Friday, July 28, 2006

Hot hot hot Friday Five

RevGalBlogPal says: Global warming, anyone? Look on the bright side of melting glaciers and enviro-destruction by taking a crack at the Friday Five.

1. What's the high temperature today where you are? 100F

2. Favorite way(s) to beat the heat. Typical: stay indoors at home with the a/c on just a touch, wearing a light top and skirt, bare feet on the concrete floor, maybe even reading a good book and sipping a chilled coffee with cream and sugar. Favorite: chest-deep in a swimming pool when the shadows of the trees fall across the water, laughing with the kids and talking with friends. A light breeze is especially nice when it's over 100F. Even better if this is a backyard pool and there are gin and tonics...

3. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Evaluate this statement. Over 90F it makes no sense at all! In fact, I think the most uncomfortable temps are in the 80s with high humidity -- dripping with sweat and horribly hot. Rise above 90F, and the heat is increasingly tolerable. Well, until you hit 105F and then, it's just plain hot. Add some wind, and you can call it a blast furnace for another 10 degrees or so; beyond that, I've never been. Back down in the 80s F, if the humidity is high, pray for a good stiff breeze; that helps considerably ease the misery.

4. Discuss one or more of the following: sauna, hot tub, sweat lodge, warm-stone massage. Um, no thanks on all of them. Never really enjoyed a sauna or hot tub; never experience a sweat lodge or warm-stone massage. Any of these would be a lot more appealing in winter!!! I HAVE, on the other hand, hiked through snow a mile or two to a hot spring, stripped to swimsuit, and climbed in. Delicious! Didn't have the guts to run to the icy river and jump in there, though; I paid the price by being cold all the way back to the trailhead, LOL.

5. Hottest you've ever been in your life. Temperature-wise, I'd say it's a tie between a youth mission trip to Haiti in August 1982 (no a/c; see my comments about heat-and-humidity, above), and a solar construction workshop in northern Arizona in midsummer 1980, tying rebar and pouring concrete. No a/c there either (over 100F with low humidity), but we knocked off shortly after noon, found some shade to cool off a bit, then hit the swimming pool with great relief.

Non-temperature related bonus: In your opinion... who's hot? I haven't thought about this in a long while; how... sad! My standard answer in the past was Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford, but I've been wondering if I ought to see what other possibilities there are nowadays. Hmmm.

SysAdmin Day is today

Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day. I'm gonna hug and kiss mine! Thanks, hon, for all you do, both at home and at that place called Work.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Harry Potter strikes again

I sit in stunned disbelief. No, the kids aren't playing Texas Hold 'Em again. No, it's not thrilling news (LOL) about our electricity usage.

Son2 is reading the first Harry Potter book.

Or at least, it sure looks like he's reading it. His eyes and head are moving side to side, he occasionally turns the page, and I cannot believe it.

Over the last couple of weeks I reread HP 4, 5, and 6; Son1 reread HP6; and we watched the first three HP movies again.

Today we returned a boatload of books to the library, mostly mine, and picked up a few for each of us. Fast Food Nation for me, 'cause it's the one book for my nonfiction book club that I didn't actually read last year. The Shiloh books for Son1. And Son2 (age 6 1/2) was adamant that he wanted to borrow the first Harry Potter book in paperback. Son1 urged him to get the hardback version, 'cause the typeface was larger, so he got both. I figured, what could it hurt?

Son2 just told Son1, "Just a minute, I have to finish this" (paragraph, page, who knows), and Son1 said, "Huh?!?" and looked at me. I grinned. He grinned, and waited patiently for Son2 to get to a pausing point. Now they're playing with Bionicles.

For some context, so far Son2 has been about 9 months ahead of Son1's timing in his reading interest and progress. Apparently Son2 just leapfrogged past Son1's first-grade spring of reading easy chapter books, and caught up with Son1's post-first-grade summer of reading the first Harry Potter. OH. MY. This year ahead ought to be pretty interesting!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It makes me laugh...

