Sunday, December 31, 2006

Poor Little Roadrunner Never Bothers Anyone

I had my most painful night in a long time last night, maybe not the worst since my gall bladder came out five years ago but certainly in the running as my worst intestinal pain in a few years. Tonight I'm better, as long as I don't, you know, go near a bathroom. We'll see how it goes.

Once I got past the worst of it around 4 AM, I slept in until a friend called (word to the wise, people; don't call me weekend mornings except in dire emergencies), and somehow managed to get to sleep again for a few more hours after that. When I did get up, one of my tasks was to drop John off at a place that was looking at his Alero, which had failed emissions because of a software glitch(!) in its onboard computer (OBC). When John discovered how long I've neglected getting the oil changed in my Eagle Vision, he insisted that I rectify that today. So I did.

The place I usually go predicted a 40-minute wait, so I took the car to another location further east. They predicted a 30-minute wait, and there were no unoccupied chairs in their waiting room. So I took a walk while I waited, and promptly saw this:

That,my friends, is a roadrunner, actually in the road for once, checking out a car as its driver waited for the traffic light to turn green. I doubt the driver ever saw the roadrunner.

I followed the bird across the street, down the block and into a parking lot, where it came upon something to eat. I thought at first it was french fries, but when I actually saw the remains up close it looked more like salad. The backdrop was magnificent, but I couldn't manage a closeup of the roadrunner and a good view of the mountains in the same shot. I also suddenly had severe trouble with my camera as I took shot after shot. The camera dutifully focused and set the exposure, and then produced images so thoroughly overexposed I thought for a while that they weren't pictures of the world outside the camera at all. But they were. I finally got it working again by turning it off and on, but I missed some great shots of the roadrunner when he ignored me about ten feet away. Got to replace the camera!

This is a cropped image to get him big enough to actually see. Cute fellow. Big for a bird, but reasonably sized for a roadrunner.

Tonight I got involved in a bunch of L'Engle-related stuff on Wikipedia. So now it's late-late-late again, and I still have to wash dishes and my hair (not at the same time). Good night!


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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow, at a Distance

After a rather pleasant evening (we had dinner at Mamma Louisa's, and later I found a great Peanuts FAQ), this past half hour or so I've been in significant pain over the constipation and cramping I've had since Christmas night. So I'm going to show you some pictures from today, make a quick surmise about snow in Tucson, and get out of my cold office into a warm tub (and, not to put too fine a point on it, the bathroom generally).

This was the scene this morning when I arrived at the main parking lot at work. Every bit of the Catalina Mountains was white or almost white: white with snow, and white with clouds. There was so much glare from all that whiteness that I've had to darken this photo considerably so that you can see anything.

Another shot from this morning, again darkened. Were it not for the palm tree, wouldn't you think it was Denver?

It's been cold off and on the last few weeks here in Tucson, and we had an impressive amount of rain over the last several days, the statistics on which I'm not going to look up for you now. But it rained all night a couple of days ago, and much of the next day. This is the aftermath.

By the time I left work at twilight, the clouds were lifting. I was almost the last person out. The parking lot held a few puddles from the latest rain.

Sadly, much of the most obvious snow was gone from the mountains. But it was still a pretty dramatic view.

When we first got to Tucson twenty years ago, it seemed that we got snow down in the city (or at least, in the foothills where we lived) about once or twice a year. In recent years, though, I don't think I've seen a single flake on the ground in town. It's all been at a distance and higher up. The closest I've seen to a snowstorm the last five years has been a short but furious hailstorm. That's happened several times. But I miss those rare snowfalls. I blame global warming.


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Friday, December 29, 2006

This time for sure! Well, two out of six, at least.

Weekend Assignment 145: Make at least one resolution for 2007.

Extra credit: Did you keep your resolutions for 2006?

Let me tell you first what The Plan was. 2006 was the year I was going to sell Heirs of Mâvarin, finish work on Mages of Mâvarin, and (of course) lose some weight. Then in 2007 I was supposed to study for the CPA exam. But ten months after sending my three chapters and synopsis to Tor, I have yet to hear back from them, and in my extreme diffidence I keep putting off the follow-up letter. Meanwhile, my writing output has mostly been online and for free: blogging, fiction on Messages from Mâvarin, and more and more since April 2006, non-fiction on Wikipedia. That last outlet is so addictive that I've let the LiveJournal and the fiction blog falter in recent months, after two years of weekly fiction entries. Then again, that's not the only reason for the neglect: I think I'm just not ready to write about Lore yet, not with Mages still up in the air. And whatever I have to say about the non-fiction writing process for Wikipedia I tend to say either here or on Wikipedia itself.

