Friday, December 31, 2010

Wringing Out the Old/Ringing In the New

With a full acknowledgment that I'm not a huge fan of the hoopla surrounding New Year's Eve, I thought I might combine a Tiz List of things you might not know about the past year(-ish), and a Tiz Wish List for the coming year. Having never done this, before, we'll just jump in and see how it goes.

1) I think that, when a rental property advertises a "fireplace" it should be an actual fireplace, and not simply a wood-burning stove.

2) I hope to go somewhere with a real fireplace for at least a couple of nights.

3) I hate to do the semi-forced "Happy Birthday" (or whatever) greetings on the social networking sites.

4) I've gotten to the point where I ignore most of the reminders.

5) I'm hoping to send more real greetings, so that the forced ones simply don't have to happen.

6) After a decent amount of semi-self-imposed austerity, I have begun shopping for fun, again. Just a little.

7) I started with new underwear, followed by new shoes.

8) Sometime in early January I have to decide if I'm keeping the new shoes.

9) I'm keeping the new underwear.

10) My favorite thing about the new dryer is the lighted control panel - even more than the interior light and the melodic "time's-up" buzzer.

11) I think a cruise would be fun - but I'd need at least a porthole, if not a balcony.

12) Our favorite delivery pizza place will add second toppings to the "one topping special."

13) I miss getting more "real" mail.

14) I'd rather get a handful of good birthday cards instead of a hundred online "happy birthdays."

15) I'd prefer it to be a rather large handful.

16) I have come to realize that I get tear-y-er at really happy/joyful/silly things that move me than at really sad things.

17) I'd like the chance to get a whole lot of tear-y at a whole lot of happy things in 2011.

18) We went to an incredibly simple wedding this year that - when I recently saw one of the pictures - made me feel that warm happy almost-tear-y feeling, again.

19) I have never used the words "pee" and "poop" as much in my life as I have in the past 3 months of trying to get a certain dog to do her duty when we go for walks.

20) Nothing makes me feel more inadequate than being unable to make my friends (or family) happy.

21) Or at least comforted.

22) I think I've reached my limit of mean-ness, rude-ness, and apathy that I can stand without reaction. (I asked for a customer service person's manager on the phone last night because - while she had certainly done all of the required actions on the phone - she had simply been mean and snarky the entire time. Was her customer service lacking so massively that it was deserved? Probably. Was it an over-reaction, even so? Probably. Is this a total digression? Definitely.)

23) I have way too much "stuff."

24) I hope to start getting rid of some "stuff" in the coming year. Possibly starting with old underwear and shoes.

25) I've now reached 10 followers on my blog. (Welcome, Mr. Number 10!)

26) My goal for 2011 is to have add at least 11 followers.

27) Okay. I'd settle for simply having at least 11 followers by the end of the year.

28) I'd still kind of like a kilt.

29) I am constantly amazed by people I know who are following at least some aspects of their dreams on a daily basis.

30) And it happens in Michigan and England and California and - I've heard - it can even happen in Cleveland.

31) I hope to, once again, figure out what my dreams are.

32) Maybe a West-Coastal-drive vacation would be good.

33) I should use my French more.

34) I really hope Disney doesn't stop making princess movies, even if they don't rake in the big bucks.

35) We have a knack for going to dinner somewhere, deciding we really enjoyed it, and then finding out the place has closed before we have a chance to go back.

36) We'd like to find a few new favorite places that don't close before we can go back.

Alright. Three dozen randomnesses, all written on a December afternoon where Minneapolis actually had hail. (Yes. Really. Hail. Not Sleet. Have I mentioned that we've been having strange weather?)

Now it's time to chill something bubbly, start looking toward dinner, and set the TiVo for the Rose Parade in case I don't get up in time for it.

Here's to whatever's next!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Okay. What's With The Weather?

I know I've been complaining about the weather this winter. And, well, I think the weather has deserved it.

