Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The New Camera

Wheee!! Mr. UPS (a nice guy) delivered the new camara today. And of course I've had about five minutes total to look at it so far. El Burrito's usual 2.5 hour lunchtime nap was only an hour today, and he'll be hungry again in an hour or so. In the meantime, I've got one big project to get done today - it's an actual deadline, not self-imposed. Plus ordering diapers from Amazon before the promo deal expires tonight, finding a hotel room for the Loreena concert, and finally ordering DH's Valentine gift. Yeah, it's going to be late.

I did get batteries in it and took a few pictures on total automatic mode. I took a few before I remembered the pop-up flash. The first thing to figure out is why the LCD gets a big orange/yellow blob in the middle when I hit the shutter button, and find out if it's supposed to do that or if it's a glitch. Because I've only got a 7-day (or 14, the website was vague) window for returning this thing if it's got a problem. Well, that or hit up the manufacturer on their one-year warranty. I can say right now that the menus are nothing like my old C-3020, and that the image quality on the LCD screen is pretty sucky.

More to come later.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Laundry Supervisor

Around here, Monday is laundry day, and El Burrito is the Laundry Supervisor. Burying him in a pile of clean laundry keeps him from trying to roll off the bed. He's not big enough to fold yet, but he's gotten a few lessons on sorting laundry.

Occasional flashes of Insight

Every now and then, my brain kicks in and I have one of those "AHA!!" moments. I had one last night, regarding the fight I had over the weekend with the new HP printer/scanner. The scanner software doesn't recognize the photo-editing software that I use (Paint Shop Pro), so there was no way to send a scan directly over to PSP for editing. Instead, HP suggested a convoluted process of saving the scan somewhere, then opening it from PSP by remembering where it was saved and what the file was named. That caused some hair pulling, and a brief desire to re-enact the fax machine scene from Office Space.

Last night, I remembered that PSP has, or had, the capability to pull something directly from the scanner. So I fired everything up and tried it out. And whaddaya know, it worked! No more mucking around with that odd HP interface.

Other random news: The new camera should be delivered tomorrow, and then I'll be hit with another whopper of a learning curve. Should be fun. First I need to make sure that everything works the way it should, and then it's off to shop for the lens adapter and remote control cable. And another camera bag. Two actually, since we need one for the camcorder, along with a Firewire card (probably) and cable, and some sort of software to get the video onto the PC. The video software that was so highly recommended in the "how to do everything" book turns out to have seriously lousy reviews at Amazon, so I need to do more research into that.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekends and Rants

I'm not sure if it was a good weekend or not. We used to get things done on the weekend, but now the best we can do is keep up. We get one or two things done, but it seems like they're things I used to do during the week back in the pre-Burrito days. Add the couple of things that get added to the To Do list every weekend, and we're maybe holding steady, or maybe falling behind.

The weekend also pointed out the loss of my brain and memory. We went out for lunch on Saturday, to our usual place (Chevy's Fresh Mex) and as usual had leftovers which I usually bring home for lunch during the week. We asked for a to-go box, packed it all up, and not five minutes later I walked off and left it on the table, like a twit. And kicked myself about it for two hours. Because seriously, I used to have a memory. But lately, it's gone. I get distracted in the middle of something, and forget to finish it. (This explains the trail of stuff I leave behind me during the day.) I was talking to DH on the phone one day, remembered something, and so help me, I forgot what it was before I could even open my mouth to tell DH whatever it was. I walk into the other room to do or get something, and forget halfway there what I'm doing. And people? I'm 34. I'm not old enough for my memory to be going like this. It bugs me, frustrates me, and royally *%$$#$ me off. It's right up there with Not Being Able to Find Anything in my book of things that irk me.

On Sunday, to further emphasize the Loss of my Brain, we hooked up the new printer/scanner/copier. A nice HP 2575 that we got super-cheap at Staples on Black Friday. Two things about this printer drove me up a wall. First, it requires a USB cable to hook up to the computer. HP didn't bother to include said USB cable, so that meant a trip to the store to find one. Honestly, if a piece of hardware requires some other doohickey in order to be functional, the company should provide said doohickey. Especially when it cost us $10, and the company could spend half that to put one in the box. Second, I can not, no matter how hard I look, find a way to scan something and send the scan directly to my image editing program of choice (Paint Shop Pro). The old HP scanner could do this. The new one? No dice, sorry. There's a nice long list of "scan destinations" consisting of HP and Microsoft programs, but absolutely no way to add a program. None. The help guide's advice was simple. Either copy the scan to the clipboard and paste it into the unsupported program, or re-install the program and hope that HP could find it then.

I'm sorry, but NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Don't get me wrong, I love Paint Shop Pro. Used it for 10 years, wouldn't trade it for anything. But last year, I upgraded from PSP 4.0 to PSP 9.0, and the adjustment was big (as expected). The new version can do a lot of things that I'd like to do, but getting the upgrade downloaded, installed, and set up was a headache. It probably took three days (on and off) to get the preferences set the way I wanted them. The big hurdle was figuring out which menu I had to go to in order to change the preferences, and remembering how I had things set up before. If I'd been installing the upgrade on the same PC, instead of setting things up on a new PC, it might have been quicker, but who knows. That's why I put off upgrading the PC for so long. But anyway, after that headache, Bermuda will freeze over before I voluntarily re-install PSP just because HP is too clueless to recognize it.

But taking all evening to hook up and install the new printer, and figure out the scanning issues, means that either I've lost most of the brain power I had in college, or that HP needs to work on their hardware interfaces.

That study I read about mothers having less stress and more patience? Obviously done in an alternate universe. Because the last 9 months have been nothing but stress, and that of course does not have a positive affect on my patience.

Now, we did get a few things done over the weekend. Grocery shopping, some work on the taxes (mainly tracking down the income I earned last year via Ebay,, etc.), looking at high chairs in a few stores. But it still seems like we got nowhere.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I finally did it.

I finally ordered the new camera last night. An Olympus SP-510, with 10x optical zoom and 7 megapixels, and other cool features. The SP line replaced the C-series, and both the SPs and Cs are sort of a bridge line - not quite a fully manual dSLR, but darn close. On the other hand, you can also use the SPs in a full-automatic, almost idiot-proof mode too. The excitement of a fully-working camera was slightly overridden by the what-ifs, which is why I spent an hour or so second-guessing myself on the camera model, and checking reviews (again) of the website I bought it from before I hit the "place order" button.

