Saturday, April 11, 2009

I’m looking forward to May 18th

Berlin Wall Tumbles Before I get to that, I watched an excellent documentary today on Snagfilms (which is such a cool site). My pal Marc had recommended it to me a while back, after I wrote about the Berlin Wall. This documentary, "After the Fall," includes interviews with people from both East and West Berlin, and they discuss their feelings about the Wall and its eventual destruction. To me, the most poignant, and somewhat unsettling, remarks made came from a reverend (is it wrong for me to say that he had dreamy eyes?) who said that the night the border was opened, he was watching people go over the Wall...but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He memorized their names, because he thought the border would close again, and he wanted to be able to tell someone what had happened to them. He said that the Wall was as much in his mind as it was a physical presence. It made me think about barriers that we erect in our own minds...there might not be anything physically stopping us, but the Wall in our head can be every bit as impenetrable as one that we can touch.

Anyhoo, if you're interested, give it a look. It's an hour long, so if it's something that doesn't really interest you, there's not much point in watching it!

So why am I wishing my life away and looking forward to May 18th? Because it's one day after President Obama gives the commencement speech at Notre Dame, and all this brouhaha should be over! Randall Terry will pack up and take his lapdogs with him, and get out of our town and our state. I haven't written about it much lately, because I was hoping it would die down, but it's a big topic on CNN and other national news sources lately.

However, the difference in what these media outlets are reporting and the truth of reality is vast. The media talks about PROTESTS HELD ON CAMPUS. Earlier this week, a group of students held a prayer vigil. It was quite peaceful, and I think calling it a "protest" was a little misleading. There was an actual protest later in the week, led by Randall Terry and his evil henchmen, so that really was a PROTEST HELD ON CAMPUS.

Twenty-six people showed up. Yeah. 26.

Protest sign Randall Terry and his malicious minions also staged a protest in Fort Wayne on Friday. The diocese office urged people not to attend, stating that it was Good Friday and a time to focus on Christ's crucifixion, not on such protests. It was "poorly timed," they said. Five local people showed up early, followed a few hours later by Randall Terry's assistant and three others. That would make a total of, let's see [getting out calculator, punching buttons]...NINE. Nine people at this protest.

It is really burning my bacon that this asshole Terry is trying to make it look like he's speaking for everyone around here, and the media is portraying this as a huge deal in northern Indiana, with people up in arms and protesting, rioting in the streets, cats and dogs living's not happening, folks. There are people upset, yes. There are people that are not happy with the decision, yes. I'd say that the majority of people are fine with him giving the speech, and those that aren't are voicing their opinions fairly peacefully. This dickweed Terry rolls into town and feels that it's his personal mission to tell us how we should feel. He has vowed to make this a "political mud pit" for President Obama. I really hope that at some point he crosses the line into threatening behavior so we can toss him in the slammer. I'm all for the right to protest peacefully in order to get a point across, but this numbnuts doesn't care about discourse or discussion. He just wants to stir up trouble.

Soon, I'll tell you how I really feel about him. I promise.

In the meantime, Bishop D'Arcy has issued a statement urging all Catholics and others of good will to stay away from "unseemly and unhelpful" demonstrations against our President, Notre Dame, or Father Jenkins. He goes on to state, "The Notre Dame community is well-equipped to supervise and support discussions and prayer within their own campus....Let's all work towards a peaceful graduation experience for the class of 2009 at our Beloved Notre Dame."

Do you think that was Bishop D'Arcy's way of telling Randall Terry to get bent? I think so. The Bishop also met with Father Jenkins and called it a "positive" meeting. I think everyone can handle this without Terry's help, and in fact, he's not doing his cause any favors. Hey, Terry? Go home. Seriously. You are not welcome here.

At least Arizona State took a little of the focus off of our community, with the story that they weren't going to confer an honorary degree upon the President...but then there was talk that they might, so I'm not sure of the latest. In reading about it, it's all cool. It seems that they weren't planning on giving any honorary degrees this year (although I wonder if there isn't more to it), and it's their school, their choice. Notre Dame's policy is to give honorary degrees to guest speakers, especially someone as eminent as the President.

Ah well, the Masters is coming on, and I'm hoping to see Tiger come storming back today. Oh, and I have a special Easter picture for you. I used to put this up on my locker at work every year around this time. We often had groups of schoolkids coming through for tours, and as one group gathered in the central area of the department, right by the lockers, we noticed some of them giggling at something they saw there. We realized later that they were giggling about this picture. What can I say? I guess I'm just a corrupter of youth.

