Saturday, December 18, 2010

Following the First Profession (no, it's not what you think)

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 (NIV)

I recently watched a video in which many people in places of leadership in many Christian organizations spoke out against what they called a great evil.  In this short three minute and eight second video "Radical Environmentalism" is credited as being the greatest spiritual battle we face today.  I sat in shock surprise and revulsion as I watched presidents and pastors and directors from organizations I normally respect.  These leaders, one from a denomination of which I am a member, spewed derogatory and judgemental names for people who's greatest crime is trying to take care of this earth that God has given us.  These associations, whose publications I read regularly and whose radio shows I listen to, used names like:
"tree hugger"
cult
"radical environmental agenda"
"own morbid, pessimistic fears"
"exaggeration, myths and outright lies"
"so-called global warming science"

They accused environmentalists of promoting humanism, and then went on to contradict their own statement by saying that environmentalists are "consigning the poorest people around the world to grinding poverty, to disease, to premature death."  Yet it is the humanist movement that works to raise the level of human condition.  Not only are these so-called Christians sitting in condemnation of some stereotypical environmental group, but they're contradicting themselves while they do it.

But my visceral reaction to this video didn't start when I read the article this morning.  This is something that I have spent the last several years studying and trying to understand.  How can so many Christians seem to have a complete and utter lack of compassion, and more personally what does God want me to do with my life. 

I have spent much time in my life wandering, looking for direction.  While my sister seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do from early high school, straight through he PhD, I took the eight year plan flitting through four majors before finally eking out a BS.  And even then I hadn't found my direction in life.  It was more a matter of wanting something to show for all the years I'd spent in college.  I often say I have the best liberal arts education you can receive from a technical school because that's just how convoluted my journey in life has been.  So I continue searching, and what better way to find the will of God than by reading the word he has given us. 

I'm holding it open right now, to the very beginning, day 6, the one where we're first mentioned.  Man, and the charge God first gave to us.  God said of man to "...let him rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  I've gone back to the very begging.  I can't find anything that takes precedence over this charge, to take care of the earth that got has made and it's animals.  Does God charge us to take care of the poor and diseased people on the earth?  NO!  Possibly because they did not exist yet.  After all, this predates the fall of man.  We didn't know that we were poor and naked yet, and I assume no one had caught the common cold. 

God goes on to reinforce the idea that we should care for his creation only two verses later.  "'Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'

Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.'" Genesis 1:28-29 (NIV)  Here we're told to take care of not just the animals and the fish, but we're supposed to value the plants as well.  While I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is a direct order to go around hugging trees, I also thinks this is a strong indication that we are charged to take care of ALL of God's creation.

I want you do notice here that we're still on the sixth day.  This wasn't on the seventh day where God was resting.  No, this is the job that God has laid on mankind.  The first 9-5 task that God has ever given to people.  I take this to heart.  I accept the charge that God has laid on me and I still think that this is the most important job that we can do.  To care for God's creation is to show our reverence for God. 

This is reinforced in the second chapter of Genesis, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Genesis 2:15.  Here we have the first name given to the first profession.  We are to be gardeners, not yet farmers, there's a difference.  Farmers toil in the soil and eat what they grow.  Gardeners tend the living plants.  This makes it clear to me that it is my job not to re-shape the earth to fit whatever idea I have of it, but to tend it the way God has given it to me.  I am to preserve it, not to strip-log it and build condominiums. 

The Bible continues to honor those people who take car of Gods creation rather than resorting to violence.  The people of the bible understood farming.  Cain and Able learned it from their parents, and Jesus knew that it still applied to the people he was talking to when he told the parables of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-8) and the Tares Matthew (13:24-30). 

The all important job of caring for God's creation, of being God's constant gardener if you will, resonated with the people of the Bible.  They understood that we are so closely tied with nature, and that if we hurt it we are ultimately hurting ourselves.  Why does this seem to be so lost on people today?  Is it because we are so insulated from nature?  Most of us in a post-industrial society spend all of our time indoors, or on pavement moving from one roof to another.  We go days without actually touching a plant other than our house plants.  We're more likely to kill an animal as we run over it with our vehicle than to take into account the source of all that nicely pre-packaged meat in the grocery store.  Most new neighborhoods that are built start with clear cutting the trees and leveling the earth to the point where it becomes unrecognizable. 

We are very disconnected from our environment, but I don't think this is the actual cause of our misunderstanding of God's greatest calling.  I think our disassociation stems from something much more insidious, something more evil than the love of money (though one may cause the other and vice verse). 

Lack of compassion. 

I believe that lack of compassion in many of the most influential and out spoken Christians is the biggest stumbling blocks to people today.  Compassion is what makes us realize that when we over exploit the earth we're destroying it for those who come after us.  Compassion is what makes us aware of needless destruction.  And those of us that have compassion notice these things and hurt.  I hurt when I see a squirrel dead in the middle of the road.  I hurt when I drive by a sign for new development, and stretching behind it a bare scar of red Georgia clay.  I hurt when I hear one more self entitled prig's needlessly inflammatory remarks.  They lump together a diverse group of people and play the blame game.  What makes it worse?  They accuse the others, whoever the others are at the moment, of fear mongering, yet that's exactly what I hear when I listen to them. 