...that a highlight of the week away at church camp last week for Son1 (age 10 1/2) was learning to play poker. Um, er, okay. We're Episcopalians, after all, but I definitely heard several other parents at pickup on Saturday saying, "So you learned to play poker at church camp?!? Um, er, huh!" This session was for kids who had just finished 3rd through 5th grade, and it turns out several campers and at least one counselor had brought poker chip sets and cards, and kids were playing during free time, as best I can tell. Um, er, huh!

...that last night my husband, who plays poker with friends on occasion and plays online poker as well, backed up Son2 (6 1/2) and coached both boys as Son1 taught little brother to play Five-Card Draw and Texas Hold 'Em. I continue to be struck dumb at this, but I DO remember playing penny or matchstick Five-Card Draw with my brothers when I was perhaps Son1's age or a smidge older. Um, er, huh!

That's what makes me laugh tonight. Though I would prefer Hearts, Euchre, Spades, Cribbage, or Gin Rummy. If they can master the rules of poker, maybe it's time to work our way up through our book of card game families to some of the games *I* like to play. I'm fairly terrible at poker, as best I recall.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

RevGalBlogPals anniversary Friday Five

A totally late RevGalBlogPals anniversary Friday Five:

1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals? I saw the first book listed on Emily's blog, Hazelnut Reflections, and from time to time she'd answer these Friday Fives :)

2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life? Actually, yes! I've met Dylan of Dylan's Grace Notes and Emily of Hazelnut Reflections.

3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person. This is what delayed my post! I haven't been to every member's blog yet, much less gotten a good sense of each of 170-some blogs! so I don't have a good answer to this at all. I would like to meet Rev Dr Mom, 'cause she and I are on a big email list elsewhere and I'm familiar with her 'voice.' I agree with Emily that "we Oklahoma/Texas Gals/Pals should make an effort, and soon, to find a place and time to meet." Would be cool.

4) What has Ring Membership added to your life? Since I'm in my first couple or three weeks of membership, what strikes me so far is that I am contemplating all sorts of aspects of life with faith that I hadn't been thinking about lately -- partly due to visiting member blogs and partly due to reading the RevGalBlogPals blog posts and comments. I love the new weekly cycle.

5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing. I'll echo Emily again: "that we find ways to meet in person" -- it's amazingly enriching to an online relationship to meet in person. When I've met even just a few people from an online community, it's been so great and has brought new energy to the community as a whole.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Random observations

When outdoor temps hit 90F by 9 am and max out at 108F by 4 pm, it doesn't take much time at all for laundry hung in the sunroom to become bone-dry.

Laundry hung to dry on hangers is prefolded when dry. For instance, bath towels, dish towels, cloth napkins, washcloths hung on the hanger crossbar as though it's a towel bar. Kid t-shirts hung similarly, or big t-shirts folded in half lengthwise and then hung over the crossbar of the hanger.

There is nothing like the crispness of a woven linen or cotton garment hung to dry. At least, if you don't iron, like me. Crisp! Cotton knit t-shirts do the same thing, but the effect isn't nearly as striking. Crunch! Crinkle! Crisp!

Get a library book for kids about playing the piano and put it in front of a six-year-old who really wants to play, and he will spend lots of spare time the next two days exploring the book and learning stuff. Reminds me a LOT of when he (Son2) was beginning to learn to read but only knew the sounds that went with the letters. And was determined to learn how to do this thing! I used that, telling Son2 that the written music was a code to learn.

Even when the air is 108F, a big outdoor swimming pool feels really nice. Well, nice enough. Even better when you get all wet in the chest-deep water, then stand up and let the light breeze cool your wet skin a little bit. Repeat until Son2 is done with swim class.

When you don't water your lawn and you hand-water selected plants, a city-wide mandatory ban on outdoor water use (a city-to-city water main broke, so our city can't buy extra water until it's fixed) doesn't bother you too much. Until you realize that means no sprinkler play for the kids in the evening. But then it occurs to you that squirt guns and water balloons should be okay, hehehe. I take nearly-Navy showers anyway, so I guess I do my part...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Six Arguments for a Greener Diet

Check it out:

Eating Green Calculator, Score Your Diet, and Tour of the Conventional Food Supply at Six Arguments for a Greener Diet. The calculator is all about animal-based foods, so if you don't eat very much meat or dairy, it isn't as interesting as it otherwise might be. On the other hand, the diet score is pretty illuminating. The food supply tour pretty much sums up a lot of solid info in a quick little "tour."