Easter chocolate bunnies

Coolest. Thing. Ever.

Thank you, David Dust, m'dear, for the link to the most awesome application I think I've ever seen. Yeah, baby!

Create Your Own

Friday, April 10, 2009

Don’t even go there!

Drama Free Zone I don't know if you remember my recent family drama, in which someone told someone else something my Mom had said, blah blah blah. It's not even worth linking to that entry, because it's ultimately unimportant, and seems to have blown over.

However, I talked to my folks today (Mom has a nasty cold--please send her good thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery!) to wish them a happy Easter and just get caught up, and it seems that the "someone" in question is still trying to stir things up a bit. When I had talked to Mom last week, she said that no one was really planning anything for Easter. They have church stuff going on all day on Sunday, and they have a memorial service to go to on Saturday. She said it's probably for the best, since a couple of extended family members have some health issues, and I said that was cool with me, because Ken has to work both days, anyway. It was really no big deal--we don't feel we have to do an Easter thing, and we'll all get together before too long, when things seem to settle down for everyone. Everything was cool.

Well, when Mom was talking to this someone the other day, it was mentioned that we weren't doing anything for Easter, we'd wait to get together when things settled down, and Mom said, "Besides, Beth Anne and Ken can't come anyway." (Although if we'd had a get-together, I would have gone without Ken and brought him a plate home.) This someone said to my Mom, "Are you telling me that you aren't planning something because Beth and Ken can't come?!" Not exactly angry or mean, but just sort of getting after Mom because the someone thought that Mom and Dad weren't planning something just because we couldn't attend.

I told Mom today, no no no. It was kind of a combination of several things, and Ken not being able to come was just an extra thing. We both referenced our previous conversation, and agreed that it was just sort of how everything worked out, and it wasn't just because of me and Ken.

I've said before that I'm very protective of my Mom and Dad. They're adults, and can take care of themselves, obviously, but if I think someone is being hurtful to them, I won't hesitate to say, "It's go-time, Skippy!" That won't be necessary here, because it's not a big deal, and no one is going to try to make it a big deal. However, as protective as I am of my folks, I guarantee that they are ten times more protective of their three girls. What this person probably doesn't realize is that they have crossed a line. Today my Mom told me, "So-and-so [AKA Someone] is working people, don't think I don't know it." When I asked what she meant, she said, "Trying to get whatever they can out of people. Your Dad and I are done."

Manipulation I have thought in the past that this person was being a tad too ingratiating with my folks, but it was never bad enough for me to say anything. My folks are smart cookies, though, and I believe they have seen that now for themselves. I don't doubt that this person loves them and values them, but something always seemed a little "off" to me in their dealings with my folks, and things that they said to them just seemed a little too close to toadying. I couldn't put my finger on anything if I had to, but I sensed it, and it seems that my folks have now, too. In trying to stir up a little trouble between my folks and the family member in the last "drama" and now saying something a little against me--no matter how slight--they have gone a step too far with Mom and Dad.

Manipulative behavior is never attractive. Beyond our own little family saga I've written about here, I've seen it in others, and I always find it a somewhat pathetic. It's as if the person doesn't know how to get what they want through work, or education, or effort, so they resort to using manipulation of others in order to get what they want. We all use our natural talents to deal with people, and learn how to charm and disarm. If our actions garner a positive response, that reinforces our good behavior and we also learn what doesn't work. (That's the plan, anyway. Some never learn that certain behaviors don't work, and can even turn people off. Those are the people who, when they leave, usually result in you asking the person next to you, "Jeez, what's their problem?") Manipulation is different, though. It can involve looks, money, power, threats and ultimatums, or influence, but it almost always involves exaggerations and falsehoods. A person who is on the ball will recognize it and not fall for it.

The lesson to be learned here is: Don't suck up. It's always obvious. And don't try to stir up family drama, because it will only hurt you in the end.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flattery will get you everywhere

A beautiful sunny day here at Nutwood! Not exactly balmy, but after a visit to the store, I walked around and picked some some good-sized limbs that had come down after our high winds a few days ago. I was able to be out without a jacket, and it felt good to be outside and do a little yard work. I'm in the mood for Mexican, so tonight it's nachos! Or as I like to call them, snachos. Not sure where that came from.