Is this one of the cases where it takes one to know one?  I'm a Christian, a devout one, but one with diverse beliefs.  I don't fit the stereotypical conservative, and I'm not really liberal.  I find that what I abhor most of all is extremism in either direction.  Extremism doesn't lead to understanding.  It leads to opposing sides screaming at the top of their lungs loud enough to make anyone undecided deaf.  It doesn't lead people to see wisdom, it blinds them to the true need.  I won't say I'm all that in touch with nature, and I definitely don't want spiders in my house.  But I also want children, I want them to see the gifts that God has given us, to value them; and to see that the first profession, the most worthy profession, is the one that God gave us on the sixth day. 

I am not the best at this profession, but like any career path I get better at it as I gain practice and knowledge.  Sometimes I think the extreme right is afraid of knowledge, they see it as humanism.  But I would remind you that God gave you that brain, and he expects you to use it.  Use it to think of ways to internalize compassion, and use it to find ways to care for the plants, animals, and world that God has given us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More wonderful things...

Ok, so I started this a month+ ago and I'm just getting around to finishing it.

I am a bad blogger.

BAD, BAD BLOGGER!

i'm sorry.
i'll try to do better next time.

So lately I've tried a variety of new products/beauty tips.  Some have been fantastically successful, others not so much.  Tip: Avocado in your hair does nothing but leave a green ring around the tub.

So let's get started.  I went blond this summer.  Not a fantastic blond, more of a do-it-yourself-from-the-grocery-store-discount-cart blond.  It was...interesting.  It also left my hair dry, brittle, and moderately fried.  I read somewhere about mashed up avocado in your hair, but that didn't seem to make any difference at all.  I tried a variety of conditioner and repair products without seeing any difference at all, then I wandered into Sally Beauty Supply. 

Now I've had mixed-bag results with Sally Beauty supply in the past.  There was the time where three customers and the clerk inside the store decided to close early and stared at me as I tried to open the locked door.  There was the time when the purple hair dye turned my hair temporarily hot pink.  But this time, I don't know what it was.  Maybe the sales clerk looked particularly empathetic, maybe it was the purple in her own hair, maybe it was the fact that she followed me around the store like she thought I was going to steal something.  I don't know what it was, but I unexpectedly turned and asked:

"I tried a blond and it kinda fried my hair a little, do you have anything you'd recommend to help?"

She got this surprised look on her face like she didn't often get to be very helpful, led me to the next isle over, pulled a bottle off the shelf and handed it to me. 

ion
Repair Solutions

"This works?"
"yes"
"Is this the shampoo?" I asked, pointing.
"yes"
"Should I get the shampoo too?"
"Up to you."

I got the shampoo.  It wasn't shampoo.  It was an even deeper conditioning treatment.  I went back the next day and got the shampoo.  I've been using them about a month now, but I noticed a difference after the first shampoo and condition.  My hair doesn't make near the crinkling sound that it used to.  Crinkling hair = NOT GOOD!  I would strongly recommend this to anyone who had dry crinkly hair no matter the cause.

Ah, almost done you thought.  Nope, not even close.  I'm also very cheap.  I'm so cheap that instead of buying new mascara to replace the old one every quarter, I buy sample sizes in bulk.  OK, maybe not in bulk, but I do buy it in batches.  For the last few years I've been working my way through a box I got from Sephora, one something like this.  I started a new one recently, Cargo Lash Activator.  It's fantastic! 

So let me explain how I wear mascara.  I generally don't except for special occasions.  I have long eyelashes anyway, so all I really need is something to darken them.  If it promises to make them longer and thicker looking I'll look like I'm wearing fake lashes.  I work in the tech industry.  Most guys (if they notice) will think you're a flighty bimbo if you wear to much makeup, so I rarely bother unless I'm trying to impress someone with my flighty bimbo-ness or I'm doing something outside of work. 

Generally I'm looking for something that'll just make my eyelashes dark and even looking, and something that won't smudge.  That's right, I don't know what it is about me but it's pretty common for me to come home after a day of wearing mascara and look in the mirror to find it looks like I have two black eyes.  Mascara runs down my face without me having to shed a tear, but this mascara is the exception.  I gave it a try one morning and was surprised, that's right, I looked in the mirror when I got home and was surprised at what I saw.  There was NO mascara under my eyes.  I wore it again, and again.  I had to wash my face or go swimming to get this mascara to budge.  There was next to no flaking, even after hot sweaty yard work.  I was so impressed that I googled it to find out what this stuff I was and found out it's supposed to be good for you!  Works great, good for you, I'm sold.

Lest you think I'm turning into a commercial I want to tell you about the latest beauty concoction I came up with in my own kitchen from stuff I already had.  I'd been noticing my nose was turning red from all of those pore strips that I use, and other parts of my face were dry and flaky.  I was trying to come up with a mask of some sort that would help to calm the redness and even things out, and if it did a bit of exfoliating all the better.  So I made a fantastic mask that works wonders for my skin.
Here's what to do (all measurements are approximate):

  • Put one quarter cup of oatmeal in a coffee grinder (pulls oil out of your skin and exfoliates)
  • Add one tablespoon of dried rosemary (has astringent properties)
  • Grind until fine
  • Combine in a small pot on the stove with one one half cup of water and cook on medium low until the oatmeal is cooked.  (I just followed the directions on the oatmeal packet here)
  • Add one tablespoon of oil (I've done this once with grape seed oil and another time with vitamin E oil.  Just pick something you like that's a good moisturizer for your skin.)
  • And One Tablespoon of honey (for calming)
  • Stir, mixing thoroughly, and slowly add up to a quarter cup of water.  Stop when you have an even, sticky but spreadable consistency
  • Test it to see if it's to hot for your skin (I did this like checking the temperature of baby milk on the inside of the wrist.) It may need to cool before applying it to your face.
  • Apply an thin, even layer over face, neck, whatever areas are your problems (I did my elbows too) and let dry.
I'm sure every skin is different, but this worked fantastically for me.  The oatmeal exfoliated, honey calmed, and the oil moisturized so my skin was softer than it's been since elementary school.  I kept leftovers in the fridge for later use, but be careful about keeping it to long.  I went on vacation and came back to find it sprouting a good batch of mold, so you'll probably want to use it pretty quickly.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This is not a post, it's really just me bragging.

