Friday, January 30, 2009


Random questions:
  • Why do companies put cryptic codes on food products, instead of a user-friendly Use/Eat/Sell by date?
  • Why do said companies a) not answer their toll-free number and b) want everything short of a Social Security number before they'll let you send them an email?
I've been cleaning out corners here and there, and came across three cake mixes that didn't have either a Use By date or a Sharpie'd "we bought this on" date. They do have a fairly useless code printed on the box, but it's nothing we can decipher, and the Pillsbury website doesn't have a decoder ring. I took a shot and cooked one of the mixes last week. Yeah, it's a little past it's prime. After it was done (passed the toothpick test), it was maybe 1.5 inches deep. And it shrank around the edges. A lot. It smelled okay, so we tried a slice. Edible, but not so great. We tossed most of it.

Today I tried again, this time with a box that was only best by February 2007. I took the precaution of adding a touch of fresh baking powder. This one came out much better. It's not a pancake.

Tried calling Pillsbury this morning, listened to the recording, and attempted to talk to a live person. The phone rang at least a dozen times before I gave up. I just sent them an email via their webform, asking how to translate their codes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Library Day in the snow! (1-27-09)

Just a small library trip today. Returned 1 book (Grantville Gazette III), checked out two (The Ship Errant, Sitting Ducks), spent $2 at the sale. And then we came home in the snow.

Totals: 26 items out (10 for El Burrito), 6 on hold.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Library Day! (1-20-09)

Another nice trip to the library. We made a quick stop on Saturday to return and pick up books, plus returned 3 today. So right now, I've only got 26 items checked out, and at least 8 of those are for El Burrito.

  • The Battle for Skandia
  • Bringing Home the Birkin
  • The Duggars: 20 and counting
Spent $2.50 at the book sale, found El Burrito a Pooh Valentine book and a couple for me, including a Patrick O'Brian book that isn't an Aubrey/Maturin novel.

Thursday might be a storytime day, if the weather cooperates.

And then there were two

My last little orange platy died sometime yesterday. I found the corpse behind one of the plastic plants in back of the aquarium. He'd been acting a little off for a few days. Maybe it was old age, I lost track of which fish was which a while back. And the infrequent water changes probably weren't the best thing for the little guy.

That just leaves one gigantic pleco and a small zebra danio bopping around in a 20-gallon tank. It looks abandoned. As soon as we move, I'll have to find another home for Squiggy, he's probably too big for the tank as it is. And then I'll buy a few more danios, maybe some more platys of some kind, or some gold barbs. I'd love to have angel fish, they're so pretty, but they're also more finicky than I'm probably ready for.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Counterpoint - Bargain-hunting

To prove to myself that I don't always mess up rebates & other money-saving things, here's a counterpoint. Call it "things I've done right" or "lucky finds" or something.

  • I scored a practically-new Roget's Thesaurus at the library sale this week for a measly 50 cents.
  • Also bought Magnum P.I. Season 2 on DVD for $3. That's about what it would cost to ship a used set if bought on Amazon or
  • I got a great deal when El Burrito needed socks last month. We tried Old Navy first, since that's where his current-at-the-time socks were from. No luck - they've changed their sock selection. Ended up at Gymboree, which usually isn't that cheap. But they had a sale, I had a coupon, and we got 11 pairs of socks for $15. Usual retail is $3.25 per pair. And these are their "good" socks, the solid-color, mostly cotton (I think) socks. They've also got theme socks to match the different clothing lines, but those tend to be shorter, thinner, and often with enough polyester that they pill.
  • Bought myself some warmer pajamas online - organic cotton "Mutts" prints from Walmart. On clearance, although my awesome Eeyore "Zen Master" pajama pants were still $7.
  • Got El Burrito's vitamins cheap at Gerbes last week - buy one, get one free, which made it cheaper than either Target or Hy-vee. And we got a $5 credit for buying Procter & Gamble products (Pampers) which meant that one bottle of the vitamins was essentially free.
  • We're apparently getting a free replacement stapler, since I called about the lifetime warranty from Swingline.
  • I've resisted the Christmas Cactus for sale at Hy-vee ($9.99 each). I'll wait until April and order some online. Found a place with plants for $4.99, or 5 for $20 ($26 with shipping).
That's about it. Not much for the frugality lately, sadly.

Why I need to be more organized

I need to be more organized. It's the figuring out how to get There from Here that's giving me problems.

In the past month, I've paid one bill late ($12 late fee - almost 25% of the monthly bill), missed the deadline for two rebates ($10 each), and forgot to order something before the sale ended last night. One rebate was 90% ready to mail, and I put it off until "later" for some idiotic reason. On the other rebate, we bought everything for the rebate, but missed the purchase window for one item.

