Thursday, September 29, 2011

Check it out!

My bamboo plant has started to sprout! Look beneath the middle gold twist tie and you'll see the tiny new sprout:

You might be saying, well, that's pretty neat and all but also, isn't it what plants do? They live, given food and sunlight?

And that's where, personally, I am so amazed. Because yeah, I've been watering this plant and talking to it, on occasion, but it has never gotten actual sunlight. From my time when I worked at the end of a hallway to my new job now, this plant gets only fluorescent office lighting. And I just think it's pretty awesome that this plant is taking that light, which makes me feel dull and groggy, and it's using it to sustain life. And to grow a new shoot! Oh man, there's gonna be pandas up in here soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dear weather, please l2play. Thanks.

First things first. Is l2play still a thing? I'm a little afraid it's no longer a thing and that the reference is horrendously outdated in this age of constantly updating technical terminology.

Second - I don't get what the deal is with weather here in the "wonderful" panhandle of Florida. See, where I came from in Illinois, the weather might have been colder, yes, but it played by the rules. And the rules say that the warmest point of the day should be around noon and then it can cool off so that by the evening time, a walk with the puppies would be a relaxing jaunt around the block.

But that's not the rule book Florida weather plays from. Oh no. At my lunch hour today, which starts at one, it was about 89 degrees Fahrenheit (uh, let's see... 31 Celsius for my Canadian friends). Fair enough, it was basically noon and the sun was shining. I went on with my afternoon.

Come five in the afternoon and checked the weather to see if it had cooled down some. It had not. In fact, it had gone up four degrees and there was a stupid "feels like 98" taunting me below the "93". This is not how it works, weather. I shouldn't be more comfortable outside during the middle of the day than in the evening.

I decided I should have a picture for this post since my last post was picture-less despite the multitudes of cute animals mentioned.


The above picture suggests one possibility: the sun is a three year old being told to go to sleep.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A little story called "dogs are just better than cats"

I get it. Cats are self-reliant, independent and don't need much care beyond a place to go and some food. But me, personally, I like dogs. I like knowing that when I get home, my puppies are going to go to crazy level 9 (refer to the end of this article for the chart) because they're just that happy to see me.

Ok, ok. They're happy to know that they get to go for a walk and have food. But the important part is that they direct this happiness at me.

So take last night. My husband, sister in law, and I went down to their parent's house for dinner. My in-laws have an adorable calico cat, an outdoor car that loves to roam their 10 acres of land. This cat seems to like me alright and I always make it a point to go outside when I visit to give her some pets.

But it's not that easy.

Last night, like most nights, the cat came near the house when she heard the car. She always keeps a large distance from moving cars which I am always thankful for. I headed around back and then the dance began. First, I can't look at her. If I look at her, she will look back with a sort of terrified yet proud look and she won't come any closer than five feet.

If I make any movements, she'll dart away a few feet and then slowly come back in. I assure you, I have never hit or hurt her in any way to make this a reasonable behavior.

So as long as I sit in the grass avoiding ant bites for a good five minutes, she'll come up to me close enough that I could pet her at this point. But no, I need to wait until she's sniffed my legs and then she'll brush up against me and then - only then - can I pet her.

Oh, then she started purring like this was the highlight of her evening and I couldn't help but get a smile on my face as I picked her up and she nestled up against me with her eyes half closed and happy.

And I guess it's normal for cats to drool when they're being pet? And that this does mean they're happy? Because that happens. She keeps it real.

In any case, keep in mind that I have been trying to win the love of this cat for over two years now, and it still takes me that long to get her to let me pet her - even though she clearly enjoys the attention once she gets it.

So to contrast this, Sunday night was the first time that I had gone over to my husband's cousin's grandma's house. As it turns out, she has four dogs. And the moment I stepped into the house with my husband and sister in law, half of those dogs, a Pomeranian and a curly gray mop of a dog breed I don't know, came over, happy to see newcomers.