I really can't get away with calling this a post.  It's really more a commercial for things I like, so if you don't like that sort of thing you probably shouldn't read very far.  What makes matters worse, some of the things I'm going to wax poetic about, you can't have.  That's right, you can't have my husband, but maybe you can train yours.

My husband has been raising the bar quite high of late.  In fact, I don't think I've ever loved him so much as I did Monday evening, but it took him the whole day to get there.  Monday was Labor Day, so what better way to start it than by laboring in the yard.  There was a lot to do, too.  Not only did we have mulch that's been sitting in the garage since Christmas, but we had bushes growing up over the windows, and weeds... OH the weeds.  There were vines growing up the side of the house, briers (there was bleeding), and I swear some of them were starter trees. 

One was a maple, so I got out the shovel and tried to dig it up thinking I could transplant it to the back to hide the compost pile.  Of course the root was thicker than the tree, so I couldn't get through it with the shovel.  Not even when I stood on the shovel; and jumped! 

So lots of yard work was being done, and about half way through I realized I was really thirsty and a bit light headed so I went in for a drink, and sat down for a couple minutes then went back out to help.  About three minutes later I was back in and on the couch with more ice water feeling light headed.  And when my fabulous husband was weeding three feet from me on the other side of the window did he look at all put out that I was being a lazy bum?  No!  In fact when I came back out he was mulching away.  And when I apologized for being a lazy bum he was completely understanding and said he'd felt that way before when we were doing yard work too. 

I guess that just goes to show we're both wimpy computer nerds who make our living sitting down in air conditioning.  We were not made for yard work in Georgia in summer.  It's HOT.

So after we finished mulching (five bags left for touch ups) and showering (separately, I like cool showers after yard work) we were discussing appliances.  We need them.  We're getting a new house (well, new to us) and it doesn't come with appliances.  The lady who's selling it is taking her refrigerator and washer with her, and I don't blame her one whit, she has a NICE fridge.  And since our fridge occasionally sounds like a gray whale has taken up residence in our kitchen (Oooh! I have a story I should tell about that sometime) we decided we'd be nice and offer it to whoever buys/rents our house (if you want a freshly mulched house in Woodstock, GA talk to me).  So we decided to go to Lowe's to look at refrigerators and washers and the like.

Appliances are nice, I like appliances.  I do not like pushy sales-ladies who insert themselves into your conversation and start throwing numbers around.  There were model numbers, pricing numbers, capacity numbers, efficiency numbers, and all sorts of discount numbers.  She kept following us around, and it's not like the store wasn't busy.  It was LABOR DAY!  We first met her in the laundry section where she tried to sell us the washer and dryer on the end.  I know 20% off is a great deal, but I know a little about store placement.  The truly great deals are NEVER on the end cap.  It's true about grocery stores, and it's true about Lowe's. 

We thought we'd escaped when we told her we weren't planning on buying for at least a month.  We don't have the house yet, so we have no where to put them.  She said sure, they could store them until we need them (which is actually a nice service) and we went off to look at refrigerators.  We slipped in between rows of stainless steel and had no more than commented that one didn't have an ice maker in the door when she snuck up behind us and said that what we were looking for was the next isle over.  Again, the next isle over was on the main isle, where the most expensive refrigerators were on display.  I'm not saying they weren't pretty, I'm not saying we may not eventually buy a refrigerator from that row (though I don't think they we will, they were all french door styles with very limited freezer space) but she popped up to show us something we hadn't asked about.  Only when we wandered over to the really cheap old style refrigerators (freezer on top like my parents have) did she leave us alone.

And this is where the second great thing my husband did came in to play.  We were hiding in the refrigerators and he said, "So what do you want to do about the washer and dryer?" 

No, that wasn't the great thing.  The great thing is what came next.  I asked him if he thought we should get them from pushy lady (we were still hiding in the refrigerators) and he said, "Um, yeah.  She really tried to help." 

I looked at him incredulously, but was struck by his compassion.  He wanted to help out this annoying woman who'd followed us around for nearly 30 minutes, despite the fact that she'd reminded us that she works on commission (something I could have figured out from how desperate she was acting).  I would not have been so charitable.  She was not the first person to offer to help us, just the most persistent.  But my wonderful husband recognized that persistence should be rewarded (even when it is annoying) and that everyone's time is worth something, even when it's not the best way to spend it.

Long story short, we ended up not getting the washer and dryer because she couldn't find the right model number for the gas dryer, and then she started trying to up-sale us to the model number she had.  And then we went home and found a similar dryer that was a Maytag instead of a Whirlpool that got better reviews and wasn't even displayed in the store (if you have to special order it, that's always a good sign).  So we went across the street to Khols and this is where my husband became super human.