Yes, I have a problem with second-guessing myself, and the more I'm spending, the worse it is. What if the other model is better, what if the store sends the wrong thing and gives me a hard time about replacing it, what if my old camera is really better and I should have had it fixed. You get the idea. Yes, most of the worries are pointless - I've researched the camera, I can always deal with the credit card company and the Better Business Bureau if there are problems, UPS hasn't lost any of my packages yet, etc. It's a family trait. When I graduated with my Masters degree, my father was apparently up half the night worrying. Not about me getting a job or anything, but about where he was going to put the one-room's-worth of stuff I was bringing home with me. (Yes, I moved back home for a few months until I found a job.)

I shouldn't worry - the company I ordered from (B&H Video) has a good reputation online everywhere I've looked, including Epinions and ResellerRatings (where they have a 9.57 out of 10, even better than Amazon's rating). And I got a good deal, since the camera was $70 cheaper than at the local Circuit City. Okay, $60 after shipping, and I used part of that to get a 1GB memory card to go with it, but still a good deal.

I think I'll like the camera. I ended up with the SP-510 from Olympus, which has decent reviews and is a big step up from my old camera, in terms of megapixels and zoom. The only thing I don't like about it so far - assuming that the aperture does indeed go up to f8 as stated in the manual - is that the "printed" manual is half the size of the SP-500's, and Olympus seems to have put a lot of the how-to in the camera itself as menu stuff. I don't know if I'll like that, or if it'll feel too dumbed-down. Plus, Olympus (like lots of other companies) has gotten into the habit of sending the manual as a PDF on CD-ROM. If you, like me, would rather read on paper so you can make notes, or be able to use the manual when you're out taking photos and don't have a PC handy, you can either print the whole rotten thing yourself, or buy a hardcopy from Olympus. It bugs me.

But the SP-500 had one big strike against it - no remote capability. Tell me, what is the point of an 8-minute exposure capability, if you have to hold the shutter button down for the whole 8 minutes? Even with a tripod, you're going to get movement, and that 8-minute exposure will be a blurry mess. Since I plan to attempt some astrophotography with this one - after finding the right remote, of course - the balance tipped in favor of the 510.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Yarn Stash

I realize I'm not as bad as some people. I mean, my stash fits into two medium-sized Amazon boxes at the moment. :) But, here's the list anyway:

  • Caron Jewel Box - 4 skeins in Moonstone
  • Caron Jewel Box - 5 skeins in Tourmaline
  • Caron Jewel Box - 4 skeins in Jade
  • Caron Jewel Box - 1 skein in Deep Jasper

This is the Jewel Box, all from the clearance aisle at Michael's. It's a "fashion yarn" with two thick strands and one thin strand twisted together. I'm planning to make hat & scarf sets with this. The Tourmaline on the right will be my set, and I may give away the other two if I can find someone who wants them. Or not. It's so pretty, I may keep it and make something else out of it. It's all boxed up, so I got a skein of Deep Jasper to practice with. I like the way the colors mix, and it's not that hard to work with. Unlike the Disco fur yarn.

  • Caron Simply Soft Brites - 2 Berry Blue
  • Caron Simply Soft Brites - 1 Iris
  • Caron Simply Soft Brites - 1 Grape

This is the Caron Simply Soft, which lives up to its name. I'm planning to make two hats from this. One skein of the Berry Blue will hopefully be an Eeyore hat for El Burrito, the other three will be a striped winter stocking hat for me. I found some cute Eeyore hats (with ears!) for babies, but alas, none large enough to fit El Burrito's upper-percentile noggin. So, now that I can make a standard hat, I just have to work out crocheting the ears. I found a pattern at the library for a bunny hat, so I'm thinking that's a good place to start.

  • Patons Canadiana - 7 Purple
  • Patons Canadiana - 1 Bright royal
  • Patons Canadiana - 1 Really Green
  • Patons Canadiana - 1 Misty Mountain

This is most of the Patons yarn. The purple is grapey purple, and came from Ebay. It's going to be an afghan, as soon as I find some more Canadiana to mix with it and decide on a pattern. Finding complimentary colors could be a trick, since no on in this whole stinking state carries it, and color matching on websites can be a crapshoot. The Misty Mountain is evidence of that - it looked all green and purple on the website, but in reality is darker blues and greens. Still beautiful, but not that close to the website color swatch.

  • Lion Suede - 1 Ecru
  • Lion Suede - 2 Mocha
  • Lion Suede - 1 Coffee
  • Lion Suede - 1 Desert (variegated tans)
The mocha and coffee will be made into a crocheted stick horse for El Burrito. I found the pattern on Lion's website, and changed the colors to be more realistic. The ecru was in Walmart's clearance bin, and the Desert was the first skein I bought, to try working with it. I've swatched a square of Ecru, and it seems to hold up okay in the wash so far. Suede is different to work with, though. It's Very hard to rip out stitches, and it sort of squeaks sometimes when I crochet with it. But it feels so velvety that I can't resist it. The Desert may become a skinny scarf, or maybe a headband/earwarmer.

  • Caron? - 1 skein grey, 1 maroon
  • Paton's Brilliant - 2 each of Green Glitter and Sparkling Rose
  • Lion Wool - 1 skein Winter White
  • Bernat Disco - 1 skein Mr. Brown
Bargain bin yarn. If it's sparkly and on sale, I often don't have the willpower to resist. Plus, the Disco was a freebie from Bernat's website. The Lion Wool is my first wool yarn, bought as a test to see if I find it too scratchy or happen to have a reaction to it. The Caron is two skeins that I bought when I started crocheting again; the colors are ugly, but it was cheap and it's okay to practice on. At left is the Brilliant.