This week has just been weird, though. We've had warm temps yesterday and today. And today we've had rain. Lots of rain. Enough to actually cause a bunch of the snow to compact. It's been a bit like spring. It's been nice.

But tonight and into tomorrow we're expecting freezing temps, freezing drizzle, freezing rain (see a theme?), and snow.

By Saturday, we could be pretty much iced in. And, yet, last night we walked to an open house without coats on.

This is going to be a long winter.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mid-Short-Week Wednesday

Have you ever noticed that on short work-weeks, the days all seem wrong?

You know, like when it's Tuesday, but it feels like Monday? Or when it feels like Friday, but it's only Thursday?

I love it when it feels earlier in the week than it is. I mean, when it feels like Monday, but it's already Tuesday (or even Wednesday), it's a great feeling to know that you don't have to deal with as much week ahead.

On the other hand, when it's one of those weeks where it feels like it ought to be Friday, but it's only Thursday (or, again, Wednesday), those weeks are just painful.

Well, I'm having a strange combo of those this week. I was off from work on Monday (on my way back to town from Christmas), and I'm going to be off on Friday (we have all of New Year's Eve off because New Year's Day is on the weekend).

So yesterday (a Tuesday) felt like a major Monday. And tomorrow (a Thursday) is going to feel like a Friday. But today... today was simply a Wednesday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Movie Monday - How to Train Your Dragon

One of the perks of spending Christmas with family is partaking in events you might not otherwise do. Like learning all about new robotic toys. Or watching dance practices in the living room (while imagining the shiny red tutu, of course). They also involve watching movies you might not otherwise have seen.

For me, this weekend, that movie was "How to Train Your Dragon" - which my nephew got for Christmas and waited for us to all sit down to watch.

And, you know what? It was really good.

Sure, there's a plot involving action and adventure and - non-spoiler-alert - dragons, but the portion of the movie that adults might get is the stuff about finding out who you are in the world. There is a whole sub-story about friendship and bravery and speaking up for what you believe in. And it's so deftly woven into the fabric of the dragons and the fire and the action and the comedy that it actually works.

Yes, I know that the movie was out a while ago, and that I'm really late in reviewing it. But I'll give it an A-, anyway. Not sure why it's not an A, but it just wasn't quite.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Itching for Something

After all of the presents are opened, and the dinner is eaten, and the meltdowns have occurred, it's all about the itch.

The itch for that one gift you didn't get. The itch for the leftovers that are waiting in the fridge calling your name. The itch because you're in a strange house with different humidity and so your skin is dry as dust.

I prefer the second of those. Or even the first. Aoife, unfortunately, is prone to the third.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Preparation: Beware "Present Face"

Here's hoping you don't have to worry about "Present Face" over the next few days, but - if you do - here's something that you can think about which will hopefully make you smile in spite of yourself.

(Now if only I could figure our to embed videos, this would have been so much less cumbersome...)

Go here to Garfunkel and Oates's YouTube page, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Theatrical Thursday - Mirror Mates

So, when was the last time you had the chance to get in at the very start of something big? Or the last time you put a dollar down on something and hoped to see it take off like a standing ovation? Or the chance to help someone's dream come true?

Well, here's your new best chance!

A very good friend of mine, and some very good friends of hers, are trying to put together backing to mount a staged reading of a brand new piece of theater: Mirror Mates: A Two Faced Farce.

Mirror Mates is, indeed, a farce which takes place in two settings: a home for the chronically ill, and a decrepit dinner theater. And the players play characters on both sides of the... well... for the sake of this posting... mirror.

From what I've heard, it's really a trip, and a lot of fun. And you (yes, you) have a chance to be involved!

They've launched a page on the website called "Kickstarter" that helps people spread the word about new projects and raise money. You can pledge anywhere from a dollar on up, and - here's a cool thing - if they don't make their initial fundraising goal, your credit card won't be charged at all. So you don't have to worry about donating money that never goes anywhere. If you get charged, that means it's going!