Needless to say, I'm so mad at myself right now that I could spit nails. Being disorganized has cost us at least $32 in the last month. Probably more, because I know there were some coupons I needed to use before they expired.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Today was the first storytime of the year, for 2-year-olds. We skipped it, because it's just too freaking cold. says it's a whopping 8 degrees outside, minus a few degrees of windchill. Since I can't go out to warm up the car before I put El Burrito in, and the front door is a PITA to lock from the outside when it's this cold, I decided to stay home. We went to the library on Tuesday already, and El Burrito got to play a bit then. The library got some new toys over the holidays - a wooden barn from Lakeshore, with toy critters to go with it. Lakeshore's buildings are expensive, but they seem to be built to last. The dollhouse at the library gets a lot of use (and abuse, I'm sure), but it's holding up well.

El Burrito did go with me to get the mail, mostly because leaving him alone inside isn't a good option. He got bundled to the gills for our 20-yard or so walk - it took longer to get him dressed up than it did to walk to the mailboxes and back. :) Then we had lunch, broke out the crayons, and watched an hour or so of PBS (Curious George and Clifford) before naptime. I did more coloring than he did; he mostly used his toy backhoe to scoot crayons around on the couch.

Predicted low tonight is -2 (!) but then up into the 20s tomorrow. A heat wave! At least I'm not in Michigan with my sister, where they've got masses of snow on top of insanely cold temperatures.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


```What I've read, 2009 edition:
  1. Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies - Very cute.
  2. Dragonheart (new Pern novel) (1-9-09) - Written by Todd instead of Anne, it was pretty good, definitely not a skimpy book, but somehow a bit unfulfilling and/or confusing. I probably need to go read the book that takes place concurrently with it (Dragonsblood, I think).
  3. Ten Kids, No Pets (1-12-09)
  4. Eleven Kids, One Summer (1-13-09)
  5. Broken Chords (1-14-09)
  6. The Burning Bridge (Ranger's Appreintice, Book 2) - Very good stuff
  7. The Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 3) (1-15-09) - Still very good.
  8. Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose, illustrated by Scott Gustafson (1-15-09) - very lovely illustrations, they'd be perfect framed for a nursery or preschool. Nice colors and some whimsy (the Pieman in "Simple Simon" is a gorilla)
  9. Images of the World: Photography at the National Geograpic (1-16-09) - full of great pictures. There's one of a tiny octopus coming out of the egg (do Octopi hatch?) it's an older book, printed in 1981, so the colors are a bit dated, but still a nice batch of eye-candy.
  10. The Battle for Skandia (Ranger's Apprentice, book 4) (1-19-09) - I really like this series so far. I'd almost hope they're made into a movie, but then I think about the travesty of the "Dark is Rising" movie, and change my mind.
  11. The Duggars: 20 and Counting - because I can't resist a good dose of fluff. Irritating writing at times, though.
  12. Bringing Home the Birkin - Saw the fuss over Birkin bags on Gilmore Girls, and wondered what the attraction was. Still don't see the point of a $25,000 purse, but oh well.
  13. Family secrets - the story of the Dionne quintuplets in Canada. Bad situation all around.
  14. Antiques Flee Mall (A Trash N Treasures Mystery) by Barbara Allen - good fluffy mystery
  15. Grantville Gazette III (1-26-09)
  16. Murder on Monday, by Ann Purser (1-27-09) - First in a series of British mysteries; the main sleuth is a housecleaner. Pretty good. Makes me want to go live in a little British (or Irish, or Scottish) village.
  17. Library Lion (to El Burrito) - Nice kids book, good illustrations.
  18. Sitting Ducks (ditto) - I like the story, but I really loved the illustrations by Michael Bedard.
  19. The Ship Errant, by Jody Lynn Nye (1-29-09) - One of the Brainship books in Anne McCaffrey's series, pretty good one.
  20. Terror on Tuesday, by Ann Purser (2-1-09)
  21. Death from the Skies! (2-2-09)
  22. Dragonsblood (2-3-09)
  23. Doggie Day Care Murder, by Laurien Berenson (2-6-09)
  24. Sorcerer of the North, by John Flanagan - Fifth and latest book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. It jumped forward about 3 years from the last book, but it was very good. Hopefully the missing years will be filled in later. But I can't believe it'll be almost a year before the next volume is out. Sigh.
  25. The Complete Peanuts, 1959-1960 (2-9-09) - Great, as always. Parts of the Halloween and Christmas specials are based on some of these strips, almost word for word.
  26. Vet Confidential (2-9-09) - Skimmed this one, because we don't have a pet of any kind right now (other than tropical fish)
