Friday, December 30, 2011

Man it's hard to blog during the holidays when my family is visiting.

Just saying.

However - my parents did give me a wonderful, amazingly cool gift - a tablet! I set it up and proceeded to draw worse than I've ever drawn before. See, typically, I draw my pictures here using a mouse and photoshop. I figured, at least that was an excuse for the awful artwork. Now, the excuse is even better: it's really hard to draw with a tablet!

So. Uh.

Please enjoy the first drawing I've ever drawn on a tablet and try not to compare it to any third grader's artwork you've seen. Scratch that. Don't even compare it to a kindergartener. I think that children with no hands can create better drawings. Happy New Year if I don't manage to find time to sit at my computer again tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

First off, please accept my generic "happy holidays" to those of you not celebrating Christmas today. I'm sorry that every store except the Chinese restaurant and movie theatre are closed and hope that the Chinese restaurant closest to you does not serve cat.

I do celebrate Christmas and I've gotta say, sometimes I manage to give myself the short end of the stick. First off, my husband and I exchanged gifts this year after not being able to last year. For the most part, I plan our budget, so our conversation went like this:

Husband: So how much are we spending on each other?
Me: (Casually, in a "I totally didn't just spend over $100 on your new monitor gift" voice) $50 or less.
Husband: Got it.

And don't get me wrong; I'd rather get something that would make him happy and get a gift that costs less because it's not about how much you spend. But I do sometimes stop and marvel at the way I make it work for people that are not me.

But then it got better.

I mean, for my husband. It got better for my husband.

We exchanged our gifts and he was very happy to receive his new monitor, as his old monitor might be older than both of our puppies put together (for clarification purposes, please note that I refer to my dogs as puppies despite the fact that they are 5 and 3, roughly).

His old monitor still works though, and his graphics card supports two monitors, so he decided to do a dual monitor set up, which I expected. What I did not plan for was his desk, which is barely big enough for his old, smaller monitor.

I looked at my husband. I looked at his desk. And then I looked at my desk, my desk with its much larger surface area.

So this Christmas, my husband ended up with my desk.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It doesn't feel right!

People, listen to me. It is December 23rd and I have my windows open!

Open, I tell you.

I'm wearing a t-shirt and skirt and am not wrapped up in a blanket. I am slightly confused and slightly afraid.

Despite my guildmates in WoW who insist on calling me Canadian, I am not Canadian (and I don't eat mooseburgers). But I am from one of the farthest northern points in the continental US. I've spent over two decades living in areas where Christmas is synonymous with snow.

Now that I'm living in Florida, I find myself terrified to realize that I might spend the next two decades living in areas where it doesn't snow in the winter and where, in fact, SUMMER is the worst season due to unbearable heat and copious amounts of rain (and the stray hurricane). 

This is my second full winter here and I still haven't quite learned how to shift my life properly, like doing yard work into the fall and winter, when it's not 90 degrees outside and 100% humidity. You know how health professionals talk about seasonal affective disorder? (aka SAD. Isn't that cute?)

I fear I have that, but in reverse. The shortening days, the diminished sunlight - sure it's depressing, but not as depressing as knowing that these are the best days for having the windows open and for deciding to eat outside at a restaurant or in the privacy of our gazebo and I just don't know how to get my body wired for that.

For example, I still took out my heavy comforter and flannel sheets for the bed when December rolled around. And I still sleep under them. And then turn the fan on so I don't overheat.

For example, I wrap myself up in a blanket and scarf to let the dogs out each morning, and then realize it's actually gorgeous outside and now I look like a hobo.

For example, temperatures under 70 degrees send me running to wear my winter coat.

Wait. That last one there just means that I'm behaving like a Floridian after all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So Maybe It's Island Turtle Month

I realized when I went back and read my older posts for December that I had mentioned something about Island Turtle stories running for a week or so. I guess my definition of "a week" is kind of at odds with the dictionary. Sorry about that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Adventures in Real Life Island Turtle-ing

As luck would have it, this week my roommate is turtle sitting a friend's turtle. You can imagine how this went:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Origin Story of Island Turtle

Sure, you might have become a little more familiar with Island Turtle. You know he's a turtle, and that he's on an island. And that he wears sunglasses. But perhaps you would like to know more. Perhaps you are interested in finding out where Island Turtle came from, why he is where he is, and how he came to be known as the one and only Island Turtle.

Island Turtle has been around for many years now and it shouldn't be surprising to know that he showed up in my younger years. I remember meeting him for the first time, and being very excited to learn more about this turtle who happened to be on an unnamed island.

I asked him where he came from and he after a pause, he began to tell me his long and interesting tale. And now, today, I pass on that tale to you. As I recall, this is how it goes:

A long time ago, many years ago, there was an island.

And there was a turtle on this island.

The end.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Island Turtle makes everyone happy except when he doesn't

My manager was not happy the day she met Island Turtle. I was working in the bakeshop of the Jewel near my college at this point in my life and typically worked evening shifts after classes.

"What is this Island Turtle?" my manager demanded as I walked into work for the evening. "I get to work this morning and see that the shelves are practically empty, that's there is very little back up, and yet there was time yesterday to draw some turtle on an island?"

Yikes. I wanted to say that it actually only takes me about thirty seconds to sketch Island Turtle, but I had a feeling that answer wouldn't help my case.


Island Turtle is cool on cardboard.

I went instead with the better choice of apologizing. My manager, who happens to be one of the most patient and understanding people I've had the chance to work for, shrugged and told me it was fine as long as I didn't do it again.

So I worked extra hard during my shift and before she left for the evening, cautiously brought up Island Turtle again.

"Basically, he's awesome," I told her as she looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "I'm serious. Island Turtle is just sort of there - he's on an island, but it's ok - he's just there to relax."

She looked at the drawing again and shook her head. "He's either the biggest turtle I've seen or on the most pathetic island imaginable."

I assured her that it was a little bit of both.

During the time I worked in the bakeshop there, my coworkers slowly became familiar with Island Turtle. He had a tendency to show up on our whiteboard for motivation, although it wasn't unheard of for him to show up on another cardboard box. In fact, when I stopped working there because I was moving down to Florida, I even made clay keepsake Island Turtles for all of my bakeshop coworkers.

They were even all kind enough to act impressed when presented with their wonderful gifts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Introducing... Island Turtle!

Who is... Island Turtle?

He's a turtle. On an island.

Island turtle is kind of like my mascot. He's just out there, chilling on his island. He's totally relaxed. He goes with the flow. When I'm feeling stressed or bummed out, Island Turtle is there, looking at me through his shades. Reminding me that I, too, can experience the relaxation he does - I don't even need to be on an island to do so!

I really like Island Turtle and I hope you do too, because the rest of the week is going to be Island Turtle stories! I'm so relaxed already.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In which I lose and find my cell phone

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling somewhat sick. You might know the feeling: not really sick - just a bit more groggy; maybe your stomach hurts a little or something. It didn't get better after oatmeal for breakfast, or after playing WoW for a bit so I decided to lie down and watch TV in my room. I grabbed my cell phone and headed to the bedroom.

I shut the door to the room and grabbed some comfy pants to change into. Sophie and Sherlock jumped up on the bed and made themselves comfortable on either side of my pillows. Just as I was about to turn on the TV, I heard a knock at our front door and the dogs started going crazy.

I was a little annoyed, because I had been winding down and had been almost positive I could take a nap. Not any more though. Sleeping during the day when I'm feeling only a little sick is not an easy task. I don't know about you, but if I can fall asleep during the day that typically means that I'm more sick than I care to admit.

Anyhow, having gotten up to go answer the door and subsequently send a guy away who was trying to rake our lawn or clean off our roof, whatever we needed him to do! - I no longer felt like going to sleep. I went back to my desk and read the internet for a bit. Then I thought about maybe texting Smiley, who had been at work all morning.

I reached for my cell phone on the desk and it wasn't there. Oh right, I remembered, I had brought it to the bedroom. It was probably on the TV stand or the shelves. Maybe on the window sill. As I went back into the room and looked at each of these places in turn, the cell phone did not turn up. Weird. I knew I had gone straight from one room to another but just in case, I started checking our extra room, the kitchen and the dining room.

Still no cell phone.

Luckily, my roommate was awake at this point. I asked her if she could call my phone, as mine seemed to be lost in the void space I call home.

"Sure Dani," says my roommate, and goes to grab her phone. I wait while she ruffles through her bag. A few seconds go by and she starts searching deeper into the bag, looking inside the little inner zipped pocket. "Hm."

"The void claims another victim?"

So now my roommate starts retracing her steps and because she appears to be luckier than me, she finds her phone in her work clothes pocket. The phone battery is dead though, so she has to grab her charger and plug it in first.

