31 December 2006

Resolved: steamless morning

Happy New Year's Eve and a Pippin New Year to everyone.

I find the notion of a New Year's Resolution a bit odd. Mainly because people decide on it in advance, and then plan to wait until the new year to do anything about it. In general, this is a recipe for failure. So I made an old-year-resolution a few days after Christmas, and already put it into action. My goal is to practice taiji, yoga, and chanting at least once each day. Even if only for five minutes each. I would like to make it to 108 continuous days. Why 108? Mainly because that's the number of beads on my Tibetan mala. I mean, I could look up mystic significances for it, but the mala is the primary reason. Anyway, I'm up to five days so far. Assuming I get a round of the taiji form in before I head to bed. Oh yes. I made a calendar check-sheet so I could make sure of the counting.

Oh, and just a note. Do NOT try to bake anything "normal" in the same oven with a custard while it's being steamed. My Christmas coffeecake was, well, soup. Cutting it into thin slices and putting it in the toaster oven helps, but it's still rather odd. So this time I baked the custard the night before. Though it's a bit different. For this one, you cook the rice, put it in the pan, then pour the custard batter over it and bake them together. *shrugs* No clue how it will taste. I'll find out tomorrow. And all I have to do tomorrow is make cornbread and Italian Cream Cake (which is an odd name, since there is no cream in it). It's one of the best gluten-free cake recipes I've ever used (from Bette Hagman's book of GF desserts).

Inquire Further

30 December 2006

Death of a Tyrant

Just in case anyone's been completely isolated from news today, Saddam Hussein was hanged this morning. I can only hope that this marks the closing of an era, but I'm not naive enough to assume that it will. It's interesting to me that a lot of people are debating whether this exectution was the "right" thing to do. I have no idea. But I do think it was a necessary thing to do. There are few cases where I can unequivocally support the death penalty. This is one of them. Why? Because there can be no doubt that Saddam was responsible for countless hideous acts, and I am firmly convinced that, for some acts, a person loses the right to live.

So you might find it odd to know that I do not support the death penalty as currently practiced in the United States. Why? Primarily, fair application. Given the same severity of crime, a black person is much more likely to receive the death penalty. This is unacceptable. I think that the only way to make the death penalty "fair" in that sense is to have a separate jury or group of judges who hear ONLY about the severity of the crimes and decide whether the crimes themselves warrant the death penalty. There are other problems besides fair application, though. Uppermost of those is the conviction and execution of innocents. No system is perfect, so there is no way to avoid that risk. Thus, in general, I oppose the death penalty. I make exception only for particularly heinous cases where the identity of the perpetrator is beyond any doubt.

One final thought. I said that Saddam's exectution was necessary, but made no claim that it was "right." It almost certainly was not. So how can it be necessary? Simple. It solved several problems. Saddam had committed so many crimes that to try every single one of them would take years. This involves court fees, as well as the price of room and board for one ex-dictator, and a thousand hells of media circuses. And all this happening in a less than stable country. His death solves all of that. I would liken it to Giles killing Ben at the end of Buffy's fifth season. It was certainly wrong. Ben wasn't exactly innocent at that point, but he was human. The "right" thing would have been to let him (and thereby Glory) live. It would also have been the stupid, impractical thing to do, as Ben/Glory would certainly have made problems later on. So the execution was necessary, even if "wrong."

Inquire Further

26 December 2006

Live Long and Prosper

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!


Inquire Further

25 December 2006

Christmas Cooking

Thai custard, check
Sticky rice, check (will be mixed ALL together just before serving)
Blueberry-Apple coffee-cake, still baking
chocolate chips for fudge, check
random kitchen acoutrements that Mom probably doesn't have, check
presents, check

When I get over to my mom's house, there will be a flurry of chopping and mixing and slicing, followed by a flurry of boiling and stir-frying and simmering. We're making Pad Thai (sometimes spelled Phat Thai) and a Thai curry. At the moment, I'm just waiting on the coffee cake. Anyway, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Pippin Solstice. :^D

Inquire Further

22 December 2006

Couldn't resist this one...

Via Pharyngula:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Lady Qalmlea the Possible of Goosnargh Leering
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Inquire Further

Let it Snow!!!!!!!!

It snowed last night! Snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed! Prediction was 2-6 inches, depending on which weather report I was reading. Looks like we got four or five. It's still coming down sporadically, but I've got my steps, driveway and sidewalk shoveled off now. That was fun. And easier than usual. Two reasons for that: (1) I often wait to shovel until it's a foot deep; (2) this is lighter, fluffier snow than we usually get. Yay! Now it actually LOOKS like Christmas/Solstice/Cepholopodmas-time.