The third dog, a Labrador Retriever mix who turned out to be 14 years old (according to what I was told), was slightly more sedate, but leaned her head over from her spot by the counter so that I could give her nose a pet. Her tail wagged back and forth slowly but steady and I could have sworn she had a smile.

The fourth dog was also interested in us, but significantly more nervous. Apparently a shih tzu/ yorkshire terrier blend, this tiny pup looked like she might have weighed two pounds, if that. She would come close enough to sniff at our feet when she thought we weren't looking, but would run under the couch if we tried to pet her.

Basically, what I'm saying is I don't know why cats have to act like 2-lb tiny puppies meeting me for the first time. I just don't care for that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Astrological musings

I'll start off with the standard disclaimer - I don't really follow my horoscope; I just think that astrology is an amusing, harmless form of entertainment. And sure, I might believe that my sign describes me perfectly, but that's just because each sign uses such broad descriptions that I could see myself in any sign if I tried! Probably.

But, the truth is, I'm pretty satisfied with my zodiac destination. Being born in the month of August, I am the fiery Leo. And sure, most of my supposed traits are forms of "stubborn" and "vain" but most astrological guides use much more flattering terms like "proud" and "self-assured" and "likes to be the center of attention." (That last one is a good one, right?)

Plus, it gets better. I know, you're thinking - how? I see you sitting there, half forcing yourself to keep reading this sentence, hoping that perhaps something good will come out of it - and be assured, something will. Not only am I a Leo, but by the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the dragon. That's right. I am a LionDragon.

When I roar, things get set on fire.

So yeah, maybe I haven't checked my horoscope since the last time I picked up a hard copy newspaper (uh, let's see? 2006?), but I am pretty thrilled with the timing of my birth.

You all might remember that there was a big to-do earlier this year about how the zodiac signs as we know them were supposedly off by as much as a month. The theory was that when the ancient  Babylonians mapped out the zodiac some three thousand years ago, the Earth was tilted on its axis at a specific angle that has actually changed over time.

I read the articles and began to wonder. What if I was wrong? What if I wasn't a Leo? I tried to tell myself that since it really didn't matter to me to begin with, why would it matter now? In fact, it made a lot of sense that I was a Cancer! I started writing a list.

There was my love for water! (I can't swim).
There was the fact that I hated change! (I moved from IL to FL).
Sometimes I could be intensely moody! (But usually only at a certain time during the month).

I stared at the list and could feel it staring up at me with beady little crab eyes, willing me to accept this change.

But I just couldn't.

Because I knew that it just couldn't work out. Because you know what happens when you get a dragon and a crab together?

Crab cakes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is it just me?

An issue that has plagued me as long as I've been using public restrooms is the use of too-short stall partitions. I understand that this is somewhat a consequence of being tallish and also being female (I suspect any guy would love to tell me about how much privacy you get at a urinal) but despite these limitations, I am still going to go forward with my complaint.

Why, bathroom stalls? Why is it (presumably) so expensive to install stall partitions that go up higher than me? Do you know how awkward it is to stand up and realize that if I had been looking anywhere but straight, I would be looking into the stall next to me? It's bad enough to know that anyone else in the restroom can now see my head floating above the stall door because the mirror is almost guaranteed to be in front of all these stalls! (I guess on the plus[?] side, I could fix my hair from the stall without taking up any space at the counter.)

Pictured: Awkwardness.

 In conclusion, if I become Miss America, I vow to replace all shorter stall doors with taller stall doors. And then world peace. Whatever.

Also, in the same vein, changing rooms that have this same problem. Not cool.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Feeling sleepy?

I'm working on some pictures for the backlog of ideas I have in my brain and then realized I wouldn't have any one story ready for tonight. Then I remembered that some time back, I wrote an article using's topic page form. They never featured it so I didn't make any money off of it, but it's still there in a readable form.

So if you need something to read to put you to sleep, check out my topic on sleep. (Supposedly 12,000 people have viewed this topic page but I suspect that it is just from the time I accidentally got my mouse stuck on the refresh button.)

