March 2006 Archives

take that

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if you Google "Jerry Falwell," my fundamentalism quiz comes up on the first page. Ha.

confession

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I have a confession to make. I don't think The Daily Show is funny anymore.

I've never been that interested in the interview segment; even in the best of times I used to fast-forward it. And the correspondents, which have always been the weakest part of the show, are just painful lately. Someone (I think it was Kevin Maroney) once described the bad parts of Spy magazine as the comedy equivalent of ringing doorbells and running away. That's how I feel about most of the correspondent segments on The Daily Show.

Which leaves the news segment. That used to be the reason I tuned into the show, but lately it's been a bit, I don't know, lackluster. My friends at work think that Jon Stewart is taking himself too seriously these days. I think that's a plausible explanation. There's a big difference between the guy who used to sneak into political conventions and the guy who hosts the Oscars. On the other hand, Georg thinks the problem is the material. The political scene has been the same for years now, except worse every day. No wonder the jokes are getting stale.

It makes me wonder how long The Colbert Report, which I'm finding a lot funnier than The Daily Show, will continue to seem fresh. Colbert's show is basically one joke, so it can't stay funny forever. Oh well, I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

bring out your dead

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Free dumping at the Durham County Landfill every Saturday in April! They left a flyer with our trash can to announce it. There are some other locations too, but we always go to the landfill.

Word to the wise: if you take advantage of the free dumping, be sure to get there early. There are lines on Saturdays anyway, and I hear it's much worse when it's free. (I think that falls into the department of duh.) To be honest, I'd skip the lines and wait until May to pay for dumping my trash, except that I have to go anyway to get soil and mulch.

sometimes thinking is really tiring

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According to Patricia, I was having a blonde moment today when I said "sometimes thinking is really tiring." It came out wrong, but what I meant was that I had spent all morning working on a delicate coding problem, and by noon I felt like my brains were leaking out of my ears. Three hours of programming was almost as exhausting as three hours of digging.

Speaking of which, Georg and I got the second vegetable bed dug out. We started yesterday and finished today. I had bought a nice forged digging fork (on sale at Smith & Hawkins!) just for the occasion, which really did make it go faster I think. The old fork felt like it was going to snap in half in that heavy clay. Over the weekend we'll put the frame together, fill it with dirt and then we can start planting! Also I did a little bit of planting today: just some basil and lettuce seeds, in containers we'll put by the kitchen door.

Janey is thrilled about the change in weather. She gets to spend lots of time outside, yay! Thirteen likes being outside too, but she does this kind of annoying neurotic thing: she wants to be with me while I'm outside working. But if she loses sight of me, she forgets that I'm outside. So she barks to be let in, but when I put her in and go back outside, she follows me back out. Then she forgets where I am again and starts barking at the door again.

Today I told the little girl next door about Thirteen's deafness. I felt kind of bad for her (the girl, not Thirteen) because she likes Thirteen and keeps calling to her, but Thirteen totally ignores her. At least now she'll know not to waste energy on trying to get Thirteen's attention.

the dress

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I haven't done anything lately except work and gardening. So let's talk about the dress!

hoe hoe hoe

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Finally, a warm day. I had a couple of hours this afternoon to work in the yard. Spent the time weeding the bank down by the road. I bought a special hoe just for the purpose. Am I lame, or what? I'm all excited about a new hoe. The hoe was great though. Well worth it. It's so much faster than pulling up weeds by hand. It has a really small blade, which I needed for weeding in between the daffodils and daylilies. That bank is about 8' × 50' and I managed to get the whole thing weeded in three hours.

And had a nice conversation with the next door neighbor. He came over to chat while I was weeding. He told me that he didn't understand what we were doing when we put all that soil down last year, but now that it looked so nice he could see the method to our madness. I was like, gee, thanks, I think!

Next I have to get that bank mulched before the weeds come back, and plant the marigolds that I bought yesterday. I'm going to plant them in a row in front of the bank, and then put in small sunflowers to fill in the gaps between the daylilies. That's the plan, at least.

gardening update

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Due to the miserable weather I didn't get any gardening done this past week. So I guess I'll just write about previous gardening progress instead.

I don't think I ever said so explicitly, but you might have noticed from the photo that we finished turning the septic tank into a flower bed a couple of weeks ago. We still have to even out the path around it, but it's basically done.

With two truckloads of soil in there, it ought to look more impressive. I guess it will look better when it's full of flowers. We planted pansies in the front, a few snapdragons, and then I sowed all the rest with tall zinnias. I had to cover them with straw to protect them from frost (I had jumped the gun and sowed the seeds during that warm spell two weeks ago). But I took the straw off last week and lots of them are sprouting. And to make the bed more fun, I made my first foray into lawn ornaments.

