Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Adventures in Housekeeping

In Which I Discover How to Treat a Rust Stain

...Sadly, AFTER I tried to treat it with bleach. Bleach had just whitened my sink and I was about to use it on my bathtub. Why wouldn't I splash a little on a rust-stained counter?

Because the oxidizing action in bleach SETS rust stains, which are themselves a reaction of metal and oxygen. I can't believe I have a degree in chemical engineering and still didn't think that one through. Now instead of a small rust pan-ring on my counter, I have a large orange diagram of an ameoba.

In Which I Set My Kitchen On Fire

I've flirted with this for some time, as I often turn my oil on very high even for non-high-heat things like sauteing, but finally it happened: the oil in the pan caught on fire. Nice big orange fire, too--nice red flames. I looked at my pan, and said, out loud, "My kitchen's on fire," very calmly if I do say so myself. LT, who happened to be at my house at the time, rushed in. I said, "Oil fire," he looked around for anything solid (NEVER put out an oil fire with water!) I handed him a gigantic bag of baking soda, which was not open. "Knife," I said, handing him a knife. He opened it with a few cuts and dumped the baking soda on the fire. Crisis averted. Later he said, "At least I know you don't panic in a fire," and I appreciated this, although I felt pretty panicky at the time--I had to have him come in and put it out!

In Which I Make Soda Bread

I am not Irish at all, but between my name, my reddish hair, and my strong angular features, I swear something weird happens when I walk into an Irish bar. Suddenly my freckles show up and my hair glows real, actual, red; fiddles start playing in the background. I've had people ask me how long I've been in the States. I should learn an Irish accent just to give them a thrill. (Often I pretend to be Irish, actually, even in real life, because no one believes me when I claim I'm a mix of various Scandinavian countries with a little Native thrown in.)

Anyway, even if I'm often mistaken for Irish even though I'm not--that doesn't mean I can't make soda bread, long thought to be an Irish invention when all they had was potatoes and no yeast. It can be made with any kind of flour, gets its rising action from a combination of vinegar and baking soda, and doesn't require special dough rising cycles--you just throw the dough together and stick in a pre-heated oven. Since Titan ate my second loaf of bread this week, I went ahead and tried soda bread instead, since I have several more days to go before I can visit the grocery store--and even when I do, I can only spend negative thirteen dollars. Yes. I am over The Grocery Budget. It turned out fine, although a little heavy. Next time I might glaze the outside, which will give it a crisper crust, and actually mix the wet and dry ingredients separately, which will allow more overlap of the baking soda and vinegar. The taste is quite nice, though--a nice sweet flour flavor. (No yeast taste. Odd.)

In Which I Learn to Apply Contact Paper

I always thought contact paper was for frumps with too many cats. But then I saw some very nice applications in some of my favorite design magazines, and I looked at my plain brown shelf in my kitchen, and I thought, "Hmmm!" So I ordered some nice black and white checked contact paper, looked rather like the pattern used on racing flags, and also threw some tan and green printed diamond paper in for good measure. (It looked vaguely harlequin-like on the website.) The rolls came in about two weeks ago; I cheered at the black-and-white, frowned at the tan-and-green, and let the rolls site under my entry table for weeks. Finally, yesterday, I had a chance to clear off the ugly wooden shelf and apply the black and white.

It's surprisingly hard to apply a very, very long sheet of contact paper with no wrinkles or bumps, but I managed it--I peeled one end off first, stuck it down evenly, and then peeled the paper from under the patterned side in stages, pressing as I went. No, no pics--sorry. But boy, does it look good!

In Which I Learn How to Clean My Gas Stove

My particular gas stove top is a bear to clean because the pilot lights are always on, meaning that any sort of cleaning spray I use immediately fumes up--not to mention even the littlest stain on the stove is continually baked onto it by the heat. Finally I hit upon the bright idea of filling a plain spray bottle with water and just spraying the stove down constantly--this got off a majority of stains, especially with a little elbow grease. For tough stains, I sprayed enough water to make a pool on the stove and sprinkled in a little cleaning powder. And then I applied lots and lots of elbow grease. And hey, presto--clean stove!

Even the LT noticed.

And finally, a product plug: the Pet Hair Removal Sponge. (Brand shown is not quite the same brand as the one I have, but the sponge looks identical.) I got this almost a month ago after the pet store guy had rave reviews for it, but I wasn't ready to try it until yesterday. (Who knows why?) I can tell you: IT WORKS. It is absolutely amazing. The pet hair clings to the sponge and balls (or threads) up, eventually rolling off for easy removal. I cleaned the futon and Titan's bed with no electricity, and no "blowback" from the vacuum! Amazing!