Oh, and for extra fun, here is a graphic I made for that page but didn't include:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Active voice vs. passive voice... a story few will appreciate

When confronted with boredom, I typically choose to combat this by reading anything nearby. Usually the internet is my reading material of choice. Sometimes, though, I have to get creative. The other day, looking for something to do and having no current access to the internet, I came across a correspondence manual from an old job.

It looked like it was several years old and the inside cover confirmed that this was written in 2005. I shrugged and sat down to see what sort of advice and ancient wisdom the tome would impart. The first few chapters were based on general writing technique, such as when to use a period or comma. And did you know that one exclamation point is always sufficient? (emphasis included from the book). I couldn't believe it!!

But then I looked back at my previous sentence and found that the second exclamation does look a little awkward and out of place, like she showed up to a party wearing the same exact dress as the other exclamation point. I felt bad for inflicting that sort of punishment on an innocent punctuation mark and vowed to never again misuse my punctuation.

I skimmed over the next section, which was a list of often misspelled words followed by a list of often misused words.

Then, I got to the part that involved actually writing letters. First there was a lot of information on how to write a clear and concise letter - stick to short sentences and if the letter goes over a page long, check to make sure you are not adding unimportant details.

Then I got to the part that made me laugh.

The manual discussed using the active voice over the passive voice. I'll attempt to describe this briefly so even those who don't give a whit about the English language can perhaps find the amusement as well.

The active voice arranges items in a sentence to let you know who is doing what. Such as, "I wrote the most amazing blog post ever about the passive voice." In that sentence, I wrote something.

The passive voice would turn that shit around and emphasize the what over the who. Such as, "The most amazing blog post ever about the passive voice was written today." You still get to know what happened, but you don't really know who did it.

The correspondence manual correctly noted that the active voice is superior because it lends itself to shorter, clearer sentences. It also correctly noted that the passive voice avoids assigning responsibility and therefore should be avoided.

This was followed by a few short examples of when the passive voice is acceptable.

And I kid you not, the first example was "Use the passive voice when it is best to avoid naming names," followed by the example sentence "A mistake was made during your recent audit procedure." ("by our company," being the unspoken ending of the sentence.)

I laughed.

And then I worried that I am kind of lame for finding that to be hilarious, so I quickly recounted this story to my husband, who looked at me blankly as I giggled madly at my "punchline."

And then I wrote this up and worried for a bit that everyone else is reading this with the same blank stare and slight confusion and then I posted it anyway because it still makes me laugh.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

More About Allergies

When my head gets all stuffed up from allergies, I liken the experience to moving through jell-o. Sadly, as you might guess, I have never actually walked through jell-o so I couldn't say if this is truly the experience I think I'm experiencing. For all I know, walking through jell-o would leave me dead in several minutes from suffocation.

I started using this expression when I was visiting cousins up in the UP. (Yes, I was sick constantly up there for several years. Now it's better because I've built up a super immunity to those northern bugs). I had a rather high fever and my head was really stuffy. Every effort seemed to take a little bit longer to accomplish.

I would think, "Let me walk over to that chair and pick up a comic book," and then my brain would rely that message to the rest of my body at a speed that can be compared to rush hour traffic. Slowly my limbs would understand my intentions and start creaking forward in a movement somewhat comparable to walking.

My body just felt so heavy and useless that by the time I had moved forward the six steps to the comic book, I felt dizzy and confused. I sat down next to the chair since the effort to raise myself slight to sit on the chair seemed to be an insurmountable ordeal and flipped the pages of the comic.

My mom, who was taking good care of me, came back with some water and ibuprofen for the fever and asked me why I had sat on the floor. I looked at her and told her that I felt like I was walking through jell-o. She laughed and helped me to the couch to lie down for a bit.

As with the majority of cold and flu bugs I've had over the years, I felt much better after some rest and once I got up, it was as if someone had thinned out the jell-o barrier around me.