  27. Weeping on Wednesday, by Ann Purser (2-10-09) - From a mystery series that I'm working through. Good stuff, makes me want to live in a little British village.
  28. Santa Clawed, by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown (2-11-09)
  29. ?? Something, I'm sure
  30. Five Fists of Science (2-20-09) - graphic novel, sort of steampunk
  31. Reserved for the Cat (2-21-09) - Mercede Lackey, one of the Elemental Masters series
  32. Extraordinary Engines (2-23-09) - steampunk anthology, with a good story about a robotic Abe Lincoln and the James Gang.
  33. A Killer Collection by J. B. Stanley (3-5-09)
  34. The Tale of Briar Bank (3-5-09)
  35. Theft on Thursday (3-6-09)
  36. Fear on Friday (3-7-09)
  37. Secrets on Saturday (3-9-09)
  38. Sorrow on Sunday
  39. Warning at One
  40. The Darwin Awards, Next Evolution (3-25-09)
  41. The Dragon Pearl - lovely illustrations
  42. The Maze of Bones (39 Clues book 1) (3-26-09) - Interesting premise for a series. If I had more time, I'd try a bit of the online game.
  43. Fight for your Money, by David Bach (3-27-09)
  44. Grantville Gazette I (3-29-09) - Interesting stuff, but I have a few nitpicky things with the horse-power article. It's "Quarter Horse" people, not "Quarterhorse".
  45. A Fatal Appraisal, by J. B. Stanley
  46. National Park Photography, by Tim Fitzharris (3-31-09)
  47. Handle with Care, by Jodi Picoult
  48. Night Passage, by Robert B. Parker (first in the Jesse Stone books) (4-1-09)
  49. Big Box Reuse, by Julia Christensen (4/3/09) - Very interesting read. I'll have to visit one of the featured Reused Boxes next time I go to Lebanon, MO. The library there is a former K-Mart.
  50. Trouble in Paradise, by Robert Parker. Second Jesse Stone book.
  51. A House is Not a Home, the autobiography/memoir of Polly Adler. Not my usual topic (memoir of a "madam" from the 1920s), but interesting just the same.
  52. Ernie, the Autobiography; by Ernest Borgnine. From the book, he seems like a really good guy. (4-9-09)
  53. Death in Paradise - Robert Parker. Third of the Jesse Stone series. Pretty good, but not as good as the movies (the movies have Tom Selleck. 'Nuf said.). Quick reads, too. (4-10-09)
  54. Stone Cold, Robert Parker.
  55. Sea Change, Robert Parker.
  56. Always Looking Up, by Michael J. Fox. Good stuff.
  57. (57) ReVisions - alternate-history short stories (4-14-09)
  58. Lassie Come-Home (childrens' adaptation)
  59. One False Note, by Gordon Korman (39 Clues, book 2) (4-16-09) These are good, but a really fast read. Like, I finished it in about an hour.
  60. High Profile, by Robert Parker.
  61. Stranger in Paradise, by Robert Parker. (4-17-09) - I'm caught up with the Jesse Stone series now.
  62. Save Queen of Sheba
  63. Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith. (4-20-09) #2 in the Ladies Detective Agency series.
  64. Mommywood, by Tori Spelling. A really fluffy read - took me an hour or so.
  65. The Black Stallion's Shadow, by Steven Farley. The first, I think, written by Walter Farley's son. Interesting, but a couple of odd things. I.e. I don't think a jockey-sized person would have to bend down to tighten a girth, and if The Black is only 6 years old after 20 or so books, he must have been a foal on the island.
  66. Redneck Boy in the Promised Land: the confessions of "Crazy Cooter," by Ben Jones. Pretty good stuff; not focused all on the Dukes days, and he sounds like a guy who would have been a good Congressman. Still in touch with reality.
  67. Pastures New, by Ann Purser. (4-26-09) Not a mystery, but a really good book. It's the first in a series, but unfortunately they all seem to be out of print. It's off to used-book websites for me.
  68. Fast Ships, Black Sails - Short stories, a fantasy/sci-fi/pirates combination. A couple would be interesting as full-length books.
  69. The Universe in a Mirror: the Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries who Built it (5-4-09) - A very good book, lots of details and background info on the HST. Kind of sad that some of the people who were responsible for its survival haven't been recognized as such.
  70. The Complete Peanuts, 1963-64 - More great classics. The basis for You're (Not) Elected, Charlie Brown is in here, along with bits of the Christmas and Halloween specials. I'm tempted to buy this whole set, but I would cringe at the total cost. Two years of strips per volume, and Peanuts ran for almost 50 years. So 25 volumes at probably $15-$20 each, average. Plus postage. Eeek.
  71. The Last Lincolns (5-8-09) - This was amazingly readable for a heavier history book (and a person with attention span issues lately). It wasn't a quick read, but it was a lot better than I'd expected.
  72. The Tale of Despereaux (5-10-09) - Better than the movie, but they didn't change too much for the screenplay.
  73. We're In This War, Too - letters from women in the military during WWII. Good read.
  74. In Joy Still Felt (Isaac Asmov's autobiography, volume 2) 5-15-09 or so. BIG book, 800 pages or so.
