall how long it was, but it was quite fun. At one point, I felt rather like a gopher. Anyway, if you ever need something to do on a weekend or day off, check out the Ape Caves. Much fun.

Tomorrow, we're planning on going hiking at Rainier. I haven't been there in quite awhile, and I'm really looking forward to taking some pictures with my camera. I got my Singapore pictures developed, and even if I do say so myself, some are really quite good.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

And the difference is...


Here at home, I still:
  • have to work to find things to fill my time
  • eat piles of fruit
  • play piano out of boredom
  • get onto the computer entirely too often
  • wake up early because I've gone to bed early out of boredom
But, there are some major differences:
  • I don't have to deal with the boys' father
  • I don't have to see the boys' father
  • I don't have to talk to the boys' father
  • I don't sweat as soon as I step outside
  • I don't need aircon
  • I have a real room, and I can actually use blankets
By the far, the best thing about being home is not getting yelled at for eating whatever food is available, and it's so nice to raid my mom's stores because she's also an organic/health food freak. The other absolutely fantastic part of being home is being able to hang out with my cat, whom I love dearly and haven't actually been able to spend much time with since I had to take him home from Austria at Easter.

I'm already hard at work on finding a job, and I have an interview at a legal staffing agency on Tuesday in Seattle. Thankfully, I'm on a bus line to the ferry, so I can still get by with not having a car, something for which I am duly thankful. I hate driving, and had no special fondness for thinking of how annoying it would be to have to get back into the American consumptive way of life. Now I don't have to. The Port Orchard library is right next to the foot ferry dock, so I'll get in lots of reading, I do believe. :) I have a feeling this new stage in my life will be much more fulfilling and much better for me, in terms of personal well-being, than the past two months have been.

Monday, August 27, 2007

there is such sweet sorrow at the parting of our ways .... not!

I leave Singapore on a jet plane in approximately 16 hours. YES!!!! There are a number of reasons this is exciting, but by far the most exciting reason of all is that I can leave this stupid maid room, maid bathroom, and worth-less-than-a-maid status with the apartment's leaser behind. Forever! I've had so much fun here with my new friends in the past week that I realized that it's not Singapore I dislike as such - although it is dreadfully boring in comparison with Vienna - it's that my living situation is SO BAD that it makes me hate everything and saps my energy to overcome the dark clouds that are constantly hovering over the condo.

One last mention of his lack of tact or any sense of humanity, and I will be glad never to mention him again. Today, the boys were fighting over chess - because neither of them can actually play, so they fight over moves, turns, and well, anything - so I started playing piano to ignore them, then their father came home and tried to break it up (good luck with that one, they are so sick of each other after two months with only each other as playmates), then turned on the TV while I was playing to distract them. He then told me that he'd rather listen to cartoons (which he hates) than listen to me play.

Okay, so I get the sentiment, he doesn't like the songs I picked, whatever. I don't care. But the least a decent human being could have done is phrased it slightly differently, but he chose to be deliberately rude, as he has done this entire time. He is NOT a decent human being, and I think it's awful of him to tell the boys he doesn't smoke, when they've SEEN him smoking, he smells like smoke, and I've found cigarette butts in my toilet. No one likes a mean, unfriendly liar.

On to a more exciting and better topic: in less than 16 hours, I'm flying out of here! I am well rid of this situation, but I do feel that I have learned a lot, and I am thankful to have made some really great friends here. As Kate Nash put it, "I won't regret those hours / cause you can grow flowers / where dirt used to be."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Night Safari and MacRitchie Reservoir

The Night Safari section of the zoo was an absolute blast. Because there are a lot of nocturnal animals that can't be seen during the day in the zoo, unless they're kept in unpleasant cages, the zoo has an entire section just for visiting at night, lit up with special lights and with a tram and guide.

My favorite piece of commentary, by far, was on a civet that looked like a half bear/half cat. "Like all civets, the bear-cat (forgot the name of it) excretes a sweet smell from its anal scent glands, somewhat similar to popcorn or bamboo."

Today was a 11km walk through the MacRitchie Reserve and Reservoir. Very beautiful, lovely in every way, quite hot, and a really long walk. About four hours, I think, but we took some breaks. I got some great photos today, although I didn't have any film last night at the Night Safari, and my digital is unfortunately not in any way capable of standing in for my Canon in the dark - or in the daylight, for that matter.

