29 September 2015

Ramblings after a long absence

Hail and well met, gentle travelers of the vast expanse that is the internet.  It has been long since I have visited you, here among the homey surroundings of my blog.

Life has been strange and wondrous (or perhaps merely wondrous busy), and more time has passed than I had intended since I last set pen to page. Granted, my prior dabbling in writing here has been rather underwhelming, but still, I had not meant to desert my scribblings so entirely.

Where to start, then!  I have since changed professions not once, but thrice since my last post, having worked for a physician, walked the endless streets of Austin as a meter reader, and finally joined the desk-bound ranks of corporate, office-slaved America as a gopher (also known as a customer service rep, den-mother, or simply, the person who takes care of everything).  I have also moved from south of our fair river, to the edge of the town near our lake. This spring I survived the roiling floods over Memorial Day, and am most glad to see the blast furnace heat of summer begin to soften into milder temperatures. 

Fall, it would seem, is just around the corner.

Which is absolutely fine with me, I hurry to assure you.  I adore a warm summer's day, spent under an oak's dappled shade while dangling my feet in the chill water of Barton Springs Pool, but there comes a time when change, just for the sake of change, is a thrilling thing.  Well, as far as weather goes, anyways.  Regardless, I am ready for cold, wet weather, perfect for sipping hot tea, and reading fantastical tales of adventure, or better yet, for hiking amongst the falling Spanish Oak leaves at the base of Enchanted Rock.

I have been endeavoring to use my move as an opportunity to re-prioritize my life. It is so easy to get side-tracked, and not take the time to do things you say to yourself you will eventually do. So this year I have started dabbling in photography again (picked up a cheap DSLR in the spring), attended a painting class (acrylics are more fun than I expected!), and am ensuring I spent at least as much time reading as I do watching addictive television shows.

I still have a whole list of things I need to do - visit places, go camping, photograph things...I've set myself a deadline for some of them, because with my time management skills (I'm skilled in procrastination to a frightening degree), if I don't set deadlines, things simply will not be accomplished.

My lesson learned this summer was this: don't allow people or circumstances to lock you indoors, to shut your true self away. Take time for yourself, and especially take time to be creative, and walk among the trees, and soak up starlight on warm summer nights. And finally, be aware of your limitations, but stretch out of your comfort zone.

Until next time, dear friends.

05 January 2013

Experiments in Creativity

In my quest for a less expensive lifestyle, I have been researching various gardening options.  As it's the middle of winter (and in light of having just paid for another semester of college), constructing raised beds for winter crops is still about a month away for me, and I have been trying to find ways to add greens/nutrients to my diet on the cheap, when it hit me - I should grow sprouts!

As a kid, Mum showed us how to grow bean sprouts in a canning jar with a mesh lid.  I've been doing some research, and the word on the net is that growing mung beans (my favourite) in mason jars can be a bit of an issue.  So I started looking at sprouters on the intrawebs, but found they ran in price from $12-$30, depending on the style.  And of course I wanted the more expensive one - the tray sprouting system.  As I was looking at them, however, it hit me - if I could make a screen insert, I have 2 plastic containers that would work perfectly.  They have straight sides, and were made for storing vegetables, I think, each having a plastic grate that rests at the bottom of the container, allowing the stored food to rest above any moisture that accumulates in the bottom.

So after finishing work today, I picked up a $5 roll of aluminium screen cloth, and headed home to spend my Saturday evening with a glass of wine, and a playlist of Moby, Arctic Monkeys, The Heavy, Viva Voce, Starlight Mints, The Strokes, (and others), while attempting to construct my own bean sprouter.

The idea was simple - trace the bottom of the container and create a template, then create another template with the first template plus the measure of the sides added in, then cut the screen and bend it into shape, securing it with staples.

I used my trauma shears to cut the screen - it was easy to cut, though the tiny wires were sharp, and kept catching on my fingers.  I probably should have worn gloves, but I dislike the loss of feeling and dexterity.