  75. #75 The Demigod Files - companion to the Percy Jackson books
  76. Camera and Lens, by Ansel Adams (5-18-09) - I mostly looked at the pics, since the lens stuff doesn't really apply to a point & shoot digital camera (as far as I can tell).
  77. A Voyage for Madmen - recommended on Wil Wheaton's blog. Good stuff.
  78. Morality for Beautiful Women (5-25-09) - More No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
  79. Martha Speaks - interesting, but hard to read aloud because of all the dialogue balloons.
  80. Martha Blah Blah - see above
  81. Martha Walks the Dog - Ditto.
  82. Quiverful - Recommended by an online friend, and a bit disconcerting.
  83. Tracking Trash (6-9-09)
  84. Corduroy - the original.
  85. Curious George (with original artwork)
  86. Chicks and Salsa (6-16-09) - kids book, pretty funny stuff.
  87. Mornings on horseback, by David McCullough (6-17-09) - The early years of Teddy Roosevelt & his parents. Stops before the Rough Riders and Presidency. Not as exciting/interesting as I'd hoped.
  88. #88 The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (6-17-09). Pretty interesting and a good read. I found this after he and Bill Nye had guest-star spots on an episode of Stargate: Atlantis.
  89. About the B'nai Bagels, by E. L. Konigsberg. Pretty good stuff, I hadn't read this one. I do love Mixed-up Files, though. I scored my copy of Bagels at the library sale for 50c, and it's autographed by the author.
  90. Paddington Takes the Air, by Michael Bond. Good books are like comfort food for your brain. And Paddington's always a hoot. Can't wait until El Burrito is old enough to appreciate it.
  91. The Girl Mechanic, from the Editors of Popular Mechanics. Interesting, a compilation of old projects from Popular Mechanics.
  92. O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare - by Niall Williams & Christine Breen. Memoir/journal of a couple who moved from New York City to a very small community (6 houses!) in Ireland. (6-27-09)
  93. Prairie Tale, by Melissa Gilbert (7-2-09) - Interesting stuff. Not a lot of dish about Little House, but a good overview of her life so far.
  94. The American Way, by John Ridley, & Georges Jeanty. Graphic novel, pretty good story. And the superhero storyline works well with the graphic format. (7-7-09)
  95. Please DO Feed the Bears (cute kid story)
  96. Laika (7-10-09?) - Graphic novel, based on fact, but semi-fictionalized. Good story.
  97. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Recommended by some magazine or other, this was an entertaining and interesting book. I wish it had a bibliography, though. I'd like to read more about the Guernsey Occupation, but neither the book or the publisher's website has any information about research sources. (Finished 7-11-09)
  98. A Pint of Plain (7-13-09) - Kind of a downer. I didn't know "Irish Pubs" were being franchised and cookie-cuttered across the globe. To continue my Irish Downer theme, I'm reading a couple of books by Niall Williams & Christine Breen. Good stuff, but still.
  99. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (6?-09)
  100. Tesla: Man out of Time, by Margaret Cheney (7-25-09) Interesting stuff. Too bad I missed the Tesla program on History.
  101. The Year of Living Biblically (7-30-09)
  102. Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl (7-31-09)
  103. Rick Sammon's Field guide to Digital Photography (8-1-09_
  104. Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella (8-11-09)
  105. Hounded to Death - Rita Mae Brown (8-14-09)
  106. A Horse of Her Own, by Annie Wedekind. (8-20-09) (A real score - the library just got it a year ago, but someone's pet chewed on it, so I got it for 50c at the sale.) This one is a pretty good teen horse book. Not quite as pie-in-the-sky perfect ending as most.
  107. Child Star: an Autobiography, by Shirley Temple. (8-21-09) Stopped in the 50's, and didn't mention the ambassador work. Otherwise pretty good, although I think she let her father off too easy.
  108. Complete Peanuts 1967-1968 (8-22-09) - The introduction of Franklin.
  109. Book Club: An Unshelved collection (8-24-09) - These are great, possibly one of my favorite comic strips. I may put the full set on my birthday/Christmas list.
  110. My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. (8-26-09) Don't think I'd read this one before, although I find it hard to believe. Pretty good story. Got the sequel on hold at the library now.
  111. Soul of the Silver Dog, by Lynn Hall. (8-27-09) I've read a lot of Lynn Hall's horse and dog books, and love them. But jeez, sometimes the sad endings are right up there with Marguerite Henry's stuff. (Love her books, too, but there are some I had to stop reading. Too heart-breaking sometimes. Black Gold and King of the Wind especially. And San Domingo. Oh my. Great stuff, but those last chapters are killers.)
  112. The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy - edited by Leonard S. Marcus. (8-28-09) Good interviews and insights. Wish there were more, though.