Also, I found out from an older neighbor who tends to shovel off people's walks for them (HA! I beat him to mine this time!) that my southern neighbor was, in fact, arrested. For drug dealing. This would explain why there always seemed to be too many cars in his driveway. He may get 20 years. If they were still having problems, this could be a relief to his wife. If they weren't, she's probably not having a very good Christmas.

However, his cat is lonely and hungry. So after shoveling things off, I stayed outside and played with Merlin for a while. His "real" name is Sam, but the summer I first wound up taking care of him, I didn't remember that. So I call him Merlin. Gorgeous, long-haired orange tabby. That summer, the neighbor and his wife were both in a near-fatal car-wreck. He lost a leg, and nearly lost the other one. She had some sort of major head trauma. I found this out maybe three weeks after it had happened. The cat had seemed lonely, and very thin, so I started feeding him. When they were gone for a week, I figured maybe they'd gone on vacation and the cat had gotten out of the house. Two weeks? Okay, extra-long vacation. At three weeks, I knew something was wrong, or that the cat had been abandoned, and found out from the same older neighbor what had happened. So Merlin's used to me. Sweet, friendly cat. Who doesn't seem to enjoy the snow as much as I do.

Inquire Further

21 December 2006

Pippin Solstice

The winter solstice was today at 5:22. The cycle has shifted from increasing yin to increasing yang, and shifts back at the summer solstice. The height of winter is where summer is born. The height of summer is where winter is born. Without winter, summer has no meaning. Without summer, winter would need no name. The two endlessly dance in their cycle, indifferent to the humans that celebrate or denigrate them.

Oh, and "Pippin Solstice" is my generic holiday greeting for anyone who is offended by "Happy Holidays." :^D After all, so many people are miserable, it's no wonder the word "happy" is offensive, and "holiday" comes from "holy day" and no one wants to imply that one day is more sacred than another. No one actually seems to know what "merry" means any more, so it might as well be replaced with "Pippin."

Inquire Further

20 December 2006

Department Store Oddities (+minor update)

Why enunciation is important:
Over the speakers came an announcement calling workers to "the math department," or at least that's what it sounded like. The announcement repeated, and this time sounded more like "meth". So far as I know, no department store has a math section, and none would announce one involving illegal drugs over the loud-speaker. Eventually I figured out they meant the "men's department."

My tired brain:
I saw a label on a box that I thought said "Satanland." A second glance revealed it was "Santaland".

Destructive Child:
A little girl in a cart (maybe 3 or 4 years old) kept pointing at items on the shelf. "Mommy? Can I bweak that?"
Mother (absently): "No."
"Can I thwow it on the floor?"

Label on a Showercurtain:
Dry Clean Only

Sign on a Billboard:
"Great Careers for Great People!" Am I the only one who immediately infers the corollaries, "Mediocre carers for mediocre people!" and "Lousy careers for lousy people!" ? I think of these every time I see that silly sign.

And Now for an Update:
I think I have everything wrapped now, oddly enough. Two boxes still to tie up with ribbon, but otherwise it's all done. And I discovered tonight that plain string doesn't burn very well. It took several matches' worth of kindling before the wax under the string melted enough to sustain the fire. It was quite pretty when it all caught, though.

Inquire Further

19 December 2006

Boxes and Bows (and Crepe Paper)

All but one box is done now. That box is made, but I may put a few more items in it, so I haven't sealed it up yet. Here are the ones that are done:

This is a favorite. I used one sheet of my fanciest paper in the lid, and let the colors in it determine the rest of the colors.

Not quite as fancy a paper this time, but I still let it determine the rest of the colrs.

This one is twice as big as the others (made from 12-inch square scrapbooking paper). Ones this big I usually use cardstock in the base to provide a little extra strength. Bloody pain to fold, though. My fingernails usually aren't strong enough to crease it, so I've taken to using a television remote. :^D

This one is a different style box than the others. Tsuzura (wicker) box is the name in the book. It is not as sturdy, but it is closer to being cubical. This one is made from 9-inch paper that had been sitting around as a lid gathering dust. Lately I haven't been able to FIND 9-inch paper, but 6-inch paper would have resulted in a 2-inch box. Too small for the present inside. And, yes, this one isn't as neatly folded as the others. All the extra fold lines from the paper's former life made it quite messy.

Another one that used some of my second best paper as a starting point for color.