Next trick I plan to try: putting aluminum foil on the sofa to prevent Titan jumping up on it. Will it work? I'll share it here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

And I Was All Worried That I Had Nothing to Post

Once upon a time, (aka a few weeks ago) the lovely and breezily elegant Kristy had a burst of creativity. She suddenly remembered her old corporate seminar days, and offered a very lucky ten people the chance to field Deep and Important Questions from her and answer them on their blogs!

And I thought, What a fabulous idea! I love talking about myself and answering random questions, and I love Kristy! I will volunteer! And I did!

And then I completely forgot about the whole thing.

But never fear, Kristy. I have finally answered them. And let me just take this moment to say that it is Kristy, and Kristy ALONE, who got me into this fabulous world of blogspot and introduced me to Crazy Aunt Purl, and my life will never be the same again. (Also, apparently Firefox spellcheck doesn't recognize Blogspot or Spellcheck as words. That just seems wrong, somehow.)

Without further adieu, onto the questions!

1. You've been kidnapped by crazed plastic surgeons. They will release you, of course, on the condition that you let them perform ONE feat of cosmetic surgery. What do you do?

This one is super easy: my...okay, no it's not. My boyfriend reads this blog!

Um...think, Aarwenn, think...well, okay, I'll just be honest. I would have them slim my thighs. If I could change one thing about my body, it would be my thighs--I know, I know, they're muscled and womanly, but hey. She asked me.

2. Poof! You are The Queen of Kingdom Fabulous. You have devoted royal subjects and are allowed -- as is the decree of this land -- three servant-like people who are on-hand all the time. Each of them have very specific roles; they each assist you with a specific duty. The question is, if you did have three people who tended to you every day, taking care of one of your needs, what would those three things be?

This one, too, seemed easy until I tried to answer it! Hmmmm, three servants, three specific duties...okay. I would have one collect all the dog hair in my house. Her job would be defined by dog hair, be it bedroom, bathroom, sofa, on the floor, on my clothes, whatever. She would be the Anti Dog-Hair Zen Master. I would have another one do my laundry, if that's not too many subtasks under one--she'd wash, dry, fold, and iron. Laundry Zen Master. And finally, when I wasn't racing my many motorcycles or sports cars, for everyday driving, I'd get a damn driver! All I want to do is read while I'm in the car! (Too many years of being an only child and accompanying my mother to work and back, I fear.)

3. What's the hardest you ever remember laughing?

During Bambi, at the ice-skating scene. The image of Bambi losing his traction on the ice and skidding into a snowbank with Thumper on his nose STILL makes me giggle.

4. In what role was Michael Keaton sexiest? Why do you think so?

I have only ever seen Michael Keaton in one movie, and it was Batman Returns. Therefore.

5. What's one bit of trivia that you know and love to be able to throw out every now and again to (maybe) perhaps the company you're in?

76.4 percent of statistics are made up on the spot! No? Okay, I admit that I told people that a few times, and then the joke got very old--which didn't deter other people from telling me the same joke, apparently. My favorite new statistic for environmental supporters is this: in Puget Sound alone, the Lazy B's employees drive a total of ONE MILLION MILES A DAY.

It's pretty amazing.

The author would like to thank Kristy, Blogspot, and most importantly...people like you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Blog Widget Announcement

Don't pretend like you didn't notice, you totally did, I saw you look over in my sidebar.

Moving on.

The absolute BEST thing on the internet today--seriously, you can skip everything else, except maybe perusing my webspace--is this article in Wired. I have reprinted the entire thing below, because the risk that you might not read it if I left it as a link was just too much to bear.

Narcissistic Blog Disorder and Other Conditions of Online Kookery
Lore Sjöberg

The AMA recently suggested that perhaps gaming addiction should be considered as a sub-category of internet addiction. This is a step in the right direction. Clearly "internet addiction" doesn't begin to cover the realm of bizarre and pathological behaviors the internet inspires. Herewith a list of afflictions and syndromes I feel should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, or perhaps the DSM IV.Ib.

Narcissistic Blog Disorder

This disorder is characterized by the creation of a blog in which the individual consistently denigrates not only the opinions of others, but the very fact that others have opinions, saying things like "nobody cares what some overpaid starlet has to say about global warming" and "nobody cares what some crusty career politician thinks is wrong with society today." Simultaneously, the individual assumes that people do care about what he or she has to say, in spite of the individual's only political or activist experience being watching the movie Dave twice.