After cutting out the rectangle, I placed the template of the bottom of the container in the middle of the screen, and traced it with a Sharpie. It would have been much easier to see if I had bought the bright aluminium, but I didn't think of that when I bought the screen, and got the black finish.  I was still able to see the tracing, but next time I'm definitely getting the bright finish.

Mal, my Bengal, was irritated I was doing arts and crafts instead of paying attention to him, and kept climbing in the chair next to me and head butting my leg, the table, and anything else convenient.  Merlyn, on the other hand, was content to survey the action from the security of her tower.

After tracing the interior template, I folded the screen along the lines, then carefully folded the corners in, securing them with staples.  It was very easy to shape, and actually pretty forgiving when I had to make minor adjustments to the folds.
I set the screen into the storage container to make sure it fit properly.  It fit perfectly, so I turned down the edges to match the height of the container, and to get the sharp wire ends out of the way.  I stapled this down.

And there it is - my own home made bean sprouter, for mere pennies worth of material.  I cut a cloth cover out of some medical gauze, and tied it on top with some bias tape, for easy rinsing and draining of the seeds, as well as ventilation during the growth process.  And when they're the right size, I'll just pop on the lid, and put it in the refrigerator.

08 December 2012

Free Form Poetry, In Honour of the Hobbit Film

And now, for something completely different - 
I wrote this back in 2009, when I was more active with the LOTR fan club.  It's free-form, it's very long, so bear with it.  Comments regarding the shame of writing fan fiction should be minimized. :D

A dark tower rose from a dark clearing,
Surrounded by the shadowing eaves of Mirkwood.
Dol Guldur.

Within those walls,
If you listened you would hear
the hopeless voices of those lost forever
in the dark. Noisome sounds of
unknown creatures
skittering through dark tunnels;
tunnels marked by deep scratches
as of clawing hands
of desperate prisoners,
knowing that once they passed through
there would be no return.

Within his cell
he did not need to open his eyes,
knowing it would make no difference;
he dwelt in blackest night.

Footsteps passed his cell.
He paid them no heed -
they came not for him
and that was enough.

Silence again.
So much time here was spent

Feverishly his hands
shaking, sought out
two well-worn objects.
They were important
he knew, though not why.
Part of his past -
forgotten, like himself.
He knew only that they were important.

Triumphant, his fingertips
touched the hiding place
of his well-guarded secrets.
Sighing, he sank back,
drawing them out.
Worn fingers brushed over them
reassuring him
of their presence.
Two secrets. His last,
hidden in that dark place
of dark secrets.
A key, and a map.
"The last of the seven..."
murmuring to himself,
he rubbed his finger;
then stopped, confused -
unable to remember
what, or why, that phrase
came to mind - why it
seemed important.

A moment, and his useless eyes
bewildered searched the void about him.
He frowned, trying to remember,
and failing. Shrugging,
he dragged himself across his cell
slipping the precious objects back into their hidden niche -
chiselled from the wall in the
years he spent there -
a fierce smile twisting his weathered face
eyes glinting madly.
"You'll never best a dwarf!"
he shouted at the darkness
with sudden energy,
and burst into laughter wild.
To himself - "Fools, to hide a dwarf
in stone! Does it not
speak to me through my fingers?
Bidding me 'Dig here!' or 'Not here, friend!'
telling me of weakness
and of strength? I am a dwarf!"
His voice trailed off
as weakness claimed him
yet again. He sank into
incoherent mutterings,
then silence.

Later - he knew not how long,
for time had no meaning there -
he stirred, raising his head,
he shifted restlessly, muttering again.
"My son," he said, and
"Fire on the mountain,"
and yet again, “The last of the seven;"
pausing and touching
his hand, his finger, as at the memory
of some pain.
He shuddered, then turning hastily,
scrabbled on the floor
in search of something -
the last solace he had -
where was it, where?!
Frantically his fingers searched the floor,
clawing, bleeding, seeking it -
his one last comfort.

