Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Schulz

Today would have been Charles Schulz's 86th birthday. Happy Birthday, sir, and thanks for all the fond memories.

I've been reading the Complete Peanuts lately, thanks to the library. I finished the strips from 1959 today, and I've got the next 2 volumes (4 years' worth) from the library this week. It's interesting to see how things evolved over the years, and how many little things turned up later in the television specials. There are some pretty good biographical essays and interviews in the books, too.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is, in my opinion, the gold standard for the Peanuts specials and for most animated holiday specials. It's the closest to perfect that I can think of right now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another day at the library

Today's library numbers: 34 items out, 11 on hold.

Returned a book and a CD today, came home with 7 books and 2 CDs. We checked out two Clifford books, a couple of National Geographic photography books, and the next two volumes of the Complete Peanuts.

  • The Ship Avenged - the last hold-over from my McCaffrey Quest trivia contest reading
  • a jazz CD with Vince Guaraldi as the pianist (it was a quartet, don't remember the name)
Then we spent $4.50 at the sale carts, because 50 cents for books-on-CD is a good deal. I even spent 50 cents on To Kill a Mockingbird, although it's missing one of the 7 CDs.

Lousy Customer Service

Okay, I've got to rant about this somewhere. I just had one of the lousiest customer service experiences ever.

We've got both a smoke alarm and a smoke/carbon monoxide alarm. The smoke/CO alarm is from First Alert. It's kind of interesting - it doesn't just beep, it talks to you. Including telling you that the battery is low (and where the alarm is located), so you don't have to search the house for an invisible cricket that won't shut up. You get to hear "Warning! Smoke has been detected! Evacuate! Evacuate!" (It sounds a bit like a Dalek.)

We re-installed the combo alarm last month, after the new furnace was installed. We hadn't been using it for a while, but I forget what beyond-annoying thing it was doing. I made a special trip to the store last month for fresh batteries, since we weren't sure how stale the batteries around the house were. Last night, at some unholy hour, we heard "Battery is low in the hallway." Stupid thing never talks during the day, it's always when we're sound asleep.

All right. Those batteries are less than a month old, and I was a little cranky about the wake-up call, so I went Googling this morning. First Alert had a recall on some of their models for a similar problem, but ours wasn't one of them. They don't believe in email or contact forms, so I called them today in spite of the non-recall. I figured it couldn't hurt, and someone might at least say "Sorry about that." or something.

Yeah, right. I was told, after waiting on hold for 7 minutes, that they recommend only Energizer batteries, and if I was using anything else, they can't predict how long the batteries will last. Otherwise, tough toenails. Not even a "thanks for calling" or anything.

All right. It's not mentioned on the back of the alarm (contrary to what the CSR said) and I can't find the manual right now, but it is mentioned in tiny, camouflaged white-on-white raised type inside the battery compartment. But still. I bought Duracells, not some $1-a-dozen generic crap that's been sitting in a warehouse for a decade. Duracells with a freshness date of March 2015. Duracells that still send the battery-tester arm waaaay over to the upper side of "Good" after only 3 weeks. I'll put some fresh-ish Energizers in the stupid thing, but if this happens again, I'm returning the alarm and finding another company.

Makes me even happier that the smoke alarm is hardwired and we don't have to mess with this kind of insanity so often.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Library Visits

Why is the library busy on Tuesday mornings? No clue, I just know that we had to park in the overflow lot again. At least it wasn't raining. :) And I get a bit aggravated at people who do the parking-lot vulture routine. Someone today was sitting in their car, blocking traffic flow, waiting for a family to back out. They weren't even in the car yet, so it wasn't a short wait.

Anyway, on to today's library score card: 31 items out, 10 on hold.

We returned 7 books and 2 DVDs last Thursday, and 3 more books today.

Today we returned:
  • Living the Not So Big Life - never finished it, it was too deep for me right now
  • The 4400: The Vesuvius Prophecy
  • don't remember the third one
Then we picked up some books on hold (3 books, 1 CD), spent $6 at the sale carts on some goodies for El Burrito, and came home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I hate shopping for shoes

I tried to buy a new pair of shoes this weekend (New Balance walking/whatever "tennis" shoes), and realized why I hate it so much.