  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 2 skeins white
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 black
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 Beach Ball Blue (variegated)
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - partial Jute
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - partial Dark Brown
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 Denim (variegated)
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 Swimming Pool
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 Country Sage
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 Landscape
  • Lily's Sugar & Cream - 1 rosewood

Some of the Sugar & Cream cotton yarn. One skein of white will be a sailor hat for El Burrito, the black and white will be a cow costume for next Halloween (theoretically). The Beach Ball was partially used for a catnip mouse, and the Rosewood and Swimming Pool will be made into gifts for my sister, probably a bathmitt or something from the patterns on Lily's and Lion's website. The Jute and Brown are leftovers from the Awesome Acorn hat, and the rest will be used for random things around here - balls, dishcloths, whatever.

  • Red Heart Super Saver - partial skein of Pumpkin
  • Red Heart Super Saver - partial skein of Ocean (variegated blues)
  • Caron Perfect Match - 1 skein Orange
  • Caron Perfect Match - partial skein of Bright White
  • Lion Microspun - partial skein Black
  • Lion Microspun - 1 full, 1 partial in Lilac

Leftovers from other projects. Most is from El Burrito's hats, and the Microspun is from a skinny scarf I made my sister. The remnants of the Microspun will be turned into juggling cubes or balls for El Burrito, and I may make balls of the other yarn. I have a dream of making crocheted snowballs or something. I love the feel of the Microspun, it's very soft. The black was a pain to work with, especially with the crappy lighting in our condo. I'm tempted to buy more and make something but I don't know what, and it's too pricey to buy without a plan for it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


One of my many hobbies (too many, probably) is very-amateur astronomy. I can find the moon (ha ha), the occasional planet like Venus, and a few constellations - namely, the Dippers and Orion. Until last year, I was taking a free course at Barnes & Noble's online University. That course is when I "found" the constellation Leo, which was hosting Jupiter at the time. Unfortunately, BNU changed their format and dropped the astronomy classes. :( I was getting my star fix from Night Sky Magazine, but that will no longer happen either.

To fill in the gap, I just registered with a website called The New Radiant that should be fun and educational. A lot of the people from the BNU classes migrated there, as well as Ken Hewitt-White, who taught the classes and wrote for Night Sky Magazine (which just closed up shop, breaking my heart).

I also look at the SkyTonight weekly updates from Sky & Telescope every day, to see if there's anything going on that I'll be able to see. Currently, there's a nova that's visible to the naked eye, in Scorpius early before dawn. Haven't seen that yet, but I did get a lovely look at a crescent moon and Venus last night. We don't have a good view of the horizon, so I couldn't see Mercury below the moon, but maybe someday. Tonight, I'll try to get a photo of Venus. And, when (if) I get the new camera, I'll try taking more sky photos. With the long exposure feature, I might come up with something neat.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Yarn and stuff

So I've spent part of the morning chipping away at the 1400 (yes, you read that right) emails in my Yahoo inbox. It's like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon, and I don't know why. I've been unsubbing from various newsletters as I get them, but it still seems like an uphill fight.

Found out that there's a big music festival of some sort in Nashville the weekend we'll be there, so we need to start looking for a hotel room ASAP. I meant to get that done this weekend, but it was a bust. Sunday was 90% wasted, thanks to a birthday party for one of DH's many nieces. We left at noon and got home just before 7 p.m. Between that, a night of TV (Dresden Files, Battlestar, and the insanity that is 7th Heaven), and showers/baths all around, I got squat done yesterday. My computer time was about 20 minutes all told, and half of that I spent taking care of an auction I won on Ebay. I had the winning bid on a diaper bag, which I don't really need, but it was a great price (retail is $140, I paid $31 with shipping) and if I don't like the color, it should be easy to resell.

But, at this rate we'll never find a house. Or anything else on the never-ending list of Things To Do.

I did get to play with some yarn this weekend. I wound one skein of the Canadiana into a ball and crocheted with it for a while to get the feel of it. It's the variegated "Misty Mountain" which is shades of blue and green; it's darker in person than on the website, but it's got a sort of silvery undertone to it - the "misty" part, I guess. It's prettier worked up than in a ball, and I think it will make El Burrito a lovely hat or something. And the Canadiana is definitely softer than the other acrylics I've got. I also figured out the "seed pattern" used in a couple of the afghan patterns, and it's both simple and interesting-looking.

I also went to the library and cleaned out their crochet afghan books. There are some likely looking patterns, so I just need to find colors that will go with the purple Canadiana, and it'll be good to go. There's at least one afghan that looks lovely (and within my skill set), but purple isn't the right color for it. But if I can figure out the carried-yarn thing, it would be beautiful. It's a seablue body, with a Greek keyhole design along the edges. Fits well with my fondness for Classical Studies.

It's going to be a busy week. I don't foresee getting a lot accomplished, with an appointment of some sort almost every day.
  • Tonight - credit union meeting (always fun - free dessert, great door prizes)
  • Tuesday - taking DH to his eye appointment, since he has to get his eyes dilated. Plus, if time permits, a trip to the library for the Tuesday sale
  • Wednesday - the monthly lunch with the ladies from the condo (postponed due to weather)
  • Thursday - nothing at the moment
  • Friday - Pediatrician visit for El Burrito, but no booster shots this time (Yay!) Plus a trip to the local toy store that's going out of business, to see what Breyer horses and Schleich animals they may have on sale for me, and possibly books & toys for El Burrito. And it truly sucks that a city of almost 100,000 people can't support a toy store other than Toys R Us. I've been in TRU, thanks to a gift card we got for the baby, and I'm not impressed. Their toy selection seems pretty skimpy for little kids, and for the bigger kids, they seem to be overly emphasizing action figures and video games.
And that's my ramble for now.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hats and More Hats

For your viewing pleasure, we present tonight:

The Many Hats of El Burrito

Hat Number 1: The Awesome Hospital Hat. A nice blue/green/yellow variegated hat, done in either single or half-double crochet. He probably got this one because it was the only one big enough for his large head. I'm not kidding here; he's consistently in the 95+ percentile for head circumference at his pediatrician visits. It's a family thing, not a medical problem. His father's family just has large noggins. It's probably part of the reason he was a C-section.

He got a second hat at the hospital, a blue knitted one, but it was too small from the beginning. It kept squirting up off his head.