Bookmark Loop Disorder

Web bookmarks remain a popular way to waste time when one should be working. You check a site or two, get something done for a little while, then check your bookmarks again. Careful research, however, has shown that at a certain point the list of bookmarks grows, the "get something done" period shrinks, until the reader goes directly from the end of the list back to the top, just in case there are new updates. Once entered, this "bookmark loop state" often cannot be broken until a couple hours after a sane bedtime.

E-mail Gullibility Syndrome

Adults who preserve a healthy skepticism when people knock on their door asking for assistance or political support often lose that sense of suspicion when they first receive an e-mail account. Every caution about the dangers of kiwi fruit, every warning that the U.S. Congress is about to outlaw Santa Claus and every plea for assistance from deposed royalty is treated with utmost credulity and, where appropriate, forwarded to a dozen of the recipient's long-suffering friends and family members. Luckily this is usually a self-resolving disorder, disappearing after two years or $30,000 lost, whichever comes first.

Atemporal Fad Disorder

The desire to participate in an internet fad is considered by psychologists to be a natural, if sometimes unfortunate, aspect of human nature. Some individuals, however, appear to have a clinical inability to recognize the fleeting nature of fads, and continue to attempt to participate after everyone else is sick to death of the whole thing. The current diagnostic criterion is "the use of the phrase 'all your base are belong to us' in any non-ironic context" but in 2010 it is expected to be expanded to include any suggestion that a photo depicts a cat interacting with an invisible object.

Pugilistic Discussion Syndrome

In this curious form of aphasia, the subject is unable to distinguish between a discussion and a contest. The subject approaches any online forum as a sort of playing field, and attempts to "win" the discussion by any means necessary. The rules of the imaginary contest are apparently clear to the individual as he or she will often point out when others break them, but when asked to outline these rules the individual is reluctant, perhaps not wishing to confer an "advantage" on any "opponents." The conditions for winning are similarly difficult to pin down, although in some cases the individual will declare himself the winner of a discussion that, to all others, appears to be ongoing.

Amusement Identify Disorder

This is a sort of inverse cousin to Pugilistic Discussion Syndrome, in which the individual has difficulty distinguishing between an online game and real life. The individual sees his or her online character as being as "real" as the individual's real-world self, if not more so. One manifestation of this disorder is the tendency to treat game accomplishments such as impressive magic items or guild leadership as the equivalent of real-life accomplishments like pursuing a successful career or raising a family. In addition to impairing the individual's personal growth in the real world, this disorder also makes them extremely boring at parties.

Huge props and credit to Lore Sjöberg, in case you didn't notice his name earlier. According to his bio, Lore was born helpless, nude and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjoberg eventually overcame these handicaps to suffer from at least two of the above afflictions.

The blog author herself also suffers from at least two specific afflictions in the list above.

Friday, June 15, 2007

In Which I Put My Skills to Good Use


It's 11:30 pm. I am reading, the LT is sleeping next to me, getting his beauty sleep so he can impress the interviewers tomorrow. (The LT's civilian job search has begun! What will I call him when he isn't an LT anymore?)

I myself am getting sleepy, and Titan has to go out one more time, so I get up, grab a sweatshirt, leash Titan, grab my keys, forgo shoes, and slap my hair up in pigtails to get it out of the way. We step outside. Titan does his thing. I look at my keys, shaking them to get the door key to hang down right.

The door key does not hang down.

I look at my keys more closely, and as I do, whispers of conversation come back to me:

"I'll be done with my interviews around 3 pm tomorrow," the LT said.

And I said, "Why don't you just take my keys, since I'll be home later?"

And the LT took my door keys off my key ring and added them to his own, and my mind I thought, 'I'll have to grab those when I take Titan out later', but that's as far as the thought got.

And so here I am, outside, no shoes, locked out of my apartment, with a dog, at 11:45 pm.


Titan and I run around the outside of my building, and a few other buildings. I yell the LT's name several times, as loud as I dare, waking up several dogs and by proxy, their owners, but no one's head pops out of their window. I throw rocks at my own window. No movement. I knock on my own front door and my neighbors' windows. Nothing. It's 11:55 and I'm stuck. And then I look up, and see that the window in the main hallway--a floor up--is open. And my porch is surrounded on two sides by a wooden trellis, attached to some columns. I shake the column. It appears pretty steady.

Which is how I ended up climbing up my porch at 11:45 pm in barefeet and pigtails. I bellied up to the roof of the porch and then raised the window sash in the hallway. Getting into the window is actually the hardest part of the whole process, as it's shoulder level to me, but I get my head through first and heave my butt through, and pretty soon, I'm standing in my own hallway.