  113. Melting Stones, by Tamora Pierce (8-31-09)
  114. The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith (9-1-09)
  115. Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (09-02-09) Started reading it from the free download that the publisher did last month, and got the whole trilogy from the library this week. Interesting stuff.
  116. Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld (09-03-09). Part 2 of the trilogy. I'm not sure where he's going with all this - is Tally supposed to be the "hero" or is she a dupe? And where does Shay fit into the hero/villain/patsy range?
  117. Specials (09-05-09). Westerfeld again. See above comments.
  118. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith (9-9-09). I'm getting caught up with this series, and I'll be sorry when I run out of new books to read. It's a very engaging setting.
  119. Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith ((9-15-09)
  120. Beka Cooper: Bloodhound, by Tamora Pierce (9-18-09)
  121. The Air We Breathe (9-22-09)
  122. One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II, by Lita Judge
  123. Planting the Trees of Kenya, the story of Wangari Maatha, by Claire A. Nivola (9-22-09)
  124. Calico the Wonder Horse, or The Saga of Stewy Stinker, by Virginia Lee Burton. We've read Mike Mulligan, but I didn't know there were other books, and the illustrations are a different style.
  125. Basil and the Pygmy Cats, by Eve Titus (9-23-09)
  126. The Other Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
  127. African Queen (9-30-09) - Good book; now I really want to see the movie.
  128. Extras by Scott Westerfeld. (10-05-05)
  129. Gabriel's Horses, by Alison Hart (10-08-09) - Part of a middle-school age trilogy, about a young slave in Kentucky during the Civil War. Interesting stuff.
  130. Well Wished, by Franny Billingsley. Good fantasy fiction, and the author's former lawyer work sort of makes an appearance. (10-08-09)
  131. Gabriel's Triumph, by Alison Hart (10-12-09)
  132. Gabriel's Journey, by Alison Hart (10-13-09)
  133. The Day After Tomorrow (10-14-09) - because I have some weird fascination with Totally Scientifically Improbable Movies, i.e. Armageddon. But I'm glad I didn't spend money to watch this one.
  134. A Sending of Dragons, by Jane Yolen
  135. Dragon's Heart, by Jane Yolen (10-22-09). Fourth in the Pit Dragon series.
  136. Nancy Drew and her Sister Sleuths - Michael G. Cornelius and Melanie E. Gregg (?) Interesting papers, and some leads on more books for my library list.
  137. Chicken and Cat Clean Up - Sara Varon. It's harder than you'd think, to read a book with no words, to a boy with some odd questions.
  138. Did Dinosaurs Eat Pizza? Mysteries Science hasn't solved, by Lenny Hort. Kiddie book
  139. Knitty Kitty, by David Elliott
  140. Military Horses, by Michael Sandler
  141. Born with a Bang: the Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story, by Jennifer Morgan. The beginnings of the universe, for kids. Interesting, but not amazing. (11-03-09)
  142. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. A favorite of mine when I was little.
  143. A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik. From storytime last month.
  144. Don't let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, by Mo Willems. ALso from story time.
  145. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, by Mo Willems. More pigeon.
  146. Chicken and Cat, by Sara Varon.
  147. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone. Very good stuff, about the "Mercury 13" women. (11-05-09)
  148. Wolf-speaker, by Tamora Pierce (10-xx-09)
  149. Birds & Blooms' Ultimate Gardening Guide, by Melinda Myers (11-19-09)
  150. Picture-Perfect Origami, by Nick Robinson. Neat penguin, but I can't get the boat to come out right.
  151. Look to the Stars, by Buzz Aldrin, paintings by Wendell Minor. Lovely pictures.
  152. Lightship, by Brian Floca (another kids book)
  153. That Book Woman, by Heather Henson (another kid book)
  154. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith
  155. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, by Alexander McCall Smith (11-2x-09). I'm caught up with the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series now. Back to waiting for the next book to come out.
  156. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
  157. Until it Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How it Harms Our Kids, by Mark Hyman (12-01-09)
  158. (#158!) Beautiful Mess: the Story of Diamond Rio, by Diamond Rio with Tom Roland. Interesting read, I'm glad I saw it at the library because I had no idea they were writing a book.
  159. The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey
  160. Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
  161. Freedom's Landing, by Anne McCaffrey
  162. Freedom's Choice, by Anne McCaffrey
  163. Freedom's Challenge, by Anne McCaffrey