Still, as much fun as I've been having, it doesn't get the Mages book (or trilogy, or whatever it is) done, and people keep telling me to take better care of myself and get more sleep, that they worry about me. So the resolutions to make are obvious:
  1. Get to bed by 2 AM at the very latest, which gives me a minimum of six hours of sleep (almost six and a half if I hit the snooze bar three times, but if I do I'm pushing my luck on getting to work at 9 AM). Try for 1 AM at least part of the time. All-nighters and near all-nighters will henceforth be allowed only if I can then sleep past noon.
  2. Finally write to Patrick Nielsen-Hayden, briefly and politely, about the status of my submission.
  3. Finish Mages of Mâvarin, this time for sure.
  4. Stop eating utter crap. Even when I'm not dieting, I don't have to eat candy on the slimmest of excuses. Sleeping more should help me resist buying snacks as a sleep substitute.
  5. Get back to the gym.
  6. Post something in Messages, at least biweekly, even if it's stuff already written.
please buy my book!No, this isn't really what I'll say in the letter.

I predict that I'll actually do some of these things, at least part of the time. #2 and #3 are certainly doable. The habits of a lifetime resolutions, well, those are a bit harder.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

20 Years Gone - part two

This is a continuation of last night's Round Robin Photo Challenge. It's mostly going to be rerun photos, but you'll get the idea.

House and yard
1986: Adobe style brick, dirt yard in back fronting on desert, western foothills, no fence

The back yard on Grannen Rd.

2006: Brick, scraggly grass and weeds in yard, view blocked by fence overlooking alley, city neighborhood

Education 1986:Former English and Film major, four incompletes short of B.A.

2006: BSB in Business/Accounting, 2004, really should study for CPA exam but I'm not

1986: None - trying to write for a living. That was about to end, though.

2006: Accountant, Unnamed Largish Company
1986: None - driving a Honda Elite 250 scooter

2006: 1994 Eagle Vision

Times at Walt Disney World

1986: Not sure - about seven

2006: 1986 total plus one day visit circa 1989
Times at Disneyland
1986: Once, maybe twice

2006: Not sure, about seven or eight

Immediate Family
1986: Husband John, dog Jenny, no kids, no cats

Jenny in a rare Arizona snow, circa 1987.

2006: Husband John, dog Tuffy, no kids, no cats

TuffyTuffy, 2006
Writing Projects
1986: Critters: Animals of the Sonoran Desert, mostly just notes

Route 66: On the Road with Tod & Buz & Linc, interviews conducted, some text written

Maharis and meMaharis and me

The Tengrim Sword, stalled and neglected

2006: Heirs of Mâvarin, in submission

Mages of Mâvarin
, neglected but almost done

Mages pages
Wikipedia and blogging


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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Twenty Years Gone - Part One

What with Christmas and all, the latest Round Robin Photo Challenge has kind of snuck up on me. The topic, "Past Vs. Present", comes to us from Connie, author of Windswept - Connie's Country Life.

I had some fairly ambitious plans for this, but I'm sick with "digestive inconveniences," and I just spent two hours editing a photo I'm not even going to use tonight. So I'm going to keep this entry simple, and make a second pass at the topic tomorrow night.

The past year I've selected for comparison purposes is 1986.

Jenny at Christmas, 1986
I'm not quite sure whether this Christmas photo was taken in 1986 or 1987. It could be either year. This was taken in our living room/den on Grannen Road in Tucson. 1986 was the year we moved from Columbus, Ohio to Tucson, Arizona, with a couple of months of traveling in between. The house on Grannen was the first one John and I ever owned, and we loved it. Next to the fireplace on both sides was a huge picture window overlooking the yard, the desert, the city and the mountains. The fireplace worked, and in the winter we used it often.

The dog in front of the fireplace is Princess Guinevere of Westcott Street, better known as Jenny Dog. She was the first dog I ever had, and the best to date: smart, friendly and fearless. Around 1988 she was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome. She died in 1989.

2006. This gas-fed fireplace in our current house has never been used in the 12 years or so we've been here. John painted the fireplace white years ago, covering up bricks discolored by old smoke. Unlike Jenny, who hung out in front of the Grannen fireplace on her own, Tuffy had to be lured and coaxed to pose for this. She got two pieces of turkey for her trouble.

One thing you probably can't tell from the photos is that each dog had her own stocking. Also, the ones marked John and Karen are the same ones in each photo, but they look very different twenty years later. Each year we add something to the outside of each other's stocking - a spangle, a button, a pin, a mini-ornament. After 20+ years of being filled to bursting, they are not in great condition. I've had to sew them up repeatedly and I'm not good at that. This year the white top of John's stocking tore away from the red part. I used the buttons and pins to reattach it, but it's clear I'll need some professional sewing done if these stockings are going to last another 20 years.