Guess what I got at the grocery store? Pomegranate juice. As I gaze deeply into my crystal ball, I foresee pomegranate martoonis in our near future! (And yes, I've already found a recipe.) When I serve them, I shall wear capris and ballet flats while we listen to some groovy tunes on our hi-fi stereo. I suppose martinis aren't all that retro these days, are they? They're quite the rage now. We even have a martini bar in South Bend, Indiana. And that's sayin' something.

I was very flattered to be pimped highlighted by a couple of bloggers I respect very much. Rebecca at Provocation of Mine(d) is a remarkable writer, and she mentioned my blog in her entry today. I can't begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised I was, and I thank you, Rebecca. You're a peach!

Award Kreativ Blogger Lori of Dusty Pages has passed along the Kreativ Blogger award to me. Thank you, Lori! Lori and I share a love of words, their origins, uses, etc. Be sure to check out her shared blog I Stand Corrected, in which she was kind enough to add me as a writer. (Which reminds me, I really need to work on an entry for it! It's been a while.) I had received this award a while back, but Lori's bequest comes with an assignment. As I do with all awards, if I read you, it's for a reason, and I pass this award on to you. The homework involved looks like fun, so I'll do it! I'm supposed to write about seven things I love.

Only seven?! Okay, you all know the usual suspects: Ken, of course! (Awww!) My family. And Sheeba. Music that RAWWWWKS! Movies. Route 66. Birds wildlife cats books conservation art Googie signs ancient Egypt politics...I've written about all these things here many times, but I'll try to dig a little deeper and be a tad more specific, or at least go beyond the usual.

So here we go, and thank you again, Rebecca and Lori. You are both women of distinction, and I'm proud to know you.

1. Sitting outside on the deck on a warm summer day, when the sounds of outdoor activity subside. It's a weekday, so there are few cars going by, and the neighbors aren't running their lawnmowers or chainsaws. The only sounds are those of the birds and a gentle breeze ruffling the leaves. I never feel so at peace when I'm in that place and just look around me, and listen, with delight. If you were to see me at these moments, you'd see an idiotic grin on my face, with my head tipped back.

2. Sometimes when doing that, I'll get lucky, and a hummingbird will come up and hover in front of my face. Their little eyes sparkle and seem to ask, "Who are you, lady? And are you the one who feeds me? Thanks!" The air is stirred by the rapid beat of their tiny wings, and no matter how many times it happens, it still amazes me and makes me hold my breath until they fly away.

3. Being out in the garden and hearing a rustle in the marsh grass a few feet away...looking up and seeing a big-eyed and big-eared doe looking back at me.

4. Driving with the top down (the Mustang's, not mine) on a warm summer night, singing along to a cool song.

Gee, do you think I'm ready for summer? It really is my favorite time of year, and I'm excited that it's getting close.

5. I love it when Ken asks me, "How do you spell...?" and tells me a word. I spell it out, e.g., "R-H-Y-T-H-M" and then say the word: "Rhythm." It's like a tiny, pretend spelling bee. And I always win!

6. Learning something new. Finding out more about a subject. Researching for an entry (yes, sometimes I really do some research!). Traveling to a place I haven't been before and learning about its history, or traveling to a place I have been before and finding out something new about it. It's the thrill of the hunt, and I'm hunting information. (Be vewy vewy quiet.)

7. And we're back to summer: having the bedroom windows open at night, feeling the cool breeze, snuggling down into crisp cotton sheets, and hearing the frogs "peeping" out in the ponds. For me, it's like a sleeping pill courtesy of Mother Nature.

Hummy girl

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

The Wall Street Journal published a story today about Chinese and Russian cyberspies hacking into utility companies' computer systems. This report is flying fast and furious around the Net, and I just got a Forward email about the "syberspies." Folks, if you're going to forward something like that along to me, first of all, don't. But if you just have to forward it, please make sure it's spelled correctly.

Blackout I saw a mention of the big blackout of 2003, in which a person believed it to be the result of a terrorist attack, and used that blackout as an illustration of how vulnerable our electric grid is to such attacks.