  164. Freedom's Ransom, by Anne McCaffrey. Notice a theme? I was prepping and researching for McCaffreyQuest 2009.
  165. Nose for Trouble, by Doranna Durgin
  166. Scent of Danger, by Doranna Durgin. These are the first two books in the "Dale Kinsall series" named for the main character. I like these, but I've liked Doranna's work since I read Dun Lady's Jess about ten years ago.
  167. The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose (12-21-09)
  168. The Snow Queen, by Mercedes Lackey. (12-25-09) One of her Five Hundred Kingdoms series.
  169. Summoned to Tourney, by Mercedes Lackey (12-09)
  170. Rainbow on a Hard Trail, by Dale Evans Rogers (12-29-09) Interesting, and a good fast read, but a bit chronologically disjointed. Dale's first husband is mentioned briefly, but the second is only referred to in one sentence.
  171. Lily Chin's Crochet Tips and Tricks (12-29-09) - A Christmas present from my wish list, and from a brief skim, it'll come in handy. Her class sounds interesting, too.
  172. Alt Fibers - interesting, but knitting-focused. (12-31-09)
The numbered list isn't working. No good reason; the HTML looks right. Unless OL isn't supported by the latest standards. Hmm.

Sub-list: Returned, but didn't read yet:
  1. North Sea Saga, Paul Jordan. "epic sotry of the North Sea from Sone Age to 20th Century"
  2. The Dinosaur Heretics

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Customer service and shipping - part 2

I got another shipping notice from yesterday. One little problem - the DVD they were notifying me about? Yeah, it was delivered a full 10 days ago.

Interesting. I wonder why this shipment was so unusual.

Library Day! (1-13-09)

Another fun trip to the library today. The totals: returned 5 books, checked out 3, and have 30 items out and 5 on hold.

Returned today:
  • Dragonheart
  • Ten Kids, No Pets
  • Eleven Kids, One Summer
  • The Universe through a Mirror - which was severely overdue and I still haven't finished.
  • one other one that I forgot to write down. Gah!
Next, I need to start on the second book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. I've got the last four books from the library, and one is on hold for someone else, so I have to get to work.

Then we found some goodies on the sale carts. El Burrito got a Sandra Boynton book, I found a very recent Roget's Thesaurus and Gone with the Wind for 50 cents each (hardback, no dust jacket), and we bought Season 2 of Magnum P.I. on DVD for $3. Spent $7 total.

El Burrito got to go on foot instead of in the stroller, since he wanted to play games on the library computers. He behaved pretty well, and we played some Caillou game for 20 minutes or so. I'm not sure what the game's about - the library game computers all have kid-size headphones, so I don't get to hear the audio. I know we were popping bubbles and hunting for party hats. Never did find that 6th hat, though.

Monday, January 12, 2009


We took down the Christmas decorations yesterday. The boxes are all still in the corner, because I know I'll run across odds and ends of holiday stuff for a few more days.

Next year, I'm doing a few things differently. I've been disappointed the last few Christmases, and I think I figured out part of what's behind it. We don't have any real holiday traditions, routines, or whatever you want to call them. I hung two strands of lights a couple weeks before Christmas, and pulled out the fiber-optic tree (only 28 inches tall - the only decorating it gets is a strand of metallic beads). Other than the wreath I made this year, that was the grand total of our decorating.

We went to watch a local tree-lighting. That was very anti-climactic, it took all of 10 minutes. We spent more time driving there and back than we did at the actual ceremony. (I think someone was in a hurry that night.) And there was one Christmas party, at the church.

The one thing we did this year that was new, was drive through a light display back where my parents live. The city did a lot of work on it, and it was pretty cool. I meant to drive around town here and see the lights, but between the weather and DH being a workaholic, it never happened.

That's it. No cookies, no baking, no caroling, no decent decorating. No standing in line at the mall to see Santa. Our Christmas is crap. No wonder it seemed like it was all over in two days. It really was.

So, next year, I've decided that things will be different. We're going to have a little more ceremony, and start the holiday prep sometime around Thanksgiving. By then, we'll have a house, so I can put up more than two measly strings of lights. We can get the full-size tree out of storage, and the ornaments. I'll dig out the box of Breyer Christmas horses and put them all on display, and line up my Hallmark rocking horse ornaments. Maybe I'll make holiday cookies with El Burrito - I've already got red and green sugar-sprinkles for them. Maybe we'll get a little Nativity scene. Or not - I'd probably get a better one in the after-holiday sales. I'll remember earlier to go look at the holiday lights around town. Maybe I'll get organized and we'll do some kind of countdown - Advent calendar, wall calendar, whatever.