Now, first you must understand that he needed nothing from Khols.  He was only there for me, and I was trying to ACCESSORISE a dress I got not to long ago from Land's End on a really good sale.  So once we're in the store I make a beeline for the accessories.  It took me maybe three minutes into the store to pick out a scarf.  I want you to note that the scarf was the ONLY thing I bought Monday.  I picked up the scarf and browsed through the rest of accessories weaving in and out of handbags, commenting on this one or that one, occasionally picking one up to look at, then putting it down. 

After I was fairly sure I had seen every available handbag I moved on to the shoe department, which for some unknown reason Khols hides over in the middle of menswear, nowhere near the handbags.  Khols is the only department store I know, aside from maybe WalMart, that doesn't keep their handbags near their shoes.  In fact, there is a wall between the handbag and the shoe departments, and much weaving around racks of clothing was required to get there.  My fantastic husband kept up.  As I was agilely traversing the obstacle course of clothing racks I was reminded of our teenage hood.

To tell this story I'll have to give a bit of background.  My husband and I met at Chick-fil-A where we both worked when we were in high school (different schools) and long before we ever thought of dating we would often go to this nearby church playground with friends.  It was after dark, and we would go just to swing on the swings.  I don't know if we ever saw anyone else there, if we ever did I don't remember it, and I don't recall any sign posted that said this particular church playground was off limits to no good teenagers looking for a place to hang out after dark. 

We usually just swung on the swings and talked, but occasionally one of us would get adventurous and start exploring this large, sprawling, ill-lit playground.  Eventually it became a game where the person in the front would navigate a convoluted path as quickly as possible, trying to shake those following behind.  Well, walking through Khols, occasionally checking to see if my husband was keeping up, I realized it felt like I was playing follow-the-leader as a teenager with my husband following.  He was always there.  I never had to pause to let him catch up. 

So after Khols I looked to see if there was another shoe department available, and on to Famous Footwear.  Then on to PayLess.  My husband followed me through accessories and shoes at three different stores in less than an hour.  Commenting on the shoes I pointed out, never complaining, never getting left behind.  This feat of superhuman agility and patience has, I'm quite certain, never before been accomplished by man!

Well, nothing could surprise me after such a display of super human perseverance, yet when we got home he continued to surprise.  He grilled; hot dogs, bratwurst, and ribs; and all were cooked to perfection.  In fact, I don't believe his ribs have ever been so fall-off-the-bone perfect.  At this point I'm beginning to wonder whether he's been replaced by a robot, but he left the turkey out yesterday so I know he's still human.

I was going to write some more about other things I've found recently that are fantastic, but I've already written much more than I had planned.  I'll have to save my commercial for non-husband things for some other post.

So in summation:
Husband = Good Shopper = Grill Master --> Very Happy Me!

Yes Dad, I know this isn't a good equation, but it gets the point across.

You'll notice in this post that I tried to make the paragraphs a bit shorter.  You have Allie over at Hyperbole and a Half to thank for that.  You can add her to my list of good things.  I'm in the process of reading through all of her archives, and she had a post on what makes a good blog.  Apparently massive piles of text are bad and should be broken up into smaller paragraphs.  I'm not good at that, but I'm trying.  And hey, if I like big piles of text I should be free to have them!  It's MY blog!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When you're a goat...

Two and a half weeks ago I finally agreed with my husband that it was time to stop waiting on other people to tell us what to do with our lives and start looking for our next house.  Tackling a large purchase such as this I expected to run into problems.  I base this expectation on my experience apartment shopping.  For instance...

I lived for a few years with three friends.  There being four of us, we looked for a four bedroom apartment.  Four bedroom apartments are extremely scarce in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, I'm quite certain we visited all three apartment complexes that advertised four bedrooms in one apartment. 

The first apartment complex we visited seemed lovely.  It was nicely wooded and situated by a lake.  I was imagining all the lake fun we could have until we actually saw the apartment, the first problem being... we couldn't.  While the landlord swore up and down that he would have a four bedroom apartment available when we needed it, he couldn't show us one.  He couldn't even show us a drawing of one.  He could show us a three bedroom apartment. 

As we walked through he pointed out how there would be an opening here, another hall here, the room down there, and as I looked about the example apartment he showed us I realized something.  He was going to construct a four bedroom apartment out of one or more smaller apartments.  He was going to punch holes in the walls.  And the apartment that I was in showed the signs of his workmanship, uneven walls, crooked electrical outlets, rattlely doors.  I'm looking at this apartment thinking, "If I sneeze the temporary wall between me and the next bathroom over is going to come crashing down, and I'm going to see more of my neighbors than I ever wanted do." 

NO THANK YOU!

We extracated ourselves from that apartment complex as gracefully as we could without signing any paperwork. 

Another complex advertized brand new four bedroom townhomes.  "A townhome," we thought, "wouldn't the cats have such a wonderful time tearing up and down the steps of a townhome!"  So excitedly we set off to visit this lovely four bedroom townhome.  The complex was immaculate, the buildings brand new.  With great anticipation we wandered around the place we hoped would be our new home.  The top floor held three bedrooms and two baths.  Beautiful!  The second floor encompased the living dining and kitchen areas with a half bath for guests.  Fantastic!  The bottom floor included the garage, laundry area, and the fourth bedroom. 

"Where's the bathroom?" we asked.  That's right.  The poor fool who inhabited this bedroom would have to climb two flights of stairs to take a shower.  I liken this 'marketing only' bedroom to the 'insurance only' backseat of many moderately priced sports cars.  It looks good on paperwork but in practice it might be a good place to store your packages, but it's certainly not somewhere to sleep (or sit). 