I stand nearby, ready to listen for my cell phone ringing. I'm almost positive that I've turned up the volume on the phone and I try not to imagine what a pain it will be to find if I didn't.

"Ok, it's ringing," she says.

There is a silent, tense moment while I wait to see whether I left my phone in the computer room or in the bedroom and then my sweatshirt pocket starts vibrating.

Yeah. I seriously contemplated running to the bedroom and pretending like I found it on the floor, but it was too late.

My roommate might still be laughing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The worst way to bring home a Christmas tree

So, my husband isn't too big into celebrating holidays. He doesn't care for fireworks, has no interest in a parade and absolutely, positively hates Christmas trees. Last year, our Christmas tree was a little blue tinsel tabletop deal. I was ok with it, because we were going visit my family for the actual holiday. However, this year, we're unable to make the trip up, so I got to thinking that it would be nice to have a Christmas tree.

Smiley's take: A Christmas tree is one of the stupidest ideas ever. It's like two drunks were outside, being drunk and one of them goes 'dude. Let's take a tree from outside and put it INSIDE.' And then the other guy says 'yeah. And then let's put candles on them. It'll be awesome! An open flame on a slowly drying out tree? What could go wrong?'

Me: Whew. That was exhausting to listen to. Also I've never heard of a modern string of lights burning down a house.

After some back and forth, he finally agreed that I could get a tree this morning while I was at work. I was so excited and I literally spent my breaks and my lunch hour researching the trees avaliable in our town, the decorations and so on and so forth. I made a few spreadsheets.

By the time I on my way home from work, I was so pumped. I called my husband as I drove, asking him if he'd mind driving the truck and bringing me to the hardware store so I could buy a tree. He begrudgingly said ok.

As we were getting ready to leave, our roommate, his sister, came home and I invited her to come with. We all smushed into our small truck and left the house. I was picturing a magical tree hunting trip during which time my husband would have a small bit of fun and perhaps come away from the experience hating Christmas trees a little less.

Boy, was I wrong.

About halfway to the store, the alternator in the truck seemed to give up and the battery died as we were turning a corner. As the truck slowly sputtered to a stop, the three of us sat in silence for a full minute.

"Great," said Smiley. "Just what I want. To be stuck on the side of the road on my way to getting a stupid Christmas tree. Typical."

"I didn't make the truck die," I pointed out. "In fact, given the track record of the truck not dying and also bringing us from point a to point b reliably ever since you redid the clutch and other bits, I didn't expect it one bit."

"And you invited our roommate to come with us and now she's sitting her with us instead of us being able to call her."

"Yes, that's unfortunate," I agreed.

Luckily, our roommate was able to call her friend to come give us a jump. She and Smiley pushed the truck back into a parking lot while I steered and promptly hit the curb. (It was not my intention to hit the curb).

It was getting late, and Smiley had to go to his Dresden Files RP game soon, so we decided not to chance it by going to the store and back. He drove the truck home. I sat, deflated, in the passenger seat. I had wanted so badly for the trip to the store to be uneventful and therefore not give my husband any validation to his hatred of the trees.

I can see now that this is not how it is meant to be.

My lovely sister in law then accompanied me as we took the Sebring to the store and picked out a tree. Smiley, if you're reading this, we only had to look at two trees before we made our choice! As I type, the tree is set up in our living room so that the branches can spread out some before I decorate. I am still pretty excited, but with a certain amount of trepidation. If our truck is willing to stop just to put up a roadblock to a happy Christmas, what will be next?

I'd better not think about that! I'm going decorate my tree. Whee!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Year Two of NaNoWriMo winning!

"Oh, what's that?" you ask? That's just me showing off my official proof of NaNoWriMo victory. If you still don't believe me, I think this link will work: My Novel Stats. We'll see.

I wasn't expecting to finish today; in fact if you look down, you'll see me fretting about just being halfway done about ten days ago. I'll admit that a huge part of my motivation to finish came from trying to beat one of my friends over the finish line. This morning we wrote a total of 18,000 words. She won first.

So now what?

Well, the other day I was reading an article on Slate.com and came across the following NaNo-related story. Somewhere in the thread of comments, some people were complaining that there is no point to NaNo. The basic argument goes something along the lines of  a) "What's the point of writing 50,000 words of probable crap?" and b) "There are enough bad novels in the world!"

Luckily for you, I have some answers to those questions.

The first is - what's the point? There are quite a few points, so I'm going to stick to what works for me:

1). I love being creative and writing, so doing NaNo is akin to any other sort of hobby or project that I could do instead.
2). It's inspiring to see the rudimentary full first draft of a novel with a start and finish, even if there is some murder in the middle. Even if my goal isn't to be published, I have accomplished something; this goes back to reason one.
3). To paraphrase the NaNo site: Sometimes it is just better to get down an idea, even if some of it sucks. Or maybe a lot of it.

The second one is a lot easier to answer. Just because someone writes crap during November doesn't mean it will be published. This month allows thousands of new and veteran writers to practice writing. Isn't there some sort of saying about monkeys, time and typewriters that ends with the full works of Shakespeare? What I'm getting at is, maybe a good novel or two will come out of this. (Not that I'm calling NaNo participants monkeys. Nor insinuating that they can only use typewriters).

So sure, like anything in life (I'll just throw out pictionary as an example here), NaNo is not for everyone.

Life After NaNo

Well, November isn't over yet, so if you're still writing, go write. Come back and read this when you're done!

Personally, the first thing I did after finishing writing was vacuum and then give the puppies their baths and half haircuts. (Sherlock will only sit down for one half of a haircut at a time). Then I did something scary and sent my mom a copy of my very, very rough draft of a vampire novel.

Even knowing that, as my mom, she's contractually obligated to say at least vaguely nice things about it, I'm still nervous. But I'm also excited, because she'll be the first person to really look it over with fresh eyes and confirm to me if the plot holes I noticed are the same ones she notices. Or if the boring character I created maybe has some redeeming qualities.

Or it will be so bad that she'll burn it secretly and tell me later that she's "so proud of me for doing what I love!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!


While some have already been up for hours today, shopping the sales and door-busters of Black Friday, I have been sleeping and then photoshopping pictures of my dogs to put in this post. Well, you can guess which activities I think are more fun!

I wanted to take a moment to touch on everything I was thankful for and then realized that this post would take me into the New Years if I did that. There are just so many things to be thankful about. Sure, life isn't perfect, but I suspect that the downs help to make the ups so much better. And no, I'm not condoning drug use. These are natural highs, baby!

On my Google + page (Yes, you should use Google +; it's pretty awesome), I spoke about those who work on Thanksgiving, and really it can be extended to any holiday. While many people get to take time off and relax, there are those who cannot do that and who make our lives better because of that. I mentioned doctors and nurses, because illness does not have a holiday schedule (and honestly, rarely uses its day off). I make a caveat for the 4th of July and any holiday whereby they see an increase in people doing stupid stuff with fireworks.

Likewise, there are those in our military, whether here in America or overseas, who cannot just take the day off and go be with their family. I don't want to get political about it; I'll just say I don't always agree with the wars that the government has declared - but I'll always support the men and women of the troops. It is because of their sacrifices that we can continue to celebrate our freedom.

Finally, from my own time working in a grocery store, there are the people who have to work on Thanksgiving to ensure a happy Thanksgiving for everyone else. I cannot count how many rolls I would bake in the day before and day of Thanksgiving, or how many pumpkin pies would be packaged. There are those who are in shows, or who work at movie theatres or restaurants. I'm not saying to feel guilty if you forgot the rolls or don't want to cook (although, come on - even if you're the worst cook ever, won't true family just laugh it off when your oven explodes with turkey?); I'm just saying be thankful that you have these opportunities.

Personally, now I'm off to go buy deeply discounted Thanksgiving decorations that I can use next year. If I remember where I store them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Look, I'm going to tell you how not to spin your semi-legal business

Do I really need the legal disclaimer here? I am not a lawyer, folks, and if you try to use my advice as legal advice, I'll be flattered but will not be held accountable for it. OK? We all good?

In Florida, we have mutant internet cafes. I don't know how else to say this. You know how there are these places were you go and pay for internet time and then drink Bawls and play WoW? Yeah, that's exactly what these places are not. Florida has mutated internet cafes into barely legal gambling establishments. How do they defend what they are doing?

The owners say that they are "simply" providing a sweepstakes in addition to the internet time that they sell.

Ok, stop right there. Whenever you say something is "simply" doing anything, it just reeks of semi-legal crap. Why can't you just say you provide sweepstakes? It's still an outright lie, but at least you're taking charge instead of hiding behind adverbs.