Our first mistake: no stroller. So DH was riding herd on El Burrito at JCPenney while I tried on half a dozen pairs of shoes. Just three models, but various sizes. My current shoes are a 9 medium, the ones that I think will fit are a 9.5 wide in that model. Other models, a different size fits best. Go figure. Same brand.

After an hour, I finally get tired of trying to keep an eye on DH, El Burrito, my purse, and everything else. I decide on one model, and ask if they have my size in the back. Nope, sorry. No worries, I think, I'll check online and order them there. On the way out of the mall, I stop in at one of the shoe-only stores. They don't have a 9.5 either. In fact, they've only got a dozen pairs total of that model in stock.

That should have been a Giant Freaking Clue, people.

I checked the website when we got home. 9.5 D is not even an available option. Joy. I Googled everywhere. No joy, unless I wear a size 6.5 narrow or a 13 medium. Then I checked New Balance's website. The model I want, 643, doesn't even appear there. I've emailed NB's customer service, but it seems like it's been discontinued. The most irritating thing is that they seem to change models so often, and I really wish they'd have some sort of conversion chart. Just tell me, is a 643 roughly equivalent to a 645? And where does the 603 fit in, because it looks similar to the 643 in the pictures at, but it's an online-only item, shipping ain't cheap, and I'd rather not have to burn money ordering and returning things that don't fit, just because I can't try them on in the store.

So, after spending an hour trying on shoes, I'm no better off than when I started. I'll get to do the whole thing over at some point, and who the @#^^ knows when that will be - shopping with El Burrito and without DH is impossible, when it comes to clothes.

And that's why I was so frustrated last night that I was in a truly filthy mood, managed to teach El Burrito a few words he shouldn't know, and didn't fall asleep until 3 a.m. I still haven't heard back from New Balance, either. I'd settle for some explanation of their numbering system - do they number by purpose (running shoes are 5xx, walking is 6xx, etc), are sequential numbers similar shoes, or is it all random and I'm totally out of luck? (My current NBs are 552 and 608, but they're both a few years old and the new 608s look nothing like mine.)

In short, I hate shopping for shoes. And I don't have a choice - my current NBs are losing the sole, and my casual/dress shoes are too small now. Always have been, actually, I was just not in the mood to replace them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's lesson

Today's lesson:

Always, always, ALWAYS thaw meat in a container - plate, bowl, baking pan, whatever. Do not fool yourself into thinking that the repurposed Walmart shopping bag will keep a thawed roast from bleeding all over the refridgerator.

Ask me how I know this. Go on. Ask.

It's because we tossed a roast in the fridge to thaw a few days ago. DH popped it into a plastic shopping bag first, to contain the leaks. I watched him do it, and thought at the time that it might not be enough, but I planned to cook Mr. Roast the next day (before it was fully thawed) and got distracted before I put a plate under it.

Skip forward a couple of days. Early this morning, my tired self reached in to get Mr. Roast ready for the crock pot, and found a nice bloody mess. Joy. At least it was on the bottom shelf this time. I only had to clean up one glass shelf and the crisper drawer (which, in our house, is full of chocolate in various forms, and two boxes of butter/margarine). Last time, we put the ham on the top shelf. Ham juice all over the fridge, top to bottom. I spent all morning cleaning it up, and the whole place smelled like ham.

This time, the only casualties were some out-of-date cheese sticks that should have been tossed months ago. The margarine seems to have been sealed enough to keep the blood out. And luckily, the foil on a giant-size Caramello bar is sealed around the edges now. I spent an hour or so scrubbing bloody juice off the glass shelf, washing the apples (even though they were in a produce bag), and cleaning up the chocolate chip bags.

The fridge is cleaner now. That's progress.

And now I'm off to read the Shuttle launch blog, since I don't get NASA TV and the news channels don't think a launch is worthy of air time anymore. (I gotta find a full-size copy of that image with Endeavour in the moonlight from the first link. It's probably amazing in a bigger size.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday at the library

As of today: 39 items out, 8 on hold.

We returned today:
Came home with 2 library books and spent $2.50 at the sale.