This led me to form a new definition of bedroom.  A room can only be defined as a bedroom if it has a) a closet and b) a place to bathe on the same level.

So when my husband and I set out to look for our new (to us) home I expected a few chalenges.  I expected I would need to keep an eye out for shoddy workmanship.  I expected that in a search for 4 bedrooms and 3 baths I might come upon questionable definitions of 'bedroom'.  But I expected I could handle these chalenges and that there would be few surprises as we set out to look at houses the first day.

BOY WAS I WRONG!!!

It took only one house to open my eyes to the world of real estate, and what we had in store.  The very first house we saw was a departure from anything we could have expected.  I should have known something was wrong just from the pictures in the listing.  Oh, there was nothing wrong with the pictures, they were lovely, it's just that there were only two of them.  We saw a nice style in front and a large yard in back, and from the description we thought it could be just what we were looking for. 

Arriving at the front it looked just like the picture, stately placed in a natural yard beautifully flanked by trees.  But as we walked up the driveway we noticed the broken pane in the garage door window. 

"A pane," I thought, "That's easily fixed.  No problem here."  And I kept walking when I should have turned around.

The first thing we saw in the foyer was the dated white tile.  "They must have dropped a few bowling balls in here," appologized our agent as he pointed out the broken places.

"That's alright, it's dated and would need to be replaced anyway," but then my eyes slid up the stained carpet on the stairs, and my husband commented on the hardwoods in the adjoining room, and we realized all the floors in the house would need replacing.  As we wandered through there were stacks of magazines on every table.  We tripped over a vacume cleaner left in the middle of a doorway.  The dated tile, broken in many places, extended through to the kitchen.  Bits of breakfast in the kitchen with a half full glass of... something.  I wondered what this family was thinking.

Let me clarify a bit first.  It's not like our visit was unexpected.  We had not randomly stopped at a house just to knock on the door and see if we could walk through.  No, we had an appointment scheduled several days in advance.  If they had wanted to tidy up even a bit you would think they would have put away the vacume, put the breakfast dishes in the sink, or put the panties in the hamper.  It was obvious that this family either didn't want to sell the house, or hadn't a clue how to go about it. 

My tolerance was high for the decor of this house, the beaded curtain in one of the doorways, the pink tile backsplash in the kitchen which tied in with the pink marble surround on the fireplace; for when we went down the stairs the the basement I commented with sarcasm the lovely teal shade of the capet.  I chalked it up as one more flooring to be replaced in this house of horrid floors.  We looked into an obviously un-air conditioned long, large room that could be used as... a playroom?  Home theatre maybe?  Another small room could be an office, and a half bath for convenience. 

And finally the last room of the house.  An unfinished work-shop/storage room with large double doors leading outside.  I stepped in, heard a sound, and could not figure out it's source.  A couple more steps and I was fairly certain it was comming from the other side of those large doors leading outside.  My orriginal intention which had been to open the doors and see the yard was replaced with an uncomfortable nerviousness about what could be causing these strange scraping sounds.  I stopped still, and turning to my husband my eyes passes over something in the middle of the floor that I couldn't at first process.  Turning back and pointing I finally realized.

"They have a goat."

The thing I had failed at first to notice was a large bag standing up in the middle of the floor, clearly labled Goat Food. I didn't even know goat food came great bags just like the largest bag of dog food I've ever seen in a warehouse wholesale club.

I hear it now.  Just like that lean in Fellowship of the Ring where Boromir looks at the horde of goblins and nasties decending on his little group and calmly observes, "They have a cave troll."  I felt as he must, overwhelmed by the situation to the point of numbness. 

Well that eradicated my desire to see that lovely, large back yard.  Climbing back up the stairs to the main level I felt two things.  The first was an overwhelming desire to wash my hands which I'd been feeling within minutes of entering the house.  The second was a confused feeling.  Perhaps I was dreaming that I had entered a bizare Orwellian world where people live in up-scale suburban comunities, and yet they choose to live with farm animals. 

But I haven't read Animal Farm lately.  sigh  Perhaps I've been watching to much Whose Line.



Or perhaps real life is crazier than anything I could ever dream.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I think my smoke detectors are posessed, or sentient

It's taken me a few days to get around to posting this.  To be honest, I kinda wanted to make sure the adventure was over before telling the story, but it's been a couple of days and the cats don't appear to be traumatized so I guess it's time to share.


Sunday afternoon Steve and I were having a wonderfully relaxing time playing the wii together.  He received two new games for his birthday, the day before, so we wanted to give them a try.  So we're relaxing on the floor having a good'ol time, and suddenly there's a horrendous noise.  The cats scatter and I turned to Steve and said (yelled maybe, it was hard to be heard), "What's on fire?"  Out in the hallway there was no sign of smoke, and my first instinct was to check the stove.  But it wasn't on and there was no sign of smoke in the air and by the time I was upstairs again Steve (It's wonderful to be married to a tall man) had the batteries out of one of the detectors and the shriek had been tamed to a soft chirp. 


After checking the other smoke detectors (we have four) and seeing no sign of what set them off, my wonderfully tall husband replaced the batteries, we calmed the cats as best we could, and got on with our afternoon.


So we have time to settle down again, this time in separate rooms.  Steve playing tennis (on the wii) and I'm in the process of re-watching Babylon 5.  I'd coaxed a nervous cat to sit beside me, and less than an hour after the last alarm we startled by another three LOUD beeps.  So I meet Steve on the stairs and we check all the smoke detectors again.  They all have green lights and after the three beeps are silent, so after some discussion we think maybe we should change the batteries.  Of course no one actually keeps 9 volts in the house, so out we go to buy batteries at Publix.  What a lovely Sunday afternoon escape.  After debating the relative merits of Energizer vs. Duracell (Energizer won for being twenty cents cheaper) we return and swap out all the batteries in all four smoke detectors and settle back down again.


