Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oh, what will those young rapscallions come up with next?!

Remember back quite a while ago when I did this post? Remember how I said that there was hope for the world in today's youth?

Remember that?

... ? ...

I take it all back: Mo. students face punishment for `Hit a Jew Day'

Monday, October 27, 2008

We're home!

Got home yesterday, of course. We were so exhausted that we, uh, neglected to update the blog! The pictures are up at Backcountry Peripatetic.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Off to the Hill Country!

Will see everyone on Sunday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More views from the garden

All the cool-weather beans I planted the other day have sprouted, which is both fantastic and unusual. 100% germination is a rare feat. I planted 10 more in another pot just yesterday, so we'll see how they do. Today I went out and scattered some spinach and mustard green seeds in the two big planters were the peas will go when the temperature drops even more. I managed to sneak them in before the rain started, so I didn't even have to turn on the hose!

I've got some pictures as well. The beans in the courtyard garden are still blooming, and some of those blooms did their job. Aren't the tiny pods cute?

The castor beans have also been going to seed. Most of them are duds, but I've gotten five that I may try planting later. They look quite a bit like pinto beans, and I think they're really pretty:

Pretty well-behaved garden right now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I Like Turtles": Another Childhood Favorite Bites the Dust

I could talk about voting again, or issues of great import to the nation, or how it's nearly November and it's still in the 80s (start crossing your fingers for Christmas in the 70s!). But I won't. I'll talk about something very near and dear to my heart. Something I remember from my youth. The end of an era.

Berkeley Breathed is retiring.

I haven't always been the biggest fan of "Opus," Breathed's most recent cartoon featuring the beloved penguin. "Bloom County" was always strange, but in my worldly wisdom (which can only be acquired by not being a kid anymore) I've grown to like it. But "Outland"? That was the bees knees! I loved that comic as a kid--my parents can attest to that! So when we began to get the Dallas Morning News, I was surprised to see that Opus was alive and well in an eponymous Sunday comic strip. But the past months, my attention was caught by one strip where the Creator (Breathed) corners Opus in the bathroom (where else?) and begins talking to him about retirement. Oh no.

I go to Salon.com once a week to read the comic of a new favorite cartoonist, Keith Knight (like the state of Texas, my list of favorite cartoons are minority-majority), and I happened upon an article about Breathed's retirement. It goes a long way towards explaining why "Opus" wasn't one of my favorites: The political climate is getting to be so cruel that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the cartoon lighthearted. He either had to send Opus to his eternal rest or turn the lovable penguin bitter. As much as it pains me that something beloved from my childhood is drawing to an end, it's probably good.

I took some things away from the article:
1. I think I'll start throwing conversations off by saying, "I like turtles," myself.
2. I thought the strips where Lola Granola became a radical Islamist were pretty funny even if everyone else was offended.
3. I nodded my head in agreement when he said, "The very, absolute last comic strip characters destined to become true household words across America were invented 23 years ago: Calvin & Hobbes. There are and will be no more new ones."
4. I genuinely thought, "Wow, he talks just like Opus." And it's true. I love that.
You can read the article here: The End of Opus. Be advised of an unusually strong language warning on page 2 (but if you can fight through it, it's pretty funny).

Early Voting Starts Today

I'm going to vote for the first time ever. Our local library is doing early voting, so at some point this week, Chris and I will traipse over there and flex our civic muscles by doing our civic duty.

Even I'm shocked that I've never voted before. I was months too young when it was Bush versus Gore, my brain shorted out when Kerry ran against Bush, and most people can't be bothered to vote in interim elections. I'm not a tremendously opinionated American citizen (not to say that I don't have opinions, but we all know that "opinionated voter" is synonymous with "loud, obnoxious blowhard"--perhaps a better term is "informed voter"), but I am fascinated by politics. And I'm glad to have the ability to be fascinated.