Likewise, I recently read an article about what I guess is a problem in New York where people go to a tobacco shop and buy loose tobacco and then use the provided cigarette rolling machines to get around paying the taxes on a box of cigarettes.

When explaining their business to the newspaper, the owners stated that they are "simply" providing a place for consumers to roll their own cigarettes with the loose tobacco they purchased.

Ugh.

Am I the only person annoyed by this use of the word "simply?" It's simply infuriating.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My vampire novel is currently at 26,000ish words

This means, ladies and gentlemen, that I am just over halfway done for the month. Which terrifies me, because that means that I have to do what I just did all over again to win. Still, it's not impossible, so I'll keep going. A few things are jumping up as roadblocks this year that I didn't have last year. One of the most significant, and surprising to me is that my plot won't sustain my novel. (Although I do feel a little bit now for authors who I suspect ran into the same problem and then just went ahead and added 20,000 words worth of sex scenes).

Last year, I did a fantasy based novel that, at 55,000 words, still hadn't gotten much past the second or third day of events that I had planned for it. It was like my characters were just doing their thing and I was doing my best to record the events as fast as I could. This year is very similar, except my characters are threatening to stop doing their thing a good 20,000 words sooner than I had hoped. I've heard advice that when you run out of things to write about, you should toss a sex scene into the story, but I don't think that will cover the gap I'm looking at here.

Part of this roadblock comes from the fact that the event I want to be the climax of the story is just coming up so much quicker than I thought it would. I have ideas for what happens after it, but honestly, I wanted to do those ideas in a second novel rather than tacked on to the first. So I either need to find the parts of my current story that are too short and expand or swallow my plans and write beyond the current climax I have planned. And that just doesn't sit well with me, because I feel that it will take away from the story.

So I think my current plan is to just keep writing until the novel literally ends (aka, I get to the final scene, which I'm currently working towards) at where I want it to and look through it and see if I can add anything.

To others working through the same problem, I do recommend a walk. Going outside with my puppies for a bit helped clear my mind from the worry of "oh no I'm going to finish what I want to write way too soon" and brought me back to "let's just get it on paper and see where it goes from there."

I also recommend changing the music up every now and again. That's why I love my current Pandora channel, which goes from Evanescence to Breaking Benjamin to random piano pieces and occasionally Michael Buble (or however you spell his name).

So, happy writing all and hopefully in a few days I'll have a better update regarding my NaNo Novel 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ack! November 15th!

We're halfway through November and that means I should be halfway through my novel. Sadly, I have only written about ~20,000 words which is a full 5k less than I should be at today. It's totally cool though because I'll just write like a crazy person on Saturday. Or maybe Sunday. Ooo and of course there is the extended weekend next week for Thanksgiving. So I'm not worried yet. But if you're writing and need more time to write, let me offer some suggestions:

Write during your lunch break! I often forget to eat lunch when I do this so it's a bit of a toss up because then when I get home I have to make toast right away or I'd starve and then I'm not writing after work. But who's to say I would have written then anyway?

Write down one sentence an hour. Later, string them together and add more sentences to make it somewhat coherent. I can't promise results but I can promise word count from that!

Later I plan on writing totally helpful editing tips for when the month is over and your word-spew is over. I can do that because I studied English in college. At least I think that is how it works.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Puppy beds

My love for animals is pretty much ingrained in me from every genetic path. On my mom's grandma's side, my great-grandmother was a Snow White type in the sense that all animals loved her. I'm talking her going outside on her farm and the birds landing on her shoulders, the deer coming out from the woods to say hi and even a skunk showing off her little skunk babies, which I guess are called kits.



My grandpa on my mom's side also loved animals which was evident in the dogs that he kept as pets while my mom was growing up; those ones I didn't meet, of course. However, his final dog, Goldie, was a testament to his happiness with a dog. My grandpa would walk Goldie every day, taking him down to the post office in the morning when he got the mail and walking him down the quiet streets in the afternoon. When Grandpa moved into the old folks home in his final years, we would bring by our dogs for him to visit with which would always raise his spirits and bring a smile to his face.

On my dad's side, my grandma and great aunt, (they are sisters), both have had and kept many pets, various stray cats and adorable dogs. This has also come through my aunt who kept ferrets and a hedgehog when I was growing up. My own parents have had dogs, birds, fish, and hamsters.

But, back to my grandma and great aunt for a moment. They are wonderfully sweet to my own puppies and have, since we got Sophie and Sherlock, given us many generous gifts to our little pups, including three doggie beds. (Ok, I confess, two of them are TECHNICALLY cat beds, but being that our dogs weigh less than most cats, I don't see a problem!) And while, when we set up the beds in the backseat of our car for travel, the dogs will happily sleep in them, they will never use them when we are at home and they have any other option.

For example, rather than sleep in his dog bed, Sherlock chose to curl up on my turned off heating pad. Rather than turn around in her dog bed, Sophie jumped onto the couch and wobbled back and forth on top of a pillow trying to nest in it. Weird.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where have I been?

I have been in a car for over 1,800 miles over these past few days. It's been crazy. Sadly, my grandpa passed away and so Smiley and I started our journey on Saturday, driving 1000 miles from our house to my parents and then added an addition 400 on Sunday to get to Michigan. And then 400 more miles back to my parents today. And in another day, 1000 more miles. I am so thankful that our car gets good gas mileage and that Smiley will drive the majority of those miles.

So now I'm behind on my NaNo novel like crazy and really dispirited because the day that my mom called me in the afternoon at work to tell me my grandpa had died, I had been writing during lunch for my novel. In my novel, the main character's mom called her at work to tell her that her aunt had died. So I'm really not excited to write about the funeral scene I had planned and that's throwing off the rest of the plot.

Of course, out of the gloom there are always good points. First, I got to see my family and a lot of my extended family. It's not great that I saw them because of a funeral but still.

Second, I got to see my brother who I haven't managed to see since Christmas.

Third, I got to have a breakfast pasty from Roy's bakery. As was the case with my novel funeral scene, I had actually just been extolling the glory that is the UP pasty. So yeah, I had a pasty. I also had a taco pizza from the Ambassador restaurant and one of their signature drinks. And maybe in a year from now, I'll be up there to do the same. Just hopefully, it will be because I planned a nice vacation there and not a funeral. I would prefer for no more funerals for a bit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This will mean nothing to so many people...

... but my guild downed Ragnaros 10-man last night and I am so psyched. We spent a lot of our time working on the fight and it finally paid off as everything came together. I thought we'd get stuck up at the meteor phase but not even that could keep us down.

I've been in a few different guilds during my time in WoW and one thing they've always had in common is that they've imploded while I was there. Things just sputtered out, raid attempts went from scheduled to spotty and then large chunks of people left, spitting out macro'd 'goodbye' rants before the all important /gquit.

My experience with guilds hadn't always been that way. Growing up, my parents ran a successful raiding guild in Everquest for many years, making friends that lasted beyond the guild. I remember they even had guild meet ups when the Everquest convention was held in Chicago. To me, that was how guilds could and should be.

WoW was a lot different.


Anyhow, I've been raiding with the same guild since February now and while there have been many frustrating nights, we friggen downed Ragnaros 10 man yesterday and that was kind of one of those moments that remind me why it's worth it to play this game.

To the people for whom this post was just a bunch of nonsense words, I'm sorry. (And quite honestly impressed that you're still reading). I thought about explaining everything in more general terms, but it didn't read right. And it would be a bit like convincing someone who doesn't like dogs that dogs are great; no matter how I phrase it, it'll be boring.

Anyhow, so that's that. Go us. Also, did I mention we're recruiting? We're looking for healers and a tank and will certainly consider competent DPS. Our website is www.exitium-guild.com. And our unofficial motto is "A real raiding schedule for people with real lives." Or something like that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is it just me? Redux.

You might remember a month or two ago, when I complained about short bathroom stalls. Let's revisit the bathroom, shall we?



That's right. Foam soap makes everything better.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My only Halloween joke

Man, I've been waiting all year to use this one. Also, it's my only Halloween joke, so chances are you've heard it before. Sorry.

What do you call a sheep that dresses up as a car for Halloween?



A lamborghini!

I'll give you a minute to compose yourself.

Ok, back with me? Please don't throw bricks at my house or anything. I know it's a bad joke. But I made it all by myself and it's probably the only joke I've ever made in my life. So I have to treasure it.

It all started when I worked in the bakeshop at Jewel, which was probably my most glamorous job to date. I'm not sure what that means.

You know how around Easter, grocery stores have those cute little lamb cakes? They usually have the plastic lamb head and then the body is cake and it's frosted and whatnot. Through an ordering error, our store ended up with twice as many lamb cakes as we needed. The demand for lamb cakes goes down exponentially after Easter, so we were stuck with a bunch of them in the freezer.