Once that was done, we started on the next project: raised beds for the vegetable garden. Georg and I did some digging before he went to NY, and then while he was gone I got one of the two beds entirely put together. 4' × 10' × 12" high, plus we removed the native soil to a depth of 6". We didn't use treated lumber because we were concerned about chemicals leaching into the vegetables. So we coated the wood with linseed oil, and lined the bed with roofing shingles. I guess we could have used treated lumber after all, since the shingles make a barrier between the wood and the soil. Oh well, next time we'll know better.

It took way longer than it should have because I wasted all afternoon making 3 trips to Home Depot: first, I discovered that my screws were too long. I bought 2" screws, only to find out that 2 by 12s are really 1.5" thick. I was told later that all lumber is like that. It's 2" thick before they mill it down. So I went back to the store and got 1.5" deck screws. Which was actually a good thing because the new box came with a screwdriver bit, which I didn't have.

Next, I had just gotten started attaching the shingles to the lumber when my staple gun ran out of staples. No problem, back to Home Depot and buy a box of staples. Only to get back home and discover the staples don't fit. Who the *!@# had the brilliant idea not to make staple guns in standard sizes? Sheesh.

By this point I was feeling out of sorts and cranky, so I had to sit down for a few minutes and calm myself before going to Home Depot for the third time. (I should also add that on all these trips I was wearing the same clothes I'd worn all day, including getting the truckload of soil in the morning: my work pants, which are baggy knit pants with paint stains all over them, and a sweatshirt whose front was completely covered with dirt. The whole shirt was one big smudge. Plus a dirty gray headband, and a "don't mess with me" look. Oh yeah, I was a sight.

Anyway, I finally got the staple situation resolved and got back to work. I had one very clever idea: using concrete blocks to hold the wood in place while I drilled the holes. I would never have been able to assemble the bed myself otherwise. Unfortunately, this brilliant idea was offset by one extremely stupid idea: to assemble the bed up by the house, where my drill was, rather than down the yard where it would be located. Did you know that lumber is heavy? I didn't know that before, but I sure do now. With difficulty I could pick up one of those boards by myself; now I had to move three of them, plus a dozen roofing shingles. I thought I was going to dislocate a shoulder dragging that thing halfway across the yard.

With the bed ready to go I wanted to get started on planting right away, but the weather kind of messed up my plans. There's no point sowing seeds when it's this cold anyway. I did manage to plant a couple dozen snapdragons on the bank along the driveway. And I bought about a hundred marigolds for down by the road. I like those little French marigolds, not the big ones that look like yellow pom-poms. I really need to get started on weeding down there. That's what I was going to do today actually. I even went outside to do it a couple of times, but then the wind would blow and I'd hurry back inside. It's way early to plant marigolds, but as long as I protect them from frost I think they'll be okay. I brought them inside tonight just in case, but this is the last possible frost we're supposed to have this week, I hope the last one this year.

map drool

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I just tried the Yahoo Map Beta and all I can say is: Oh. My. God.

You can plug in multiple destinations and get directions for every leg of the trip (it appears to be unlimited, but 4 is the most stops I've tried yet). The directions and the map are in side-by-side windows, and if you mouseover a line in the directions, that leg of the map is highlighted. If you click on a line in the directions, a close-up map opens up. You can click a button to see live traffic updates all along your route.

My only criticism, and it is a minor, teeny tiny one, is that it doesn't show you the time estimates for each leg of the trip. Just the total driving time. But you can figure it out by keeping track of the times as you add each stop.

I have a lot of driving trips planned this summer, and I've been sitting here planning them all on the Yahoo map. Having a great time figuring out where I'm going to stop on my three day drive to Houston (answer: Atlanta and New Orleans). Or whether I can afford a detour to the Feistaware factory outlet store on my trip to Louisville (answer: it will only add one day to the trip, so yes). Or where to stop on the way to and from Mt. Dora (answer unclear: try again later). Sorry, I haven't decided yet on that last one.

I wonder how much of the map info is stored on my computer and how much is it getting from the server? If I got my itinerary up on my laptop and took it with me on a road trip, would I be able to use the neato features while out of cell modem range? Almost certainly not the live traffic alerts, but the small maps for each line of the directions might still work. I'll have to test that before the Houston trip.

it's my day

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I've been reading the Etiquette Hell website. Scary stuff.

It's kind of amazing how far people will sink. From what I've read so far, there are two main types of stories: first, brides with a monstrous sense of entitlement who place enormous burdens on their guests, relatives and/or attendants, and are totally rude and ungrateful about it. Second, relatives or attendants with a monstrous sense of entitlement, who decide that someone else's wedding is all about them and do their level best to ruin the wedding. But the common thread in all the stories is people screaming at each other. So much screaming.