Then this afternoon I finished Shopping for God and am working through Paradox of Choice and volume IV of the Grantville Gazette. We'll have more to return Tuesday, now that the McCaffrey Quest is over. I just couldn't carry all of them today and still wrangle El Burrito.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Random question

Is it odd that I can tell the difference between Coke & Pepsi, and between diet and regular soda? I've had people tell me that diet soda tastes exactly the same, and many people quote studies saying that in a taste test, people can't tell one from the other. All the same, I would bet money (and I'm a tightwad!) that I can tell Coke from Pepsi (although I don't care for either as diet), and that most diet sodas are obviously different from the regular version.

That aside, Diet Sunkist is so far the best tasting diet orange soda we've found. The other diet oranges were just blah. Still looking for a good diet grape, and if Welch's would make one, I would gladly hand them money on a regular basis. So far, Diet Rite White Grape diet is the closest we've gotten, but it's still not as grape-y as a good Welch's. Sigh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008



A certain Burrito boy got very lucky today. He just doesn't know it yet (he's napping).

We stopped at Michaels today to check the parking lot, on the off chance that our lost car might still be in the parking lot, belly-up and blending in. No luck. (Also no luck on the witch-hat cookie cutter that I passed up yesterday. Sigh.) Then we stopped at Target to see if they might have stocked up on Cars (tm) in preparation for the holidays. No luck there, either. Home we came.

So, after he was napping soundly, I went back outside and started wandering around the lawn, hoping to spot a little blue car in the grass. I made it about 80% of the way around the building, found some piles of dog poop (which are supposed to be cleaned up when deposited), talked to one neighbor who asked if I was hunting for night crawlers, and was about to call it a lost cause. Then I decided to check the grass along the east sidewalk, even though I would swear up and down that we didn't even walk up that way as we came in yesterday.

And Bingo! There was a slightly damp Miss Sally, belly up in some grass. She's on the kitchen counter now, and I'm going to have to decide whether to give El Burrito the good news right away, or let him suffer a bit so he'll maybe stop tossing things down the hill when he gets mad.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Missing: One Car

Lost: one small blue Porsche car.
Missing some paint on the corners. Has some taco cheese in the wheel-wells. Answers to Miss Sally or "Mommy's Car." Lost somewhere between the checkouts at Michaels and the car in the parking lot. Or, possibly, hiding in my car well enough that two searches haven't found it yet.

* * *

El Burrito managed to lose Miss Sally twice today. The first time, he was lucky - a cashier at Michaels found her in the cart after we left, figured it might belong to Mr. Charming, and had it waiting at the checkout when we came back in to look for the missing car. I noticed El Burrito's missing car as I was buckling him into his seat, so we just got back out of the car and went toy-hunting inside.

However. Somehow, between the checkout lane and getting out of the car at home, Miss Sally disappeared again. I don't know if he tossed her into a display bin outside the store, dropped her in the parking lot, hid her in my car, or possibly flung her into the grass here at home. I've been all over my car, inside and out, twice, with no luck. I even looked under the hood, since a Certain Someone has found a really neat new hiding place for his cars - he perches them on the grill of the car while I'm trying to wrestle everything into the back seat.

I've even called Michaels, in spite of how embarrassing it would be to have lost the darn car not two minutes after finding it the first time. The sales associate who answered the phone offered to look in the parking lot, but didn't find her, and took our phone number in case she turns up somewhere. DH is stopping on his way home, too, to check the lot. If she landed upside down, the black undercarriage would blend in with the asphalt.

Otherwise, either we'll be going to Target tomorrow hoping for a replacement, or El Burrito will find out early that sometimes things get lost forever.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's done

El Burrito and I went to our new polling place on the way home from the library, and got that done. We have the option of an electronic ballot, but I prefer the paper ballot and filling in the ovals, especially with a squirmy Burrito along for the ride. (Plus, I think the Scantron type ballots are probably both the easiest to use, and the least likely to have issues - most everyone's been filling in ovals since grade school, no hanging chads or other weirdness to worry about, no possibility of computer glitches.)

I'm not sure who will end up winning anything, local or national, other than the uncontested local races. I'm cynical enough to think that in some cases, neither candidate was a clear "best" or "better" choice. Sometimes, it feels like flipping a coin will be just as valid a way to pick who to vote for, especially when candidates spend more time slinging mud and accusations than they do convincing me why I should vote for them.