We still had some around Halloween, so we started joking about dressing the cakes up in costumes and trying to sell a few that way. I'm sure you've noticed that bakeries do this with all of their fancy shaped cakes. A heart shaped cake for Valentine's day gets turned upside down and made into a "pumpkin" for Thanksgiving. Just for an example.

Somewhere along this costumed-sheep theme was were my joke was born. So yes, this joke is several years old and I still grin like a fool every time I tell it. And now you know it. So pass it on! Share it with your friends!

The lamb cakes will appreciate it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not original but: Things I hate

Deceptive advertising.

I bought a box of rice the other day because it was on sale and I thought it would be nice to have rice in a box to make one evening. Tonight ended up being that evening.

As I was making this box of rice, I noticed something odd. The front of the box noted that the cooking time was only 5 minutes. That's funny, because when you read the actual instructions, you have to bring the rice to a boil and then let it cook for five minutes and then let it sit for five more minutes.

Also, I know that I only listed one thing, but the five minutes of sitting time is up and I'm hungry.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Running out of Time and Words

This week has been busy beyond my normal routine of existence, and I failed to blog yesterday. It hurts a little bit, but to be honest, that hole has been filled with pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate frosted chocolate cake, so I'm not too upset about anything right now.

You know how some people talk about living in the moment and enjoying life as it happens? I'm really bad at that.

Every decision I make is the result of a careful consideration of consequences and logical outcome. I am as spontaneous as a piece of cardboard, down to getting soggy and weird looking if you spill milk on me and let it sit without wiping up the counter; is it really that hard to go get a paper towel?

Um, anyhow.

So this week was busy because last Saturday and Sunday I was making costumes. Monday I was still sewing. Tuesday was raid night and also my dog got sick. Wednesday and Thursday saw the creation of some truly epic desserts for the Halloween party on Friday and now today I still have sewing to finish and routine chores as well. I'm not complaining; I am happy to keep busy. I'm just saying that these events do not lead to me sitting at my computer writing. That's what November is for.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Left Turns and Me

Now that I've had my drivers license for a touch over half a decade, I feel I am becoming more qualified to comment on driving.

Actually, who am I kidding? I would have commented the first time I drove if I had a nifty blog like this one to write in.

I'm just going to go ahead and say it - I could never be a NASCAR driver. Their lives consist of turning left and my life consists of being terrified of left turns.

You know that feeling that you get when an impatient driver is all up on your bumper behind you? A sort of "please don't let this guy be one of the crazy types who will crash into me just to prove a 'point'... please let this person be a reasonable driver who just happens to want to get to point B faster than I am letting him..." monologue that plays vaguely in the back of your head. This plays in my head constantly and no time more than when I need to make a left turn without the aid of a turning light.

Some people are able to just shrug it off and make left turns without a care in the world. I wish I was that person. I am not.

I actively avoid left turns to the point that I'm starting to think I should just give up and become a UPS driver.

Edit: If this seems familiar to you, it's because I wrote it a few days earlier and just realized I had accidentally published it then instead of waiting til today. But I'm still counting it as a post for today! Woo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Insanity Level... below the charts.

We just took in Sophie to get fixed the other day and I can safely say that her insanity level that first night we brought her back was off the charts - in the negative direction. Never in my life have I seen her lay quietly in a chair all evening. She didn't even bark when a commercial with a doorbell played.

Well, actually, she did try to bark. I should give her points for effort. She kind of lifted her head up a centimeter and made a rather pathetic, half-hearted "arf." It was the quietest bark I have ever heard. Satisfied with her effort to warn me of the people maybe at my door, she slowly lowered her head and went back to sleep.

Smiley and I had debated whether or not to get a collar of shame for her; the vet had explained that Sophie had been being good about not chewing her stitches and that we could always grab one at a pet store if needed.

Thankfully, we did go ahead and get one right then, because although all night Sophie was a quiet, mild mannered pup, the moment we lay down to go to sleep, she turned into a comparable whirlwind of activity as she tried to go to town on her incision. This is, of course, compared to her spending all evening asleep. She made a few attempts to chew on her stomach area and, upon being unable to reach, satisfied her craving by chewing on her back paw for a few minutes, which was one of the only places she actually could reach.

We're supposed to keep her on restricted activity levels for the next 10 days, so looks like Sherlock will get to jog alone with me for a few days. Or, lately, it's been getting ridiculously warm in the afternoons, so maybe this is the excuse I need to not jog again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Canker sores make everything less funny

I really hate canker sores. For whatever reason, I tend to get a lot of them in my mouth a lot of the time that I exist. This has been a thing since as long as I can remember.

I finally went to a doctor when I had about five of them in my mouth at the time. If you've never had one of these things (and I know some weird people who claim they've never had one!), they hurt a lot. The pain is kind of a dull ache with a chance to suddenly stab anytime you move your mouth. So, you know, when you naturally swallow the saliva that builds up in your mouth, it hurts. Or when you try to talk, it hurts. Or when someone makes you smile and that hurts too which makes you frown and guess what? That hurts too! It's like winning the pain lottery.

So despite the fact that my ability to talk was roughly on par with someone in speech therapy for every sound, I managed to convey to the doctor that I was a) in a lot of pain, b) unable to eat solid foods and since swallowing hurt, I couldn't really drink anything either and c) really annoyed by these things.

She responded by grabbing a swabbing q tip and pressing it firmly into one of the sores while I held back all but a single tear.

Her response was, admittedly, what doctors do in these sort of situations, but still. Ouch. She explained that she was sending it to be tested for viral components. She also prescribed a paste to put over them but besides that, repeated what I already knew from the internet and dashed my hopes of being able to eat something that night.

Sadly, the tests all came back negative, so I still don't know why I get these sores. I know they typically appear if I bite my mouth, which happens more often than I care to admit. But I have heard from people who say that if they bite their mouths, it just heals up in a day or two.

Me? Well, I bit my cheek the other Tuesday during my first bite of dinner and resigned myself to my fate. A full week later, I still had a canker sore messing up my mouth.

I guess my point is that you should never tell someone that it doesn't hurt to smile because sometimes (based solely off of my own personal experience) it does hurt to smile.

Ouch. That just made me smile.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moments when I realize I must be 20 years older than I am.

The other night, I couldn't wait until it was 10pm so I could go to sleep.

Sometimes, paying bills gives me a rush, presumably because I feel so responsible even though thanks to technology, all I need to do is click a few buttons. In the olden days, I heard tales about envelopes and stamps and going to this ancient formation called "a post office."

I would like to have a kid soon. (Ok, so maybe that doesn't make me 20 years older than I am, because that would put me solidly out of the "being able to even have a kid" category. But still, the gist of the statement applies.)


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Memories of Cold Times

Yesterday I was talking about the recent spat of cold weather that has been pushing through the air. I figured I didn't want to seem unable to handle the cold, so I wanted to take a moment to do another "picture me" exercise.

When I went to Northern Illinois University, I lived on campus for a grand total of one semester, and though I meet very nice people on my floor, I decided quickly that dorm living was not for me and got an apartment with a guildmate from my guild at the time in WoW. The walk to class was about a mile, which I was ok with. But sometimes, it got really cold in DeKalb.

For those of you unfamiliar with how cold weather and snow works, it basically goes like this. Areas near lakes and water tend to have slightly higher temperatures during the winter and tons more snow. Areas that are just flat, open areas tend to have ridiculously cold temperatures but less snow. I'm still not sure which of the two is the truly ideal circumstance. Maybe I'll make a list of pros and cons for each and then remember that I live in Florida now.

In any case, NIU is in DeKalb where basically it is a college town in the middle of acres and acres and acres of corn field. What I'm saying is that the land is flatter than that one time I made pancakes with old baking powder. And so it got pretty cold.

Did I mention I was going through one of my frequent "no pants" phases? Don't get too excited - I wore skirts and dress instead. Nothing inappropriate! So when the wind chills started pushing -40, you might think that I took a reprieve from this.

No, I know you know me better than that.

So when the weather channel gave me the news that morning, I thought long and hard about my options and then decided to dress like a stylish bag lady. I can still recount the layers. Would you like to recount with me? It's "picture me" time!

I wore a pair of long johns - the newer, thin style that just so comfortable, a pair of leggings over those, a pair of knee high wool socks over those, knee high boots, a long velvet skirt, a tank top, a long sleeved thin knit sweater, a hoodie, a scarf crossed in front of my chest under my jacket for an extra layer of wind protection, my jacket, another scarf on the outside to protect my neck, chin and face, two pairs of gloves and my hello kitty hat.