Tomorrow is my final full day in Singapore, and I am probably going to go out with J., from Birmingham, and my German friends. I'm packing tonight, and I am beyond excited to be finally leaving. Today, there were moments when I actually enjoyed being in Singapore. I think my adjustment to living in this climate and in these living conditions took a lot longer than I expected it to. But, I have clearly adapted to the rigors of the climate if I can walk 12.5km in one day (my road was closed this morning, had to walk for 1.5km in the morning to catch the bus to church). Regardless of my body's ability to acclimate, I'll be happy to come home, to the blessed, beautiful rain, and the constant gray skies. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Colbert Report

I was laughing so hard, I couldn't believe I was watching Colbert (generally more of a Stewart fan). This is SO funny! And Richard Branson is clearly desperate for attention.

Freeganism

I just read online about this new lifestyle choice called Freeganism, which, of course, started in Seattle and Portland and has now spread to the rest of the US. It's based on the idea that we're all wasteful users of the environment, and if we don't change what we do, soon there will only be animals in zoos and massive holding/slaughtering farms, and there will be beach front property at the foot of Mt. Rainier.

Apparently the more adventurous adherents not only are vegans, but are also 'dumpster-divers' - which is illegal in a number of places. However, when one takes the time to see how much food is wasted on a daily basis, it really does turn one's stomach upside down.

I have been considering a more drastic change in my diet (I'm already an organic foods freak, and avoid non-local products like the plague), but I don't know if I am hardcore enough to really go all out vegan, or even vegetarian. I like chicken. But I feel so horribly guilty every time I eat something I know is bad for me (which is less and less these days, because I don't relish feeling guilty as a constant of daily life) that I might end up going down that road. One really nice side effect of all this - it's a lot easier to lose weight and be more healthy. I figure I'll outlive my peers who suck down McFlurries and eat out regularly at Applebee's this way.

let the good times roll

Last night, I went to see a live show with M. and J., my friends from Melaka. It was really fun! The drummer of the first band that we heard had a really rich voice, he was really fun to listen to. The lead singers were awesome, though - a girl and a guy. Not so much because of their voices, which were good, but not spectacular, but because they really did a good job owning the stage and involving the audience. The second band was fun, but I don't think as good. The lead singer girl was super skinny. I'd rather look like Beyonce than Nicole Richie. The funniest part was the bass player from the first band who only needed to close his eyes to look asleep. He seriously looked completely catatonic while his bandmates were all getting into the music. Absolutely hilarious!

I was working out today and reached the three minutes jogging mark no problem, wasn't even breathing hard - my hard work is finally paying off! I'm on a plan I found in a magazine, and it seems to be working well. Next week, I go up to four minutes, which I have never done before in my life, so that will be a satisfying mark to reach. I also did twenty cheerleader pushups no problem. I was feeling so proud of myself, I couldn't help but crow about it. :) And hey, if I can find the self-discipline to get myself into shape, anyone can.

This Saturday night, I'm going to the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo. I've heard it's really neat, and I'm looking forward to bringing my camera. I'm hoping that I can get some good shots, but I'll have to read up again on what settings and exposure times I should use. I also need to check out Little India before I go, so perhaps I can manage that tomorrow night, who knows? Unfortunately for me, the malaise and mild depression that gripped me for almost the whole time I've been here has only gone away in the last week. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is, indeed, the last week that I'm stuck here. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Addendum

Anyone who's ever seen the movie by the creators of South Park, Team America, knows how utterly brilliant Trey Parker and Matt Stone are. I didn't always like South Park because I thought it was all fart jokes and other humor of a similar intellectual level. Then I actually started paying attention and realized how incredibly brilliant they are. Absolutely nothing is safe from their lampooning (which I applaud, even when they skewer issues/people that I believe in - that's the point of our system), and this was especially clear in Team America.

I mention this because tonight one of the Germans mentioned the movie (because of Matt Damon - hilarious) and it prompted me to look it up again and I found this article. The reason I loved the movie when I saw it originally is because, as the authors say, Parker and Stone take the pompous and the overdone and turn it into the ridiculous (Kim Jong Il singing, anyone?). I honestly can't think of Kim Jong Il any longer without having "I'm so ronery, oh so ronery..." play in my head. Kind of takes the wind out of a dictator's sails when he knows people are laughing at him.