Hat Number 2: The blue variegated hat I did when he started to outgrow the Hospital Hat. Done in Red Heart Super Saver's Aqua color, I think. There was test hat before this one, done with random increases and guesswork, because I could not find a pattern for a plain crochet hat anywhere, just hats with bobbles, ear flaps, poofy bits, and other frills. I thought it would be better to start with something simple. I finally got smart and counted the stitches on the Hospital Hat. I wish I'd thought of that bright idea sooner. That guesswork hat is pretty ratty looking, but it served its purpose. I also used it to practice puff stitches for the Acorn hat later on.

The Aqua is not as soft as the yarn in the Hospital Hat, but I couldn't find anything close to that color mix. I looked at the soft baby yarns, but there wasn't a lot of selection. Yellows and pinks seem to be common, at least around here, and I was wanting something with blues and purples. Apparently purple and green are now "girl" colors, and I didn't get that memo. Almost all of the cute purple baby clothes are for girls, and they put in enough ruffles and bows that I couldn't get away with letting El Burrito wear most of them. :-(

Hat Number 3: The candy corn hat. I found the pattern online somewhere and thought it would be good practice. You can't see too well in this picture, but it's striped like a piece of candy corn, and his sleeper also has candy corn print. Also done in acrylic, some Caron and some Red Heart, I think. Caron's yarn seems to be softer, at least in the colors I used for this hat.

Finding the right shade of orange was surprisingly hard, since it was October at the time. I also ended up with a big skein of florescent hunter orange, so maybe my brother and dad will get bright orange hats one of these days.

Hat Number 4: The Acorn hat, from a book called Too Cute Crochet for Babies & Toddlers. There are a lot of cute hats in the book, including a couple that I plan to make in the future (a white sailor hat, yellow fisherman's rain hat, and possibly a red cowboy hat). I used Lily Sugar & Cream cotton yarn, in Jute and Warm Brown, which is what most of the examples in the book were done with. It's supposed to have two crocheted leaves on the top, but I didn't get the yarn for that, and I don't fully trust the book's pattern to be easy to follow, or correct, for that matter. They had a big error in the pattern for this one, the hat was two inches larger than it should have been and there was a lovely night spent trying to figure out why.

This one came out pretty well. I did have to adjust to the cotton yarn instead of acrylic. The cotton seems to grab the hook more, even though I use metal hooks. It took a while to get used to that and the way it changed the tension and gauge.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wasting time

How is it that I can feel like I'm perpetually behind, I have a list god-knows-how-long of things to do, and I'm sitting here feeling as if I'm waiting to be able to start something. It's bizarre.

  • I've got two online photo shows to judge (it's a model horse thing; hard to explain). But, I can't start judging until 5:00, so I've got two hours to wait on that. And of course someone's napping now, so later when I can work on this, he'll be awake.
  • I've got skeins and skeins of yarn, but I can't think of what to make.
  • I need to mail my sister's Xmas box. But before I can do that, I have to box it up, which means finding a box, and finishing the catnip mouse, and finding enough peanuts and bubble wrap to box it all up.
  • I could stand to vacuum, but with El Burrito napping, that's out of the question.
  • I'm trying to research speed tests on xD media cards, but from what I can tell, the H-cards are faster and not that much more expensive. CF is supposedly faster, but the camera I'm going to buy doesn't use CF, so it's a moot point.
  • I need to finish my spreadsheet of earned income last year for the tax prep. But honestly, I don't feel like it.
  • I need to order said camera, and I think I've decided who to buy from, but I'm having that problem where I am reluctant to commit to spending the money.
I feel like I've gotten nothing done today. I have, really. I took El Burrito to the mall, where we bought Valentine cards a day late (but not marked down), and very little Valentine candy at Target. The post-holiday clearance was pretty skimpy - lots of overpriced chocolate, ceramic jugs, and that was about it. I got the last bag of Kisses; most of the other candy was strange-brand chocolate or pre-made cookies. Not even any neat cards left, just Hello Kitty and Desperate Housewives cards. Bizarre. It felt like a wasted trip, actually. But it got us out of the house on our own, for the first time this week.

Then I got home, changed a diaper, rebooted the PC, checked my email, and had lunch. And discovered that I have two jars of Peter Pan peanut butter that have been recalled. What fun. And now El Burrito is awake, most assuredly hungry, and I have to go take care of things.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Acorn hats and yarn

Oooo, two posts in one day. Credit El Burrrrito for that, he took a two-hour-plus nap at lunchtime.

The acorn hat is finished. This might be the first version of the puff stitch, I'm not sure. I did two rounds of puff, thought they were too big, ripped them out, and did them again. They turned out longer than I thought anyway, so I probably could have left out a round or two of the light brown. El Burrito's head is large as far as circumference, but apparently not length-wise. This picture is before I turned the hat inside-out to hide the yarn-tail at the top.

Here it is, modeled by El Burrito himself. He got compliments on it the past two weekends, when we've visited various family members. He does look cute in it. Unfortunately, it's not much for keeping his head really warm, and the puffs make good handles when he tries to pull it off his head. For cold days, he'll be wearing the candy corn hat or the blue variegated hat (Red Heart yarn - love the colors, but the yarn's not as soft as I'd like).

More yarn arrived in the mail yesterday, too. I won 7 skeins (3.5 oz, approximately 200 yards) of Patons Canadiana in purple on Ebay. It's older yarn, and doesn't have the color name on the band, just "Color #25" which apparently isn't in production, or has changed numbers along the way. The Really Green and Bright Royal are from the order last month. The green is brighter than it looked on my monitor, which is why I wish I could find a store around here that carries the Canadiana. I still like the colors, but finding colors that work well together could be hard if I can't see them in person.

And now I have to figure out what to do with all this yarn. The purple is too much for a scarf and hat, but not enough for an afghan unless I add other colors. Patons only makes two other shades of purple, but I could probably use the purple with a darker green and a blue and come up with a striped afghan. Or maybe a vest of some sort. I've got some books on hold at the library, so I can look for some ideas.

I'm not a shawl person, or a sweater person, so my options are limited. It stinks to like to crochet, but be limited in what I can make, since I prefer making things that are useful. Some things I will make to give away (catnip mice), but some things I want to keep, especially after putting in that hard work, and picking colors that I love.

Suggestions welcome! Afghan? Vest? Huge scarf? Matching scarves for the whole family (ignoring the fact that DH won't wear a hat, much less a purple scarf)? Leg warmers?

