Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hold This Spot

A short post about the post I will post when I post it. Which will be a post. Lo, a good post! One with words AND pictures and possibly a little tap dancing for all I know because that's the one kind of dancing I did better than my sister. [note: only when it came to pull-backs and only because she was a ballet dancer and simply could not stop pointing her beautifully arched feet. I was the only person in the whole darn class who could clicketty-pullback all the way across the room. I can't tell you how important this has been in my adult life. "Do you have an MBA?" I'm asked, "no, but check out my pull-backs!" and then they fawn over me and offer me ridiculously high-paying jobs. Happens all the time.]

I'd say more but a crew is outside my office window using TWO jack hammers. Apparently the ginormous trench they already dug across the huge brick paved area isn't enough and now they're de-constructing the stairs as well. For some reason I'm having a difficult time concentrating...


Friday, July 25, 2008


Yes, I MEANT to post. I wrote all sorts of interesting and witty things in my tiny head, I did.

But the computer gods were angry this week, very very angry.

Starts with a nice shiny new computer which, natch comes with Vista. I have been playing nicely with Office 2007 for quite some time now (after a brief rant about how GOOD interface design does not abandon existing and working paradigms and what were you thinking Microsoft?? Also, why do you put the most important functions - save, print, open etc - behind a loverly button that gives you absolutely no visual hint of what it does? Smooches, Me). I'm prepared for that, I have accepted that Vista is The New System and XP Shalt Not Be Supported. I even watched covertly as Child 1 got to know its new laptop and seemed to survive the experience.

Shiny new computer is thus plugged in every which way to Sunday, tethered firmly to elderly but remarkably good monitor (one of the best color calibrations in the office by gum) introduced to its [new] keyboard and [new] mouse aaaaaand


Vista hates the mouse. Hates it. Mind you this is a Microsoft mouse but Vista, it spits upon the mouse. In fact the mouse feels much the same way so every 10-30 seconds it turns itself off and sulks and has to have its button prodded just to make it even think about moving the cursor.

And don't get the mouse started on clicking buttons. It simply doesn't want to know. Buttons, it felt, should have their active spot three pixels to the left and seven pixels up from where it looks like the button is. Or maybe waaaaay over to the right, or only in a three-pixel area that you find by the immensely satisfying method of clicking madly all over the page. Also clicks are really only recognizable after two or three (or four... or more) initial tries at it, and could you hold down the button just a leeetle longer because it's just so hard to know what you mean unless you say it REALLY REALLY LOUDLY.

Which means I got to use the tab-and-arrow method of getting around until I could find and install the driver for my Wacom tablet instead. And Wacom tablets? Brilliant for design work - love that pressure sensitivity baby - but for searching the web for "Troubleshooting Stoopid Microsoft Mouse and Vista Because if I Can't Get This Working I Just Might DIE" it's just not so hot.

Still, after uninstalling (and mucking around in the inner bowels of the driver files), reinstalling, removing battery and shouting a few times, going through same process THREE TIMES, the mouse reluctantly decided the game was up and stopped shutting down. Of course it then also decided to stop moving the cursor properly but it was pretty simple at that point to work out it was a surface problem (bare desk top? BLECH! Spanking new mouse pad that came with computer? AUGH!! Manilla folder? Please. Small black canvas tote bag brought back by colleague from England and subtly shouting "LONDON" with a large Union Jack? OOOOOH! I likes it, I likes it!)

Of course there's the remaining issue that Vista refuses to go slumming with my work-mandated email program but I'm ready for it now, I can take it on.

Just let me catch my breath a bit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I'm tormenting a Child by forcing it (FORCING I tell you) to sit at my feet and study a very exciting standardized test book. It is not amused. In fact its attitude borders on sullen.


I tell the Child.

This is important stuff this is. This is life changing, world spinning, vital skillage you're working on now.

Take me, for instance.

I frittered my way through high school (that's ages 13-17 for the European crowd remember although 14-18 is standard). I foodled* in my science classes and out-and-out skipped third year math. I forever shamed my Genuine Professor In A Real University father by earning (yes, really earning) a D in his particular field of study and flabbergasted my mother by consistently receiving "Student Not Achieving Up To Potential" marks right next to the "Student is Working Well" comment.

All of which means that while my sister (she of the Superior Aunt status) had colleges sending her tempting little personal envelopes hinting that Scholarships were available and Her Answer was Eagerly Awaited there were genuine and well founded fears that I would not be welcome at most institutes of higher learning [this was the Dark Ages people. There was no University of Phoenix - Now! With Less Accreditation! - at that time]. My one hope lay in the standardized tests.


See, some of my peers had already thought of this. They had been boning up on various things and opening books (that weren't Jane Austen or Dorothy Sayers). They were, to be honest, studying. Me... not quite as much. In fact in my memory I wasn't really truly aware that I was lined up to take this particular test (since I wasn't going to be going to university I was already trying to choose between my career as a famous and wealthy somethingIhaven'tfiguredoutyet and a sad, sad homeless person on the street. With a cardboard sign.)and so it was something of a shock to actually be sitting in the school library on a Saturday morning with two sharpened #2 pencils and a bubble sheet in front of me.

Which makes it utterly unfair that actually I did fairly well. I didn't cover myself with glory in math but I certainly passed while in science I struck lucky with a biology-heavy section that rewarded the inspired guesser (physics would have sunk me totally) and in English I reaped the reward of an anglophylic mother with a heavy bookshelf. There weren't actually any questions about who Ngaio Marsh's+ detective was** or what little-known character Sayers introduced in her short stories as an alternative to Peter Whimsey*** but dang if I didn't totally rock the vocabulary and reading comprehension section.