And then I walked to class and didn't lose even one toe. And it was uphill, both ways.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold weather, can't you wait til winter?

Last time I checked, we are still solidly in the "fall" category of seasons, but for the past few days, I've been waking up to see temperatures in the upper 30's. For my out of country friends (hi!) that's just a bit over zero.

I refer to this temperature range as "double sweatshirt weather" - the range being from about 20-40 degrees. Double sweatshirt weather is exactly what it sounds like. Somehow in my impressionable teen years, I got into the habit of thinking that no matter how many layers, scarves or gloves I wore, as long as I didn't wear an actual jacket, I was cool.

I so wish I were kidding but I so am not kidding.

To draw you a picture of this in your mind, picture me. Then picture me wearing a hello kitty hat (from the kid's section at Target; I have a small head), a black scarf, gloves and a sweatshirt. The first sweatshirt is a thinner sweatshirt, one of those more form fitting zip up kinds that I probably got at a Hot Topic. Over it is a decidedly less gothic, more practical oversized pullover hoodie. Can you feel the cool-ness radiating from that picture within your mind? I can, and it's wonderful. It is what keeps me warm.

Now, in the later years I have taken to wearing a coat that my mom got me for my birthday because it is just so darn cute that I don't care if I'm not cool. But in the back of my mind, I always remember my double sweatshirt days.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I am so bad at running

Somehow, I think I might have volunteered to run a 5k with my sister-in-law on Thanksgiving. I'm not quite sure how this happened.

Actually I am sure of the events leading to this but I am unsure of the "why."

Actually the "why" might be that I am dumb.

So, the weather has been really great these past few days when I've gotten home from work. As I mentioned before, where I live in Florida, the warmest part of the day is not around noon; it is around 5 pm. Which is awful when I get home and it's in the 90's and the puppies want to be walked RIGHT NOW. But this week, despite chilly mornings and afternoon, by evening time, the weather is perfect for a pair of yoga pants and a t shirt.

My 5k problem starts with this weather. Wearing my yoga pants and t shirt, and with the perfect breeze at my back, I felt nearly compelled to start jogging along with the puppies. So I did. Tentatively, because I suck at running. But the puppies didn't judge me, they just ran alongside me and then stopped every so often to pee, which gave me a chance to catch my breath as I pretended to just be casually stopping to let my dogs do their business but in reality I was gasping for air.

The puppies really responded to this jogging thing, and by the time we got home from our walk/jog, they were even less spastic than they normally are after a walk. I made the second mistake of feeling somewhat proud of myself. I had no reason to run; it wasn't like anyone was chasing me - but I had done it any way, in spite of myself.

And so then I did it the next day. And the next. And I still wasn't getting any better at it, but the dogs were happy and it seems like everyone I know is always posting about their jogging 5 miles every day or whatever on their Facebooks and so I really need to try to keep up.

On Wednesday, I got back to the house with the puppies just as my sister in law was leaving to go on her jog, a respectable 2 mile run, unlike my ... uh, just over a mile jaunt. When she got back and started doing her cool down stretches in the living room while I worked on Smiley's costume, she said, "I should do a Turkey Trot. You know, one of those runs they do on Thanksgiving."

Amped up on several days of almost running over a mile, I nodded enthusiastically. "You totally should. And I will too. Let's do it together!" The words came out of my mouth without the slightest hesitation.

"That's awesome, Dani!" she said.

I don't know if I is going to happen for real. I didn't physically sign up for anything. And it's going to be colder. And other excuses. But just in case, I'm going to keep jogging with the puppies for a few more days here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall is in the air

Specifically in the rapidly decreasing in temperature air.

Yesterday, I woke up and walked the puppies before work. When I went to go to the bank on my lunch break, it was colder than that morning.

Weather, this is not how it works. Be reasonable. I understand that you enjoy the misery that comes from me wearing a light sweatshirt in weather that clearly demands a medium sweatshirt but we could talk about it. You could give me advance warning and then I'll keep an extra sweatshirt in my car so that the walk there is cold, but it's alright on the way back. Does that work for you?

Judging by the fact that it's even colder today, I'm gonna go with no.

I wanted to share a picture of the leaves changing color, but I don't have any of those. So instead, I'm going to pretend it's the spring, and warm, and leave you all with this:


I can feel the pollen assaulting my senses. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Discuss: Orange Juice and Brownies?

I know I've talked about this before (although not on my blog, so it's fair game for here) - I love orange juice and brownies. You know how some people have their brownies or cookies or whatever with a tall, cold glass of milk? Yeah, that makes me feel the way most people seem to feel about chocolate and orange juice together.

This is a culmination of a few lasting childhood memories.

The first and most drastic event happened when I was fairly young - young enough to not really understand the concept of "use by" dates but old enough to know how to serve myself a cup of milk.

My family had just returned home from a trip to Michigan and though my mom usually gets all the perishables out of the house before we drive up there, this carton of milk had slipped through her grasp.

There wasn't much left in the container, but I was thirsty after the eight hour drive. (Even from a young age, I found it best to drink as little as possible during car trips to cut down on the "Mom I really, really have to go bathroom!" episodes). I poured myself a cup and drank up.

Well, started to anyhow. It didn't take long for my mouth and stomach to agree that something was up with this substance I was trying to quench my thirst with. Stomach and mouth had a quick discussion and decided the best thing to do was to get it back out of my body, and quickly. I gagged over a trash bag for several minutes that felt even longer because I was tired, car weary and worst of all, still thirsty.

After that, any good thoughts I had about milk were gone. For awhile, just seeing it was enough to make my stomach clench in a preparatory sort of motion. Slowly I was able to introduce milk back under the guise of chocolate milk. And it was ok in my cereal, as long as the cereal didn't pick up too much milk. Frosted mini wheats became an ordeal because I would have to scoop up each piece of cereal individually and smush it up against the side of the bowl so that the extra milk would drain off.

Ok, I still do that last part even to this day.

In any case, milk just doesn't do it for me. So now when I have a tasty baked good, or even a not as tasty but still pretty awesome baked good, I like to have orange juice. The, I don't know, acid or whatever of the orange juice cuts through the richness of the chocolate. I'm not a food reviewer; I don't know the terms. But I know what I like.

So that being said, is it weird that water is my go-to drink with ice cream? Surely that's a normal thing. Right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Remember when Graffiti was the big thing on Facebook?

For reference, this is part of Silvermoon City from WoW.
My blog needed some pictures; I've been relying on words for too many days in a row here. But I haven't had time to draw anything, not even given how quickly I can draw badly.

I've always wondered if the fact that I draw on the computer with my mouse hinders me. As I am left handed, presumably my fine motor skills are better in my left hand. However, unlike my brothers who mouse exclusively with their left hands, I just took up to using my right hand for mousing.

Actually, I think that's why I can't stand higher mouse sensitivity. As a teenager, my parent's basement was pretty much the place to be. With between four and five computers linked to our network at any given time, it was easy to have a few friends over and to toss down in Quake III or Unreal Tournament, two of my favorite FPS games. But sometimes my friends would up the mouse sensitivity on the computer and later I would sit down and go crazy trying to maneuver the mouse around. What I felt were little movements would shoot the cursor halfway across the screen.

Of course, maybe I was just bad.

But, given the amount I won or at least held my own, I think it's safe to say I could have done even better had I taught myself to mouse left handed. On the other hand (ha!), at least now I don't annoy people by leaving my keyboard and mouse on the wrong sides of the computer like certain siblings I know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It has almost been one year!

One year since my husband and I bought our house, that is. You know, I've heard it said that time goes faster as you get older, but it's really amazing just how quickly that happens. We've gotten some paint up on the walls and had to completely redo our master bath so far - not because we wanted a new one but because the current one had floors ready to rot out underneath from a bad water leak - and had to deal with roosters in our neighbor's yard, but I'm still happy with it all.

I was trying to think of something to write about this evening; I was sitting in the living room with one puppy curled up on my lap and one at my feet and watching HGTV while in the other room, Smiley was working on his Warhammer 40k models. But even though I have a lot of ideas, nothing formed into a full idea tonight. I think I might have squandered all my creativity on my Halloween costume, which I have almost finished as of tonight. I just need to add the trim and buy a few accessories. But in any case, try as I might, a new post was not jumping onto the page from my brain.

Oh, I have ideas. I'd like to rant about people who put apostrophes in every word that they pluralize, even if the word is not a possessive. Especially if the word is not a possessive. Or people who don't understand how prepositions work. I might have to go back and have a stern word with whomever decided that teaching kids to always use "My friends and I" because now I have to put up with the BS of people thinking they are being so smart by saying "Yes, that happened to my friends and I" and me silently crying invisible tears as I fight back the urge to scream, "To me! To my friends and me! Take out the other noun and what would you say!?"