The Cartwright Curse, or, Miss Kitty Dodges a Bullet

(No pun intended, of course)

We had a weekend visit to my parents this past weekend, which is what brought this theory of mine to mind again. I call it the "Cartwright Curse" because I first noticed it while watching old Bonanza re-runs, but it's made an appearance on Gunsmoke as well, and I'm sure on The Big Valley and other westerns that I haven't watched recently enough to have examples of.

Someone seems to have put a curse on the Cartwright boys. Pay attention and you'll start to see it. Any time one of the boys (Papa Ben included) starts to spark a girl, she's doomed. It might be a runaway wagon, an Indian raid, an outbreak of typhus, or something else, but she's not long for this earth. Even if Little Joe, Hoss, or Adam don't propose marriage specifically, she'll likely be dead before the hour's up. I'm not sure how often it happened, but I'm surprised that the Cartwrights didn't give up on the idea of dating.

The Curse also spread to Dodge City at least twice. Newly O'Brien (my favorite side character when I was younger) finally meets a lovely young woman and falls in love. As expected, Patricia's dead by the end of the episode, the victim of a blood disorder. Unexpectedly, she actually lives long enough to get through the wedding, but then dies in Newly's arms later on. Poor Doc Adams didn't even have that much luck. He hires Dr Sam McTavish to cover his practice while he's gone. "Sam" turns out to be a female, she and Doc spend half the episode arguing with each other, she accepts his non-proposal, and then expires. I believe it was bubonic plague that time. I can only theorize that Kitty survived because she and Matt never actually got to the "dating" part of the relationship, as far as I can tell.

I'm almost certain that the Curse appears in The Big Valley as well. How could it not, with three sons (one being Lee Majors) and a daughter (Linda Evans) running around? They probably left a path of sorrow at least equal to the Cartwrights, although Little Joe might have been enough of a heart throb to count double. I've got the first season of Big Valley on DVD, so I'll have to pay attention as I watch the episodes.

I'm not sure which other Westerns fell victim to the Curse. I'd thought Rawhide, just because of Clint Eastwood, but then the herd probably didn't stay in one place long enough for any sparking to occur. And sadly, I can't think of any other oldies right now, at least none that I've watched recently.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Strange Words

"Cattle" is a strange word.

Think about it. You see a single bovine critter in a field. For the sake of argument, assume that it's near enough to tell that it's a bovine, not a mule, giraffe, or deer, but distant enough that you can't see the plumbing. You want to say "Hey, look at that " but what do you call it? Bull and steer are both masculine, cow and heifer are feminine, and calf, while gender-neutral, is used for young animals, not the full-grown beastie you're looking at. "Cattle" covers all genders, but it's plural.

There's no common genderless word for an individual bovine, at least that I can think of, unless you go with the Latin-based "bovine" that makes you sound odd. For other animals, we have both singular and plural words that are genderfree. "Horse" covers all cases, and you have mare, stallion, gelding, colt, and filly if you want to get gender- and age-specific. Ditto for "chicken" and the counterparts hen, rooster, pullet, cockerel, and chick.

I could go on with other examples, but I've got other things to get done.

Loreena, Canada, and the weather

The weather here is rotten, again. Sleet last night, snow on top of it today, and below-freezing temps until Friday or so. Windchill tonight in the -10 (F) region. So, while I catch up on Zoom surveys, I will regale the Internet with the Tale of How I Discovered Loreena.

How I Discovered the Music of Loreena McKennitt: An Essay (of sorts)

Back in my younger days, in college, I was a big fan of a show called Highlander: The Series (something of a sequel to the Highlander movies starring Christopher Lambert). For the 4th season, the series opened with an awesome episode called "Homeland" which featured enough Scottish scenery to make me drool, on top of one of my favorite storylines. The episode featured a song called "Bonny Portmore" as part of the background music. It was a beautiful song, so I started trying to track it down. I never found the version used in the episode, but a friend in my dorm loaned me a CD called The Visit, by Loreena McKennitt, that had her version of the song. And that's how I became a Loreena fan. Later on, her songs were also used in various episodes of Due South and EZ Streets, which was an added bonus.

As far as Highlander, I was a fan until the last season, when things went soooo wrong. I'm still in denial over certain events that happened at the end. But Highlander may have been the beginning of my addiction to Canadian TV shows. I get a kick out of watching Canuck shows and spotting actors that I've seen in other series. While watching DaVinci's Inquest at lunch today, I saw Ian Tracey (who had a steady role in Fly By Night), as well as Ben Bass (Vachon in Forever Knight), I believe the actor who plays Cottle on Battlestar Galactica, and an actress who was a Tok'ra on Stargate for at least one episode. Plus, the actress who plays DaVinci's daughter (I believe) was one of the main characters on Firefly. It turns into a bizarre "Six Degrees of Canada" game, with bonus points if I recognize a location from our trip to Vancouver.

Thanks to a fussy-gus El Burrito, it's taken me 5 hours to finish writing this. So I'd better post it before I get sidetracked yet again.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Going to a concert!

We're going to a concert! !

All right, it's not until the end of April, but I'm still excited. Loreena McKennitt, who makes beautiful music, is finally doing another tour. Last fall, she released An Ancient Muse, the first album she'd done in close to ten years. (Long story, but she took some time off after her fiance's death.) I didn't discover her music until after the last tour, so DH and I swore that we'd get tickets the next time she was anywhere in our area, which we figured would be Chicago at the closest. And we were giving "area" a very broad definition, including the option of going to Canada for a concert if we had to. She's been touring Europe the past few months, which unfortunately is too far away to fit our broadly-defined area. :(

But, last Friday, the Loreena Yahoo-group was buzzing with the news that some tour dates had appeared on Ticketmaster's website. More buzzing, all weekend, because tickets went on pre-sale today, and everyone was excited and somewhat frantic over the passwords that TicketMaster requires for pre-sales. But Quinlan Road, Loreena's music publishing studio, came through with the passwords and a complete schedule today. And, after choking briefly at TM's assorted fees (*), DH and I now have two tickets to see Loreena at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN.

(*) Seriously, folks - TM charges $2.50 for the honor of printing out your own stinking ticket! Using your own paper, printer, and ink. It's insane. Plus the $9.80 per ticket "convenience charge."