In fact now that I think about it I can't actually testify to the value of reading exam taking strategies and taking practice tests. I don't think I'll tell the Child that.

We'll just keep that secret.

*foodled: v. To fool aimlessly while keeping a careful mask of industry and interest.

** Roderick Alleyn.

*** Montague Egg, a traveling salesman who has a store of useful aphorisms from his company handbook to help in all difficulties. Would probably have been incredibly tiresome in novel form but then again Whimsey had his moments too...

+Kirk took the mickey out of me endlessly for reading these. I don't know why he found this name so amusing but whenever I had one lying around it was "nnnnnngnnnnAAAAYoooh" in this amazingly nasal voice. Weird. I can hear it now.

Monday, July 14, 2008


The Male Child came home triumphant. It has a new coin to boast of and a set of wings to wear on its uniform and it spews its new wisdom at the drop of a hat (go on, ask me about meteorological reports!)

For the past two days it has cheerfully and energetically helped one of the Female Children clean out the sun room and attempt to set it up as a bedroom. It has swept and vacuumed, shifted enormous numbers of heavy bins, hung curtains and moved furniture. It helped clean out the refrigerator (using my method rather than its usual one of eating everything in sight) and happily did a dozen other small chores it had been asked to do.

When asked what it wanted to do to celebrate its return it simply said it wanted us to do something together - anything really, it didn't matter so long as we were all there.

Two nights ago I called the Children to report directly to the dish washer and the Male Child immediately burst into a loud dramatic song, striding with slow dignity into the kitchen. It was, it told me confidently, just the theme song. The emptying-the-dishwasher theme song.

The Oldest Female Child looked at me and smiled.

"This is what we've been missing," it said.

Yup, we have.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Time Capsule

When the Male Child came back from camp II it was spreading some of its belongings across the dining room table and among them was a small spiral notebook.

I do like notebooks. It's that school-supply obsession probably. I don't use them as journals but I like to have them around to jot down notes or sketch ideas.

I half recognized this one and the Male Child cheerfully admitted it had found it in a box somewhere and absconded with it. It tossed it over for me to look at.


Sketched plans for a play house made of pvc pipe and canvas.

Thumbnail designs for Child 2's Alaskan birthday party.

Wire frame of a web site design and a site organization chart.

The phone number for the hospital where our best friends were staying as the wife was being treated for the cancer that would eventually kill her.

Designs for some sculptures I never did.

Mailing address for the same friends in Texas - care package of lotion, a miniature zen garden and a hip flask for the husband.

List of things to do to the California house to make it livable - a reluctant list as we were deciding we would have to stay put for a while

List of chores

List of furniture to buy

List of things to do for friends' house and animals we had been caring for for a month while she went through surgery

Notes on how to treat an injury Kirk got just before he left for Iraq

And on the next page a set of notes for a temporary job I did after Kirk went missing.

30 or so pages.

A lifetime ago.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I was holidaying!

Well, sort of. More of a take-time-off-dammit-or-you'll-start-losing-vacation. So I actually took three whole entire days off work. Granted, thanks to a slightly wonky compensation practice it turns out I've actually only taken off 1 hour (yes, one whole hour) but the important bit was the whole not going to work thing which I managed beautifully!

And it was 4th of July. Which again, for those not of the 'Mercan persuasion, is a day to celebrate our victory over the evil oppressors* by charring hog innards and trying to see just how many body parts are flammable.

After I grew up apparently my parent's neighborhood decided to become The Coolest Neighborhood In the City. When I was little entertainment consisted of the crazy lady with the dog that tried to eat small children on bicycles (the dog, not the lady... although...) and the old woman who would stand in her fluffy negligee and shout for her cat in a deep bass voice using a word I later found out might have an entirely different meaning. Fourth of July fun was going up to sit on the roof and watch the taller of the country club fireworks display.

Not these days. These days several neighborhood dads get their game on by out-buying each other at the illegal firework stands outside of town. Then they spend three hours lining up seven or eight enormous fountains at a time and burning their leg hair off by trying to light them one by one with what looked suspiciously like a blow torch. The women support them by sitting on the porch drinking mimosas and making loud comments about how eyebrows are highly over-rated.

Interesting fact learned? The smell of gunpowder is small-boy crack.

Also there's nothing quite so evil as the innocent smile of a seven year old trying to convince you to let him light a roman candle. Good try kid but Child 1 has survived 15 years of the Male Child and is no one's fool.


Back to work.

*Is this celebrated in Britain as well? And do you call it thank-goodness-we-aren't-responsible-for-them-any-more-and-yet-
they-still-let-us-import-their-humiliating-reality-television? Because I would.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Child 2 squozed itself onto my comfy chair at the bookstore. Fortunately it was a wide comfy chair and we are not wide people. However Its head was rather closer to my face than it normally is and I couldn't help but notice that It has particularly attractive hair.

Which I mentioned.

Child 2 is practicing accepting compliments so it did not reject the comment. It harrumphed a bit then brightened up and said, "oh! You too mom!" Which shows how wise Child 2 is becoming.

We agreed that basically we represented a chair full of fabulousness.

People might even slip in it as they walk by.

Yes, Child 2 says, it's pooling around us, all oozy.

Hmmmm I say, sort of like a slug, only gorgeous?