Actually, I was listening to Dio in the car and the track Sacred Heart came up (worth a listen). But for those not in the mood for some good music, allow me to sadly state some of the opening lyrics:

"Whenever we dream, that's when we fly / So here is a dream, for just you and I!"

Oh Dio, may your soul rest in peace, but was it worth it for a rhyme? I've dealt with it by pretending that the little synth noise after those lines is his way of acknowledging how weird that line sounds. But it's not easy.

So as I was saying; I have a lot of ideas of what to write about. But I think costume making is going to sap a lot of that for a few more days.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween Costumes

At some point as I grew up, I took up sewing. I was never great at it; I can be impatient at times and that is a skill that does not go hand in hand with sewing. But it was fun and I made several cosplay costumes and a few Halloween outfits. (It counts as a Halloween costume if I don't have to spend the night explaining, "I'm this person from this video game and this outfit is from when....")

I'm 100% positive my inspiration came from my mom, who routinely would sew together 6 Halloween costumes each year; one for me, one for each of my siblings, and one for my dad. It was like magic. You could tell her what you wanted to be and then for Halloween, there would be a costume.

Only now, as I continue to work on my own costumes, do I ever sit down and wonder how the heck she did it. She must have had special days with extra hours, because just making mine and my husband's costumes is an exercise in angst for me.

For example, despite being very careful to cut the pattern pieces out slowly and evenly and to make all of the correct markings, I still managed to almost sew the pockets on a full two inches different from each other.

But I remember Halloweens from years past, where my mom just made things work. I'm not even kidding. One year, the "it" costume was to dress up as an M&M. Do you guys remember this year? I think I was in middle school and that the majority of my siblings were in elementary school and M&M costumes were just everywhere that year.

When inevitably asked to have M&M costumes, my mom scoffed at the idea of spending $50-some dollars on a Halloween costume and instead made them herself. I wish I had a picture to show, with my two brothers and youngest sister all in their matching costumes that were only about a hundred times cooler than the store bought ones. (I might be a little biased. But only by like fifty times. The other fifty are totally unbiased times).

I'm really hoping that by the time I have kids, this "just making it work like magic" thing will start working for me, because at this point, the only way I would react if my kids came up to me demanding to be M&Ms would be to start trying to persuade them that they really wanted to be ghosts with last year's old sheets instead. Right?

(Also, if anyone is curious - my goal from last week was to try to include art work with each post for the week. That failed miserably.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One of those days

It's been one of those days.

I went to start making my Halloween costume and had everything set up in the dining room and kitchen when I opened the pattern and saw that I had bought the wrong size.

So I went to JoAnns and exchanged the pattern easily enough. I decided to go to McDonalds for breakfast since I was out of the house anyhow.

The McDonalds near our house usually has a quick drive through. You'll notice my careful placement of the word "usually." From the time I got into the drive through line, which was only 3 cars deep to the ordering part, to the time I got my food, 20 minutes drifted by.

Once at home again, time passed as I set to cutting out the new, right sized pattern pieces, and then I went to pin them to the fabric. Despite pinning exactly as directed by the pattern, the pieces did not all fit. I checked the back of the pattern and saw that despite buying the fabric while looking at the pattern that was too big for me, I still managed to get a half yard of fabric less than I actually needed.

The upside, I guess, is that I found a way to make it work. It's just a costume, so it doesn't REALLY matter if I don't pay attention to the little lines on the pattern that show which way to orient the piece to the salvage of the fabric. Right?

More time passed as I alternated between watching Cheaters and the huge line of "Crashers" shows that HGTV shows. Bath Crashers, House Crashers, Yard Crashers and Room Crashers. The word "crashers" doesn't even look right anymore.

Crashers. It's one of those words that just doesn't look like its meaning. It's a combination of a Carafe and cashews. Or cashiers I guess. And don't even get me started on the word "blue." I mean, look at it. The "u" and the "e" just make this awful "oooouee" sound and the beginning is a "blaugh". Blue. No, that doesn't look right either.

Right then, apparently I am going insane.

The husband got home from work and was in a buildy-type mood, so it was decided we'd go to the Harbor Freight store to buy stuff for his work bench and maybe stop at Olive Garden. I let myself start to crave their breadsticks, which was a mistake because the Olive Garden was literally crawling with people. They spilled out onto the front area, chatting and waiting patiently for the up to an hour wait that the location currently had.

We decided to skip Olive Garden. I wanted to stop by the Beauty Supply shop to grab some squirt bottles for my grenadine and sweet sour mix, but we stopped by Harbor Freight first, which was another mistake. By the time we were done there, it was three minutes after seven and the Beauty Supply shop had closed (I had mistakenly assumed it was open until eight).

Disappointed and hungry, I was unable to make a dinner choice, but I knew cooking something was not the answer. Chipotle was suggested and then I made the mistake of noting that we should go to the one that we were near instead of the one near our house because that one tended to get really crowded.

It was my mistake because even though I got the same thing I always get at Chipotle, which I get specifically because they are the mildest options - even though I had these safeguards in place, when I bit into my burrito, it felt as though my lips had suddenly been flash burned. My esophagus was burning and my stomach was deciding whether to keep it down because it was food or to reject it, because it was less food and more internal flame.

Those who know me might know that I have a slight aversion to spice, and this is why. What tasted like a normal level of spice to my husband had me in tears in the middle of a Chipotle. Chipotle. That's another word that just doesn't look right. What is the matter with "ch" words? I might have to institute a ban on them for awhile.

Uh. Anyhow.

Husband took pity on me and brought me to get a sushi roll while I complained the entire time that my lips felt sunburned and I couldn't believe how much pain a pepper could impart and he should be more sympathetic to how painful it was, because it was really painful and was he even listening?

Thankfully, I can say that it was the best sushi roll I have had in quite some time.

(Let's ignore the fact that it's the first sushi roll I have had in quite some time).

So maybe it was one of those days, but now it's not. I'm just going to go to bed while I'm ahead here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Oh Sebring, You Keep My Days So Interesting..

So one of my biggest fears about the Sebring is that it is going to basically fall apart underneath me while I am driving. This is not a baseless accusation; there is precedent.

A bit over a year ago, the husband and I were traveling North by car (we travel with our pets and disdain planes) when all of the sudden, the Sebring made a clunking sort of noise, as if it had shifted into top gear just a little clumsily.

As my husband made his way to the side of the road somewhere just inside the Indiana border, I was dumbfounded and more than a little glad I was not the one driving.

"What happened?" I asked him, trying to peer over to the gauges on the dash for a light or some sort of indication of the problem. The tachometer was low. Way too low.

"The engine stopped," he said almost casually, keeping much calmer in the situation than I would have, had I been the driver.

I kid you not, I was so surprised that this is what I asked next: "Oh wow. Is the car going to stop moving now?"

"Well yeah." He was kind enough to answer without being too sarcastic, "The engine stopped. We're just coasting at this point."

I sat in silence then, marveling at the stupid things I manage to say, and watched traffic swerve around us as we pulled over to the side of I-65, on a bridge overpass.

The reason the engine stopped was that a piece of the drive shaft (or something, don't hold it against me if my car terms are wrong here) had rusted off in the engine and fallen down into the transmission. I am now going to attempt a comparison between two topics I know very little about - cars and the human body. Whatever that piece did, it was like getting food stuck in your windpipe. The body knows it needs air to keep going, but when it can't get any more, you die. Same with a car. The car knows it needs gas to keep going, but when something gets all stuck in its pipe, it dies.

Or something.

We ended up having to stay the night in the town and most of the next day waiting for the car to be fixed. The mechanics terrified us by stating it would be over a thousand dollars to drop the transmission but thankfully, they decided to try removing the piece without dropping it first and the bill was more manageable.

So yes, there is precedent. There is also the fact that a piece of the car rusted and fell off just yesterday.

I was leaving the parking lot at work, so ready to be home. As I went over one of the speed bumps - and it's fair to note, I am not a speeder over speed bumps. I slow down for speed bumps - there was a noise.

This noise could accurately be described as "what a piece of metal sounds like when it has been ripped loose from the bottom of your car due to the fact that it is mostly rust at this point."

I thought about panicking, but the car seemed to still be moving forward, so I pulled into the next avaliable parking spot and walked back to the scene of the carnage.

A little piece of metal, edges completely rusted, lay on the ground, as if accusing me of abandoning it. I hadn't the slightest clue what it was and the part of my brain that has a minor knowledge of cars decided that it was probably part of my muffler. Or maybe my transition. Or my exhaust. Exhaust and mufflers are two different things right?