It's hard to pick out a worst story. One that stands out is the mother of the groom who demanded that the couple move their wedding across country to her town, where none of the bride's family could attend; demanded veto power over the location, food and flowers; doubled the guest list even though the couple were paying for the event; and then, without telling them, hired a pair of dwarves to dress up as bride and groom "dolls" and perform a comedy skit about marriage at the reception. All the while berating the bride for destroying her son's life, and telling the rest of the groom's family that the bride hated them all. That one was pretty bad.

bridezilla

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With six ayes and no nays, I think I can safely prattle at least a little bit without offense. Thanks to the magic of extended entries, I'll put the details behind a cut to protect the sensibilities of the wedding averse.

remark your calendars

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We set a new date for the wedding: June 20. 4 pm Vegas time, which I believe is 7 pm eastern time. The ceremony will be webcast on the chapel's website.

Now I have a question: Do you all want to hear about wedding stuff or not? I don't want to be one of those boring Bridezillas who prattle on endlessly about their wedding. But I don't want to be secretive either. So let me know. Boring, or not boring?

two out of three isn't bad

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I just posted on Phil's blog that gardening, cooking and working on my art car always make me feel good. Today I managed two out of three. Worked on digging out the beds for the vegetable garden this morning, and again in late afternoon. I managed to get one of the two beds completely dug out. The soil wasn't as heavy as the solid clay around the septic tank. But on the other hand, the spot we chose for the bed is full of big roots, and is where the previous owner stored her gravel collection, which made the digging harder. Also it's always harder to dig when it's dry.

After all my hard work, I treated myself to this recipe for spring vegetables with shallots and lemon. I didn't feel like messing around with fava beans so I used edamame instead. And I didn't feel like vegetarian so I added chicken. And also used a strip of bacon instead of butter, just because I could. It was the yummy Irish peppered bacon from Zingerman's this month. (Did I mention that Georg got me the bacon of the month club from Zingerman's for my birthday? Every month we get a pound of specialty bacon in the mail. Is that not the perfect gift?) The recipe turned out great if I do say so myself. Nice and bright and lemony. I made enough extra for lunch tomorrow.

Now I'm chilling, enjoying the tiredness in my arms, surfing Ebay and watching a backlog of soaps. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

the hand that feeds you

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I'm on my own for a few days while Georg is in NY. So how about a cute dog story. Well, maybe not that cute, unless you adore the dog involved like I do.

Janie bit me yesterday. It was totally an accident, and totally my fault. We were at the vet, and she was getting her nails trimmed. I was holding her still with one hand and feeding her treats with the other hand to distract her. The treats were big and crunchy, so I was holding them back a bit, making her chew on them, to make them last longer. Unfortunately I put my hand a bit too far into her mouth, and she bit down on the treat and bit right into my thumb. I yelled "OW!" and startled the vet tech, but Jane didn't seem to notice. She was just like, hey, where are the treats?

At first I thought she hadn't broken the skin because there wasn't any blood. But I looked at it a few minutes later and saw a small puncture in my thumb. I washed it with the antibacterial soap in the examining room, and put some Neosporin on it when I got home, and it seems fine. I guess the moral is, don't stick your hand inside the mouth of a dog that's eating.

In other dog news, we've finally figured out that Thirteen isn't ignoring us; she's deaf. For a long time I thought she had just gotten willful. Like if she was eating out of Jane's dish, if I said "no!" she wouldn't react at all, just kept right on eating. I don't remember how we figured out that it was hearing loss. But I've been paying attention to her reactions, testing her by talking when she can't see me and so forth. She seems to be almost totally deaf. She can hear loud, sudden noises, like if you clap or drop something or laugh really loud, but that's it.

The good news is that it doesn't seem to have changed her life much. Her eyesight is still good so she doesn't have trouble getting around, or figuring out what we want from her. I'm trying to talk to her with visuals as well as sound, if that makes sense. For instance at her dinner time, instead of rattling the food dish I hold it up in front of her. It makes me sad to think that she thinks we don't talk to her anymore. But she still seems happy so I guess it doesn't matter.

my bad

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Turns out the problems with comments were entirely my fault. While I was installing the new anti-spam plugin, I discovered what I had done wrong with MT-Keystrokes. Whoops.

So I guess I have to take back my complaints about MT-Keystrokes, which worked great where I had intalled it correctly, and my cranky comments about MT's failure to deal with comment spam. I should replace them with cranky comments about how MT isn't idiot proof.

By the time I saw my mistake, I was already halfway through installing the new plugin, so it seemed like less work to keep going rather than go back to MT-Keystrokes. It's called CCode and it seems to be working. It works by adding a hidden field to the comment form, and then using Javascript to obfuscate it so that comment spammers' cgi can't read it. As Georg pointed out, it's like a Javascript version of captcha.

yet more on comments

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After turning off MT-Keystrokes last night, we had almost 100 comment spam. That's just the ones that got past the built in spam blocker. Sheesh. I love MT but you know, their ineffectiveness against comment spam almost makes me want to look into Wordpress.