Glory day. I go into my apartment, get my keys, run downstairs, retrieve Titan, run back upstairs to my apartment, set down the keys, and crash into bed.

The End.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blargh, Or, Camping, Part One

It's Tuesday afternoon, I didn't bike to work, I'm stuck here for awhile, and I just got a text message from my friend "Bobby" saying, "Traffic is hell."


So, let's talk about the time my Jeep almost met its demise!

But first, the set up. Camping with the LT, our friend Dave, his friends, and three dogs a few weekends ago was completely awesome. We rolled into camp Saturday afternoon, set up our stuff, and let Titan roam in the water.
(Not shown is when I threw a tennis ball into the fast-flowing glacial river for him to get and he jumped in after it, and then I realized that he might swim after that tennis ball for longer than I could see him, freeze, seize up, and die. LT ran down two campsites, hoping to catch him, and I ran one campsite over, screaming Titan's name at the top of my lungs--until he came bounding out of the river bushes, apparently having forgotten all about the tennis ball. My dog has more sense than I do.)

After this excitement, I got a much-needed beer and of course, I immediately started to climb things:

I'm grinning here because of the peanut gallery offering helpful suggestions and betting on my success.

In Progress.

Which way is the river?


Later that night, we played some pong, outdoors in the cold, lit up only by a motion detector light, which fortunately read our flying pong balls as "motion".

The next morning:

Now. As it was a nice, sunny morning, we had no special plans for the day, and I had a Jeep, it occurred to the three of us that off-roading would be, yes, the perfect plan for the day.

LT pulled all non-essentials off Helter, including the doors, and we set up a rest spot for Titan--notice the dog bed in the shade under the top.
This is immediately what he did--he had played a lot the day before!

So the three of us, with snacks, sweatshirts, water, and most of us in long-pants, headed off to explore the logging trails of the Wedge Mountains.

Helter in a field of wildflowers.

Everything still going fine, in spite of my sudden decision to climb a ways down this mountain and then back up. (Not shown.)

Here's the problem.

Let me point out that I was actually not driving at the time. It was the LT who--with additional thanks to Dave and I, whom agreed that we could make it--was unlucky enough to try to dodge a big downed tree, only to discover that the hillside was not quite as solid as we thought it was. See that, how the ground slopes away under the car? That's not so good. I'm leaning waaaaaaay out up the mountain, trying to fight the feeling that I and the Jeep were about to roll off the cliff at any moment.

We tried and tried. I'm driving in this picture because the boys got out to help push or shore up the mountain. We tried everything, and we ARE engineers. Eventually we decided that every time I started up the Jeep and tried to drive her, more of the mountain slipped away underneath. We were stuck.

I was trying not to cry; we had taken a risk and it turned out that the consequence was going to be pretty big. I had visions of a strong wind coming along and rolling my Jeep down into the valley. As we walked away from her, every boom made me jump. Fortunately we at least had snacks and water, but it was now 4 pm and the temperature had dropped considerably, as it tends to do in the mountains. 911 came and found us, a sheriff with a great big handlebar mustache and and a distinct lack of attitude; he bumped up mountain roads for forty-five minutes, in his pickup, loaded us into the back, gave me a fleece, and started driving. I wasn't too sure how I would see Helter again.

In the Sheriff's Pickup.

Part 2, on its way!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hi, Everyone! Still here!

And I have some excellent posts coming up, including the time my Jeep slid down a mountain with me in it, and how I feel about country music.

Also I have been very frugal--or at least kind of frugal--and I will post about that, maybe in the other blog.

Hope everyone's weekend has been great!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What Country Music Means To Me (Or, Blogging the Relationship #17)

I am sitting downstairs in the LT's house, reading some email and enjoying my Saturday; he is upstairs at his desktop computer, filling out some paperwork for the upcoming hiring conference (!) and blasting the new CD from Sugarland.

Sugarland, for those who don't know, is a relatively new country group built out of a lot of old-time country stars; I think every member is at least 30. But that's not the point, although it's an interesting side note. I know this fact because the LT, being from Texas, really likes country music, although that's not ALL he likes, Thank BLOG. I have been in places where they played nothing but country--see my recent trip to Texas--and in places where the old joke, "We play both kinds here--country AND western!" would apply--seriously. And I can tell you that if all he liked was country music, I'd spasm up, shrivel up, and possibly die.