Earlier this year, anyone who was paying attention (everyone but the majority of Americans) saw what happened with the Zimbabwe elections. The "wrong result" ended in a contested election, followed by months of violence against the opposition's supporters, followed by the opposition dropping out of the race to halt the bloodshed. The opposition leader was basically exiled to South Africa. Power-sharing talks between the two parties just collapsed. Voters in Zimbabwe have a very distinctive way of marking that someone has already voted, and all the pictures of Zimbabweans with fingers dipped in red dye was downright ominous. You may say that the government doesn't represent you, that the system is unfair, whatever; however, when seen in the light of Zimbabweans defiantly standing up to Robert Mugabe despite threats, violence, torture, rape, murder ... well, those words ring false.

So I'm voting for the first time this year because, although I don't have strong opinions on a lot of issues, I enjoy having a real choice.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Drum roll, please

Chris did not, I repeat, not lose his job.

All is well in the world for now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And now, for my next trick ...

... I will turn this ordinary brown lizard ...


He's still out behind the beans, lurking about. And he's still bright green. I thought he would change back to brown, but I guess he was too close to green. Make sure and click on the last picture so you can see his scaliness!

Great, now I'll have to go to the library finding out how lizards change colors like that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall gardening

My garden fell by the wayside after my tomatoes failed, my peppers were consumed by tomato horn worms (those things get huge, by the way), and everything but the herbs failed to produce. Mosquitos and temperatures in the 100 range didn't really help, either. But now it's time to do some clean-up, and I'm rarin' to go!

Apparently, my garden is, too ...

Oh, so now you're ready to bloom, huh?! Lesson learned: Beans don't like the heat.

Do you remember this cute little plant? (The cable running behind it is about a foot from the ground.)

Well, it looks a might different now:

These castor beans are monster plants. I have plans to plant them again next year! The one on the left in the first picture is a foot taller than Chris--you can see it's nearly up to our roof! You might see a lot of strings. The rain weighed them down and I had to stand them back up. For the tall one, it was a preemptive strike because rain's coming and it hadn't fallen over yet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lighthearted post, anyone?

Look closely! Do you see him? You may have to click on the picture.

I got taken in by a slow-moving lizard on my planter. He was dark brown--"He matches the planter!" I thought. (Yes, it's also brown.) Then he began slowly inching his way up the trellis. By the time he reached the leaves, he was bright green! There's a chameleon on my beans!!

Always nice to see nature in this suburban jungle.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We have entered the red zone

Firings from the school district can begin anywhere between today and October 17th. I'm sure Chris will have more to say on the subject later.

You can imagine that the uncertainty has us all excited. Nothing like an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride to make you glad to be alive in these upbeat economic times.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our expensive new hobby, part 2

I have a good definition of geocaching for those who still don't get it: "Geocache is a new sport/hobby where participants use multi-billion dollar satellite technology to find tupperware hidden in the woods." :)

Our area has a real dearth of waymarks, so we went back out into the woods to find some. The Fort Worth Nature Center has a trail with several CCC-built things on it, so we went and found the coordinates for them. I don't have them up on the website yet--turns out that there's also a dearth of information about the CCC structures themselves, so I need to do a little more investigation! They won't let me post them without a history of the structures. There's probably not much to say anyway, but right now all I know is the CCC unit number. Around our domicile, there's really only Texas historical markers. There has to be more to this town than that, right? So I'm up for the hunt!

Meanwhile, we're counting down to our hiking vacation in the lovely Hill Country. After all the job stress, it's much needed. And there's an Earthcache (which, and this ought to shock you, is a geological feature search) at Longhorn Cavern State Park. That'll be fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Our expensive new hobby

Last weekend, I did something painful. Here's a transcript:

Me: You can't go to church this evening. [It was Saturday, time for Vigil.]
Chris: Why?
Me: I need you to do something right now. If you don't, we'll never do it.
Chris: What is it?
Me: I need you to sell the Game Cube games.

No more Game Cube, and its place will not be filled by a Wii. The Game Cube will be recycled as soon as I can figure out where electronics recycling in this city is. Right now, it's useless without its games. And that was the point.