Another larger box, with scrapbooking paper forming the lid and cardstock for the base.

This wouldn't fit easily in a box, so I used an envelop fold instead. It works best for flat items, but this one doesn't bulge as much as the other I made tonight (not pictured :^D). Oh, and I "spraypainted" over the name, if you're wondering why the tag looks odd.

And this last one isn't a "box" per se, but it is a common technique of mine for oddly shaped items. Wrap in tissue paper. Tightly wrap crepe paper around it. Then tape and seal with ribbons. And, yes, I could do with a less visible tape. Oh well.

One thing that is totally new this year is the use of tie-on tags for all the actual boxes. The envelope really NEEDS a sticker tag to hold it closed, but I found nice, old-fashioned, tie-tags for the boxes. And now I need to put all the paper, ribbon, etc, away so that the living room is no longer a disaster area.

Inquire Further

18 December 2006

High Points

Just as proof that I'm feeling better, there was plenty of good stuff that happened this weekend. I had another solo taiji lesson. On the one hand, it's nice to hear that I'm improving. On the other hand, it sort of freaks me out when Don says I might be close to getting better than he is. At the form, anyway. I'm nowhere near his level in push hands.

Yesterday morning, I had to turn pages for my mom at church. I don't mind so much on the Christmas Cantata service. There's no time for a long sermon, so it's mostly just music. Also, none of the songs in the cantata annoyed me this year. They were all enjoyable to listen to (largely based on familiar Christmas carols).

Then yesterday afternoon, Fibonacci was in town and we test-ran his game again (with another of his Pocatello friends). It runs more smoothly than the other time I played, and the new creatures DO fit on the tiles much more easily. :^D We didn't have time to finish it, as the portal pieces wound up scattered clear across the board, and just as we had a shot to get the earth portal back where we could reach it...one of the monsters summoned it to a new tile. If we'd had time to go into level 3, there was a good chance we could have finished it. Three of the portal pieces were locked together. It was just earth that was giving us trouble.

And I'm now mostly done wrapping Christmas presents. I haven't had to make too many boxes this year. I've got at least two to do, and I made some that were already delivered over Thanksgiving Break, but mostly things have been too big. I will post pictures of those that DO get made (including the ones already delivered) eventually.

My Tibetan mala broke its string yesterday, so I restrung it this morning. I used a thicker string than the one it came on, which meant I had to widen some of the holes. The beads were wooden, so this was easily done with a nail. Also, coating the end of the string in melted wax helps.

As for the rest of today, my medically-challenged student is supposed to come in and take her final, so I need to get going. I'm hoping to make it to Lava Hot Springs this week. The stores I like there have a Pocatello outlet (Purple Moon), but the ones in Lava usually have better selection.

So let me emphasize: I'm FINE now. The ginger seems to be 90% worn off, and I will make sure to EAT something at every meal.

Inquire Further

New Depths

Just some advice if anyone else ingests a substance (like ginger) that tends to have negative affects on their mood. EAT. Do NOT skip a meal. On Saturday after taiji, I wandered a bit in IF and was too lazy to get food before driving back. By the time I got back, I didn't feel like eating much. So I didn't. My mood gradually worsened through the afternoon (though getting my Christmas tree up and decorated pushed it back up a smidgen), to the point that I still didn't want to eat come dinner time. I ate...something. Not very much. Then I went over to help Mom with her Christmas tree. I did eat a bit there, but it was too little too late.

Unlike the day before, the negativity was so strong that it took quite a while before I figured out that it was still likely due to ginger (and lack of food). What finally made me realize that it wasn't really MY emotion was when a fleeting suicidal feeling brushed through. THAT woke me up. Then I managed to separate out which feelings were mine and which were externally-induced. It wasn't easy, or pleasant. Scared the hell out of me. I went into a flurry of activity to try and drain it out a bit, and was finally exhausted enough to sleep around midnight.

The next day I still wasn't quite feeling like my usual self, but I muddled through. By noon, most of the negativity had worn off (food helped a lot). It hasn't made another appearance, but I also haven't had anything with even a tinge of ginger in it for a while. Oh, and this convinced me NOT to give ginger another go this summer. At the moment, my feelings on it are WORSE than my feelings about wheat, rye and barley products. They just poison my body, not my mind.