I put the piece of metal on the back seat and then decided to try looking under the car. If you've never had a Sebring, you might not know that they basically are flat on the ground. I couldn't see anything.

Tentatively, I got back into the car and turned it on. It turned on, so I decided I would be safe to drive the few miles home. I was.

Later, it was revealed by my all-knowing husband that what had fallen off of the Sebring was part of a heat shield, I guess. So now my car is less protected against heat, which seems unfortunate. He assured me that it is not a vital part of the car, but I'm still feeling nervous.

It truly is only a matter of time before the Sebring gives up on life and deposits its engine on the ground while I'm trying to go up a hill.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

500 pageviews... /party hat

That's right people - I am officially wearing a party hat today. Last night someone was my 500th page view on this blog.

Oh, I know that page views are a fairly meaningless stat; if someone refreshed the page 500 times, I'd be at 1000. But, since I have no other stats to celebrate yet, I'm going with this.

Well, I do have a pair of followers but that's not really a number people celebrate at, unless it is a birthday. Otherwise, two of anything typically seems less celebratory and more functional, like a pair of socks or a pair of shoes, a pair of glasses or a pair of pants.

What the heck - I'll celebrate them too! With a pair of party hats!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Before World of Warcraft, There was Everquest

Believe it or not, I've actually been playing video games for more than three-fourths of my life at this point.

I've also been trying to convince myself I can learn how to draw for a good majority of that time.

The conflation of those two hobbies resulted in some comics from my younger years, based on mine and my sister's Everquest characters. I won't apologize for the artwork (check out the way I cleverly avoid drawing feet or hands!); I will only hope it will help you laugh at the ridiculous punchlines I set up. (Click through for full size!)

The original Mystrana was a clothie, just like the Mystrana today!


Sadly, the premise behind "Fighting Those Angry Dwarfs..." didn't inspire me beyond those two masterpieces. Luckily, thanks to the magic powers of scanning, they continue to be displayed for posterity.

I look back on these every so often and am always reminded of the little things in EQ that would never fly in the world of WoW - and that, honestly, I am glad don't.

For example, it's not that I just drew Mystrana with her spellbook because it was an interesting visual point to the plot of the comic but because looking at your spellbook was an actual thing you had to do in order to regen mana at a reasonable rate.

I know I've said this before, but I haven't gotten it down on my blog before, so here goes: I never even got to the highest level in EQ. I got to level 27. Between needing to group up to quest and level (as an Enchanter class, I literally had no way of soloing) and limited time through school and responsible parents that didn't let me stay up too late, I could never push past in to the magical 30's. Leveling was no joke, and a death meant experience lost.

I do not regret those days but do not think that I miss them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Writing about pets instead of ironing my shirt for work

Growing up, my dad had often said that any time an animal entered our household, their IQ points dropped a little. Sometimes a lot.

Of course, this isn't as fair when you take into consideration that some animals we got were born with brains the size of a peanut cluster, if that.

Throughout the years, my family accumulated pets, mostly fish when I was younger - after an exceptionally poor first start with a goldfish that I got from kindergarten (either my imagination is great, or kindergarten was a lot cooler when I went!) The poor goldfish didn't last through the night. In retrospect, carrying a fish home in its little baggie of water in my backpack probably was not the stress-free life a fish craves. I'm sorry. I was in kindergarten.

 After my dad educated us on the basics of fish care, all of us kids got our own goldfish. I'm happy to say my new goldfish lasted me for many years. Of course, as with all tiny pets, it eventually went belly up. I remember distinctly the day I looked into the tank to feed my fish and saw that it was kind of float-swimming, curled in nearly half. I don't think I stopped crying for at least a half hour.

My dad also kept a fish tank, and still does, with various tropical fish, but all I remember now are the tetras; they lived and keep living far beyond any other type of fish he had had.

Casey was our first puppy. I think I mentioned that a brief debate early in her life almost left her with the name "Tree." And if I didn't mention it before, I'm sure I'll mention it again. My youngest brother really wanted to call her tree, in part, I suspect, because she was brown.

We went on to have two more dogs, as you might recall.

Birds also became part of our household. The very first bird was a sparrow that had fallen out of its nest, which we later found out to be above one of the windows. Barely old enough to exist, we did the opposite of what you are supposed to do and took the bird in, made her a spot in a shoebox and looked up on the internet how to feed tiny baby birds.

In the feel good moment of the year, Cheep survived this harrowing intrusion on our part and became a trusted family pet. As in, trusted to fly around the house and only go bathroom on one set of curtains in the corner, anyhow. Cheep would fly onto my mom's shoulder. It's kind of like how little dogs think they are huge; Cheep probably thought she was some sort of massive parrot.

Cheep set the stage for other birds in the years to come. We had pretty parakeets and I got a lovebird from a friend. For a short period of time, I also had a dove. Out of all the birds, I have to say I loved the dove coos the best, but the parakeets were always the friendliest.

Did I mention we traveled with our pets?

Oh and hamsters. What started out as a Christmas and birthday present for my youngest sister soon turned into a veritable hamster stable when one of the two "females" turned out to have boy bits.

I think I might have mentioned them all. Oh. And the squirrels. My dad likes to feed the squirrels. They're not pets, exactly, but they do come onto our deck and chill.

I embodied this all in a Christmas present I gave my mom two years back:


So yes, that really was just a long winded story to show off "artwork" I did a few years ago. It might happen a few times more this week.

Now I gotta run and pick out a shirt that doesn't need ironing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Parking Issues


The picture doesn't really need a lot of explanation, but it looked so sad sitting in the post by itself and besides, not putting down words feels like a cop out to me anyhow. I thought briefly about putting in points for where my other family members park, but I couldn't make the picture big enough to show where my mom would park. My dad's "x" would be right next to the door because he always manages to score "rock star" parking.

Of course, a big part of my parking spot choice these days is based off of the slight inclines that parking lots have - inclines I never noticed until I started driving a manual car and now notice when I roll forward instead of going back despite being in reverse. So I pick spots that are either angled up for easy backing out or spots that are in the middle of nowhere so at least I won't hit any other cars while I ease my car out of the spot with all the grace of a slightly drunk duck.

Overall, parking far away is a sneaky way for me to force myself to walk some during at least two points of the day. It works great until it rains - I still have yet to transport my umbrella from by the door of my house to the car. I'm starting to think I will never remember, seeing as I went out in the rain this morning and forgot my umbrella.

I mean, it wasn't pouring I guess.

But still.

I can't think of a good ending to this, so happy Monday everyone. Woo.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inspirational Moments

My grandpa ran the Chicago marathon today. He is 68 and it was his first marathon. I can't even contemplate running around the block I live on. To be fair, it's a really, really big block, but even so, it's only just over a mile and a half around.

Presumably, as I am his granddaughter, I should have some of whatever ability it takes to train for and run a marathon, but I am unsure as to how to tap into that. As I have sort of chronicled this week, I have a competitive spirit of sorts but it tends to be more in the moment rather than sustained training for a later pay off.

I also have documented evidence that I tend to shy away from challenges I don't think I can overcome - a good example of that would be that I chose to go to college for an English degree because the thought of going for Biology or Nursing seemed too overwhelming.

In any case, the Chicago Marathon website had a runner tracker page, where I could see throughout the day how my grandpa was doing. It was mind boggling to do so because every time I looked at the updated page, I thought about how much time had passed and how my grandpa had been running every minute of that time. While I was sitting at my computer or making breakfast or grocery shopping - he was running. And running consistent nine minute miles for a sizable portion of the race!

I wish I could say that this caused a movie-like, life-changing epiphany for me about how any thing is possible to accomplish with dedication, but it didn't.

It did, however, cause me to remind myself that what I think I am capable of might be holding me back. I need to be ok with aiming higher and reminding myself that it isn't a straight fall down if I fail, that I have friends and family for support and it's not just me.

That being said, I have made a secret goal for this second week of October. But I can't bring myself to share it just in case I fail.

What?

I'll get there!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Posters

This marks my eight post for the month of October and I have to say I'm already faltering (because I can hardly count yesterday!) Part of the issue is just that I don't realize how busy my days are until it's 8 in the evening and I'm wondering where every other hour in the day went until now.

My husband and I recently hung up some pictures in our dining room area in a somewhat decorative manner. You see, the previous owners of our house had basically left up all the nails and hooks from their decorative things and we had just sort of been putting things up in those spots, which had led to several of the walls looking quite awkward, so I was determined to act like we were grown ups who decorated properly and rehang our pictures.

Of course, this didn't address the fact that the things we are hanging up include a picture of a dragon from George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, a drawing a wonderful friend gave me of me playing DDR and a painting my husband did in high school of skeletons on a battlefield - things that we love but are decidedly not in the "grown up" category of art.