So what predicated this shocking development in our household? Why, a trip to REI did! Chris needed some shoes that wouldn't cause him to go careening down a ravine, so off into deepest Dallas ... okay, North Dallas, about 10 miles from our house ... to get some trail running shoes. But that wasn't all we got. Chris had become fascinated by geocaching (some of you are standing up and cheering now), a strange, outdoorsy game involving a GPS system. So after securing some trail runners, we ventured downstairs (two level store with a rock climbing wall in the center--woot!) to the electronics section ... and found out just how cheap GPS systems aren't.

As we were being up-sold into a more expensive model (one that wouldn't crap out in the middle of a forest), I thought to myself, "Wow, this makes getting a Wii look cheap!" Then the wheels began turning. The GPS would be a one-time cost, but between buying new games and new equipment, plus hours that could be well-spent doing things other than sitting on one's rumpus, geocaching seemed like a better use of our time.

Okay, so what's geocaching? Here's a good explanation. Basically, there's treasure at the end of the coordinates that people post, and you can trade out something for something in the cache. Fun for the kids, right? Apparently fun for grown-ups too.

Chris is in charge of geocaching. I've appointed myself Prime Minister of Waymarking. I became obsessed with the virtual cache on geocaching.com, which is when you seek a particular landmark instead of a little box with stuff. But then I found out that virtual caches had been grandfathered out, meaning no more could be added. That got me all pouty, and I ended up at waymarking.com. It's less scavenger hunt-y, but it's still a great way to see hidden things where you live. Case in point? I didn't know that Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie & Clyde) and Mickey Mantle were buried here in Dallas.

And that's our expensive new hobby. I recommend it. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Crash, bang, boom

I'm foul-humored right now, so I'm hoping that writing this will perk me up.

We were in our room last night: I was sitting on the bed reading about how children will make my life miserable (what did you think adoption books were for?), and Chris was doing some last minute computering. Naturally, we had the curtains open in spite of the fact that the sun had gone down long ago. (Our lights attract bugs, which in turn attracts geckos, and who am I to deny them an easy meal? Lemmy loves it!) That was when there was a flash followed by a boom. Nope--not lightning. A transformer. And, blessedly, not the one that controls our house.

"Why does it seem that no transformers blow at, like, 2:00 PM? It always seems to be between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM," I mused.

"I'll call the electric company!" came a cry from the street.

No! Anyone but the electric company! Blown transformers seem so common that surely they shouldn't cause as much trouble as they do. Alas, here's a sample itinerary of a blown transformer:

12:00 AM - Transformer blows in a lovely display of fireworks.
12:02 AM - Having assessed the situation, someone calls the power company.
12:20 AM - The power company arrives (and you bet they took their sweet time).
12:30 AM - An attempt to fix results in another blown transformer, resulting in a five-block radius without power.
1:00 AM - A series of catastrophic events results in half the city being without power.

You can see where this is going.

Since falling asleep in a timely manner is not one of my strong suits, after we turned in I got to enjoy the whole ordeal from the comfort of my pillow. After the power company arrived, complete with a full squadron of workers who talk loudly and don't seem to realize that SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP AROUND HERE!!!, another loud bang shook the neighborhood. Clearly, the transformer is not fixed. Nor was it 10 minutes later, when there was yet another loud bang. Things were especially not fixed when the fourth loud bang came ... and I realized that I couldn't hear my ceiling fan turning anymore. I peeled my eyes open to see that the modem's lights were off.

Yup. That's how you fix a problem: by making it worse. I recall thinking then that solar panels on the house were sounding like a mighty good idea. Wonder how much that would cost.

You wonder how long it will last, like, "Will it turn back on in 5 minutes, or will my husband have to take a dark shower and trade in his morning toast for plain bread?" According to the discrepancy between my cellphone's clock and the blinking clock radio, the power was off for about 40 minutes. Then the fifth loud bang came and I felt the cool breeze return, followed by as many loud noises as computers and charging cellphones can muster.

Ready for the punch line?

Chris slept through everything. All four loud bangs (minus the first, when we were both awake). Know what finally roused him from sleep? The printer turning back on. I'm surprised he didn't ask me what I was printing at this hour.

Clearly he missed his calling by not going into the military. The sounds of battle wouldn't rouse him from sleep, and provided that reveille sounded like a 5-year-old HP he'd get up just fine.