Less than two hours after the previous beeping we have yet another three loud beeps, followed by a thorough checking that all batteries are thoroughly connected and none have the polarity backwards.  Then we get the model numbers and I start a search for a user manual online.  Wonder of wonders, I actually found one.  It explains with detailed diagrams where to place smoke detectors, where NOT to place smoke detectors (apparently putting them in the kitchen like I do with my Sims is a bad idea), warn against electrocution, installation, maintenance, EVERYTHING you need to know to make them go off, nothing about how to shut them up. 


After a couple of hours of silence we thought the worst was over and grew complacent.  I even commented that they hadn't gone off in a while and Steve cautioned, "Don't jinx it."  And of course he was right.  Shortly after 5:00 again we have the three long beeps, which sets off a flurry of checking batteries and to see if any lights were blinking.  We start discussing contingency plans like, what would happen if we took all the batteries out?  Can we disable just one to shut the others up?  And, well, I think that's all we discussed, but I was wondering what local hotels accept pets, and if an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day can't recover from occasional interruption without having to go to a hotel with us.


But once more time passed.  We grew complacent and the smoke detectors knew it.  Five ours later they jolted us again and we responded with defeated resignation and went to bed.  This time it was actually a bit entertaining.  With one cat near the top of the stairs and the other at the bottom the blaring startled them so they ran in opposite directions, PAST each other in order to escape. 


This next part I know only from Steve's description, but he explains that shortly after 1:00 AM the alarm went off!  Not the three loud beeps as before, but several seconds of blaring siren followed by beeps and cat footsteps, then silence.  AND I SLEPT THROUGH IT!


This gets me wondering, both Steve and I travel for business occasionally, and what happens if the house catches fire when he's away and I'm asleep?  And if I can sleep through that then there's NO alarm clock that could ever do it's job effectively.  I need something to attach to the bed to shake me awake, or better yet a Wallace and Grommet type setup that will unceremoniously dump me into cloths and out on the lawn to safety from the fire (Or for regular mornings maybe it can dump me in the shower).  Somehow I don't think I can depend on the cats, who spent a significant portion of Sunday night and Monday hiding under the bed.  They can really only be depended on to tell me when it's time to feed them.  It goes something like this.


Me: Mrmph, Get Off!
Cat: I am really surprisingly heavy as I stand on you.  I have ninja powers to focus all my weight on the tips of my paws and dig them into your ribs.
Me: Steve, did you feed the cats?
Steve: (no response)
Cat: (Cold nose in a sensitive area, if no obviously sensitive area present itself just keep trying any bits of exposed skin)
Me: ALRIGHT!  I'll feed you! (stumbles into the bathroom, gets out the food and the scoop and tries to focus eyes to aim the food in the bowl) hey!  You have plenty of food!
Cat:  Mrrrmp?
Me: It's right there! I don't care if you ate a hole down to the center of the dish, it's got plenty of food in it!  Didn't your mom ever teach you to clean your plate?


They never seem to understand that there are starving kitties in Africa that don't get low-cal indoor kitty food.


Now what was I talking about?  Oh right, sentient smoke detectors.  So the next morning Steve, wonderful lovely Steve, who's GLAD I slept through the freakin' alarm because he knows that if I'm woken up in the middle of the night I have a terrible time trying to get back to sleep (did I mention how wonderful he is?), tells me of his adventures at one in the morning and how he didn't get back to sleep until after two, which I can totally sympathize with, so I decided then and there that this has to stop!  I will not allow my husband to suffer sleepless nights on less than four hours of sleep because of faulty electronics.  I will take a sledge hammer to them a'la Phoebe Buffay (friends) before I allow him to suffer, and I don't care if they are clearly labeled with "Do Not Tamper." 


It's my house and I'll make it unsafe by disabling the smoke detectors if I like! 


If only I knew how to disable the smoke detectors.  I don't want to be left like Phoebe was with an incessantly beeping thing.  So I called the manufacturer, and apparently they're not in the office until normal hours like 9:00 so I left a message about how completely imperative it was that they call me back as soon as possible and tell me how to stop the beeping.  And amazingly, they called back!  If you're ever looking for a smoke alarm company that calls back with real people when you have a problem, call USI (http://www.usielectric.com/ they didn't pay me for this plug), but they don't do it on weekends.  


So this nice lady explains how to disable the smoke alarms and silence them, and how to diagnose which one is faulty (by process of elimination) and so I settle down to wait for them to make horrendous noises again.  And Nuthin'!  All day I waited and didn't hear a peep out of them, and this is where their sentience comes in.  I think they heard me talking on the phone with the manufacturer and figured out we were discussing how to kill smoke detectors, and I scared the beep out of them!


Steve stayed home yesterday and they didn't make a sound, and the cats don't seem traumatized today, so I assume they weren't going off all day today either. 


So the moral of this story is, if your electronics are bothering you, call the manufacturer.  Be sure you're in the same room with the offending device and discuss loudly all ways to completely disable it's power source.


Don't coddle it.  Buying it batteries will only make it think it can demand more of you.  You want to make sure it knows who's boss.  If you keep buying it batteries it will demand more and bigger batteries, and pretty soon you'll be trying to figure out how to hang a car battery from the ceiling.