*sighs* I never understood it when Kim told me that almonds made her suicidally depressed. It was hard to imagine ANY food (or chemical) doing that. *goes to throw out everything in the house containing ginger*

Inquire Further

15 December 2006

School ender; Ginger downer; Neighbor cuffer

I've got all but one student's grades submitted now. That student really REALLY should have opted for a medical withdrawal. She's been unable to take the final twice due to doctor/hospital/etc visits. This is after missing more than a month of classes anyway, so her chances of passing are slim to none. Looks like we're trying again on Monday. We shall see how it goes.

In other news, apparently I need to stop using ginger altogether for a while. Again. It seems to result in severe depression in even small quantities at the moment. This sounds worse than it is, I suspect. Basically, there's pain and misery, but it doesn't feel like MY pain and misery. I can tell that it's "drug" induced. Which makes it relatively easy to counter by keeping busy. If it were true depression, I wouldn't WANT to do anything. Or so I hear. This seems to be a very VERY rare side effect of ginger (usually associated with high doses). I've also found instances where ginger has been used to TREAT depression. Anyway, last time it took two or three days to wear off completely. *mutters to herself*

Oh, it wasn't in tea this time. I generally spice fried meats with red pepper, cardamom, coriander and ginger. Looks like I'll cut back to just the first three until summer. Then I might give ginger another go. If it starts bothering me then, it's just going on my verboten list. Permanently.

One more random tidbit: I think my southern neighbor may have been arrested earlier this week. I have no idea what for. On Wednesday (I think) I came back to grab a few things at my house before running back up to my office at ISU. There were a lot of cars in the driveway south of my house (which isn't unusual). One woman gave me a very hard look as I went into my house, which struck me as unnecessary and odd. Then when I came back out, I saw my neighbor with his hands cuffed behind his back, talking a guy in uniform. A police car was parked in front of my northern neighbor's house, and a white car that was almost certainly an undercover police car (extra instrument above the driver's side mirror) was parked in front of the presumed arrestee's house. I left before I saw the conclusion, but my neighbor's truck has not been moved since that day, and it usually gets driven at least once a day.

I do know that said neighbor has been in prison before, but I have no clue for what. He used to come over to chat quite a bit (which we later found out was because he had a crush on my then-roommate, who was NOT happy about it; I mean, the guy's married and twice her age). Since she moved up to Oregon, I haven't had any major problems with him. From a distance, he seems a fairly nice guy. Loud, mildly abrasive, but overall nice. *shrugs* I seem to have inherited his cat once again, though. The cat doesn't seem to get anything to eat when this guy is gone (I don't know if his wife won't feed him, or if the cat won't take food from her).

Inquire Further

14 December 2006


Where there's cold, there can be snow, instead of this insipid rain. Where there's snow the world turns white and quiet and slippery. Me want snow!!!!! Ahem.

305 AM MST THU DEC 14 2006

305 AM MST THU DEC 14 2006





Snow snow snow snow snow! Cold cold cold cold cold! (Yes, I've had chocolate. And yerba mate. Why do you ask?)

Inquire Further

11 December 2006

Right now I'm eating a clementine

Sorry, but I couldn't think of a useful title. Anyway, life update: tonight I give two finals. Tomorrow I give one (that one isn't completely written yet, and my jump drive seems to have died on me, so I'll go in this afternoon to finish it). Also, my mom's furnace has been on the fritz lately. First sign of trouble came a few weeks back, when she tried to turn it up and got an error message. She has a digital thermostat, if that wasn't already obvious. Repairman came, didn't find anything wrong, said to call if it did weird things again. Last night, her heat wouldn't turn on. At all. She has some electric heaters that she brought upstairs (though I did offer my couch if it got TOO cold), and this morning she called the repairman again. There was a bad...something-or-other...condensor? I think that's what she said. It wasn't easy to find; apparently there was a bit of water dripping somewhere way back behind the furnace. But the guy was changing it out when I called, so she should have working heat again soon.

Also, I started browsing through summer pictures today, and decided to post some. Most are from Massacre Rocks. The landscape in my dream didn't quite match, though. The soil and rocks were redder.

Aren't these moths cute? They were from my last Gibson Jack trip.

This one is from Massacre Rocks. The bee is on a willow (showy willow, I think is the common name, because of the flowers). If it's the willow I think it is, it smells like burning human flesh if you set it on fire.

If the rocks were redder, the water higher, and the vegetation deader, this would look a lot like the landscape in my dream. Another difference: I was surrounded by sheer rock walls at the water's edge, so my position was narrower even if the water was much wider.

This is probably a view from one of the docks at Massacre Rocks. The water I was trying to cross in my dream was much, much vaster. Note that this is a view UP the Snake River, not across it.