Anyway... Here is the link to the Mirror Mates Kickstarter pledge page - there's all sorts of information about the show, about the people involved, about what you can get for your money, and - no surprise - how to make that pledge.

I know it's the Holidays, and we're all kind of strapped, but if you can donate, please do. (And don't forget - they won't be charging anyone until February 1st, so try to make your pledge based on your cashflow in a "regular" month, not a Christmas-present-buying one.)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wishful Wednesday

As we are in the midst of the Season of Wishes (not, obviously, to be confused with the Parade of Dreams or the Swamp of Despair), I thought I would drop a few wishes out into the world and see what happens.

1) I wish for World Peace. I know a lot of people tend to think of that as either "too big" or "too cliche" to wish for, but I figure if enough of us wish for it, it just might be a start. And I know a lot of people who would like to have their families together for the Holidays which this would be a good start for.

2) I wish for an end to cancer and AIDS and Alzheimer's and... well... since I'm at it... all disease. Wouldn't it be great if doctors could focus on things like skinned knees and hangnails, instead?

3) I wish that Karma had a more actively-obvious role in our world. I know that it would come around and bite me in the butt more than I'd like to admit, but there are a lot of really good people in the world who deserve better than they get. (And, let's just say it, a lot of really bad people in the world who deserve a lot worse than they get.)

4) I wish that all of my friends who are searching for jobs (either while employed or unemployed) could find meaningful, satisfying jobs complete with meaningful, satisfying incomes. Yes. I consider myself one of these friends.

5) I wish that I could figure out what it is that I'm doing while clearing snow (remember, our snow blower is in the shop for at least 2 weeks) that is causing me to strain my abdominal muscles. (Anyone who says "Gee. Maybe if you worked out more you'd have stronger abs and this wouldn't be a problem" gets coal in his/her stocking.)

6) I wish that, for about a week, I could be in my 20s again - and have a good wardrobe and be one of the current crop of cute and sexy guys that you see all over the place in the media AND know all I know today - just to experience it. (I thank any of you who are either thinking of saying "But you're still young and cute" and/or "it's so not worth it" and/or other fluffy comments. But, really, I do think it would be fun.)

7) I wish that personal teleportation was a reality so that I could bounce around and see everyone around the Holidays.

8) I wish we could figure out why our dog is constantly scratching herself. (We're currently starting a food trial to see if maybe it's a food allergy. This is after allergy meds and skin meds and steroids. It would be so much easier if she could just tell us what's wrong.)

9) I wish I had a winning lottery ticket - not just for a two-dollar prize, but for the whole kit and kaboodle. I've got a list of places I'd like to donate money to before I even start spending it on myself. (Okay. Maybe after I spend some of it on myself, but the donations would come fast and furious while I'm on my major round-the-world-first-class vacation...)

10) I wish, for all of you, a really good 2011. After all, this will be the year that goes to 11. That has to be good, right?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Movie Monday - TRON

I had every intention of writing a review of "TRON: Legacy," tonight. But then we got another 5" of snow. After the 90-minute drive home and the half-hour or so of shoveling, I decided that the better course of action for the evening was relaxation.

Here's what you need to know about the movie:

"TRON: Legacy" is a sequel to 1982's "TRON." But you really don't need to know that.

Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner were in both movies. But you really don't need to know that.

You do need to know that it's available in both 2-D and 3-D. I got a little motion-sick during the first portion of the 3-D movie, but I got used to it once they got into the movie. I'd guess it's actually much better in 3-D.

You should also know that the movie is an action flick. There's a romance (of sorts). And... well... that's pretty much it. You just need to know that the movie is fast, fun, and sexy.

If you go to it with that in mind, you'll be good to go.

Overall rating: A-. It would have been an A, but some of the CGI-ing got a little weird at times.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

SUCH a Sunday

I have so many topics for today, so here are just the highlights:

1) My nephew turned 21 today. When he was born, I was 22 years old, living in Paris, and the fact that I had a nephew made me feel kind of old. 21 years later, having a 21-year-old nephew makes me feel... well... older.