I think they replaced it with cotton candy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Allergies have never had that much of an effect on me, which is great since I can't take Pseudoephedrine without my heart racing as though there was a prize available for spontaneous explosion. However, coming to Florida has slightly altered that.

Behold the face of evil.

Now every so often, I've had to deal with some sort of nasal deficiency. My household kleenex bill has nearly tripled, to be honest. On the one hand, I appreciate that allergies lend themselves to clear mucus as opposed to the really nasty bits that accompany a cold. On the other hand, I'd just prefer for my nose to stick to its main function of air flow and filtration.

Currently, this round of allergies is manifesting with this wonderful sensation where every so often, it feels like I got punched in the eye. My body is kind enough to switch between my eyes so neither feels left out in any way.

This leads quite naturally into my other random health complaint. I recently learned that I suck at blinking.

See, I've worn glasses since I was in elementary school, so when I reached my teenage years, I was all over the chance to wear contacts and not wear glasses. But no matter what kind of contact I tried, I had trouble wearing them for more than 8 hours without feeling like I was losing a few layers of eye-skin when I removed them later. Let me assure you, this was not ideal.

Quickly I went back to full time glasses with contacts set aside for cosplaying at conventions and then a few years later, I took the final step of just taking my glasses off when people asked for my picture at a convention.

And also just cosplaying people who wore glasses, like Quistis from Final Fantasy 8

But even wearing glasses, I was always aware of how dry my eyes felt during the day. Oh, I'd use the occasional eye drop, but the fear of never producing my own tears again kept me from using them more than once a month, which was great for that one day but kind of sucked for the others.

I was reading an article online about how people who sit at a computer all day blink less and it was one of those horribly cheesy "aha!" moments. I kid you not - I sat there for a minute and then out of curiosity, closed my eyes slowly and opened them in what one might refer to as a blinking motion. Then I did it again.

I blinked a third time and held my eyes closed for a few seconds, marveling at the tears that came rushing forward to do their job in moistening my eyes. Actually, it kind of hurt because my eyes were so dry. So then more tears came and I felt my face starting to turn red as it does the moment I even think about crying. I opened my eyes.

Now that I'm aware of the cause of my dry eyes, I'm thinking about trying contacts again. But I'll be honest. Despite my best efforts to learn to blink more, I don't think I'm making much progress. And during allergy season? Forget it. My body doesn't feel like it has any more moisture to spare, thanks to my selfish nose hoarding it all for mucus.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winter is coming

Frost makes everything beautiful. And cold.
I'm just going to throw out that reference and see what sticks.

Recently, the husband and I were up north visiting my family. During our extended weekend trip, a cold front moved in at the end, dropping early September temperatures from the previous heat wave of 96 degrees down to barely 60 degrees.

That Monday morning, when we went to walk the dogs, I was struck by the icy smell in the air. There's something about the air up there - and especially further up north, like in Michigan - that just smells different from where I live now in Florida.

I know you're probably thinking something along the lines of "Dani - that's crazy. Cold air smells cold where ever it gets cold."

Except it really doesn't. I've noticed that in places were it can snow, the cold air can come with the smell of ice.

And that morning, the smell reminded me of winters spent in the upper peninsula of Michigan with my family. Basically the majority of my mother's side of the family lives up there; it was were I was born and subsequently where I decided I would never go to college (sorry mom! sorry dad!). When I was fairly young, like kindergarten young, we moved down to IL, but continued to visit the UP as often as possible.

I remember two things about the UP during my childhood. The snow, and throwing up a lot.

We'll talk about the snow today. As a kid, snow is pretty awesome. Snow means that there's a chance school might be canceled and that sledding is a definite possibility in the near to now future. It means that, yes, there might be a request to shovel the driveway but afterward there will be snowmen and snow forts and snow whatever-you-can-imagine.