And get this: we got awesome seats. Front row, not-quite-center. Beautiful! The Universe is compensating for the really, really, really crappy seats I had for the George Strait concert at the state fair about 15 years ago.

I mean, it was bad. The concert was in the grandstand, so there weren't assigned seats. If you got there early, you had good seats. Otherwise, not so much. I was there with about half a dozen family members, including a cousin, aunt and uncle. We spent the day at the fair, and my uncle made the mistake of giving my cousin B her ticket, and telling her to meet us back at the grandstand gate at a certain time. The time came, we got in line close to the front, and B still hadn't shown up. So we kept letting people go in ahead of us, while we waited for my cousin. Finally, we went in and left Uncle standing near the gate. By this time, the folding chairs were full and we had to hunt for a seat. We finally ended up with the worst possible seats: no chairs, we were perched on a pipe rail in front of the chain link fence. Between the beer wagon and the ambulance, and right behind a very drunk woman who was standing on her chair trying to sing. It was an unforgettable experience. Oh, and my cousin? Well, since she had her ticket, she went in without finding us. She was in the first five rows somewhere. I don't recall my uncle's reaction, but I could have smacked her. And as you can tell, I'm still a little bitter.

Friday, February 9, 2007

An epiphany of sorts

We've been plagued with gnats lately. Okay, not plagued, at least not like a few years ago (more on that later), but there's enough of a population to be irritating. And this morning, I found out why.

I decided to poke around in the variegated ginger plant that I mentioned yesterday. What's left of it, anyway, since it's dormant and all the leaves are thus dried out. I was hoping to find that I hadn't really drowned the poor thing, after spinning in mental circles for a full day before buying it. So, upon poking in the dirt around it, I see a handful of gnats take flight, and have my "Aha!" moment. Fungus gnats. Again. Oy vey. These little buggers like to live in damp soil, and are pretty hardy. They're also attracted to light, which is why my LCD computer monitor always has at least one knocking into it.

Anyway, the ginger rhizome doesn't appear to have rotted away, I don't believe, so there's hope for it yet. I disturbed the soil in the pot, to hopefully help it dry out faster, both to save the plant and control the gnat population. I haven't been watering the houseplants as often as they'd like, so the gnats aren't too out of control yet. Thank goodness. About two years ago, they were thick in the house. Nasty little critters, with a habit of taking kamikaze dives into my water glass, as well as trying to fly up my nose as I was waking up in the morning. Fun, no? After much research, I decided that the common gnat-killing liquid (Gnatrol ®) was too expensive for my taste. After more research, I discovered that the remedy for gnats, a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis, is also the active ingredient in the little mosquito dunks that hardware stores sell for ponds, etc. So, on to the home-grown idea - soak a mosquito dunk in water, and use the resulting brew to water the plants with.

At the same time, I also went the Darwin route and stopped watering the plants, which allowed the potting soil to dry out, and thus made a more hostile environment as far as the Stinking Gnats were concerned. I believe the plants went at least 6 weeks with little or no water, and probably longer. What water was given was the B. Thuringiensis water. Luckily, I didn't lose any plants, but then I tend to only keep the tough ones around. Like the aquarium inhabitents, anything with seriously picky constitutions doesn't last long. I gave up on poinsettias for the same reason I stopped buying neon tetras - I can't get the darn things to live. So I have my spider plants, Christmas cacti, and zebra danios, all good hardy stock.

Anyway, now that I know what's going on, I can dry out the poor ginger plant, hopefully save it, and cut down the gnat population as well. Luckily I still have some flystrips left from the last go-round.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


I may have finally decided on a camera, after much frustration and hair-pulling. Maybe. Have I mentioned that I'm the High Queen of Indecision? Especially when faced with information overload, and too many options.

At any rate, I seem to have decided on the Olympus SP-510 after finally managing to download the PDF manual and figure out the answer to the aperture question. Apparently, the f2.8-3.7 range listed in the online specs is just the minimum range. To find the full range, I had to spend an hour or two waiting for the 8MB file to download over dialup, twice, because I got an error the first time I tried to open it and it froze Acrobat the second time, and finally get DH to download it at work. According to the manual, the aperture can go up to f8, as does the SP-500. I'm still wondering why this isn't mentioned in the online specs. I also emailed their CS, asking for the aperture range on both cameras, and got a reply of f2.8-3.7, which is wrong. Go figure.

The other factor tipping the scale in favor of the SP-510 is the fact that while both the 500 and 510 have a bulb setting that will take up to an 8-minute exposure, only the 510 will work with a remote. With the 500, you apparently have to physically press the shutter release for the duration of your bulb exposure. Even with a tripod, that would cause some movement, which defeats the purpose of being able to take long exposures. It makes no sense.

So now, it seems that the only remaining decision is how to actually obtain the SP-510. If I go to a local store, say, Circuit City, I can come home with the camera in my hands, but pay $299 plus tax. If I order online, I may wait a week or so for shipping, but only pay $240. Then I have to decide on and buy the extra accoutrements that I'll need for the Big Camera Switch. For example, I'm going to be dealing with xD cards now, instead of Old Faithful's SmartMedia cards - which means deciding whether to get Standard xD, H-xD, or M-xD. And probably a new card reader, since the old one doesn't read H- and M-xD. And a new lens adapter tube, since the 510 won't use the CLA-1 from the 3020. And searching for a source for the cable remote, other than the Olympus Emporium website that will not load on my PC, no matter how empty my cache or what browser I'm using.

In other news, I got the latest, and as it turns out, last, issue of Night Sky Magazine today. Apparently there aren't enough subscribers, so they're stopping production and filling out subscriptions with Sky & Telescope instead. I'll miss my Night Sky, it was written for amateurs and beginners, which is what I am, and I liked the writers. And I procrastinated too long, so I won't get to submit any of my photos for their reader page. Darn! And just when I was going to have a neat camera that could take some sky shots. At least I've got my back issues to read.