Sudden smoothness there beneath his hand,
and with a gasping cry, he knew
he had found it. Gripping it tightly
he slid weakly against the cold wall
where he half-sat, half-laid, panting,
with the smooth, polished feel
of bone in his hands.
A flute.
Carefully crafted from bone
found within his cell,
carved in those first terrible days after his capture.
He smiled grimly.
He had been there long -
he knew not how long,
and no longer remembered why he had been captured,
or where. Not even who he was -
but - "My son!" the anguished words
once more fell from his lips.

He sat in silence.
Shaking fingers tracing still the polished length
of the flute. At last
he raised it to his lips
and played. Scattered fragments
of half-remembered songs
spun in his brain
and flowed forth from the flute,
lighting the dark with haunting melody.

A spark of beauty there within the night.
He played softly, knowing that if they heard
they would come,
and silence him -
for evil hated music
almost as it hated light.
And as such he imagined it -
a glowing, silver light,
flowing through the darkness of his cell
as liquid music.
He could remember in his mind
just such a light as the flute would make-
it was moonlight, shining fair
upon a vase
of precious metal, though he
remembered not its name.
Wait - mithril, it was called!
He smiled to think
he could forget it.
Then sighed, and music, faltering,
brought his mind back to the present.

But surely he must yet be dreaming -
for lo, though his eyes were opened, still
he saw that silver light
he'd visioned in his mind.
Starting, he weakly shrank against the wall,
slipping with stealthy hand
the flute within his tattered garments,
fearing someone had heard
and torture was forthcoming.
Squinting up, his terror-stricken eyes
beheld, not the orc-spawned countenance he knew,
but an old and gentle face, though worn
as though by care and toil -
the cell door behind gaping wide -
and in the figure's hand a staff
tipped with that wondrous silver light.

"The last of the seven,"
he whispered, distracted eyes
darting over the man's face and form,
as though expecting him to vanish.
Then stretching out a shaking hand
imploringly asked
"What do you want from me?"

The stranger grey stooped towards the dwarf
with pitying eyes, and asked,
"Who are you, friend, and where art from?"

"Last of the seven," he gasped again. Then
rising feebly, Thrain speaks:
"'Ware friend, if friend indeed you be,
for once beneath this tower you are caught,
forever will you stay - eternity
lies here before you in the dark."

The stranger nodded once, and seemingly
the weight of care upon him settled yet more heavily.
"Well I know it, Master Dwarf, for few have come
forth from Dol Guldur once received.
But who are you? locked up
for many years, if appearances speak true."

The dwarf looked down, as though confused,
then up again, and with uncertainty
regarded the stranger closely. Then nodded once,
his 'wildered mind made up,
with shaking step he passed the stranger by,
and reaching down into his hidden niche
drew forth his treasured past -
the map, the key.
He pushed them towards the man,
with desperate face
said "For my son."
Then sank he down, and leaned against the rock
breathing with difficulty
and said again - "For my son."
Then, clutching his finger -
"The last of the seven."
He breathed his last.

The stranger grey looked down at map and key
held in his hands, and sighed.
Knelt there beside the dwarf with bowed head
murmured, "Il├║vatar be with thee!"
And rising silently,
slipped wraithlike from the cell,
seen by none.

"I remembered a dangerous journey of mine,...when I had entered Dol Guldur in disguise, and had found there an unhappy Dwarf dying in the pits. I had no idea who he was. He had a map that had belonged to Durin's folk in Moria, and a key that seemed to go with it, though he was too far gone to explain it. And he said that he had possesed a great Ring.

"Nearly all his ravings were of that. The last of the Seven he said over and over again...But he gave the map and key to me. 'For my son,' he said; and then he died, and soon after I escaped myself."

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Unfinished Tales

05 December 2012

The Progression of America's Great Discontent.

Or, How our consumerism is killing America, which in turn is doing its best to kill the Earth.   
[Warning, this will be a somewhat rambling post.  My brain is in a state of shut down due to studying for semester finals this week.]

Humans, myself included, generally gravitate toward self-indulgence.  For a while this was held in check for various reasons - possibly due to income, and personal upbringing, sometimes perhaps through religion, also because of difficulty in transportation, resulting in smaller markets more focused more on necessities and local products.  But in America today, self-indulgence is promoted everywhere you turn.  And Self-Indulgence walks hand-in-hand with a Lack of Self-Control, giving birth to the "Instant Gratification" syndrome.