This morning we're trying yet another plugin to stop comment spam. It seems to allow legitimate comments, but please say something if you try to post a comment and can't.

comments

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You may (or may not) have noticed that comments weren't working on Georg's blog and my photolog. Some mysterious error message about a comment pending template. Well I finally got off my butt and fixed it, with some help from the fine folks at Movable Type tech support. The culprit was the MT-Keystrokes plugin. Which is a crying shame since MT-Keystrokes had completely eliminated comment spam, a growing problem for us. Oh well, if it shuts down comment spam by shutting down all comments on two of our blogs, then it isn't much of a solution. Maybe the fine folks at MT tech support will have a suggestion for this one too.

holy crap

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I just got the most amazing email ever. Someone wrote to tell me that she wants a tattoo of one of the cards from my deck. A tattoo.

She wrote because her tattoo artist is afraid of losing the detail if he had to work from the printed card. The originals aren't much larger, but they do have more detail. I'm going to do a high-res scan for her and see if that will work.

In an old Mary Fleener comic, she posted a photo of a guy with a full back piece based on her work. At the time I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have someone like your art so much they would permanently imprint it on their body. And you know what? I still can't. I'm a little overwhelmed by this.

(In the comic, Fleener announced that when the guy dies, she gets his skin. I just asked for a photo.)

on air

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I will be on the air tonight from 6-8 pm, covering the Divaville jazz standards show. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

the sarah calendar

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As I just commented in another blog, I pretty much ignore the official calendar in regards to changing seasons. Late March is ridiculously late here for the first day of spring. Just as, I'm sure, it's ridiculously early for many folks up north.

I used to think that the beginning of spring was when the daffodils bloom, but that would mean it's been spring for almost a month. That's a bit early even for me. A better definition, I think, is that spring begins when the frost-free nights are more common than the nights below freezing. So according to the Sarah calendar, it's been spring for almost a week. Happy spring!

Speaking of spring, we saw the most adorable Easter cookies at Saladelia. I didn't know it was possible for any food to be so adorable without being nauseating. The cookies are shaped like animals and iced, and each package contains a large animal cookie and a little cookie accessory. A bunny rabbit and a tiny carrot; a bluebird and a little nest; a sheep and a baby lamb. They even had a little miniature metal bird bath that you could put the bluebird cookie in. Who knew Easter candy could be so darling?

And speaking of spring weather, I'm tickled by the coincidence that led me to buy a cute pair of rain boots on super sale yesterday, only to wake up and find it raining today. I guess fashion does have value after all!

it's all relative

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As you may know, we didn't get married today. I'll spare you the pity party and get on with what we did do. We started early with a trip to the city dump. We dropped off about half the concrete, and picked up a load of compost. The concrete weighed in at .3 ton, which surprised both of us. It didn't seem like that much while we were tossing it into the dumpster.

The new truck drove great and handled the job really well. It sank visibly with the soil in it, I was a little worried that we had overloaded it, but it never did that fishtailing thing that my friend David's truck would always do. I love my truck!

After the landfill (with a stop to take the truck home of course), we had a nice lunch at Saladelia -- who by the way serve humongous lunches, I got soup and salad and I couldn't begin to eat it all -- and then picked up our wedding rings. Georg's was the store sample but mine had been made to order. They look great and mine fits perfectly, but the price was a bit of a shock. Over 50% more than the estimate! I know, I know, the price of gold has skyrocketed recently. And she did say it was only an estimate. And if they had told me this price in advance, I would have been okay with it. It was just, like I said, a shock to get a final price so much higher than what she had said two weeks ago.

When we got home we got right to work on the hole in the ground. And we got so much done! First Georg knocked out the last concrete blocks from the walls, which I hadn't been able to get on Wednesday. Then we dug out the last of the clay, down to about 2.5 feet. We piled some of the clay up at one end where the path is going to be. And then we unloaded all the compost. I really didn't think we were going to get that whole thing done. But we did! It went pretty fast because we didn't need the wheelbarrow. We just pulled the truck up next to the hole, and shoveled it over the side.

We couldn't quite fill the hole, about 3/4 full or maybe a little more. Over the next few days I'll try to dig out the clay nearby to make the bed bigger. Not so deep as the septic tank, but deep enough for annuals. Maybe a foot deep. We're still going to have extra soil from the next truckload. I guess we'll have to pile it up somewhere until we come up with another place for it.

Now we have reservations at Jibarra, a Mexican restaurant that sounds amazing. Review to follow. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't rather have been in Las Vegas getting married. But aside from that, I can't think of a better way to spend this day.

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