And, after finally remembering to Google it, I discovered that my variegated ginger plant (3-gallon pot, for the awesome price of $5 at Westlake's last fall) is actually dormant for the winter. It didn't come with any info on the pot, so I didn't know if it was resting for the season or if I'd killed it. However, apparently you aren't supposed to water them much while they're dormant, and I have watered it, so I may have killed it anyway. Crap.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Things to look forward to (and not)

In a word, TV tonight. Multiple hours of lovely goodness. Tuesday nights are like TV overload night around here (along with Fridays). On Tuesdays, we have Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, NCIS, The Unit, and Dirty Jobs. Talk about fun. Fridays are almost as fun, with Monk, Psych, Stargate, SG: Atlantis, Doctor Who, and occasionally Numb3rs. The saving grace for Fridays is that USA and SciFi are staggered seasons, so we usually don't have to deal with first-run eps of everything on the same night. Not so with Tuesdays - everything is new tonight. Thank goodness for VCRs. GG and VMars get recorded, the others are watched live. Mostly because the dialogue on GG and VMars is fast enough that I often have to rewind to catch something, in spite of watching with the captioning turned on. (Doesn't help that our CW affiliate has crappy reception which occasionally garbles the captioning.) The dialogue on GG isn't as fast or witty as it was in seasons past, but it's still enough that I have to pay attention. Which, since I'm usually eating dinner in front of the TV while reading the paper, is why we record.

And a note: sometimes, it's not a good idea to eat dinner while watching NCIS, especially during autopsy scenes. I'm just saying.

Speaking of Fridays, we only have a few months before Stargate returns. In a way, I'm not looking forward to it, since the unspeakable suits at SciFi decided to cancel it. Just ten new episodes left, and I'll be left with only my DVDs to enjoy. I can sort of see their point, the show has been on for a while. But while I like Ben Browder and his character, he'll never be able to fill RDA's shoes in the show. I miss O'Neill at times. But then I don't seem to be the "typical" SG1 viewer. I like the dramatic episodes, but I also think Window of Opportunity and Wormhole XTreme were freaking hilarious episodes. For humor, though, The Other Guys is probably my favorite; the scales were tipped by the appearance of Patrick McKenna and John Billingsley in the episode. For the unaware, Patrick McKenna was a regular in the Red Green Show from Canada, and had a guest role in Due South, way back when. He can portray an amazing geek, and a pretty good used-car salesman. John Billingsley was Phlox in Enterprise. (And yes, I liked Enterprise. I liked the theme song, too, specifically the early version before it was up-tempoed in later seasons. Like I said, I'm not the "typical"

Monday, February 5, 2007

A non-productive weekend

Well, that was a non-productive weekend. I don't feel like I accomplished anything at all, although we did do the grocery shopping and go to a birthday party for one of DH's nephews. Oh, and we started on our taxes. Yep, that's about it.

The birthday party demonstrated pretty effectively that ceiling fans and helium balloons don't co-exist well. The balloons survived the encounter, but the ribbon leash ended up wrapped around the fan every time. Now, why did it take everyone not one, not two, but three tries to realize this? Kids younger than 10 may say "okay" when you tell them to keep the balloon away from the fan, but there's no follow-through.

Things I meant to do, but didn't:

  • visit the toy store downtown that's going out of business (it boggles my mind that a town with 100,000 people can only support a freaking Toys R Us)
  • go to Hobby Lobby for the supplies I need for the Stick Horse project
  • sort out the clothes that El Burrito has outgrown, which are taking up so much space in his dresser that I don't have room to put away all of his clean laundry
  • hang up the night light and mobile for El Burrito so he can enjoy his crib time more
  • figure out the totals for a bunch of ornaments I sold for a relative, and decide how much to charge her for doing so. Her proposed 10% was almost an insult, but she has never sold on Ebay, so she has no idea how much work there really is.
  • box up enough model horses that I could then
  • water the houseplants, which are woefully neglected
I'm also still waffling on the camera purchase. The aperture range on the SP-510, as I read the specs, is a huge step backwards as compared to my poor C-3020. I may end up with the SP-500, which has a range larger than the 510 but smaller than the 3020. More research is required, and with a small baby in the house, my research time is practically non-existent. Too bad my ability to second-guess myself didn't disappear along with it.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Trying to keep up

These days, I usually feel like I'm falling behind on everything - email, cleaning, the Never-Ending To Do list, just everything. There are things I have to do, that aren't getting done, and I don't know why. I feel like I'm doing good in that the laundry gets done every Monday, and we usually have enough clean dishes to eat dinner on (although DH washes the dishes these days, so I'm not taking any credit).

For example:
  • We rearranged our life insurance last summer, after the baby was born. My policy came back higher than expected, probably from postpartum weight and all that. So, our agent says let's wait a year and get it re-rated, which would supposedly give me time to lose said weight and get into something resembling shape. I've got 5 months left. I lost some weight immediately after the baby was born (although, no joke, I was exactly one pound lighter when I got home from the hospital. I was retaining impressive amounts of fluid, mostly the $80/liter hospital saline.) but for the past six months the number on the scale hasn't moved. I haven't exercised, for whatever reason. I am seriously unmotivated, for starters. Plus, any exercise during the day has to be something I can take a baby along on. Yeah right. In the evenings, we're doing good to feed us, feed El Burrito, read the paper, and get to bed before midnight.
  • EMail. Oh lord the email. My Yahoo inbox has, right now, 1307 messages, and it isn't even my main account! I have a problem with saving things to do "later" but never getting to them. An email might have a link I want to check out, or something I need to reply to, and instead of doing it now, I say "I'll do it later" or something.
  • House-hunting. See yesterday's post on the lack of space. We've been saying for more than a year now that we need to get a house. All we're doing to further that goal is to look at the Real Estate Book every two weeks. That's it. Again with the unmotivation and apathy. About four years ago, we actually got a realtor and were looking at houses, but we couldn't find anything that we wanted that was also affordable. At the time, we were looking at houses with land (minimum 10 acres), and those, around here are either in truly sad shape, or horrendously overpriced. We saw some affordable, but truly scary homes, but more on that later.
  • De-cluttering. I tend to be a pile-er. Piles spring up out of nowhere, I swear. I try to take care of the stuff in the pile, but it seems like I end up just rearranging the piles, consolidating piles, moving piles, and on and on and on. Right now, I've got a pile of things to file, and a box of things to sell or otherwise get rid of. I just need to actually get around to it. Then there's the large pile of things that need to be packed up. There's a massive pile of books in the hallway, blocking the closet door, that need to be boxed up soon. And a smaller pile of Breyer horses to pack up because I'm out of space. We've actually been boxing things up for at least a year, on the theory that whatever we pack up now, we won't have to pack in a rush before we move. Plus, it makes the condo look less cluttered, which helps my frame of mind, and is nice for when we have company. Good theory, but we need to implement it more.
  • Errands and shopping. I used to go every Thursday to do the shopping and errands, after having lunch with DH. I could get everything done in one afternoon. Needless to say, that screeched to a halt after the baby was born. I was pretty much homebound for 6 weeks after the C-section, so I didn't go anywhere. Even after I recovered, there was still the fact that I couldn't schedule things so that the baby was fed at a certain time, and that getting both of us dressed and out the door was taking at least an hour back then. It got a bit better for a while, but I've been backsliding lately. We go to the library on Tuesday afternoons, but usually no errands then for some reason. This past six weeks, it's been cold enough that I don't take the baby out much at all. But this leaves us doing everything on the weekends, and it isn't working out at all. We sleep in on Saturdays, and with everything else, we end up eating lunch somewhere around 2:00. That doesn't work for me, especially with no breakfast - I am used to eating at noon, and I'm not pleasant to be around when I'm having a caffeine headache and my blood sugar is dropping. We also tend to be uncoordinated, DH gets up and says "Let's go" with little warning, and we end up shopping without any sort of a list, which bugs me unbelievably. Step one in fixing this is to start doing the shopping lists on Friday night while watching Monk and Psych, or on Sunday afternoon, while I read the ads in the paper. That way, we'll be a little more prepared.
And now I'll quit rattling on, and go clear out some of my Yahoo email.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Headaches (the figurative kind)