And in the UP, where, if you are familiar with the definition of "peninsula," it is surrounded on three sides by water. It never quite gets as bone chillingly cold as, say, Minnesota, but the trade off is snow. Tons and tons and tons of snow. Like, snow drifts three times my height when I was a kid - and I was a pretty tall kid.

I remember at my grandparent's house in Painsedale, their backyard would turn into the world's best sledding hill. After not so patiently waiting for my mom to equip us with our winter gear - snow pants, jacket, mittens, scarf, hat, heavy socks and boots - my siblings and I would grab black trashbags to use as sleds and gleefully scramble up the snow pile to slide down.

For people who've never grown up with snow (my husband), this seems crazy to him. And I understand that - if you haven't experienced snow as a child, it's pretty hard to come to like it. When you're young, snow is just fun. Also, I suspect that the part of your brain that feels extreme temperatures isn't completely developed yet because snow never seemed so cold when I was five.

As an adult, nay - the moment you learn to drive and then suddenly are slipping and sliding your way to your part time after school job - snow loses a lot of its fun potential.

As an adult, snow is one more obstacle to deal with on your way to the grocery store and one more way for you to trip on what would otherwise be a perfectly flat surface. It might be a snow day for the kids but your job won't feel the same way. And even having an office with windows (a dream of many a child, I'm sure) won't save you. Sure, you might think it looks pretty as it falls, but then you'll glance down at the parking lot and be reminded that your commute just got a 15 minute "removing snow and ice" addition.

Still, for those brief moments as I reminisced, walking the dogs down the sidewalk, I thought about a story that my mom told me when I was younger, about how once when she was in high school, she came home from school after basketball practice one night and there - on the top of the snow pile tall enough to almost touch the power lines - was a wolf, just staring out into the distance behind the house.

The wind picked up, and I bowed my head against it as we finished our walk.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The first time I tried sushi

 My dad had been introduced to Yohan's by his coworkers. The place was the biggest Japanese marketplace in the greater Chicago area and had a large food court with several restaurants as well as packaged sushi to go. Perhaps he had brought home California rolls first for us to try but as far as my memory is concerned, the first piece I ever remember was octopus.

The thing about octopus sushi is that octopus, in my humble opinion, is not meant to be eaten. The piece consisted of a small bit of octopus tentacle wrapped on rice with some seaweed.

They will.

Unlike most fish sushi, octopus is very tough. It's not just a chew a few times and swallow. It's more chew until you're bored and then hope that it won't stick in your throat on the way down. I don't know how else to explain it - it's just not good.

The second piece I remember wasn't technically sushi. It was one of those bundles of large fish eggs. My dad popped one in his mouth and asked if any of us wanted to try one. They looked terrifying. About the size of a fingernail, round, orange and semi-transparent, the eggs looked very much like a tiny fish could be living inside.

Also true.

I have since come to love the tiny masago on and in my sushi rolls, but have never, to date, tried one of the larger ones. I remain terrified of the size of the "pop" that might accompany it.

From these humble beginnings, I have somehow cultivated a love for sushi.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Somewhere around this time last year, one of my friends suggested I do NaNoWriMo with her in November. After she explained the basics (write a 50k word novel during the month of November), she mentioned she had been trying to get people to do it with her for years. I said it sounded like fun and set my fingers to my keyboard.

50,000 words and a month later, I was shocked to see the number of people who "won" compared to the those who signed up and tried. Out of 200,000 sign ups, around 30,000 got to the word limit. I had never thought that I would do anything less than what I needed to do to win and had therefore assumed everyone else thought the same way I did. Plus my friend had won it every year she did it, so I just thought that was how it worked.

Now, please don't think I'm bragging. I was excited to write, but the novel I wrote was so awful that I haven't even let my mom read it. The plot never came together how I had wanted and my characters felt static, boring and flat.

No, this definitely isn't bragging. This is just a way to highlight one of my greatest flaws - the crippling single mindedness with which I will pursue a task provided there is some sort of arbitrary yet widely recognized reward to doing such task.