Also, sledge hammers are not the answer, but really I learned this from Phoebe.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Having ADD makes me Fantastic Support at a High Energy Software Company

ADD affects my life in so many ways, mostly negative, like when I go grocery shopping with my husband and completely zone out starring at the magazines in the check out line.  My husband is ofter flabbergasted at how gnat like my attention can be.  It's rare, very rare, EXTREMELY rare for ADD to affect my life in any positive way.  But lately I've found that in the software industry, and especially in the world of support, it can be an asset.

My life is a series of interruptions, one after the other, and most of support is one person asking how to do this, followed by a problem with that, with someone in sales asking for a demo of something else.  So as the job jumps from one thing to the next my attention is easily moved on to the next thing.  You jump and I'm already there.

That's the good part, but I suppose there's a down side to flitting from crisis to crisis.  There's rarely enough buffer between interruptions.  I'll get off the phone and start writing up a support case when the phone rings again, and while I'm explaining to that customer how to do whatever they're asking about I'll have three other e-mails come in that need a response or few so I trade e-mails for a while, and by the time that's done I've forgotten what I was doing with that window looking at that support case or more often it's hidden behind those e-mail windows and I don't find it again until I'm cleaning up my desktop at the end of the day.  Each day is one run on sentence after another.  By the end of the day I can forget about reporting on what I've done, I've probably forgotten more than half of what I've done that day, so I'm looking at my e-mail log just so I can figure out what I was doing six hours ago.

And then there are those dreaded slow days.  They happen, usually in pieces, an afternoon here, a couple hours there.  I get caught up, having told everybody what they need to know to do what they want to do for the time being, written up any support issues, waiting on logs or responses or whatever, and I'm supposed to be doing REAL work, probably writing documentation which really means I'm trying to take some bit of documentation and developing training documentation, usually a PowerPoint presentation.  This is where my ADD really hurts me, when I'm starring at a sentence on the screen and wondering how I can make this visual, really how can I keep folks from falling asleep starring at this slide.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE PowerPoint.  I love visual learning, and I love diagrams and tables and charts that get the point across.  But sometimes you don't want to show something.  Sometimes information can't broken down into pretty pictures, or graphs, or lists.  Sometimes you want to SAY something and PowerPoint doesn't lend itself to paragraphs or explanations.  So I find myself lost in thought as I stare at a paragraph wondering how I can break this down into something interesting. 

And now I'm already distracted from writing this post cause I'm watching Babylon 5 and want to go read the biography of Melissa Gilbert on IMDB.  Hey!  You're reading a blog about how ADD I am!  What did you expect, a conclusion?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Crystal Bowersox lost American Idol

My husband is surprised by the outcome of American Idol last night. I am not. Let's break is down in an analysis of their final performances so that we might understand where things went wrong.

Tuesday they each sang three songs, two bad and one good. Each of their first two songs were awful and then they saved the best song for last so at first appearance it looks pretty even. But when we look closer we find the fatal flaw in Cristal Bowersox's plan. While Lee's first two songs were downright boring, Crystal actually accrues negative points with the song Black Velvet.

Her failure with this song is two fold, including errors in both wardrobe and song choice. We're talking about an attractive woman here, with curves, and she comes out in this figure forming black dress that hugs every curve right down to her thighs where it explodes into ruffles that chop her off just below the knees. And as if that isn't enough the ruffles are higher in the front than in the back where they curve down below her behind. So as the camera pans behind her all I could think was "Butt Frame!" In this dress even the thinnest of waifs would look hippy. I don't know who designed that dress, but whoever it was didn't understand a woman's tukus AT ALL!.

And then we get to the song. There's no doubt about it, Crystal Bowersox has a fantastic voice. But why does she have to sing a song that is designed to be career stopping. This one hit wonder from the '80's is one of the most over-wailed songs on the planet, and most of the wailers aren't that good at it. I can't hear the song without being reminded of the countless times it's been murdered, in American Idol auditions and karaoke alike. This song even stopped the career of the original singer, Alannah Myles, who unbeknownst to most actually sings other stuff, and I bet you've never heard any of it before. She recently came out with another album called... Wait for it... That's right, "Black Velvet," you can't make an entire career out of one song.

So maybe Lee won the cute guy vote, or maybe the Crystal fans just got complacent, but I think Crystal could have been much, MUCH better and hopefully her first album will be more current.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coke and Korea

So let's be honest. The most annoying occurrence of my day was whatever idiot left a coke in the freezer at work overnight so it exploded all over the York Peppermint Patties. Yes, I keep Yorks in the freezer. That's the way they should be eaten. But they're very hard to get to when they're frozen to the bottom of the freezer by a sticky brown mess. And while inhibition of my snacking habits is obviously the greatest annoyance of my day, let's face it. I've pretty much covered that topic in less than a paragraph and that makes for a really lame blog posting so in an effort to be more globally interesting let's move on to something of more... um... global interest.

Korea. No not the war that was way back in the 50's though I did love watching MASH reruns with my college roommates, especially Alan Alda, but I digress. I mentioned Korea to one of my friends today and he said, "What are you, some old fart? Talk about something freakin' relevant!" or something along those lines. And while I would like to thank him for his wonderful support, I would also like to point out that Korea is new and relevant and stuff is happening there, and I learned new things about Korea just yesterday.