Headache #1 - Camera shopping. I've sort of decided which camera will replace my beloved C-3020, since Olympus hasn't bothered to reply to my email asking for a repair quote. It'll probably be the SP-510, unless I change my mind. It has some nice features that the 3020 didn't have, like 10x zoom, more megapixels, and the ability to do really long exposures (a "bulb" option on the shutter speed). Now, according to the manual, which I downloaded from the website, the bulb setting can go up to 8 minutes, but the catch is that you have to hold the shutter button down the whole time. Yeah right. Apparently, though, there's a remote control that works with this model, which should get around the holding-the-button-down problem. I think - Olympus' online store is down right now, so I can't find specifics, and Google isn't being unusually helpful.

Then I remembered that Olympus sells on Ebay, which is how I got the lens adapter and polarizing filter for the 3020. They're selling refurbished cameras online, and I've got a notion to get a smaller (pocket-sized) cheap camera to haul around in my purse for occasional use. That way, I don't have to risk the "good" camera having an accident like the one that has presumably done in my old Faithful. It just comes down to figuring out which model or models look good and are in the price range I like - think sub-$100 here. So there's more research to do online. Gah.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of a new camera. Kind of. I really like my 3020, and for someone who's as much of a geek as I can be at times, I am oddly resistant to change in some areas. Maybe I just don't look forward to the learning curve of a new camera, which isn't helped by the fact that Olympus likes to send out their manuals as PDFs only. If you, like me, would prefer a printed manual to read, make notes on, flag things with Post-It's, or whatever? Well, sorry, you'll have to print the stinking thing out on your own printer, or pay to have a printed manual sent to you, if one's available. And trying to do research as far as user opinions, available features, prices, reviews, and all that is time-consuming. Especially since I'm home alone with El Burrito all day, which isn't really conducive to research, since the amount of time I have without distractions is practically nil, and not helped by my increasing tendency to be scatterbrained, unfocused, and easily distracted.

Yes, I'm whining. I'm alone most of the time lately, and my conversational skills are dwindling rapidly, along with my vocabulary and probably my patience. That's what you get when your only company is a pre-verbal 8-month-old. He's cute, but he ain't much of a conversationalist yet. At least not in a language I understand - but he spent an hour last night babbling something to us. Probably winning lotto numbers and a best-selling novel.

Headache #2 - Space. As in, we don't have much. This is a small condo, relatively speaking. Roughly 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 very small bathrooms. May seem palatial to someone used to a 500 sq ft apartment in New York, but to me, it's cramped, heading for freaking claustrophobic. The floor plan is abysmal to say the least, as is the air circulation, which is why there's probably a 5-degree temperature difference between the bedroom and the hallway. The only square rooms in the place are the bedrooms; the living room has seven sides (9 if I count the nooks where the TV and aquarium are). I tried to draw a floor plan once, and gave up after an hour. The bedroom has exactly one place to put the bed that won't block a door. The only large furniture in the living room is a love seat, glider/rocker, and coffee table, but there's basically one configuration that doesn't block the path from the door to the hallway.

We've got a playmat for El Burrito, maybe 2x4 feet, so he can have some floor time, and there are, right now, exactly two places to put it. One blocks the path from the front door to the rest of the house. The other means stepping over the boy to get from the couch to anywhere else. (And we eat dinner on the couch - there's no room for a table to eat at.)

I'll spare any readers (are there any?) my rants on the extreme lack of light in this place, natural or otherwise. There are no windows, just doors, although the doors for the most part have large panes of glass in them. For built-in lighting, we have a light in the kitchen, one over the stairs, tracklights over the kitchen bar/counter, and vanity lights in the bathrooms. Oh, and florescent tubes in the closets. That's it. Everything else is lamps. It's like living in a cave.

Headache #2.5 - Again, lack of space, baby-related. That same lack of space means less space for El Burrito to explore. Right now, he's not crawling yet, and the place isn't totally baby-proofed, because we meant to be moved into a house by now. And there's not a lot of floor space, so there's really no good place to spread a blanket and let him roll around. Also no room to put a playpen or exersaucer-type thing, which is what he's ready for. He had a bouncy chair (somehting like this one but without the canopy or remote control) that he loved to death, and so did we, but it gave up the ghost last night. He's still got the battery-powered swing, which is supposed to be rated to 30 pounds, but it hasn't had enough oomph to swing the boy since he hit 15 pounds. I've resorted to powering it myself, with some yarn, but that won't last much longer before he outgrows it altogether.

To be continued, later on. I've got a never-ending list of things to get done.