Tomorrow night I'll tell you more about 1986 vs. 2006. Meanwhile, check out the other Robins:

Linking List:

Windswept: Connie's Country Life

Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - POSTED!
Ellipsis... Suddenly Carly

Janet - POSTED!
Fond of Photography

Julie - POSTED!
Julie's Web Journal

Suzanne R - POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life

Steven - POSTED!

We Is

And yes, of course: you're welcome to play too!


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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas After All

After all that trepidation, it was a remarkably pleasant and peaceful Christmas. Having gone to bed at 5 AM, I skipped church at 10 AM, so I actually got over six hours of sleep instead of four. I ran one quick errand and dropped off Eva's gift, and then it was time for Christmas, officially. The gifts weren't extravagant, but we matched each other in the number of them, and they were all neat stuff and/or useful.

Dinner was a turkey prepacked in a cooking bag, with rutabagas and yams and potatoes and Stove Top. The turkey didn't brown evenly, but it tasted good. Other than that, we watched some Doctor Who-related video together. Then I popped in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I love that thing, and I'm not the only one. As I was delivering Eva's calendar, I heard on Talk of the Nation that many listeners were listing Magoo as their favorite Scrooge! After John noticed the presence of the distinctive voice of Paul Frees (who played Fezziwig and other characters), I ended up spending the rest of the night fussing with the related articles on Wikipedia.

And to all a good night!



Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of a present you've received during the holidays. Should be pretty easy, right?

I actually went to bed before I remembered that this is Monday, and that there is therefore a Monday Photo Shoot. I never, ever miss those things, so here I am. Fortunately, the assignment is simple, and just what I hoped it would be.

In keeping with an unfortunate but practical trend (one which I follow far too often myself), I received at least five gift cards this Christmas. Two of the ones you don't see here were illustrated with scenes from A Christmas Story. Cool! The biggest present along these lines was a check from my dad, for which I am genuinely grateful. I'm grateful for all this stuff.

Oh, and I got a wallet, one that's less colorful but looks to be much more practical than my worn out paisley one.

The largest gift from a physical standpoint is this zip-up bathrobe. I wanted one rather badly, and John obliged with this pink wonder that I like a lot. It fits, it's soft and warm, and the color gives it a strong resemblance to the "pink nightmare" bunny pajamas Ralphie's aunt gave him in A Christmas Story. I count that as a plus. I wore this all day and night, and consequently got several spots on it, which is unfortunately typical of me.

And now I'm going back to bed. Good night!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Two and a Half Trips to Church

It's been a very long day, and it's not over yet. This morning it was the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It's separate from Christmas Eve, usually not the same day. But this year they're both December 24th. So the morning services were Advent, and the night ones were Christmas. I went to both.

Father Smith guessed correctly that there would be a hug turnout for 4th Advent, so those masses were in the Parish Center instead of the church, which had already been "greened" for Christmas.. After that I dropped off my friends, came home, went to Night at the Museum with John, bought a few presents at the mall, dropped one of them off, failed to drop the other one off, bought groceries with John (again), and then remembered that I never dropped off the gift card for an Angel Tree kid. So I went back to church, just as the 5 PM Christmas Eve family service was letting out, and left the belated gift with Father Smith. Home again, I cooked dinner, ran Norton Disk Doctor on my hard drive, did dishes, put 2/3rds of the aluminum tree together, and went back to church.

I love St. Michael's at night, especially on the two major holiday vigils, for Easter and Christmas.

There's a standing joke at St. Michael's is that "midnight mass" is at 10 PM. It starts with carols and readings for about 45 minutes, and then the mass itself starts. There are extra musicians, strings and tympani and brass. I was crucifer tonight, which means that I carry the cross on a pole in the procession. But first I put on the alb (white robe thing) and took a few pictures. We had to be quiet in the sacristy so as not to interfere with the music. Some of the acolytes, especially the younger ones, opted to hang out outside instead. Toni Sue and I went into the church proper and listened to the music until the time came for the mass itself.

The idea is that the mass runs until a bit after midnight, so that Communion takes place technically on Christmas. Yes, it's a very long Mass, but not as long as a couple of the Easter ones. So anyway, a little before 1 AM I was home, watching A Christmas Story yet again while putting a combination of vintage and repro ornaments on the tree, which John had finished setting up. Then I spent an hour doing my online Christmas presents. I did them all back to back, so if someone accidentally gets an ecard addressed to someone else, please let me know - and forgive me!