For instance, just yesterday North Korea announced they were cutting all ties with South Korea and no longer considered them their Korean brothers. Okay, lets get this straight. For the last sixty years you've been acting... brotherly? With the barbed wire and the guys with the guns? I don't know how your parents raised you, but mine sure didn't raise me to treat my brother like that!

So anyway, yesterday I was reading about the whole North Korea getting mad at South Korea because South Korea actually believed the international committee that studied the... No wait. This is not going in the right order. Okay, this may be a little stream of conscious, but we're going to have to go in the order I read it.

North Korea is cutting off contact with the south because South Korea set up loud speakers along the border blaring whatever kind of pro-South Korea messages they wanted to blare. They blared these messages because this international committee found that a ship that was sunk a couple of months ago was sunk by a torpedo from a North Korean submarine. And where did South Korea get the idea of setting up these speakers blaring propaganda? Why from the North Koreans of course.

In the 1950's North Korea built the "village" of Kij┼Ćng-dong in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. They set up loud speakers in this "village" that blared pro-North Korean messages loud enough to be heard in South Korea. They blared these messages up to 20 hours a day until 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kijong-dong, and you can believe everything you read on the Wiki). That's right, noise pollution intentionally generated for YEARS. Now whats worse about this village? It is ostensibly a nice little farming village with an unusually prosperous educational system, hospital, and an exceptionally high number if electrically wired buildings for a small rural town in North Korea. There's only one problem here. There are no farmers. There's no glass in the windows of the buildings, and there are no interior rooms. In fact this whole town was built just to show the prosperity of the north and to entice South Koreans to defect to the north. Um, yeah, I see that happening.

So let me get this straight. In a country that is industrially depressed and the difference is visible at night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Korean_peninsula_at_night.jpg) here is a government that is willing to waste resources building a shell of a village, wiring it, putting up loud speakers, but they're not going to actually let people live there. Believe what you will about Democracy vs. Communism, but I hate waste.

If you're going to build a town to impress your neighbors, at least make it a working town, let people live there. If it's such a nice town that it's supposed to show how advanced you are, don't you think the folks one town over with their telephoto lenses are going to notice that there are no people in your town, that they can see through your buildings out the other side, that in a town of 200 farmers you're going to see people out and about working not just a skeleton crew that comes out and sweeps the streets. You're missing shops, and animals, and families with children.

And think about it, if you really care one whit about your citizens are you going to build a bunch of crap to show off in turn robbing your people of the good those same resources could have been put to use building roads and schools and bringing power to people who could actually use it? Of course not! A good government, especially a good communist government (if you believe such a thing exists) is going to work to improve efficiency, eliminate waste, and bring resources to the people who need them. North Korea in it's desire to show progressiveness, displays the exact opposite. And they're putting their idiocy on display exactly where it is most easily observed by the south, in the DMZ.

My resources are random articles I've read on MSN and the Wikipedia, so you should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt, cause my facts could be off. Still it seem to me it would be really hard to be people ruled by such idiots.

Oh, and if that was your Coke in the freezer it better be cleaned up before I get back to work tomorrow. If it's not, well, I'll probably end up cleaning it up anyway. But you better watch out, cause I'll be bitchy about it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hit and Run

Those of you who read the ORIGINAL Complaint of the Month know something about how I feel about foul language. To summarize, I think that people cuss because they are ignorant and don't know how to use the English language. That's not to say I NEVER use curse words, but it's very rare, and when I do use them it's a conscious choice. Suffice it to say that using curse words in excess is not the way to get on my good side.

This was really brought home to me Friday as I was headed back to work after lunch. I was stopped at a stop light in my nearly ten year old Honda Accord and this woman (I won't call her lady) in a white SUV barely tapped me in the rear bumper. That's a long light, and it had turned red just in front of me so I had plenty of time, and got out to take a quick look, just to see if there was any damage. I made it maybe a step and a half out of the care and she started yelling that she didn't hit my F'ing car, and to get back in my F'ing car and F this and F that. I tried to calm here, by saying I was just checking, and she continued screaming. I have never had anyone scream at me like that in my life.

She was so close to my car that I couldn't tell if there was damage and so I said I'd just let the police handle it and got back in my car. I pulled out my cell phone and tried to dial but my hands were shaking so badly that I mis-dialed 911. When the light changed I didn't move and and she decided to go around me backing up and tapped me 2-3 more times in the process because there wasn't room for her to back up. Instead she leaned on the horn until other cars (there were two lanes plus turn lanes) cleared out on either side and she had room to back up. So, as she drove around me, I had the cell phone in my hand dialing the police, and I snapped a couple of pictures with my cell in the hopes that something would come out clearly.

So I went on to work, and met the police in the parking lot at work. There was white paint on my bumper, it really didn't do any damage but to the paint, plastic bumpers and all. And the picture? It couldn't have been better; it had her license plate front and center clear as day.

What gets me is this. If she'd been nice and gotten out to look with me and said, "Hmm that doesn't look like much but here's my number in case you find something," I would have let it go. But if you have a foul mouth and curse me up one side and down the other I will prosecute yo' back side!

Why you so Whiny?

Those of you who knew me when I lived in Baltimore are familiar with the newsletter that started out "The Complaint of the Month" and became "The Complaint of... Whenever." For those of you NOT familiar with my "Complaints" they were a forum through which I could express my satisfaction, or more often dissatisfaction, with life, the universe and everything.

That being said, a blog is not a place to post monthly, heck if I do that y'all will wander off and never return. Don't worry, with age comes a whole new level of corochityness. I may not post daily, but I'm sure I'll post plenty often enough. So I guess I better get on with it.