And maybe, I hope, it'll feel more like Christmas. Because this year didn't. So much for things being "more magical" with kids. All I've experienced is a bigger headache from trying to make sure someone gets a nap in between car trips and late-night church.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Atlantis wrap-up

So. Not a bad finale, overall, but then I've watched some pretty brain-frying series finales over the years. (Angel and Forever Knight, I'm looking at you here.) No one died permanently, there were some good space battle scenes. The mention of naming the new ship for General Hammond was a nice touch. Apparently there was an "In Memory of Don S. Davis" screen at the end, but I missed it. Have to check the tape later.

But there were a few problems.
  • Did everyone with the Ancient gene go to Pegasus? Because otherwise, I'd expect O'Neill to be smart enough to keep someone with the gene ready to hop into the Chair at all times. Of course, that would have screwed up the last half of the finale.
  • Killing just to un-kill him is practically cheating. Of course, the writers learned from SG-1 on this. Heck, Daniel Jackson died how many times? It did lead to some words being said to the TV, and I wish I still had my Ping-pong ball gun.
  • Another kamikaze mission.
  • How are they going to get Atlantis back to Pegasus? And which planet will they live on now?
  • Scenes in the SGC without O'Neill?
  • Who was Ronon's new girlfriend? I swear I haven't seen her before.
And someone at MGM/Sci Fi messed up. Tonight's episode had a code for their contest, but the contest website isn't taking entries. Guess it thinks the last new episode was last week.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Farewell, Atlantis

Tonight is the final episode of Stargate: Atlantis. Only five seasons, half of what SG-1 ran, which is sad. Sci Fi has been running marathons of it every day this week. Which means I saw the depressing travesty that was "Sunday" yesterday morning, and right now the recent heat-sink episode is ending. (Which was a hoot just for seeing Bill Nye slap a guy and tell him to "Man up!" Plus a Stephen Hawking stand-in, and the guy who demoted Pluto.)

I'm still irked about last week's episode - it seemed to be a bit of a waste of time, since nothing really happened (at least in the primary universe). Plus, really confusing. I spent the first twenty minutes or so wondering if it was "just" another alternate universe, or if they'd done something new, like maybe it was all Shepard's nightmare after an intergalactic care package of CSI DVDs and extreme-take-out Chinese food that didn't travel well.

Sure, Atlantis had some iffy periods, but overall it was pretty good. I didn't agree at all with bringing the Replicators to Pegasus, and wasn't crazy about trading Weir1 for Weir2 for Carter for Woolsey. I definitely wasn't happy when Carson was killed by that cheezy exploding tumor, to make way for Keller, who looks waaaaay too young to be Chief of Medicine in another galaxy. (Don't get me wrong; absolutely loved Jewel Staite in Firefly, and as a Wraith, but her character doesn't seem to have the experience or the personality to be the best candidate for CMO of Atlantis.) On the other hand, Ronan and Teyla have been interesting, if under-used, and the Ancients have been pretty good to watch. If only they hadn't turned McKay into such an arrogant little toad along the way.

I've managed to stay spoiler-free about this one, and I'm hoping that everyone survives the episode. I've heard that there are plans for TV movies or direct-to-DVD movies, similar to the two Stargate: SG-1 movies. Hopefully that will happen, along with the third SG-1 movie. I've also heard a bit about the next Stargate series, but honestly it sounds like a remake of Star Trek: Voyager. Yeah, I know, nothing new under the sun, but the brief description I've read seems pretty obvious. Sadly.

Anyway, I'm not sure where Sci Fi is going these days. I still haven't heard a good reason for canceling Atlantis, although I haven't hunted for it very much. It can't be money, if they can afford to run Lost for 5 hours every Monday. They're running out of original series - only 10 episodes of Battlestar left, and then they'll just have Sanctuary, Eureka, and Stargate: Universe. (Along with their reality crap.) Not sure if they'll continue getting Doctor Who from the BBC, but even if they do, there are only going to be a few TV-movies this year for DW, instead of regular episodes. I really like Eureka, but Sanctuary just isn't all that, in my opinion. I watch it, mostly to play Spot the Canadian, but so far it hasn't sucked me in.