And now, at 4:02 AM, I finally get to start wrapping presents. Merry Christmas!


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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Worst Christmas Ever?

Clouds over the mountains, as seen from the Park Place parking lot at dusk.

Is it too soon to give up on Christmas 2006? John has already use the phrase in this entry's subject line to describe this Christmas, and we're not even there yet!

He has a point. The house is a pit. Most of the decorations (and the trees) are still in boxes, with no room to set them up anyway. We've barely shopped. John's concern is that the house is too full of junk already. Why should we buy more of it? And I haven't found the Christmas CDs yet.

But I still say that it's a bad idea to give up on making Christmas 2006 the best it can be. Tomorrow I hope to get some cleaning in, and some last minute shopping. Friends and family will get the same boring online gift they've seen before from me, but at least it's something they like. We didn't get alternate arrangements made, so I'm cooking again, and I don't think that's such a terrible prospect. There's still church and friends, music and Jesus. There's still another movie on tv that features either a really-real Santa or the Ghost of Christmas past or music by Guaraldi or Berlin.

Besides, it would take a lot to make it the Worst Christmas Ever. We have each other, and a home, and decent jobs and Christmas bonuses. Four years ago, I was morning my mom's death on 12/16. Thirty years ago, I was hanging a green bedspread over a bookcase as a fake Christmas tree. In between there were years when we were thoroughly broke and not really making the best of it. And of course, there are other people who have had truly horrific Christmases, filled with death, destruction an despair. Really, we have no cause for complaint.

I think this year we can do better than we've done so far. Will we? Depends on whether we work at it, I guess. I'll let you know.

Today I had lunch with the friend I was supposed to see last weekend. We went to Broadway Cafe, and I ordered this because it was too bizarre to pass up. Can you tell what it is?

Yes, that brown stuff is peanut butter. This is a King's Double Cheeseburger, with the optional peanut butter and bananas.

I asked for the peanut butter and bananas on the side, in case it was as awful as it sounds. But it turned out to be surprisingly good - not better than a normal cheeseburger, not worse, just different. I ended up eating all the peanut butter and banana, almost all of it on the burger. Heck, I may even try it again sometime.


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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Greeting 2.3

Here, as promised, is my new and improved online greeting card. Please notice there are words in it, two verses, even. Okay, so it's not my best work ever, but what do you want on four hours of sleep? Happy Chrimble, folks, and extra points if you know where that word comes from. In other words:

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!


(Dang it! I oversharpened it. Three hours of photo editing down the drain!)

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas card 1.0

Weekend Assignment #144: Make a holiday greeting for your friends here on AOL Journals and online. You were going to do that anyway, I bet, but now it'll fulfill your Weekend Assignment, too. See? Told you it would be easy.

I wouldn't call that easy. In fact, I'm not up for it tonight. Here's version 1.0, though.

And version 1.5.

Stop back tomorrow evening for 2.0.


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Thursday, December 21, 2006

17 1/2 hours later

I got to work a little late this morning, perhaps ten minutes after 9 AM. When I started across the parking lot, having parked "beyond the berm" again, I noticed that there was snow on one section of the Catalinas. Cool! After yesterday's clouds and last night's sub-freeing temperatures, I half-expected it.

I'll admit to you right now that I goofed off a little bit when I got to work, but I've more than made up for it since then. Lunch was a food machine Phillie and a squishyburger from the vending machines downstairs. I finished actually working, more or less, around 12:30 AM, paid some bills online, wrote my boss an email informing her I won't be in until 10 AM, and finally left the premises a little after 1 AM - 16 hours after I arrived.

After that I bought Spaghetti-Os at the 7-11 because Safeway was already closed, and because I had leftover "real" spaghetti from Tuesday night that needed extending. Make that "had had" leftover spaghetti. Turns out John ate it for dinner. Poor John - I called at 7 PM and said I'd be another hour or so. When I got home at 1:20 AM, he was in the kitchen, getting ready to call and make sure I wasn't dead in a ditch. He gets up at 4 or 5 AM, so I've really thrown him off tonight.

Now I have to set up a download of some sermons and go the heck to bed. Good night!

2:44 AM

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas, Marana

So today I got my godson's box shipped. Third day UPS cost as much as the presents I bought him this year, but not as much as the total cost of the contents, much of which predated 2006. The box wasn't very heavy, but it was big. Perhaps that's past of why the cost was so high. I saw the guy from the shipping place measuring it.

When I headed back to the office around 3 PM (got a late start!), the clouds, which at one point almost completely obscured the Catalinas, were starting to clear up. Here you can see the remaining clouds and the heavy pre-Christmas traffic, especially for 3 PM on a weekday.