By the way, a greener diet isn't just about personal health and happier animals, excellent motivators though they are! The less we depend on food shipped from around the globe or across the nation, and the less often we choose food grown with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and fertilizers, the less dependent we are on... OIL.

Expensive, costly, with that price going up up up in fits and starts, oil is the foundation for the transportation of food (so, eat local). Oil is made into the soil and plant "additives" (so, eat organic, grass-fed, pastured, non-engineered). Eat "green," eat local, eat healthier, loosen the tight grip of oil and its price on our lives.

Food for thought. (hahaha, I slay me!)

A peek into a conference

A two-day live blog that captures impressions and more from conference speakers at ASPO-5, the conference this week in Italy of the Association for Peak Oil and Gas.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tickling the ivories

Those who knew me in my teens would be surprised, I think, at my restraint now that our house shelters a piano. Piano, piano, I can hardly believe our good fortune and the blessing of a free piano that sounds pretty decent and only needs a little bit orepair to the mechanical works (we hope, we think, we'll see).

I discovered a passion for the piano when I was about 12, and pestered my mom for at least a year, begging her for piano lessons and the small matter of a piano. Eventually I seemed to wear her down, or prove that it wasn't a whim, here today, gone tomorrow. She and my grandparents put their heads together and got an upright piano and found me a teacher, and at the age of 13 I began piano lessons. I loved to play! and could hardly pass a piano without playing a bar or so of music I was working on.

Then came college and no piano or lessons or any steady access to a piano to play. I remember playing the piano in the dorm entrance area once or twice. Playing my favorite pieces in vacant music practice rooms. And, years later, bringing my music and coming an hour early to my church to play a piano for a little while.

A month or so ago we suddenly, completely unexpectedly, were offered the gift of a piano, destined for the landfill because the owner had been unable to find a new home for it -- we said Yes yes yes!

That remarkable restraint? It is this: that I have not spent hours a day at this piano! And I've hung back and listened to the boys experimenting with a nice long keyboard and real mechanical action. They've been making their own music, which is pretty cool.

Every three or four days, though, I pull out my J.S. Bach adaptations: the Solfeggietto to get the kinks out of my left hand, and then Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring to warm up everything just a little bit. My book of sonatinas is still too difficult, so I've found a happy home with my final lesson book: John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano, Fourth Grade. Lots of pieces to work on, some very familiar and others I may or may not have played and surely don't remember at all.

At some point I'd like to actually learn scales and stuff. My teacher didn't go in for that, or music theory, and now I wish I had learned it. And after a while I definitely will pull out the sonatinas again, and the Maple Leaf Rag!

How wonderful to be able to dip into the making-music world without urgency. I used to play until my fingers ached, because I didn't know when I'd have the chance again. This slower, more relaxed approach keeps my aging wrists and other joints from getting sore as I get used to this old-new activity. What a pleasure!

Logic-impaired this morning

I love little college-prep-type quizzes. I always was a pretty good test-taker, for what little that is worth. Kinda funny this morning that I just couldn't think through the logic question AT ALL. More coffee, please!

Your IQ Is 110

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your General Knowledge is Above Average

Try it at A Quick and Dirty IQ Test

Monday, July 10, 2006

She read the meter again

I read the electric meter again moments ago, did some figuring, and commenced a Happy Dance of Pride and Joy. Hehehe.

As you might recall from my recent rather detailed post on the topic, I want to keep our electricity use lower than last summer and more consistent throughout the summer, rather than spiking for the first and third summer-heat months. The current cycle, mid-June to mid-July, would normally be a spike month for us. Or, as I put it in my earlier post, "oh aak it's soooo hot."

Not to worry, dear reader or whoever is out there, we seem to be succeeding in our quest, hurrah!