Modern marketing uses our self-indulgence against us, bombards us with images and sound, to convince us we need things we don't really need, all the while telling us we "deserve" this or that.  And instant gratification plays right into that - we don't give ourselves time to go home and realize that we don't really need whatever it is they're trying to sell us. 

I believe this plays a part in the current "epidemic" of obesity.  Have you ever realized how much advertising is about food?  Due to that lack of self-control, many people no longer eat when they are hungry, but when they want a certain taste.  And with a craving for an instant gratification, it's easy to for people with busy lifestyles (and who isn't busy these days!) to tend toward eating processed, or fast food, or pre-made meals, that contain unhealthy additives, and/or have lost their nutritional value through processing.  With this easy access to food, we also have a tendency of buying more than we can use before it spoils. Did you know that Americans waste 40% of their food?  Forty percent.  That is a HUGE amount of food.

These trends of self-indulgence, instant gratification, and lack of self control have also contributed to widespread personal debt.  So many no longer live within their means, but use credit to live a financially unsustainable lifestyle.  Again, I speak from experience.  I'm learning the hard way how many things I really don't need, and that it's better to live with older things -  possibly less aesthetic things - but ones that still function, and fore-go the "fluff" I thought I needed, than to live with thousands of dollars in credit card debt hanging over my head.

The reason I'm harping on all of this, is that these trends are a huge contribution to America's negative environmental impact.  We don't care that we drive our car when we could just as easily take the bus, because we don't want to give up that bit of independence/convenience.  We don't care that our current lifestyles are carelessly using up the planetary resources, as long as we have the best food, plenty of beef, and the latest gaming console.  The fact that the production of these things is destroying ecosystems, supporting unsustainable manufacturing or agriculture, using our water unsustainably, and contributing to greenhouse gas emmissions doesn't even cross our minds. 

One problem we face as a nation, is that we won't take personal responsibility for our own actions, but would rather make it the Government's problem.  But by default, it's sure as hell going to become our problem anyway, because when the government steps in, stupidity tends to result.   For example, the FDA is trying to class sugar as a drug, because we don't have the self control to limit our intake.  And those laws passed restricting the size of a soda that you can purchase in certain cities.  Come on, people, really?  First off, people who want to drink soda and eat sugar are still going to do it.  Some law isn't going to stop them, just make them pay a little more to do it.  Secondly, when did it become the government's job to do our menu-planning?!

As a nation, as well as a resident of Earth, it is critical that we re-learn self-control.  And secondly, we need to wake up to the ecological damage our decadent habits have inflicted, and start working to reverse them.

12 November 2012

Breaking free from Corporate America

Greetings, internet peoples! 

I didn't realize how long it had been since my last post, due to near assimilation by Life's mundane daily grind.  Due to recent events, I am feeling more free and alive than I have in a very long time.  I have finally realized that I had swallowed a lie.  The American Lie so many people see merely as "the way the World works" or an "unfortunate but necessary" way of life.  The lie that you have to "play the game" of work-place politics, that Money is the ultimate god, and we must give up everything - self-respect, quality of life, time for family and friends - in order to obtain more Money, so we can obtain the things "absolutely necessary" for life.  Things being the operative words.  Not essentials, but things.  A nicer car, because the one I have isn't shiny enough, or new enough.  A faster computer, because even though the one I have does everything I need, it's not as cool as someone else's computer.  A nicer house, even though the one I rent is more than I could ever need.

Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, I had begun to believe the filthy lie thrown in our faces all day, everyday, to CONSUME, OBEY, SUBMIT.  God bless Consumerism.

I have my job to thank for waking me up to this fact, setting me back on the path of living within my means, of being content with less, wasting less, and managing the things I have more responsibly.