I remember seeing advertising for Sci Fi, way back when, and wishing the university cable system would put premium channels in the dorms. That was back when SF was a premium channel, and when they seemed to show the "good stuff" all the time. Star Trek reruns hosted by Shatner & Nimoy, a sci-fi version of Entertainment Tonight (before ET went tabloid), Mystery Science Theater (I think). Now they've gone to WWE and Ghost Hunters, along with enough cheeze C-movies to keep a couple of Eastern European countries busy as shooting locations. Seriously, Sharks in Venice? It begs to be a MST3K feature. If it weren't for the occasional Sentinel marathon during the day, and the promise of Eureka, I could probably lose Sci Fi right now and not notice. I didn't think that would ever happen.

Anyway, after tonight, it'll be the first time in almost 12 years that I haven't had new Stargate to look forward to - Universe being an unknown at the moment. Sci Fi can quit running their "sign up for Stargate text messages" commercials any time now. It'll be one less time I have to mutter things under my breath at the TV.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Customer service and shipping

Or, what I've observed from shopping online lately, among other things. :)

First of all, our local Fed Ex delivery-person smokes like a freight train. I've had three packages shipped FedEx lately, and they all reek of cigarette smoke. With the first package, I figured it could have happened anywhere along the line, but three stinky mailers seems to indicate that it's the delivery driver as the cause. Luckily the bubble mailers seal tightly enough that the things inside didn't pick up the odor.

Oh, and Freight Train is a practioner of the Knock & Run delivery method. Runs fast, too - still haven't caught sight of him/her, although I wasn't far from the door today. At least this one knocked. Whoever delivered our crib mattress didn't knock at all, just dropped it and ran. (History & A&E's online store) has some odd shipping habits. I gave in to their 90% off Winter Sale last month and ordered 8 DVDs. Shipping was a grand total of $2.95. Those 8 DVDs will end up being shipped in 5 separate shipments - one is still on back order. One came UPS, the other 3 came FedEx, and the last one is still unknown. I think they may be losing money on this deal. They must get a pretty good bulk rate from Fed Ex, but still. I knew when I ordered that things were back ordered, and would have been happy to wait for one big box of fun.

More FedEx related tidbits: I do a bit of shopping on The different stores ship by UPS, FedEx, whatever they choose individually. The things I've bought mostly came UPS, so far. I found some NASA publicity photos last week that I thought about bidding on, until I looked at the shipping charges. The auction was for 12 photos, all 8 x 10 or 11 x 14. The shipping was going to be $7.76, plus a $4 handling fee (that's right, total of almost $12), to send a flat less-than-one-pound envelope by FedEx. USPS would have taken it Priority for $6. Needless to say, I didn't bid. Neither did anyone else.

On to the Customer Service experience. I had issues with the customer service from First Alert last month (luckily, the CO alarm seems okay so far). Swingline has much better phone support, although their website "support" is crazy (and I found at least 3 typos on their site, all which spellcheck should have caught). To send an email to them, you have to have an account, which requires all sorts of information. I called their toll-free number instead. Five minutes, start to finish, and half of that was sitting on hold, being told that all reps were busy.

The reason for the call was our Swingline stapler, barely a year old. It decided recently to stop stapling. No reason, just because. It seems to be trying to shoot two staples at once, or possibly the glue that holds the staples together has gone bad. Not sure. The staples were Swingline Premium, and it was not a cheap stapler - we spent more money specifically to get one that would (should) last a while, after having issues with our last stapler. (Oddly, I think the other crappy stapler was also a Swingline, and the steady one was a cheapy, but I could be wrong.) Anyway, after trying staples from the bottom of the Premium box, and from an old box of Standards, and having no luck with their website, I called. Easy peasy. We should have our new stapler in 2-3 weeks. Gotta love a lifetime warranty and a simple replacement policy. Hopefully the new stapler works better. If not, we're going to have to find a different brand.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nice vacation

I'm Back!

Yeah, not much blogging over the holidays. DH had some "use it or lose it" vacation time that he used, so he was home a lot. Somehow, though, the To Do list didn't get any shorter, and the house looks worse than usual. He's got another day or two off, though, so I need to get the Must Do list ready. I can install my new mouse, but he's the Geek in Charge of Anything Inside the Case - like the Firewire card we bought months ago.

More on our Holiday Adventures later.