Meter reading minutes ago: 31918 kWH.
Meter reading June 14: 30984 kWH.
Difference: 934 kWH/26 days, or an average of...

wait for it...

35.9 kWH per day!!!

Over the first 8 days of the current cycle, as per my earlier post, we used about 304 kWH, an average of 38 kWH per day. Upon further investigation, I realized that our typical summer use in years past had been 50 kWH per day, so at 38 kWH per day this year our use was already amazingly lower compared to our selves of previous years, hehehe.

Today our daily average since the beginning of this cycle is somehow even lower than those first eight days. Woohoo!

Happy Dance of Jubilation and Success!

And I'm writing this on the power-sipping laptop. As Son2 would chant, oh yeah! oh yeah!

Last cycle we used 1055 kWH. If we stay at 35.9 kWH/day until the 15th when our meter is read, our total use for this cycle will be 1113 kWH. In comparison, last year our monthly usages were 1140 and then 1510 (we are SO killing that second number!!). It really looks as though we're being consistent and fairly even for the first year EVER.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Oh, and buffer your household from higher energy prices. Grin

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Week o' things, and stress, and a good end

The last week or so has been, er, full.
  • Slight panic about leak under kitchen sink. Fixed 24 hours after discovery -- I don't look under that sink much -- by Dear Husband with a mere $15 in new hoses. Whew, thus were banished my visions of many dollars gone "down the drain" haha.

  • We held an Independence Day cookout with appropriate preparations, mostly laying in supplies and decent decluttering of The House.

  • I held a Tupperware open house midday Thursday at my house. Went well, yay.

  • On the same day, the clutch on our car just stopped doing anything. In the afternoon, I'm pretty sure I "speed shifted" most of the way to a meeting at a friend's house.

  • After said meeting, friend's husband drove the car to their mechanic, to my relief. I didn't want to do any more trying to get the car into first gear at a stop, no thank you. Also, getting the car fixed before the weekend was a preferred option, because...

  • After getting a ride home from work Thursday night, Dear Husband rode his bicycle five miles to work the next day. This would be Friday the 7th. Things blur together, but I think he rode his bike home that evening as well. This without any prep; he was SO TIRED that night when he got home. Did I mention we are a one-car family?

  • Friday was the first of four consecutive days of Dear Husband's unit at the university moving into a new building. Very exciting, but we didn't really need the car excitement at the same time!

  • One of Son2's crowns fell out at lunchtime on Friday. Eeek! Called the dentist, and got crown cement at the store that evening after we...

  • Got the car back Friday afternoon, after paying $390 for the clutch master and slave cylinder replacement. Ouch, and oh well. Did I ever mention that about three weeks ago the driver's side door stopped opening and we had the lock mechanism replaced, at a total cost of nearly $500?? So, ouch. All money set aside for the back fence replacement is gone, but our car is driveable and useable. The other can wait.

  • Friday night was crash night for Dear Husband and for me. We were both so, so, so very tired from stress.

  • On Saturday morning I did the good mom thing and successfully put the crown back in place in Son2's mouth. Unfortunately, it fell out that evening and there is so little tooth there that we think it's a lost cause for us nonprofessionals to do this thing. As we told Son2, either Dentist the Great will be able to replace it so it stays, or he'll have to take the tooth out; we trust D-the-G so either way it will be okay.

  • On Saturday Dear Husband's big move, with which he is very, very involved, turned the corner from really tough to it's gonna work out okay. Very nice to see him decompress cheerfully Saturday evening.

Dear Husband is at work again today, Sunday, but sounds good on the phone. The kids played outside with water in the 99F or so heat for a while, and are now playing with Lego or something indoors. Laundry is hanging to dry in the sunroom/enclosed patio, the dishwasher holds clean dishes ready to be unloaded, the Tupperware is finally packed away from the open house, and I have plenty of patience with the kids.

We're going to have a yummy, easy dinner of rice with sliced grilled sausages, along with sliced bell peppers and carrots, and, for dessert, ripe nectarines slices with cream. All I need to do is cook the rice in the rice cooker (on the enclosed patio, I think), and slice the various things.