In short, due to....things.....at work, I quit.  And with no job lined up, which is a first for me, and quite frankly, is a bit terrifying.  (And probably fairly irresponsible considering the economic state right now.)  But for the first time in 5 years, I am free from kissing up to "The Man" in order to preserve a way of life that is really not worth the daily sacrifice of self respect I was offering.  And now that I'm job searching, I've been listening to what other people say about their jobs, and am appalled to realize that most people are comfortable with dedicating over half of their waking life to professions that they don't like, that bore them, or they outright hate.  Because, God forbid we give up that second car, or that vacation property we'll probably never be able to enjoy, or that we not eat meat three times a day, or that we actually have to clean our own house instead of having a maid.

Frak a bunch of that!

I am aware I'm a bit of an idealist.  But the fact that people go to jobs they don't care about at all, that they dislike, or actually hate, and are totally okay with that, is abhorrent to my very being.  I understand we all have to pay bills and eat.  But seriously, why aren't more of us okay with making a little less money to do something we actually enjoy?  Have we really enslaved our sense of worth to the number of dollars we bring home?

Imagine a work force that was enthusiastic about what they did.  Who weren't merely doing time, watching the time clock, and waiting for that paycheck.  Imagine the improvement in the quality of, well, everything.  Work quality, customer satisfaction, home life, the effect on relationships.

In my case, I blame a large part of my issues at work on the corporate business structure.  I've worked for two corporations in my life.  And they were the two most horrific job experiences I have ever had.  The company I last worked for was so big, the people making the rules had hardly any clue how the rules they were making effected the lives of those of us on the "front lines".  Those who did understand the problems we were facing either didn't want to fight the corporate system to fix the problems, or had monetary reasons not to want to improve our issues - I mean, hey, who cares if you burn out a few employees, as long as the boss gets to take the yearly bonus home, and have a week long Caribbean vacation every year?  And the higher ups only see that the middle boss is making money.  They don't care about the bottom man on the totem pole.

So my current theory is small business is the way to go.  Theoretically, the manager of a smaller business is more closely connected to what's actually going on.  Often times, they either started the business, and are intimately aware of how things actually work, or they worked their way from the bottom up...and are intimately aware of how things work.  Plus, it supports local economy.  Not to say that there aren't bad work experiences to be had at a smaller business, but I strongly believe the corporate template is set up in such a way that it reduces people to cogs in a machine, churning out profit at the cost of the humanity of its workers.

So here I am.  Sticking it to The Man, and setting out to find a way to support myself, while not selling my soul to Consumerist, Corporate America.

I'll let you know how it goes.

19 November 2011

experiment in technology

So recently, I have discovered a new app for my phone that allows me to write by speaking. It is actually very accurate, however it does not punctuate or capitalize any of my words or sentences. I am being a total dork and I'm speaking into my phone in order to write this blog. I kind of feel like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

Anyway, I guess that is it for now I was just experimenting with this new found technology. :D

posted from Bloggeroid

29 July 2011

Wizards and Wizardry

Monster Hunter: Alpha and Hard Magic: Volume 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles just came in.  Right before I have to go to work, too.  I wonder if that would make a valid excuse for calling in sick?

In other news, I adopted a part Siamese cat named Merlyn yesterday.  She's very sweet and cuddly, but a little nervous of my big, eerily quiet house.  So far, when I'm not here, it seems she's taken to hiding under my bed.  The good news is, she doesn't seem to mind the ferrets at all.  I seem to have misplaced my camera, but as soon as I find it, I'll post pictures.

30 April 2011

Stories found in everyday life

So I had the opportunity to go see David Sedaris at the Long Center Monday night.  I left feeling inspired and dumb at the same time.  He read selections from his diary, and I was blown away with how attentive he is to things that happen around him.  When I kept a diary, my entries all boiled down to "today I got up, went to work, took care of various problems, complained about them to friends/co-workers, and am now going to bed".  I finally stopped writing all together, as the sheer repetition of my entries was boring and depressing.  As opposed to the excerpts from Mr. Sedaris' diary, which were entertaining, and revealed a man who is very aware of the stories enacted around him in normal life and can verbalize the most mundane scenario brilliantly. 