You know how I often joke about the Crosswalk of Death? It's not that big a joke. This homemade memorial cross is about a hundred feet from it, on a median in the middle of Wilmot.

Tonight I tried to drop off the weekend's charity toy purchases in a Toys for Tots box. Every year it gets harder to do this. There used to be one of these boxes at Toys R Us, but that hasn't been true in several years now. Target stopped last year, I think. Last year I put toys in a box at Walmart that was guarded by actual Marines. This year, no box. John thought he saw a box at the Curves at 22nd and Kolb, but a) they're closed when I get off work, and b) there was no box there as of tonight.

The other place John saw a toy drop off was at the Subway at 22nd and Kolb. It turned out, though, that it wasn't Toys for Tots. It was for something called Miracle in Marana. Marana is a town a little north of Tucson, right around the county line. It has a community airport, and I think some suspected terrorists took a few flying lessons there. I don't remember for sure.

John was worried about the potential hinkyness of giving the toys to a charity we had never heard of. What if it was bogus? Myself, I just felt a bit of a wrench not giving to Toys for Tots for the first time in about 20 years. But the Subway employee I spoke with seemed terribly grateful for our donations to the Marana kidlets. "We pretty much only had donations from employees," she told me. She went on to say that the employees keep a close eye on the box (which is right next to where the person who starts the sandwiches stands), thus preventing unauthorized withdrawals. Her daughter has expressed interest in the toys, so the mother explained about the poor kids who don't otherwise have a Christmas. Good for her. Our balls and Barbies, monster maker, Hot Wheels and other stuff easily doubled the haul, and that makes me feel kinda good about it. Merry Christmas, Marana!

On the way home, I thought I'd take a picture of a different house with Christmas lights. I like the way the trees frame the house, and the cyclone effect of the lights around the tree trunks.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuffy has no Christmas Spirit

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of your pet, festive for the holidays. Yes, you know you love dressing up your pets. No, your pets won't really be humiliated. At least, not that they'll tell you.

It took much movement of Christmas boxes and the stuff therein, and a whole slice of cheese, doled out in small pieces by way of bribery. Even at that, I never did find the Tuffy-centric Christmas stuff. But here's what I did get:Tuffy didn't really care about the ribbons I put on her. She didn't care about the stockings, either.

What she did care about was the piece of cheese I had tossed onto one of the stockings.

The other thing I did was wrap my godson's gifts for shipping tomorrow. That counter we cleared yesterday became the staging area. The kid is going to be totally spoiled this year with his birthday and Christmas presents (he was a December baby): I'm throwing in two things that I meant to give him in past years, and a gift someone gave me last Christmas that duplicated something we already had. I just hope he doesn't expect this extreme gratification (or at any rate, expense) next year!

And yes, I did clear the counter off afterward.


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Monday, December 18, 2006

clean spaces, and toys for tots and others

See this counter? A day ago, the answer would have been "Not much of it, no," even if you were standing in our kitchen at the time. But my Sunday appointment with my friend fell through, so John and I spent the afternoon sorting mail and other papers, half of which were on this counter. It still needs a good scrubbing, but it's already much improved.

John also put away the to-be-dubbed videotapes that were in front of this fireplace. Me, I did dishes and put away a bunch of clothes. I can't show you that because they were on the bed, and I didn't photograph them while they were there. Now John is in that bed, asleep, which is where I hope to be shortly.

In my hurry last night, I didn't talk about yesterday's shopping trips. I tried on about 20 pieces of clothing yesterday, including a $150 pinstriped suit, before ending up with the gold shirt and black slacks. At the party I got food on the new shirt three times, which won't surprise John at all. The main culprit was appetizers of lamb ribs with a mint dip. Each time, I went down the hall to clean it up.

After our recent discussion of tech toys, I had to get a shot of the robot pets at Toys R Us when John and I went on our annual Toys for Tots shopping spree Saturday afternoon. Problem was, there was nothing in a medium price range. It jumped straight from $12.99 to $49.99. Also the $50 robodog was pink.

I did find a remote control dragon, though, and John found Quick Draw McGraw as El Kabong. We're definitely keeping that one. We got the usual Hot Wheels cars and a few balls for the kidlets, and got the heck out of there. Why did we leave, with the cart still so empty? Simple:

The place was horrendously busy. It was almost impossible to stop, because it would mean blocking traffic, and impossible to keep moving, because traffic was blocking us in turn. So we completed our shopping at Target with a few Barbies and I-forget-what-else.

I still don't know whether I'm actually sick, but I seem to be at least on the edge of it. Going to bed now.


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