Last one. Just for comparison, this is from Arches National Park. The color of the rocks is much closer to that of my dreams than any of the Massacre Rock pictures.

Inquire Further

10 December 2006

Evil Quiz

How evil are you?

{Note: it would have been very easy to up my evilness score, as mostly the "evil" answers were rather obvious. This is the result I get by answering honestly. Sad, isn't it?}

Inquire Further

Impassable River

Dream snippet from last night.

I was hiking around Massacre Rocks (though the trail I was on actually looks a lot like one at Cherry Springs; the high, dry one). There were a whole bunch of grade school kids there as well on a field trip, led by Mrs. Adams (my junior high speech and drama teacher). I ignored the kids and followed the trail I was on, trying to remember how to get back across the Snake River. I knew that I'd followed this trail before and there was a way back. But the trail dead ended at the water's edge. Deep water. I couldn't see even a hint of the bottom.

About two hundred feet away (or more) I could faintly see the rock bridges I "remembered" but they were almost buried under water as well. I saw a rock five feet from my perch at the edge of the water: a large boulder sticking out of a sheer cliff face, its top under several inches of water. I decided to try and make for that rock. I began testing the ground, looking for a good jump-off point. For some reason, I began scraping my foot along one segment of edge, scraping the surface dirt off. Under it was bare red rock, possibly carved with a pink symbol that I did not look at.

I gave up trying to get to the submerged boulder and decided I would just swim for the bridges. Then I noticed the net. A large plastic net that looked like an oversized version of the ones sometimes put on pickups in place of a tailgate (and which, according to the Mythbusters, atually increase gas mileage). It stretched the whole way across the surface of the water at a narrow point of the canyon. I couldn't tell if it went clear under the surface or not, but I didn't want to swim all the way out to it and get stuck. I turned around and wondered if the school bus and driver would be willing to drive me back to my car instead (which must have been on the other side of the river). I woke up before I got to find out.

Inquire Further

03 December 2006

The Rest of the Week

I've been busy giving and grading tests, and helping my mom with various projects. One item of note. Last Saturday, I found a book called Chakra Mantras which has been quite enjoyable. The odd thing is that it's written by a psychologist, so he ties all the Hindu myths into things like the ego/mind. He's also not using traditional language for the myths, so they feel more modern. The chants are fun, though. Whether they do exactly what they're "supposed" to or not...*shrugs* I feel energized after a long chanting session. I do think it's important that the words not be everyday, English words. That just gets the conscious mind involved. Chanting essentially nonsense syllables lets the mind relax (once the syllables are remembered, anyway ;^).

Yesterday I had a solo taiji lesson. It was both good and unpleasant. Unpleasant because there's no one else for Don to focus on, so I don't get a break. Good for the same reason. In push hands, Don corrected some habits of mine that I hadn't realized were problematic. He seemed to be looking forward to seeing me push with Mark again. We'll see if his lessons carry over well enough to make a big difference. :^) We wound up quitting a bit early. We were both losing focus, and Don managed to hurt his wrist (i.e. he'd lost fair maiden's wrist on a push and wound up aggravating his arthritis). He apologized profusely, but I think I got three times as much as I would have in a regular class, so I can't complain.

I spent most of the rest of yesterday cleaning and rearranging. I didn't get Christmas decoration up because Mom needed me to babysit her house again (which turned out to be a wash, as (a) they didn't need to do anything INside the house and (b) they never showed up. But I've got that bookshelf moved, and I've even made a start at organizing the books I've got. Some of them were already organized. Some had been sitting in random stacks. I think I've got all the random stacks from downstairs at least on shelves, though not necessarily organized. There are a few more stacks up here.

Then there was evening... Mom stopped by on the way back from helping to decorate the church choir Christmas tree. She looked half-dead, and said she hadn't slept well. Still, she asked if I wanted to eat at Chang's with her (lately a Saturday tradition), and we agreed I'd pick her up when she called again. She called. I drove over. I don't know if it was stomach "flu" or food poisoning, but she was not doing well. She said she'd felt okay when calling me, but then... So no Chang's. I stopped off at Fred Meyer and got her some 7-Up, which she thought she could keep down. I also helped get her bed made. Moving around much made the symptoms recur. She was also sensible enough to call an alternate organist/pianist for the service today (on occasion, she's too stubborn to do this even when she CLEARLY needs the relief; so she was feeling pretty rotten). My last errand was to drop off the music some place where the alternate could find it. So hopefully Mom's feeling better today, and being able to sleep in should help.

Inquire Further