Maybe we should all follow their example. A little more laughter, a little less terror tactics. I don't understand how many of the security measures implemented in recent years have actually helped prevent incidents of terror. Such as the security guard in New York who took my water bottle, or the security lady in Tokyo who jacked my Coke. Yes, indeed - I am planning on wreaking havoc on my next flight with this Coke can. I fail to see how such things make me any safer. But it does make me feel at least a little less unhappy about the threat posed by douchebag jihadists or my own government to think about them perhaps a little more the way Cartman would.

Movie Review + Germans

I went to see a movie tonight with my German tourist friends from Melaka, the Bourne Ultimatum. Much fun was had by half of us, one girl from Britain prefers romantic comedies, and one German guy decided he likes Bruce Willis better. But, I thought it was fantastic! Lots of fast chase scenes, fight scenes, jumping around, clever traps, clever ways out of traps - really, a very well done movie, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The sound editing is pretty good, too, good enough that I actually noticed how good the sound editing was.

I really like Germans. I also like Austrians. I don't like Italians. I have decided that this is because Italians are too friendly. In a bad way. I have also realized that the reputation some Germans have for being stand-offish is probably deserved, but more than likely results from the shyness a lot of Germans have about their English. They're so much fun to hang out with when they're speaking their own language. Amazing how that happens. Of course, none of my jokes work in German, but I sure am learning a lot. I have learned a lot of fantastic new German phrases, too, to add to my collection from Austria. :)

All in all, it's shaping up to be quite the nice final week here in Singapore. Not only do I have my imminent return to look forward to, I have also done some fun stuff and met some very nice people in the process. What else could one ask for?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Music Lists

Music I want to buy when I have the money: I say 'buy' because I feel guilty about the amount of music on my computer for which I have no/never had a receipt. In my defense, I didn't 'liberate' it through file-sharing (although I think I might have a few old napster songs on here, from back before napster went all legit). Anyway, I feel better if I actually pay for things. :) Even if the bulk of the moolah does go to Sony, Corp.
  • More Led Zeppelin
  • More Green Day
  • Justin Timberlake - I feel ambivalent about this because N'Sync was SO stupid, but his stuff as a solo artist is pretty good, I think
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Bob Dylan - especially the early acoustic stuff
  • Jane Monheit
Music I think you should check out:
  • Kate Nash - I recommend Merry Happy and Foundations. My favorite line from Merry Happy: "chatting with you on the phone, I won't regret those hours, because you can grow flowers, where dirt used to be." Brilliant!
  • Plain White T's - Delilah is cool. Me likee.
  • Birth of the Cool - I know it's an oldie, but it's classic, and if you were ever in a jazz band, Miles Davis will blow your mind.
  • Jane Monheit - especially 'I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good' - fantastic!
  • Falco - I know everyone knows Rock Me Amadeus, but he had other good stuff too
  • Existential Blues - I think by Dr. Demento, I seem to have lost my copy. Anyway, it's stupid and hilarious

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Melaka

Dutch windmill - complete with palm trees.


I enjoyed Melaka, although it wasn't as interesting or as big as I had been led to believe by online and other sources. There was plenty of time to see everything I wanted to see in one day, so I came back on Saturday night instead of staying the night, and used Sunday for a Singapore picture taking day.

The influence of various groups of Europeans can be seen all over Melaka. There are some pictures that I took that really don't look like they're taken in Asia at all. Except for the flora, of course. The highlight of my day was going to St. Paul's church, which was really neat. It was delightfully ruined, lots of headstones, really dreary looks, with a cheerful, fun guitar player singing in Malay. Really the high point of the day, and I absolutely loved that and the Porta di Santiago, the leftovers from the Portuguese walls, saved by Sir Stamford Raffles, who really seemed to have gotten around in this part of the world. Other than that - Melaka is good for shopping, but I guess I'm just not that interested in Asian culture. My favorite parts of Melaka were the European parts.

I return home in a little over a week. It's close enough that I can just about taste it, but far enough away that I know it's going to drag. I have seen nearly everything I wanted to see (I still want to go to the Botanical Gardens and perhaps the Chinese and Japanese Gardens and take pictures - I'm told that the gardens are only of interest to botany and photography hobbyists, and I do like to take pictures - and it's free), I've done what I came to do, and I'm ready to leave. I think it would be more interesting here if I knew more people, but I don't particularly like hanging out with other Americans abroad, because they're annoying, and I haven't really been here long enough to meet many people anyway. So, I'll be glad to be back. But all in all, it was a alright for a summer job, I learned a lot, and I got to see and experience some really interesting and cool stuff. Chalk this experience up to more positives than negatives. :)