I occasionally wish that we had a "none of the above" option - a way to confirm that I didn't skip that race accidentally, and it's not that I couldn't decide who to vote for, it's just that I believe that neither clown was worthy of my vote. (Not talking about specific clowns here, just in general.) Sure, you don't have to vote in a race, but there's no way to tell if a non-vote was an accident, a moment of severe indecisiveness, or a "pox on you both" sort of thing.

Now it's just a waiting game. While I hope (really hard) that we don't have the long drawn-out agony of the 2000 election, I also kind of hope that it's not a landslide victory in some cases. Somehow, I think a closer count might help remind the winner to work with everyone, not just the people on the "winning" side. And God, I'm so sick of the divisiveness going on, the idea that if you don't vote a certain way, you're un-American, that you're either A or B, with no room for any other options.

I'm not sure where all this garbage is coming from. I don't remember elections being this crazy when I was in high school. Maybe it's just an unfortunate by-product of 24-hour news channels, Internet information overload, and the fight for ratings. When I was in high school, most people didn't have satellite or cable (rural area, folks - 3 broadcast channels, 4 if the weather was right), and I don't think the big news channels had hit their stride yet. Or maybe I've just been suffering through too much Fox News.

(Fox is usually DH's news channel of choice, being a Republican/conservative. He says his family conservative, I say Republican, based on the opinions I've heard. They won't touch a Dem with a 10-foot pole, no matter who's running against them. Personally, I'm registered as "independent" and tend to vote both sides. I'm more liberal on the environment and related things, but financially conservative, and mostly believe that the government should keep their noses out of a lot of things. I've rarely seen any governmental entity that could work within a budget. I'd probably be more Libertarian, if there were any to vote for around here.)

And thus ends my political ramble of the day.

Library Day!

So, it's Tuesday again. Also Election Day, but that's a whole nother story.

Today's library numbers: Returned 1 book, checked out 6. 38 items out, only 8 on hold. (Apparently there's a time limit on how long you can be on the hold list. I've had a crochet book on hold since May or thereabouts; it's not on my list anymore. I guess they've figured out that it's lost. So now I guess I'll get it via ILL.)

Returned: One Last Little Peek - a Bloom County/Outland collection.
Checked out: 5 Anne McCaffrey books, to prep for McCaffrey Quest 2008. I'd like to beat my score from last year. Considering I did my Quest mostly on the drive from MO to GA, it should be do-able. However, once again I'm stuck with using books from the library, since 80% of my books are packed away in storage, and most of the other 20% are in the "I know it's here somewhere" category. Google is also helpful, although last year I was getting an awful lot of hits that were passages from various McCaffrey novels mixed in with chunks of spam and p()rn.

And we spent $3.50 at the sale.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Welcome, Great Pumpkin!

The Halloween Report:

The costume was finished in time (although the ears could use some tweaking - they fall forward too easily). The only thing I didn't manage to do was come up with a clover and Who-speck. El Burrito had a visit from my parents during the day, which led to a late and short nap, and also meant I didn't have time to paint a cotton ball for the clover.

(Photo: El Burrito with his jack-o-lanterns from last year (left) and this year.)

For Halloween, we went trick-or-treating at Hyvee again, and then out to DH's parents' house for some treats. Horton got some nice compliments about the costume, and we were the only elephant there at the time. (There was one other Horton at Hyvee, apparently - they took pics of all the Treaters and had them posted on a wall so you could pick up your kid's picture. Other Horton had a different costume, it might have been a generic elephant. It may have even been the elephant costume that Old Navy had a year or so ago - it looked a lot like our ON mouse, but with different ears.)

After we got home, the Great Pumpkin came to visit. We piled all of our pumpkins into the chair (we had one real pumpkin and a bunch of craft pumpkins) and covered them with a blanket. Then El Burrito closed his eyes and said "Where are you, Great Pumpkin" or something like that, while I stuffed his Great Pumpkin gifts under the blanket.

(Photo: El Burrito and his Pile O' Pumpkins)

The Great Pumpkin didn't bring the blue vacuum cleaner that El Burrito kept mentioning. He did bring a Webkinz beagle (promptly named Suzie Puppy after my brother's dog), a K'Nex Cookie Monster (half-price grand opening coupon from Michaels), a book called Pumpkin Pumpkin, and a handful of Safari animals (also from Michaels).

The gifts were a hit, so we'll probably be doing another Great Pumpkin visit next year.