In any case, we got those hung up in a decorative way, but this left a huge section of wall undressed. We decided the space is perfect for two posters. However, I didn't want to move any of the posters we already have; since I spend a lot of time in my computer room, I want to have my favorite posters there and not in the dining room where I can only look at them a few times a day. So we are going to buy posters.

Now, I remember back in the day that I had gotten posters from Spencer's - you know, that store in the mall with all sorts of drug-referencing clothing and items and tons of joke gifts? Two of my favorite fairy posters were from that store and they're hanging up on the wall right next to my computer. I don't know whether it was the particular store or what, but I guess Spencer's has gone to drug reference only posters. I was kind of disappointed.

So for now we are making do with a huge poster-less space on our wall in the dining room. It's not so bad since, as mentioned, I'm only in there a few times a day. But it still makes me a little sad. I will be happy when we find something to put up there!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Running off of a confidence high... not really sure why!

Welcome to speed blogging. What is that you ask? I respond by saying it is when I write down something in the five minutes before the oven goes off, signaling that the freshly baking cookies are now ready to take out and eat. If speed blogging is something other than that, I don't know because there isn't even time to google it and find out.

I just spent about a minute there trying to think about what to write about. And now the oven's going off. But this totally counts as a blog post and who knows, maybe later I'll have time to make something better.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Geeky things just sort of happen to me

Sigh.

I had hoped so much that I had a better picture of this cake.

But I've searched through my picture archives and apparently I didn't think to start taking pictures until AFTER the cake was being cut.

Now, the story goes like this. During my college days, I worked for the bakeshop at the local Jewel. I didn't get to decorate cakes - I was more the person who baked the cookies and bread and pies and stuff and put them out on the shelves. I also got to frost brownies and cupcakes.

I did decorate a thing or two here and there. One of my first decorations was a dragon to celebrate, I don't know, a birthday or something. In any case, I think I drew Onyxia, but I can't say for certain. Also, I don't have a picture of that to back up any claims, so we'll move right along.

My brother Benny graduated from high school one year, as these things happen in the ever forward march of time. He was kind enough to ask me to decorate his cake instead of having an actual professional do it. I asked him what his specifications were, and he wrote me a list. And then I created this:

Just, uh... just take it all in.
In case you couldn't guess, the high school colors are blue and orange. The little dent in the top of the cake is from where there had been a paper diploma.

And yes, it does say Merry Graduation.

And yes, you do win geek points if you guess what year my brother graduated. The knife might have messed the number up slightly, but all of them are showing.

My favorite moment of the night was when not one - not two - but three of his friends whipped out their pocket calculators to check and make sure I got the number right. I mean, they just whipped out those calculators like it wasn't even odd to bring your calculator to a party.

That gets a thumbs up from me.

Just, uh - don't take in the messy bookcase behind me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gym Class

Continuing the competitive theme that I've been working to weave into my narrative this week, I figured I'd share some insightful tidbits from my high school gym classes.

I used to pride myself on being the fastest runner in my class, as long as you excluded anyone who was on a sports team, and especially anyone on the track team.

I was the girl who insisted on playing football and field hockey with the guy's team. (What, you never had a sexist gym teacher that insisted on separating the boys and the girls? I loved it because girls typically stand around in gym class trying to avoid mussing their hair). Oh, I wasn't good at sports, but it was much more fun with the guys. I might have cheated somewhat though. Being that I've always been a twig of a human being, I suspect the guys might have gone easy on me and avoided the body checks that hockey can lend itself to when you're fighting for control of the puck.

During one unit of swimming class, I had a gym teacher who insisted that every person start the class by jumping off the diving board. You might not know this, but I don't swim - or float - very well. Luckily, after a quick conversation with the teacher, I got to the root of this rule - he didn't want students trying to keep their hair dry all period - and I made a compromise whereby I would go to the shallow end of the pool and dunk my head under the water while everyone else showed off their amazing ability to float on the scary end of the pool.

My high school designated Tuesdays and Thursdays as cardio days. That meant that instead of having normal gym class, there were a bunch of different activities you could do for the period, such as running around the track, basketball, tennis when the weather was nice, rock climbing - really whatever sports they felt like setting up for that day. The basic premise was based on how many laps you ran during the official 12 minute run at the start of the semester - if you ran enough laps, you didn't have to do the cardio activity and could do another sport. If you didn't run enough laps, Tuesdays and Thursdays sucked.

I enjoyed running alright, even though I wasn't great at it, but through a series of events that, to be honest, I can't even remember how they got started, my friends and I campaigned to have DDR added as a cardio day event. The gym teacher coordinator even looked into getting some actual machines, but as you might guess, those were out for budgetary reasons. So he got some of the hard mats you can buy online and set up a time for a demonstration. Because I have such amazing DDR skillz, I got taken out of my 5th period class to go down to the gym and demonstrate DDR for faculty from both my school and others in the district.

It didn't make me nervous. This is what spending my weekends in the arcade had prepared me for - showing off for large groups of people who think I'm doing something awesome but don't actually know that there are so many people who are so much better than me.

But I enjoyed every moment of it. It was one of those rare times when I got  to show off a "skill" I had worked so hard on in a situation that I never thought would occur. I kept grinning like a happy maniac the entire time. Just relating that story puts a smile on my face - and a twitch into my feet.

Well, now I want to dance!

Just kidding. DDR is not dancing. But I'd still like to play a round.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back to being unconfident

It's only taken me about two months, but I'm already feeling as though everything I type has been typed before somewhere else. So what the heck? I'm going to rehash a topic I've already talked about myself!

You might remember me talking about my undying need to prove myself via arbitrary rewards and I thought of another story in that same vein.

Maybe a few stories. Anyhow, I think this need is part of a larger picture - a blend of stubbornness and a ridiculous competitive streak.

For example, when I was in physics in high school, I had a pretty awesome teacher for half the year. This teacher balanced delicately between nerd and punk. Maybe mostly nerd and unintentional punk would be a better description. Regardless, his class was fun to go to and the experiments he had us do were always something amusing.

One day - I think it was around November because I was wearing this vivid pink sweater - I walked into the classroom for some first period physics and saw something that made my morning. There, in front of the lab section of the room was a large bed of nails on top of one of the lab tables. Without knowing it, my new goal in life (ok, for the morning anyhow) was to get to lie down on this uninviting surface.

It's like a TempurPedic except the exact opposite.

The chance came near the end of class. After a lecture that probably had something to do with why the nails wouldn't stab you if you were careful, the teacher called for any volunteers to give it a try.

I won't lie; my hand was in the air before he got his sentence out. No one else put their hand up. Some of the girls even looked apprehensive about the whole event.

"Danielle," my teacher said, looking at me - and my bright pink fluffy sweater, "I'd be afraid that your sweater would get caught."

My sweater was the least of my worries and I was very thankful that I had worn a t-shirt underneath because as he finished speaking, I called out, "No, I still want to try." I pulled off my sweater, ignored the way it messed up my ponytail and practically stood out of my seat. "Let me try!"

I knew that once someone went, more people would start volunteering and some part of my brain told me that if I didn't go first, other people might think that I was a copy cat.

The actual experience of lying down on a bed of nails is nothing very exciting. For boring reasons, there is not much chance of hurting yourself unless you sit up too fast or roll on your side or press your hand against a nail. It was almost like a bit of a massage.

It was awesome.

As predicted, many more people raised their hand and wanted to try it and I felt proud of myself for leading the way.

And now, looking back at it, I see the ridiculousness of it all.

But that didn't stop me several years ago when, in high school (of course) biology class, our project was breeding fruit flies with specific traits. If you've ever bred fruit flies or had fruit flies in class for whatever reason, you'll remember that they are typically kept in tubes with an oatmeal based food product (usually dyed a fantastic blue to provide a color contrast against which to easily view the flying bugs).

Pictured: Food-like substance. Kind of.


One day, after introducing new flies from one tube to new flies from another tube, we each had a fruit fly tube full of dead flies and fly food to clean out. The guys at the lab table behind me were daring one another to try the food.

"I'll give you twenty bucks," one said.

The other shook his head. "No way."

"I'll throw in five," said another.

This seemed to bring the pot to a number more suited to the one guy eating stale fly food and spurred my ridiculous competitive nature.

I turned to them and said, "Hey. Why waste your money on him? I'll do it for 10 bucks."

They looked at me like I was crazy and my lab partner looked at me like I was crazy. I shrugged. Ten dollars is ten dollars, I figured.

Sadly, the guys did not take me up on my offer. As far as I know, they did not end up paying the other guy to eat any either and this satisfied me; I felt as though I had accomplished a grand task.

Again, looking back, I'm not sure what the hell was (...is) wrong with me.