2) I think I might be done with my Christmas shopping. Or at least I might have completed all of the stuff that needed to be done in advance and wrapped - I've got a few little things that I'm looking forward to doing this week.

3) "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed, yesterday. Gay men and Lesbians are now legally able to serve openly in the military. I'm sure there will be court challenges, but - at least for now - the United States can feel like it's moving in the right direction toward equality for everyone. (And, really, in an era where enlistment is down, why would they turn away anyone? I've never understood that.)

4) According to the latest weather reports, we're supposed to be getting more accumulating snow, tomorrow. Our snow blower is still dead. And we didn't get the remaining re-plowed snow cleared out of the driveway until today. I also finally got a "walk-through" carved out at the corner of our lot where we connect the sidewalk to the street. And now we'll see if we get another six inches of snow, tomorrow. Should make for an interesting outdoor game for the Vikings football team, though - possibly one of the first times I've been interested in one of their games in a while. (Have you seen the video of the collapse of the Metrodome?)

Okay. I think that's about all I've got for today. After all, Sunday is supposed to be a relaxed day, right?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Food... Prep

As I was walking through the kitchen at work, today, I noticed that the clock on the microwave simply said "00:00." It wasn't flashing, it was just sitting there with all zeros.

But it's supposed to be a clock. Clocks don't have four zeros that don't change. Clocks have numbers that change as the day goes on.

I hate when clocks aren't being clocks. I'm not all that worried, really, about whether the times are exact (although that's very nice) - I just want them to be running and fairly accurate.

When I go to an appliance store, I go through and set the time on all of the kitchen appliances. (No. Really. I admit it.) When Christopher is looking around at Best Buy, I desperately work to stay away from things like VCRs and DVRs, because I get frustrated if I don't know how to set the time.

I survived the afternoon without re-setting the time on the microwave. Mainly by not walking back into the kitchen.

I suspect I'll be setting the time on Monday morning, though, while waiting for my Pop-tarts to pop.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Travel Tuesday - Snow Commute Style

There is this very strange phenomenon that happens during inclement weather and rush hours. We've all experienced it. (Well, all of us who live in areas with rush hours, at least - which I can say because my home town's only rush hours are just after school gets out, and just after a sporting event lets out.)


Whether there's rain, or snow, or scary fog, or a dog on the sidewalk shaking too hard, rush hour traffic somehow gets very distracted and scared and decides that driving zero miles per hour is the best plan of action. Unless you're in an overly large vehicle (like an Xterra, or a mass transit bus), in which case it's best to drive quickly enough just as the traffic light changes so that you can be stuck in the middle of the intersection and perfectly block cross traffic for the entire cycle of the light.

But at least in some ways that's all okay. Because the weather is wet, or foggy, or that dog is shaking on the sidewalk, and so you have reason to be confused.

Of course, the day AFTER a weather- (or dog-) related rush hour is usually pretty much back to normal. After all, there's nothing to keep you from doing your regular drive on those days, right?

Then why did it take me an hour and forty-five minutes to get home on Monday night?

It's not like we had any new snow coming down. The 17" that were on the ground were already down and settled. The 'dome had already collapsed. Day 3 of the Snow Emergency parking was already well underway. And, yet, it took me a full hour just to get out of downtown.

People were driving either like maniacs or like... well... people who don't know how to drive. I could have walked through downtown faster than I was able to drive. No. Really. People walked past me while I was "driving."

But that was Monday night - the first big commute after the weekend storm. So tonight was fine, right?

Right. If you consider taking an hour and five minutes to do a thirty-five minute commute fine. As you can guess, I have NO idea what took so long, tonight. The roads were dry - or at least as dry as we're going to see them in the next 4 months - and there was no precipitation. I didn't even see any shaking dogs.

The only thing I saw was an hour of my life slipping away.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Digging Out, Day 2

The second day of serious digging out took place, today. Made all the more exciting by the fact that this is now, officially, the 7th largest snow in Minneapolis history. The largest one since 1991. And we've now had two-thirds of the total snowfall for an average winter, all before winter actually starts.