Some of you who are new here probably don't know that Ken has a degree in Electrical Engineering, and works as a project manager for AEP, one of the largest utility companies in the country. When that blackout happened, it was a big deal in the company, because they were the ones that essentially stopped the blackout from continuing west, when its automated protection systems disconnected completely from the grid. Ken got news of the causes of the situation before the official investigation findings were released, and it was pretty interesting to hear about what happened and why.

You know what caused the blackout? Increased usage during a hot summer day led power lines to heat up and sag into trees that weren't trimmed well enough. As soon as lines touched the trees, they shorted, resulting in power being shunted to other lines, in turn making Scarecrow adthem hotter and more unstable. These fluctuations resulted in a cascade of shutdowns and outages, exacerbated by both computer failure and operator failure. AEP's automated protection systems recognized what was happening with the grid, and disconnected, stopping the cascade and preventing a surge for demand on AEP's grid, which would have resulted in even more outages.

It all came back to untrimmed trees. Now, unless a terrorist cell infiltrated the companies involved in trimming the trees and maliciously left the trees in question untrimmed while they took a long lunch, there was absolutely no terrorist involvement there whatsoever. That's the problem I have with conspiracy theories. I'd rather find out the rational explanation of something than chalk it up to nebulous threats and nefarious plots, à la Art Bell.

Blackout2 Does that mean that utility companies' computer systems are unhackable? Depends on the system. The websites accessible by consumers for information, bill paying, etc., would probably be vulnerable to the same hackers that get into banking, hospital, and other systems. The systems that control operation, however, are by regulation separate from the other systems. The NRC's (the plant that Ken is involved with is nuclear) cyber security regulations mandate that operational systems be separate from administrative systems which include such components as consumer-accessible sites. It is impossible to access operational systems unless you are physically at the system itself.

So am I worried about terrorists hacking into our accounting systems and wreaking a little havoc there? I suppose it's possible, but it's not something I lose sleep over. It seems that there are worse things that they could come up with. Am I worried about them hacking into our operation systems and taking over control of our power plants and electric grid?


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fun with friends

Aubrey and Jillian Today I met up with a couple of pals from the lab, Aubrey and Jillian. Aren't they pretty? I asked permission to put this up on the blog, and after they approved of the picture, they agreed. Jillian told Aubrey, "We made the blog!" Ha ha! It was so nice to talk with them and get caught up on everything! Like I told them, I sure don't miss the lab, but I definitely miss them and the rest of the gang. It sounds like everyone is doing okay, despite a few health scares, etc. Apparently our lab has started a wellness program, just like Ken's did, and they sort of forced people into it by saying that if you participated in the program, your heath insurance costs would stay the same. If you chose not to, they would go up.

I've said it before here, that I believe as a nation, we need to get away from the "I'll deal with it when I have to" mentality and start focusing on preventive care. This will save us millions in healthcare costs, and spending money to make sure that everyone gets the screening tests they need will save us much more in the long run. Just my opinion, but it sure seems logical to me.

Anyhoo, we enjoyed a martooni or three (Jillian also loved the pomegranate martini at Applebee's--Aubrey had a mango martini, and it was apparently quite a bit sweeter.) and had a really nice time! It was great to see them, and I'm glad Aubrey was our social coordinator and got us together. Yay!

Beth and Oven Mitt I had promised David a picture of me and Oven Mitt. Since I was wearing my contacts and had on makeup, this was the day to get a picture of me and OM! Does anyone remember Arby's Oven Mitt? We just loved the little guy, especially the commercial where he was working out. "One-two, one-two!" I guess I covered up his Arby logos with my hands, but I didn't want to drop him.

Whew, I'm glad we're having leftovers tonight. I can't say I feel much like cooking! And Ken has a day off tomorrow! Yahoo!

Monday, April 6, 2009

What the…?

Left to right: back yard to the northwest, front yard, and back yard to the north.

After Ken went to bed last night, I flipped on the outside light and saw big fat snowflakes coming down, and about an inch already on the deck. I left Ken a note that he might want to take the truck, because it looked like a really dense, wet snow that would make it slow going in the Mustang. He emailed me from work to let me know that he'd made it okay, and he said it was really bad on the back roads, but better on the highways.

Almost all of it has melted by now, can you believe that? The official total from the airport was a couple of inches, I think, but at our place, it looks like 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) on the deck. It's sunny right now, but we're supposed to get some lake effect snow tonight. Pffttthhh. I know our hardwood trees will be okay, but I hope this doesn't kill all our flowers that were coming up! That would bum me out.