Oh, and on Friday I picked up and started rereading the fourth Harry Potter book. I don't remember Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire quite as well as the first three, so it's a great escape book. I'm definitely ready for it, given the week behind us AND my other reading (I just added Powerdown: Options and actions for a post-carbon world, Root Cellaring, The Eternal Frontier: An ecological history of North America and its peoples, and Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living). Here's a cool thing: Son1 is reading the first Lord of the Rings book, at last!

A good day after a week (or so) of things. For a treat, we still have favorite beers and white wine from the cookout; time to add ice to the cooler of beer again. Perhaps tonight we'll watch a DVR'd movie, or more of "Texas Ranch House" from PBS; it's about time for open verbal warfare between the cowhands and the boss husband and wife, though my interest is mostly the 1867 period aspects of... everything.

We really did cook spider bread and nectarine cobbler on the grill at our Independence Day cookout, by the way. They were big hits, and delicious!

Goin' mobile

I have been happily hanging out downstairs with the family even when I want to look something up online, or read some email lists, or do some Tupperware work. My husband set me up to use a spare laptop, woohoo! And of course (you might expect no less) I am very happy to be using less electricity, generating less heat, and hanging out in the cooler downstairs rather than my loft office that is toasty warm by midafternoon. Especially on a day like today -- 99F I think. Gotta go turn the air to a higher temp; it keeps turning on even when I'm comfortable.

Gotta like all that!

The main things I must do on my desktop computer at this point are (a) my regular email that I download from my ISP server, and (b) Web site updates and design work. I'm sure there's more, and I'm living lightly on this laptop right now rather than "moving in". Still, it's soooo nice. I can sit at the card table in the living room, especially to use the keyboard, or I can actually hang out on the sofa with the kids and browse, or as Son1 wanted, look up stuff on the Web site. I like this.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America

I like reading and imagining my world with limited or no air conditioning. A good exercise, and it opens up possibilities for how I can live now. Anyway, this is really interesting: Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Inevitable Independence Day Friday Five

I'm trying the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five -- a few hours late. Oops.

In the U.S., we're heading into a holiday weekend as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day. Although the topic of this meme may be inevitable, independence never is, so it couldn't hurt to stop and think for a minute about independence in a general way and holidays in a more trivial way.

1) Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?)

Sure do -- with an evening cookout and lots of friends at our place, and the city fireworks at a distance (we sit along our suburban sidewalk; the fireworks are several miles away). I'm gonna watch some History Channel shows about the beginnings of the USA with the kids that morning (little do they know). Between now and then I'm gonna browse through my favorite topical books, Freedom: The History of US and The Democracy Reader; maybe a little of Lincoln's papers as well if I get enough reading time with plenty of good coffee.

2) When was the first time you felt independent, if ever?

I think it was when I was seven or eight and planning to run away from home by hiding out at my beloved Montessori school to stay there at night and be there for school during the day. My plans for that version of independence were elaborate, I tell you!

3) If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill?

Burgers and sausages, whatever other people bring, probably sliced onions and sweet bell peppers, perhaps peaches, and either spider bread in a cast iron skillet or a fruit cobbler in some sort of pan that I may end up buying at the hardware store.

4) Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss.

Biscuit. No discussion! Though I could imagine either vanilla ice cream or cream being substituted for the whipped cream of my childhood.

5) Fireworks -- best and worst experience

Best experience: Driving home from a holiday weekend on an island with friends; it was dusk, and there were town and backyard fireworks popping off all along the route. Then I parked near my apartment and walked a block onto a very high bridge in my fair city and joined many, many people watching the big city fireworks above the lake. They seemed sooo close to us. Seattle, about 1988.

Worst experience: A tie. First, the time as an early teen when I went with a friend's family to the big city fireworks over an urban lake, and burned the palm of my hand on a discarded yet still hot cigarette butt in the dark (upon leaning back to oooh and ahhh from our blanket spread on the grass). Ouch. Second, the time dear fiance and I visited his very good friends in the Boston area and we went to see the fireworks near Lexington or some other cool historic location, but they were so loud that their little boy had a total meltdown and we left. The fireworks were soooo loud!