For example, WoW's achievement system has convinced me to fish up over 13,000 virtual "fish and other things."

So when I was writing to win NaNo, it was easy. The story unfolded before my eyes and I did my best to quickly write down everything that I saw happening. I eagerly sat down each day and wrote. I even did some minor revisions as I reread what I had gotten done.

Then I hit that 50k word mark and that was it. Even though my "novel" was far from done, even though I had made rudimentary plans to review and revise it into something more readable, there was just no more motivation. The story that had previously played in my mind like a movie hit a break in the reel and it was gone.

I need to find a way to harness this flaw of mine and use that sort of time and effort for good.

Also, I'll be doing NaNo again this year and would love to see others go for it as well!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blogging on the cell phone!

no internet due to a tree branch knocking down our power lines and cable line. blogging from my phone...not very efficient. hopefully the cable guys will be out on friday because for some reason i can not get my phone to capitalize or use punctuation besides a period. oy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ok puppies, seriously.

We're visiting with my parents this weekend and we brought the puppies up. My parents have a small dog as well and the last few times we've visited, the dogs have always gotten along well. But this? What's happening right now? It is not working out.

For unknown reasons, the dogs have not been able to get along today or calm down. Despite spending the last 3 days together in reasonable agreeableness, they refuse to relax. First, Sophie will jump onto the back of the couch and look out the window and growl at any people who happen to be walking by. This will set off Gucci, who will start to bark in return. This then gets Sherlock going and he starts to bark.

They'll calm down for a minute or two, but Gucci is now in constant bark mode. If she hears my brother shift in his chair downstairs, she'll bark quietly and then that sets off the same sort of cycle.

They'll quiet down again for a few minutes. The TV will go to a commercial break and then play any of the multitude of commercials that have a doorbell ringing in them. Despite the fact that my parent's house does not have a doorbell, the dogs will start to freak the flip out. Seriously puppies! There is no doorbell. Nobody is at our house. Why must they do this?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

I attempted to have my puppies watch the Labor Day parade with me. The parade goes directly by my parents house, so each year we enjoy the free entertainment in the forms of garish floats and various chapters of Shriners on their tiny vehicles. Parades are always great for the over abundance of tootsie rolls and political stickers for people that I won't vote for.

But my mom figured that the puppies wouldn't be happy sitting inside during the parade. I went outside at the beginning of the parade with my younger sister and over the noise of the police cars at the beginning of the parade, I heard Sophie barking from inside the window. I looked back at her. She had apparently climbed up the back of the couch and then jumped into the open windowsill. The screen window was all that kept her from a two story fall.

I quickly went back inside and retrieved the small pomeranian from the window, leashed her up and brought her out to watch the parade with me.

Outside, Sophie stayed relatively quiet. She glanced at the marching band and the cheerleaders from the local high school. But there was a woman with a german shepard next to us and when Sophie realized this, she started to freak out and growl and attempt to get closer to the bigger dog.

Thankfully, this crisis was resolved by one group from the parade that was handing out dog treats. The dog treats were a regular size for a regular dog but that meant they were about the size of Sophie's head. Still, I was able to break off a small piece to give to her. This distracted her long enough to forget about the dog near her. Whenever she started to act up for the remainder of the parade, I pulled out the treat and let her gnaw at it until she calmed down.

I think that she probably spilled more treat on the blanket than she ate, but given that, again, they were the size of her head, that was most likely for the best.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


People are always talking about how cool it would be if their life were a musical. (Well, cool people are about it anyhow). But when we talk of a world with people who randomly burst into choreographed song and dance, what really are we discussing?

We're talking about how people can be this coordinated. Because how would that happen? It sounds like communism to me. Or perhaps a brain implant? Is every musical a documentary of an alternative world in which aliens spontaneously decide to take control of a group of people for a few minutes at a time and beam song and dance into their brains? (And presumably this is preferred over the probing?)

Just wondering. Enjoy a picture of a squirrel eating a peanut: