Monday, October 29, 2007

High Speed, Baby

The guy from Dish Network came out today and installed the dish for our high speed Internet access. It's now working, and it's amazing.

So we now have 2 satellite dishes in our yard, thankfully on the edge near a big oak, so they don't stick out like sore thumbs. Eh, who am I kiddin'? I wouldn't care anyway. High speed, baby!

We also have almost 150 feet of new cable underground, barely underground, that is... and a new hole in our floor so said cable can come upstairs from the basement. It was a long installation, from around 10am until about 3:30pm.

The things us country hicks have to go through for high speed 'net. Finally. Just in time for NaBloPoMo. Now to get a router so Sammy can use it upstairs on his computer. Which is my old computer, because I'm now using Joycie's old computer that's fixed and like a brand spanking new machine.

I decided that I would get the new machine instead of putting it in Sam's room, and Sammy could use my "old" computer, the one that he already has all littered with AOL crap. I'm not a big fan of AOL. For some reason, ever since he installed it on "his desktop" on my computer, when I'm on my desktop, AOL is constantly trying to connect. It would drive me batty. AOL puts hooks in all over, and it took me a long time to figure out how to make it not launch every time I logged on. Grrr...

So we moved that computer up to his room this weekend, and he's up there on it right now, still using the old, slow dial-up access, with his music playing way too loud. Again.

I also finally got our external hard drive hooked up & running; it's a FreeAgent Pro I bought at Best Buy at a great sale price earlier this summer. All of our family photo files are on the hard drive now in Sammy's room, so I spent Saturday evening copying them onto the FreeAgent drive and then Sunday copying them onto my new machine. I didn't have it on a high speed USB port, because, um..., I don't know that I have one of those, but anyway, it took about 5 hours to copy those photo files from the FreeAgent to my hard drive... 5 hours! I don't do the old-fashioned photo albums anymore; ours are all on our computer. It's very handy, and I honestly think we look at the photos more with them being on the computer than in a book. Since the computer is in the dining room, and since I now have a big 19" flat screen monitor, sometimes we'll get a slideshow going of a photo album and enjoy it during dinner. I know I take a lot of photos, and I would hate to lose them. Now I'm feeling much better about those files... I have a backup and a backup copy of the backup. This adorable little FreeAgent drive is handy to move between our computers, so it'll be easy to keep all the copies up-to-date.

Hello, 21st Century, it's so nice to meet ya!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good news & a cold morning

Kevin got that lab tech job!!! Actually, the official job title is “quality assurance analyst.” He worked his last midnight shift last night. No more midnights. Ever again, I hope. Kev was in such a good mood yesterday evening. That was very nice. Weekends off. Yes! He’ll be on the new job beginning on or before Nov. 7th. I am so, so happy he got that job.

A friend of mine, whom I work with, is out of town this week, attending a conference in sunny smoky California. I e-mailed her earlier today about how we had a pretty cold morning this morning... about 35 degrees! Beautiful, though... partly cloudy with a big ol' full moon setting in the west, made the clouds look purple against a navy blue sky. But... brrr! My friend is in the Hunting Beach area, so not real close to the fires there. Thank goodness. I visited that same area a few years ago, also to attend a conference, and now, as then, I just don’t get it... The fires, earth quakes, mud slides, incredibly high cost of housing/living, traffic, gangs and the freaks, and the crowds of people... ugh! I'd hate to live there. Though California does have the Pacific Ocean, but I gotta say... I much prefer the Atlantic. Kev & Sammy went with me on that trip, and I remember when we arrived and went down to the beach, the first thing I noticed was, well, actually the first thing I noticed was how crowded it all was, and then the 2nd thing I noticed was how the ocean smelled bad. In fact, I remember I did a blog post about it. We did walk the beach, though, and we found some really nice pieces of beach glass. (Though I’ve found nicer ones on the Atlantic shore.)

I’m not totally biased... I’d also hate to live in Florida, Arizona & Texas. Lousiana, Alabama, Georgia, too. Any of those hot states with large bugs and snakes, alligators and muggy weather. And hurricanes. I know I'm usually in the minority... all those warm states are loved by many. Guess it’s a darn good thing I live in the sticks of Michigan, eh. And for the record, I just love a cold October morning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What is it - the Downtown version

I left work early this afternoon to run a couple of errands, including picking up a prescription, which didn't pan out. I have been coughing so much during the night that I'm not getting any sleep, and it's weird because the coughing actually stopped for a couple of days and now it's picked back up again Big Time. But I can't take codiene... last time I had it was back in 1982 or so when I had surgery on my ankles, and though it certainly helped the pain (it wasn't as good as the morphine, though), it had an eerie side-effect of making me feel paralyzed. I was fully awake but couldn't get any of my muscles to move, couldn't even move my mouth. It was so long ago, I don't remember all the details now... for example, I don't know how long it lasted, but once it was over, I was fine. I do remember being terrified and unable to speak, all I could do was move my eyes. I could see my hand laying on the bed near the thing that had the button on it to push for a nurse... just laying there. When I was in the MRI machine, I thought about that codiene moment. That was the one and only time I've had codiene, and even though the docs have said it may not happen again, I won't try it. Even if it does help to make a killer cough med.

So I had some time before I had to pick up Sammy (a little early) from school, and I decided to take some photos of our Main Street area. This area has changed so much from the time when I was a kid. Some things are the same because they've been there for decades, but a lot has been done to beautify the downtown area and increase the business, draw in the people to spend some moola downtown. The result is the What is it - the Downtown version, from one end of Main Street to the other:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What's comin' up...

In October –

Next week I pick up Joycie’s “old” computer... the one that Nathan built for her for her 16th birthday... it’s been at Computers To Go at the Midland Mall getting a major repair job. Joyce began having problems with it months ago, and then it would freeze up, so she would turn it off. Long story short, we think it was probably infected and the resulting crashing fried the motherboard, along with one of the RAM sticks. Since it wouldn’t boot up, we thought at first it was probably the hard drive, and I got an excellent deal on a hefty new hard drive at Best Buy... but the original hard drive is fine. So is the video card. So now we have a “slave” hard drive, too. Yay. Anyway, the diagnostics have taken some time, and John, the owner, is treating me most excellently. In the end, we’ll have an essentially brand new, very robust computer for a relatively small sum. I highly recommend Computers To Go. And also kudos to Nathan because the guys at Computers To Go said that whoever had built the computer for us did a really good job. Joyce is not so thrilled, however, because I’ve decided to officially kick Sammy off from my computer and put Joyce’s “new” computer into his bedroom. Joyce wanted it to go back into her bedroom, where she would actively retain ownership. But Joyce is rarely here, and when she is home, she’s not using computers... she’s been spoiled with the high speed Internet access on her laptop at college. So it is still Joyce’s computer, but it’s going into Sammy’s room, where gloom and doom (clever rhyming, huh) await him should he fail to treat it with the proper respect.

In a little more than 1 week, we will, hopefully, finally, finally have high speed Internet access. Getting high speed has become pretty important to me so that I can work from home more easily. I have investigated several providers in our area, such as speednet, Charter, etc, etc. A couple ISPs would pass the online test for our address, but once I called them, they would tell me no service. We are in a rural area, but apparently we’re in a border zone for several ISPs, or as a couple of them put it, so eloquently, a dead zone. So I caved and contacted Dish Network. We have our satellite TV through them, and I feel like we’re paying through the nose to watch so many commercials that an hour-long TV show is really 40 minutes of excellent drama (anyone else loving Damages?!!). But Dish Network it is... satellite high speed Internet for a mere $200 initial fee and $60 per month. Ugh. We currently have dial-up access through, and they are excellent people there. I get practically unlimited web space and 10 e-mail addresses, along with excellent tech service for under $15 a month. I checked with them first thing about getting high speed access, but... no service for us here. So, anyway, for the time being, I’m sticking with, using Dish Network high speed, and I’m going to somehow figure out that damn router thing they mentioned to make it wireless in our house.

Halloween! I love Halloween. I asked Sammy what he wanted to be this year, and he said he didn’t know if he was going out or not, that he had to check with his guy friends. *sniff*

November –

Sammy will be turning 13 years old on Nov. 4th, and I just don’t think I’m ready for that. Where the heck did all those years go? I was talking with my BFF Sandy yesterday, and we concluded that being a mom makes the years go faster and faster and faster. (Sandy is in South Texas this weekend visiting her daddy, and she was just fixin’ to make meatloaf from buffalo meat... mmm... and she told me it was 98 degrees there and the flowers were spectacular... I told her it was a cool, crisp sunny morning here and the trees were in spectacular fall color... I’d rather be here than there! I have had enough warmth lately... hot flashes galore lately. Oh it sucks.)

Joycie will be celebrating her 19th birthday at the end of November. 19. Oh.

And, I'm going to participate in NaBloPoMo again this November. It was fun last year. I hope I can stick to it this year... having high speed access will definitely help. Sometimes lately, though, I get home from work, get the few things done that I must, then crash on the sofa until it's time to go to bed... it's my literal pain in the neck. I still have a listing of blog post ideas that I created last NaBloPoMo and have kept maintained... that should help.

Also, by November it is possible Kev will have moved to a different job at the plant where he works, and this would mean 2 very wonderful things, 1) no more midnight shifts, and 2) no scheduled weekends. Having a 5-and-2 schedule (this means Monday-Friday, not a regular working schedule on any weekends) would be very nice, but not having to work midnights would be absolutely wonderful. The job would be days and afternoons, so every other week, Kev would work from 3:30pm until 11:30pm, and we wouldn't be with him in the evenings. That sucks, yes, but midnights are so difficult on him from both a physical standpoint and resulting mental-standpoint-from-lack-of-sleep that I would love it if he didn't have to work midnights ever again. The downside is, of course, an initial cut in pay (which is what happens whenever one moves to a new job where Kev works, kind of as a deterrant by the company for employees moving around frequently from job to job, which makes perfect sense). Also, the new job would have less overtime hours, so less pay annually, but more Kevin time at home. That falls most definitely into the "plus" category. Fingers crossed.

January 2008 –

I will be having surgery on my neck on the 18th. I explained that I have an extra bone growth on the right side of my C6 (cervical) vertebra, and it is pressing against, or as the neurosurgeon phrased it, abutting my spinal cord. This has caused the pain I’ve had, from the nerves being affected. The 2nd neurosurgeon I saw recently described the surgery exactly as the 1st neurosurgeon had described it, so I’m convinced. This 2nd doctor is the one who did surgery on my Dad’s back a couple of years ago, and all my family just loved him. He’s brilliant, and he cares about his patients. His conclusions differed from the 1st neurosurgeon in one extremely important area... whereas the asshole neurosurgeon I saw first told me the surgery was “elective” and when I finally pressed him, he said that meant when the pain got too bad, I could elect to have the surgery. The 2nd brilliant, caring neurosurgeon told me that he suggested I have the surgery as soon as possible for two reasons: 1) I have already lost strength in my left arm, and that will likely progress until this situation is fixed possibly resulting in permanent nerve damage, i.e., I could potentially lose the use of that arm eventually, and 2) that piece of extra bone abutting my spinal cord presents a danger where a simple accident from which the typical person would get up and walk away could leave me paralyzed or worse... it is like that piece of bone is a splitting maul wedged against my spinal cord waiting for the proper pressure to slice through it. Ain’t that a lovely thought. For the surgery, which will be done by the aforementioned brilliant, caring neurosurgeon, he’ll go into the back of my neck, basically carve off that extra bone matter, and then stabilize the C6 to the C5 with permanent pins on both sides of the vertebrae. So I’ll be hospitalized for a few days, then having a rough 4 weeks of pain, with a few more weeks of recuperation before I can return to work from that surgery. Having it on Jan. 18th lets me get through 4th quarter & year-end close, and be back at work in time to prepare for 2008 1st quarter close. I explained my job to the surgeon, and he agreed that would be excellent timing, also because he probably couldn’t fit me into his surgery schedule until January... he said it was important to have the surgery ASAP for the 2 reasons he mentioned, but that he didn’t consider it an emergency situation. Then he told me not to plan any trips to Cedar Point. Duh. But then we talked some more about how I should behave until the surgery, by not taking any unnecessary road trips... do the driving I must do in my normal life, but where possible, don’t get in the car as a driver or passenger. The biggest risk, of course, would be if I were in a car accident, such as being rear-ended... I told him no problem, that I didn’t plan to even walk on an icy sidewalk! He didn’t laugh with me at that; he told me that is a very good plan. So having high speed Internet access so that I can easily work from home has become very, very important to me. On those days of snow storms and icy roads coming up, and until Jan. 18th, I’m not driving into work but will instead be able to work from home without the hassle of slow connections.

This situation is one of those where I’m looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. I’m lucky, though, coz once the surgery is done, that’s it, my problem is solved. The surgeon did say that the surgery isn’t being done to help the pain, and that hopefully it will help, but I could likely have neck pain from here on out. I can live with that. The tingling numbness down my arm is gone now anyway, and that, along with the itching palm thing were more of an annoyance than anything. Having the surgery will allow me to be less afraid of what’s around the corner, if ya know what I mean. I can resume my version of a normal life. I’m lucky. A friend of mine at work learned recently that his wife has an awful type of leukemia, and their lives have been turned upside-down... and they have 2 children, ages 11 and 12 or so. So you see, I’m very lucky. By the way, her name is Kelly, so feel free to include her in your prayers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Orange October

"October" by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost –
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

The latest...

I brought home 4 finished pieces from Space Studios lately. One is another box pot...

I enjoy making box pots. I had fun with this one, though the bird gave me a bit of trouble... his head broke off and I had to fix him after he was all dry. I was surprised he made it through the firings. With this box pot, which I made out of red clay, I used blue underglaze on the bird and on the design on the pot. I put the blue underglaze in a little bottle and flowed out lines on the each side of the pot, then I took a sharp implement and dragged it down through the lines of underglaze. This was done on the dried piece before the bisque firing. Then after the bisque firing, I put on 2 coats of clear glaze on the outside, which made the red clay and the blue underglaze really pop. I painted on 4 coats of the yellow glaze on the inside... 4 or 5, because yellow on red clay has trouble being bright. I like how this box pot turned out so much that I prepared pieces for 3 more small box pots at pottery this morning. This one measures 4.5 inches square with the sides being 3.5 inches tall. The box pots I'm making next are 5.5, 4 and 3.5 inches square.

I made several critter shaker balls, and 3 of them are finally done. Another one came through the glaze firing also, but the glazes I used didn't turn out yellow enough for me, so I took him back in this morning and he's going into the kiln again. But these 3 are done... they are all about the same size, about 4 or 5 inches in diameter, kinda like a softball or so.

This is Angel...

The photo doesn't show it as well as she really is... she is very luminous. I painted on 3 coats of a glossy glaze called Tea Rose, then 2 coats of clear. She's very shiny.

This critter is one I call Happy. I doodled all over him using underglazes. Underglazes are like colored liquid clay; they don't have a chemical reaction aspect like the glass glazes. Usually, you would put underglazing on your piece after it is dry and before the bisque firing, such as I did with my blue bird box pot. But I decided to use the underglazes on this guy after he was already bisque fired. I could have had him fired again, like a 2nd bisque firing, but I didn't, I went ahead and put a couple of light coats of clear on him. This turned out to be very difficult because the clear glaze wanted to make the underglazing run... it was not a good idea, and I won't use underglazes this way again... unfortunately, the same evening I put the clear on Happy here, I did the same thing to a large piece I had been working on for days... and I'm pretty sure I wrecked the thing. Darn it all. Photos on that sometime later. As an example of how not to do something. Anyway, here is Happy...

Corny, huh. I prefer whimsical. Again, the photo doesn't really do him justice... he's colorful, and he's somehow a very likeable fellow. Kev laughed when he saw him, and then he picked him up and shook him. Which is, of course, exactly what you're supposed to do.

This next critter shaker ball is not really a critter. He is Thomas Jefferson, and he represents a saying that President Jefferson was known for, though not the originator of...

Can you figure out the saying?

I used a glaze on Tom that I've used on other pieces before, it's a matte or semi-glossy glaze called Leather, which is one of my favorite glazes at Space Studios. One of many, because there are so many glazes there to choose from.

I think that Joycie has claimed Tom for hers, but that's still undecided.

I also recently finished 2 other large shaker balls; I made one each for Joycie and Michelle. But I forgot to take photos before giving them to the girls...

This morning at pottery, I finished glazing 2 more shaker balls, and I repaired/re-glazed 2 more for their 2nd glaze firing. Fingers crossed Big Time on those 2. This past Sunday evening while watching TV and doing laundry downstairs, I also rolled out clay worms and cut them up for shakers... so now I have enough shakers for at least 6 more critter shaker balls. Yay! I'm planning to really go to town with underglazing on my upcoming shaker balls. Using underglazes is very fun, much more satisfying than trying to paint detail of any kind using glazes... I'm not so hot at detailed, precise painting. Too impatient, I suppose. (I know that any of my family reading that just rolled their eyes and nodded their head. Ha!)

I have a piece waiting for bisque firing right now that's a tall box pot with a twist (you'll have to wait for the photos), and I used underglazes on it... I'm anxious to see that one completed.

I love going to pottery! When Sammy's football games were taking over my Saturdays, I couldn't go to Space Studios for a couple of weeks, then when I finally could go, I was sick... so not going for about 3 or 4 Saturdays in a row was difficult. I was suffering withdrawal symptoms. Though I went a couple of times in the evenings, I prefer Saturday mornings. I just love spending Saturday mornings in that studio, getting my hands in the clay. The way the sun comes in the windows changes with the seasons, of course, and this morning the sun marched across the table I was working at. At one point it was coming right at the side of my right eye, and that was slightly annoying, but it moved on pretty quick, and I used it to help dry the glazes I was painting on my pieces. My usual Saturday morning session is 9am until Noon, but today I stayed for an extra half-session, until 1:30pm. Very satisfying.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yes, I feel lucky

This past Tuesday evening I had one of those evenings that gets me through the week. I met Sammy at the middle school, and then the 2 of us waited for Kev to arrive there. It was Parent/Teacher Conferences time. While we waited, Sammy and I shopped at the book fair… we always enjoy the books fairs. Sammy isn’t quite the avid reader that Joyce is, so he asked for only a couple of books. I would have to limit Joycie before we entered the book fair area, otherwise she would easily pick out 20 books. I managed to find a book that I felt she would like, so our total purchase was 3 books. New books smell so good.

Kev arrived and we started by going down to Sammy’s locker. For a boy whose bedroom usually looks like a tornado went through it, you’d think his locker would be a mess. It isn’t. Sam’s locker is very well organized. We bought him a couple of locker shelves at Office Max, and he had everything in its place. For each class, he has a 3-ring binder, which is a requirement by the teachers. The binders have dividers to organize notes, homework, tests, etc. The students also keep track of their grades for each paper… it’s very organized, and Sammy is doing an excellent job keeping his notebooks in order.

It helps that he really likes his binders, which we also bought at Office Max. We got the kind that have clear pockets for inserting covers, and we bought a different color for each class. Sammy made spine labels to identify the class, and then he made inserts for the front pockets. He used photo files from home and from off the ‘net, and he put together collages of the pics, using a different theme for each notebook. They turned out awesome. I love it that Sammy is so creative that way.

Then, taking all 5 notebooks, one each for Math, Social Studies, Science, English and Spanish, we went down to the cafeteria where all the 7th grade teachers were set up at tables to talk with parents and students. Sammy is doing very well in all his classes, with 100% or better (because he does all the extra credit work he can) in all classes except Math, where he has 98%. All his teachers had great comments about him, saying how great he is to have in class, such a nice young man, and on and on. Sammy loved it, and so did Kev and I. We know that we had no issues or problems to discuss with the teachers; Kevin and I wanted to meet them face-to-face and show our support for Sam. It was an entirely pleasant experience.

The open set-up of the conferences doesn’t allow for much privacy, which of course, being the parent of such a stellar student as our Sam, bothered us not at all. Did I mind that some other parent may have heard when his Science teacher told us that Sammy was getting 100% in her class, and that he was the first one to have 100% so far that evening? Nope, didn’t mind a bit. I’m so proud of Sam. But, I noticed that not all conversations between parents and teachers were going as smoothly as ours. Of course, some of Sam’s classmates struggle with class work, or they struggle with appropriate behavior, etc. I’d like to say that Sammy’s doing so well because Kev and I expect and encourage that behavior, but that’s not true. Yes, our behavior contributes to his behavior, but basically with both Joycie and Sammy, we have lucked out. Big Time. Both our kids are naturally well organized with their school work, and both of them like to read. Those two characteristics alone help them both to be great students. That we demand they practice good manners and the Golden Rule helps. But oh yeah, we lucked out.

After the conferences, glowing with happiness, Kev went on home to go outside bow hunting and Sammy & I headed into town to meet Joycie for dinner. Joycie was in town for her weekly guitar lesson, so the timing was perfect. The three of us met at our favorite Chinese restaurant, where they were just setting up the dinner buffet. Dinner was wonderful, Joycie and Sammy were talkative, and the food was hot and excellent.

When the three of us arrived back home after dinner, Kev was still out hunting. Sammy went right to the computer to check his MySpace and IM with his friends. Joycie got her new Martin out and sat in the living room and played. I put my jammies on, relaxed on the sofa with Reilly at my side and watched and listened to Joycie play. Beautifully. I loved it. She played for about an hour or maybe more; for me, the time flew by.

Soon after she had put her guitar away and was getting ready to leave, Kev came in from hunting, which always puts him in a good mood. The four of us had a wonderful evening. Two days later, and I’m still basking in the warmth.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My morning commute entertainment

Listening to an AM local news radio station this morning... This is a roughly accurate excerpt from the on air conversation between the 2 guys, dare I say newscasters?, on the show:
Guy 1: Hey, have you seen those big presents? If you're driving on I75 or blah-blah-blah...
Guy 2: Oh yeah, I've seen those - the billboards that look like big wrapped presents with a big bow.
Guy 1: Yeah, I wonder what they're all about.
Guy 2: I've seen maybe 3 of them so far. There's no writing on them.
Guy 1: Yeah, no writing at all. So what do you think's going on?
Guy 2: Maybe it will be some big announcement, like when they unwrap the present.
[me: Ya think?!]
Guy 1: What do you think it's about?
Guy 2: I don't know, but someone is doing something, that's for sure.
[me: OMG, how profound.]
Switching back to CMU public radio, even if it is all about fund-raising.
Two minutes later: Turning off radio.

Bumper sticker seen shortly after turning off radio:
God Doesn't Believe in Atheists

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A dozen red...

N.C. the Ham

Here are photos of our cat, N.C., who always follows me around when I'm outside. Me and anyone else, really... he will roll around and pose like he wants you to pet him, but when you approach him to do just that, he instantly changes from this wiggling, stretching furry pet-me!-pet-me! thing into a dashing away you-can't-touch-me thing. He loves to have his photo taken... I swear, it's like he knows what is happening and will pose for the camera. Strange cat. Sometimes when I sit on the porch steps, I can get him to come up to me, and then he loves to be scratched. I've even managed to pick him up sometimes, but it never lasts long. He's a big ol' tease...

Joycie managed to connect with N.C. on a rare moment...

though I wouldn't call this actually holding N.C., because it was more of an up then quickly down...