As far as I can tell, only one plow has been down our street. And the plow's blade did NOT touch the ground. So what we have on the street which our driveway connects to is two tire ruts with about 8 inches of snow between them.

Now, if you're coming down our street from one of the adjoining streets, that's not all that bad. After all, if you're simply driving down the block, you just leave your tires in the ruts and - like a ride at Disney - the car just goes where it's supposed to go.

But, if you're like us, and you need to actually get from the driveway to those ruts... well... it's not so easy. What we really need, I think, is something like the moveable rails that they use to move trains from one track to another.

Since we don't have those rails, though, I'm simply very very happy that I have a car with all-wheel drive. Sure, it's not a big SUV with four-wheel drive that sits high enough to avoid all of the snow, but it does have power at all four wheels. So, when our snowblower ran out of gas today (possibly we should have planned ahead, since this was blowable snow #3 already this season), I decided that I would make the drive out to get more gas for that (and a few groceries, while I was at it).

First attempt to get out of the driveway was pretty much futile. So I tossed it back into Drive and pulled back in. Then I got out and attempted to shovel a whole lot more snow out of the way. Second attempt was equally bad. Third attempt I stepped on the gas seriously hard (if this was summer, I'd have shot across the street and driven up on the yard across the street). I bounced my way into the ruts.

So. Great. I made it out. Did my shopping and got the gas for the snowblower. And then realized that I probably wouldn't be able to get back into the driveway on the way home - after all, on the way in you have to gain speed, then turn OUT of the ruts and into the driveway. Much harder than the other direction.

Foolhardiness - combined with not wanting to park my car outside on a night which has a predicted low of -13 (not including windchills) - made me try it.

Made it in on the first try. Granted, I slid so far across while I was turning that I ended up on the wrong side of the driveway and had to readjust by backing out and lining up a little better - but I could do all of that on the shoveled driveway.

I have no idea whether Christopher is going to be able to get his car out in the morning. Or what kind of plowed piles we'll be dealing with when the plows finally do come down our block. (I'm assuming they will... eventually...)

Only 3 or 4 more months to spring.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snowbound Saturday

In case you haven't seen it - either outside (if you live in our neck of the woods) or on the news (if you live elsewhere) - Minneapolis has been whomped with a major snowstorm today.

Everyone points out when I talk about this that this is Minnesota and it is December, so a snowstorm shouldn't be a surprise. And, you know, I was feeling that way early in the week, too, when the forecast was for 2 to 5 inches of snow. And then, on Thursday, they started saying 6 to 10 inches falling from last night through today.

Yesterday, they started saying that anywhere from one to two FEET of snow were expected. Luckily, it wasn't supposed to start until after 10 o'clock, so Christopher and I were able to get both to and from the Valley Chamber Chorale Christmas concert with only minor ick on the roads as we got closer to home.

And then it kept snowing. And snowing. And snowing.

When I watched the news tonight, they said that the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport was reporting 16.5" of snow. And that's without factoring in wind. And the fact that it is still snowing.

Yes. We expect snow out here.

Yes. We know that it happens and that we have to deal with it. (For the first time in a while, I broke down and did serious Holiday shopping online this week - nothing like this major storm 2 Saturdays before Christmas to seriously muck up retail.)

Happily, we also know that the roads will be mostly back to "normal" by the time Monday's commute rolls around.

But, this time, we have the distinction of being able to say that this is the largest snowfall since "The Halloween Blizzard" (which I finally found out, today, was in 1991 - I didn't live here, then, so I had no idea). It also makes this - officially - one of the snowiest Decembers on record, which is kind of daunting considering we still have about 2/3 of the month ahead of us.

On the up side, we're pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas.

On the down side, at this rate, we're also guaranteed a white Easter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thrifty Thursday

I've decided to be thrifty with today's blog. Not that I ever spend that much on my blog postings, but I decided to use even fewer of my own words than usual and borrow today's posting from someone else.