I finished my Facebook quiz and successfully posted it! YES! I'm like a dog with a bone when it comes to stuff like that. I can hardly stand it until I manage to get it to work. The endless Facebook quizzes have gotten kind of funny. There are some that are fun to take...but I don't really need or care to know what color I am, what type of woman I am, or what Winnie the Pooh character I am! No offense to anyone who takes them, but keep in mind that I just wrote a it's people like me who are writing them! My friend Dan (Milwaukee Dan #1) recently wrote on Facebook that the quizzes seemed to be getting a little out of hand, so I jokingly wrote that I was going to write a "What infectious disease are you?" quiz. Enough friends (mostly lab friends, go figure!) wrote that I should do I did! It is firmly tongue-in-cheek, believe me, and there are some subtle microbiology jokes in there. Although I suppose that most microbiology jokes are subtle. Ha! I've got three STD's in there, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and syphilis, and I don't think anyone is an STD so far.

If you're on Facebook, I could only send 20 invitations today, so if I didn't send it to you, you can find it on my page, under my picture on the left.

I'm just now watching clips of Levi Johnston on the Tyra Banks show. Dang, I wish I'd known that was airing today, I would have watched it! Man, what kind of train wreck is this mess? Is this the Aleutian Hillbillies? It's on the verge of Jerry Springeresque, with Levi saying that he lived with the Palins before the baby was due, the Governor's spokesperson denying it, he and Bristol were practicing safe sex all the wait, most of the time, Levi can't take the baby anywhere, etc., etc. This whole thing is just sad. I didn't hear the entire interview, but last I knew, he had dropped out of high school. It's a sad circus.

Wildcat hoops NCAA championship tonight! Before the game, be sure to read The Wildcat's Lair, which has chronicled the Bracket Battle of 2009. It's been a lot of fun, and I'm curious to see whether Wildcat or Page the dog will win the battle. It's some of the funniest stuff you'll read out there, folks. Pay the gang a visit!

We'll be cheering for Michigan State tonight. No offense to the North Carolina fans out there--I actually like NC, too. But I have to cheer for a Big Ten team, and I kind of like State's Cinderella story. This means a lot to the state of Michigan, and I have to pull for our neighbors. Go State!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The S-Word

They're calling for snow tonight and tomorrow, with some accumulation possible. Augh! A gloomy, rainy day here at Nutwood, but it's nice to be cozy inside. I've got a roast and potatoes and carrots in the crock pot, so it smells yummy in here!

If you're on Facebook, you've seen all the quizzes, like "What kind of pizza are you?" (I just made that up, but it wouldn't surprise me if there really is one called that.) I've been working on one of my own, and I'm close to being done. I'll probably finish it tomorrow and then I'll tell you about it (and share it with those of you on Facebook). It's been very frustrating, because some of the quiz creating applications are not very good, and kept freezing up or giving me an error message. I think I've almost got it tackled, though, and even made myself chuckle a couple of times.

I came across a neat website today called Snagfilms. It's been around for a little while, but I just read about it today. You can watch documentaries, over 600 titles. Unfortunately, it looks like there are some commercials in there, too, but I can put up with that. There are a couple of National Geographic ones about Egypt and the pyramids, and I was thrilled to see one recommended to me by Marc, "After the Fall." It's about Berlin after the Wall came down. I think I'll watch one tomorrow.

A couple of good bird sightings today! Nothing new, but nice, closeup views. An Eastern Phoebe was on the back deck railing for a moment, and I was really excited to get a good look at Woody, our Pileated Woodpecker! I see them out in the trees sometimes, or hear their loud call, but I've never seen one come up as close to the house as I did today. I also discovered who pecked the hole in one of our black cherry trees. You're busted, Woody! Isn't he handsome? Actually, this is a female, with a black forehead and mustache instead of red. These are huge birds, maybe 18 inches (about 46 cm), and their beaks look incredibly powerful. I still need to get a picture of the tree stump that they have completely stripped of bark and pecked holes in--after seeing Woody go after the black cherry tree in the picture, I'm pretty certain they're the ones who have gone after the stump.

Here are a few pictures.

Oh, and an Anon by any other name would be...a Cynthia. [rolling eyes] Criminy, now they're answering their own comments. What is this, "The Three Faces of Eve?"