I'm trying to think of a good way to say "But that's not because I don't LIKE country music" without actually saying it, because saying that--after saying I'd die if all I could listen to was country--seems contrary. It's not that country music is bad music--as a matter of fact, I'd venture to say that they have some of the best voices in the music business. It's more that country music is such a...a...whole self-contained universe that doesn't mix well with other genres. There's mashups of rock and pop, rock and rap, pop and rap, hip-hop and anything, classical and world music, heavy metal and classical, even. Country--with the County Music Awards, Country Music Television, and special Country Shows--doesn't mix well with anything else, and more importantly, it seems like it doesn't WANT to mix with anything else, if indeed a genre can even be considered to have wants. Country music is stand-alone. Where all other music genres are advertising, indeed flaunting, their crossover appeal, country music is not doing any such thing. It is proud to sound the same, look the same, and act the same as it did forty years before. Very little has changed.

*Note: There is certainly pop-country crossover, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, and most recently Carrie Underwood being examples. But they all sounded country, even on their pop songs--it's more that pop stations played a few easy-listening country hits than country stations suddenly started playing pop songs.

*Note: I'll probably never forgive the country music world for what they did to the Dixie Chicks.

And because of that--the fact that even when a country artist can be considered "pop", she's still first and foremost country, I feel that country music can be a cold and ungenerous place, and what's more, it seems to speak to a whole area of the country that is cut off, geographically and mentally, from the rest of the world. The very name, "country"--whose country? Down-home country? Backwoods country? To me, that would imply easy-going and nice people, but the kind of people who turned on the Dixie Chicks because they publicly said they didn't like our president are NOT easy-going and nice!

Also, I have to admit that I have a personal bias. I loved the Dixie Chicks and I'm not a big fan of country music in general, so when country music obliterated the Dixie Chicks, it just looked to me like country music was a whiny, rigid, and closed-minded genre that wouldn't tolerate any differences of opinion.

And then there's country music and the LT. He grew up with it, not only in his family but overhead at the mall, at gas stations, at Sonic, and on friends' radios. To me, hearing him sing along with it is just a reminder that there's a whole part of his life that happened before I met him, before he moved to Seattle and learned how to ski and met a girl with a Jeep.

But really, that's okay. I spent most of my formative years immersed in classical music and church music, often the same thing, and me playing King FM, our local classical station, and reminiscing, hasn't seemed to bother him any. After all, the LT knows a lot more than country, and so do his old friends that I have met--they listened to hard rock, and rap, and pop, and fell in love with alternative the same time I did, even though I lived roughly 2000 miles closer to the scene itself. Just because the LT has country CDs doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot of other CDs, too, and it's the same way with me--I have some Maria Callas, some Vivaldi, and some Dvorak, but of course I also have Luscious Jackson, Nirvana, Lily Allen, and all the popular and less popular bands I've liked throughout the years. As with all couples that meet (or re-meet, in our case) after 25, there's automatically huge parts of our lives that don't involve each other. And that is as it should be, and what's more, it makes us more interesting and (dare I say) better people.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Best Thing on the Internet Today

From an amazing comic that everyone (especially math people) should read on a daily basis. Even if it's not updated daily. Bend the rules of space and time somehow, I know you can do it.

With huge amounts of credit to the xkcd webcomic.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Things I Love

Things I Love Today

ING Direct. I recently opened a checking account AND a saving account, which I did because I: a. Was really, really influenced by the commercials. b. Got a good recommendation from my good friend T-Town, whom I swear is still alive--she's just getting married.

(Full disclosure: Although I did actually ask T-Town BEFORE I signed up, I went ahead and signed up for my accounts before she actually got back to me. Who, me impatient?)

So far, the interest rate rocks, and when I had to call ING to get a question answered, I got an answer RIGHT AWAY. I mean, I got the automatic answering, and then I heard, "Please hold, someone will be with you shortly", and then RIGHT AWAY I heard, "Hello, my name is So-and-So. How can I help you save your money?"

Now that's impressive.

Anyway, she turned out to be super cool, and when I asked her how she liked working at ING, she said, "I. Love. It. I love it. They're the best company I've ever worked for."

Now, THAT'S impressive!

Dinner at the Wayward with a Vegan. I know a guy who knows a guy...okay, so I met a guy that I met over the internet at a vegan place. He's a fellow member of a vegan board, and I was dying to get some Wayward and also desperately needing a little bike fine-tuning, and so I rode over and met him and felt very, very buff. T-Town (see, told you she was still alive) called me and I pulled over and answered, and she said, "So, what's up?" and I said, "I'm on my bike on the way back from dinner."

It was awesome.