Don't worry. I'm using a good source. An actual published author and all that. I think you'll enjoy him. And, basically, what I want to say is "Yeah. What he said."

Here's the link to the blog posting I think you'll like: Neil Gaiman's Blog - December 9, 2010. I wouldn't worry about reading the Q&A section. The main bit at the start of it is what I was focused on. (Oh - in case you're wondering - yes. He lives near Minneapolis.)


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Solar Whatchamadoodles

Have I complained, lately, about how freakin' cold it is around here?

The temperatures we've had are what would normally be January temperatures. It's been a good 15 degrees below normal for the past week or two. Considering how warm it was in November, it's been a huge shock to the system.

We've all gone from wearing fall jackets to our heaviest winter coats in just a few weeks. The snow isn't going anywhere. And... well... it's a long time until spring.

But, then, when it's really cold, it also tends to be really sunny (which it isn't when it's warmer and more "moist" out). And I like the really sunny times.

This morning I even got an extra treat on the drive to work. There were massive solar... umm... thingies. You know, faint "rainbows" on the sides of the sun - kind of like a halo around the sun. In the summer, they'd be sun dogs. But I have no idea what they're called this time of year.

Anyway, whatever they're called, they were really cool. I know that they're caused by the refraction of light by ice crystals in the atmosphere, but they seem more magical than that.

Heck. They must be good - they even made me happy to be driving to work.

Or at least to be driving...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Difficulty of Unexpected Simplicity

There are plenty of nights when I'm at home that I don't turn on my computer. Christopher and I have been known to have dinner, play cards, and spend whole evenings without any of our electronics on. Although we do usually have music playing.

I know. It's weird. But we both enjoy it.

Plenty of our friends have gone without internet and cable for long periods of time (for various reasons), and we've debated getting rid of aspects of our "plugged-in-ed-ness" from time to time.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because, last night, our Internet service was out. We've had plenty of problems with our service ever since we "upgraded," but last night apparently about 4 states were internet-less.

Of course, we had no way of knowing that it wasn't just us. We tried all of our tricks to get the connection re-connected, and finally - after literally hours - I tried calling the company. Five tries in (I kept getting busy signals) I got far enough along to find out that there was an outage in our area.

So I didn't do any work. And we didn't research any Christmas gifts. And we didn't work on any holiday plans.

Which means that last night both Christopher and I were fairly frustrated by the forced simplicity of the evening.

Simple? Yes. Difficult? Yes.

Confused? Maybe.

Friday, December 3, 2010

To Bake or Not To Bake

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas cookies, lately.

That's not very strange, considering the time of year.

What's strange is that I haven't started baking them, yet.

Usually, I start baking dozens and dozens of cookies around the weekend after Thanksgiving. But, this year, I'm kind of not feeling the spirit of the Holiday baking.

I think it's because the weather went from feeling like September to feeling like January. We really haven't had the December-y weather we usually have. So it doesn't really feel like it's the right time of year for the baking.

Here's hoping that I can shake that and get into the mood, soon. After all, Christmas is only 3 weeks away.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Religious Experience

The online world can be a strange, yet religiously inspiring, place.

Today, on one of the social networking sites which shall remain nameless, I saw two things:

1) Someone stated that she hates traffic with the white hot intensity of a thousand nuns. Yeah. On second or third glance I realized it said "suns" but it makes me wonder what the intensity of a thousand nuns would be like.

2) An online ad came through promoting menorahs, pointing out "Hanukkah beings and sundown..." I re-read it a couple of times, but that one never got better. So I responded to the post-er of the ad (as did a couple other people) saying that the sentiment was nice, but that possibly proofreading would have been good. About half an hour later, the ad was re-sent stating "Hanukkah begins at sundown..." Definitely more what they were aiming for, I'm sure.

But I still wonder who or what the Hanukkah beings are and what they do at sundown with their menorahs. And do you suppose their menorahs burn as brightly as the intensity of those thousand nuns?