So I've been inspired to try and pay more attention to things happening around me, as well as improve my skill at conveying those stories to others.  I initially resolved to find and write at least one anecdote a day, but discovered that it's going to take a bit of practice to be able to do my job and tune into more than a flash of an anecdote, as I'm always flitting to different locations in the clinic.  My stories from this week are all bits and pieces - the start, the end, the middle of a story, but not enough of any one thing to form a coherent thread.  I need to either find a way to see stories in a fragment and write that bit, or keep a consecutive train of thought better.

Anyways.  Deb, Arleen and Mom came over this morning for a bit of knitting.  Mom is the knitting Guru, and I love to listen to her explaining the knitting tips and tricks.  I remember her excited disquisitions when discovering a lot of those same tips and tricks during my childhood, and it's cool to see her get to share those skills with a more appreciative audience than myself.  I never was very good with knitting.

In other news, I got a grill last week, and today ventured for a second time into the as yet uncharted territory (for me at least) that is grilling.  So far, have made hamburgers, and today, tried Shish-ka-bob, with veggies, steak, chicken and shrimp.  As per Mom and Arleen, it tasted good, but I need to work on my marinade, I think.

After lunch, we got to watch some 3rd season Dr. Who.  Mom told me no other family members were allowed to visit until she got her fix this week, as I've let Truman, Kathryn and Edward usurp her time with the good Doctor.  So we watched a few episodes.  It's so gratifying to see Mum actually relaxing and enjoying a show and a glass of wine, and not feeling guilty about it.  Though I have concerns about her withdrawals from Dr. Who when she doesn't get to come visit for a few weeks.  It appears I have, in fact, created a monster.


11 April 2011

Things that go bump in the night....

Living in a house as opposed to an apartment has taken some getting used to.  There are more creaks and squeaks around the place at night, not to mention more road noise due to the highway flyover being right by my place, but nothing I haven't gotten used to.  I've adapted so well that the only thing that normally wakes me is the infernal trash truck that likes to bash the dumpster about behind my house at 3 AM every other morning.

Until about 2 weeks ago.

I was woken up in the middle of the night to the sounds of someone, or something, evidently having a tap-dance party on my rooftop, right over my bedroom.  I immediately thought of the clutch of bums that like to crash in the green space behind my house, and tried to think of a reason they would be having a stomp-fest on my roof.  On second evaluation, I realized it sounded big, but not big enough to be a person.  I was exhausted, and didn't feel like going outside to do battle with an unknown foe on my rooftop, especially when my only weapons were a baseball bat and my bow and arrows.  (While the bow and arrows sound like a decent defense against an elevated enemy, I learned how to shoot at the Stormtroopers School of Archery, and the odds of me hitting my opponent were....well, nil.)

 So I took the typical approach of a six year old child - hid my head under my pillow and hoped it would go away.

It did....eventually.

Last night, my mysterious heavy-footed visitor returned, and woke me up again.  This time, I was having none of it.  Hobo, RoUS, cat or alien, I was done having my sleep disturbed.  I stomped out back and around the house to see what was cavorting on my rooftop.  I came around the corner to see a pair of black masked eyes peering cautiously down at me from near the ridge of the roof. 

Raccoons.  I should have known.  I reached down to find a rock to throw, but was unable to find one.  Great.  Mr. Raccoon continued to look curiously and condescendingly down on me, so I did the only thing I could think of - hissed at him like a seriously annoyed cat.  He looked somewhat disconcerted by this, but didn't move. I hissed again.  He still didn't move.  I stormed into the house to go find something to throw, came back out with my ice tray, and proceeded to pelt the little pest with ice cubes.  I think he finally got the idea, and after a brief siege to the chimney area, he beat a hasty retreat.

Still not sure what he was up to on the roof, but I really hope the memory of an irate, hissing, ice-cube hurling female will be enough to make him think twice before he tries to have another expedition to my roof.

18 July 2010

There and Back again...weekend road trip

I have just gotten back from a long overdue visit to misbeHaven and TXGunGeek, and am officially fantastically pleased with my new (used) 2003 Chevy Tracker.  Also, it was fantastic to see aforesaid miscreants, and hang out.  We got to see Despicable Me this morning, and I found it to be very funny....loved the credits.