Sunday, February 18, 2007

On the mend

Slowly recovering the ability to breathe through my nose, but still in bed to write this. More snow today, but mid-week it is supposed to warm up into the 40s. This is good news because Friday we drive to the Cleveland area to pick up the new puppy! There will be pictures posted, not only of the puppy, but of 5 very ticked-off cats. This should, at least, have the upside of distracting them from the aquarium, where new fish are darting and air is bubbling, and the fish won't swim near the front of the aquarium for fear of attack.

The hub and son made a run to the store yesterday for orange juice, and came home with candy, cookies and cake as well, bless them. My appetite has been nil with the cold, for everything except sweets. Being diabetic, I am careful of amounts I eat, but I can't eat nothing either.

In addition to general web surfing, I have been ebaying quite a bit. I was on ebay back when I had to explain to people what it was. Too bad I didn't invest in it too. Anyway. I've had good fun with it, getting everything from clothes to Christmas trees. Currently I'm interested in old cameras. We have several that were bought new back in the 50s to the 70s, and recently we sorted through them all in the process of re-arranging furniture. Somehow, I can't get into the whole digital scene, the comparable pixel-to-film comparison is generally thought to be 12 Mpix = 35mm at 100 ASA, and do you know what a 12 Mpix camera costs? Some sources say it is actually more like 24 Mpix, if you want to make a significant enlargement. Plus, I like photos I can hold in my hand, or frame, or fill an album, and the cost of printing digital photos is absurd. And too, I think of archival properties. How can a digital photo be preserved in a format that will be usable in, say, 50 years? CDs don't last more than 20 or so, I've been told, even if the hardware and software to read them is still around. The same goes for flash cards, hard drives, etc. Remember 5 1/4" floppies? I have family photos as cabinet cards dating back to post civil war times, taken in the Matthew Brady studio in D.C. But yet the film part of photography is taking it on the chin. It is exceedingly hard to find film in 110, 16 mm, 120 mm or most polaroid formats, let alone someone willing to process them. I'm sorry we did away with our home darkroom, at the time I had a really great one available at work (for doing electron microscopy), but now some of that technology has been subverted to the digital format too, although believe me, the film used in EMs, at an ASA of around 8 and magnifications of 100,000 x, make the digital cameras on the scopes cost in the hundreds of thousands, often equal to the cost of the scope itself. And the digital files are, of course, gigantic. Anyway, no darkroom here anymore, although I think the Vo Tech still offers classes in B&W photog. I took photo classes in San Fran where the emphasis was photography as art; here at the university I took photojournalism classes, which is an entirely different kind of slant on photos. The funny thing about any kind of photograph is, if you show someone a really good bunch of pictures, the almost universal reaction is to say, wow, you must have a good camera. And not that you yourself had any influence on the subject, composition, exposure, depth of field, etc. Just that you had 'a good camera'. The best camera in the world, with every shot technically correct, won't equal having a 'good eye'. Neither will Photoshop.

Well, just writing this has tired me out, so I'll give up for now. Hope everyone is keeping warm!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

sick, sicker, sickest

Having a cold/the flu is the pits. Between the sore throat, the hoarness, the drips, the aches, you get the picture....

I haven't had so much as a sniffle in years.

Outside it is 20 and snowing, with wind gusting to 30 mph. Thank gods I don't have to work, or even go out, except the Miata is supposed to go to the shop on Friday, which will only happen if we get the sunshine plow through here sometime soon (not likely). I think I caught the cold at the grocery store, but we bought enough for two full weeks of cooking, so I can hibernate as needed.

Signing off for now....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

TA DA! We have a kitchen!

OK, the kitchen is done. The entire job: vinyl floor replaced with ceramic tile; painted; new curtains and border; new corian (tumbled glass) counter tops with new corian sink. Doesn't seem like a lot, put that way, but it took nearly 6 weeks. We used the original cabinets, but I cleaned them with steel wool and re-stained where necessary.

So here is a photo showing a bit of the floor and up to the border
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Here is the other side of the kitchen
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And here is a close-up of the sink and counter
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And this is the view of the other corner, showing the new pantry/door.
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The kitchen is actually 11' x 11', but the side not shown is just one tall cabinet between the reefer and the freezer, not too interesting.

These were all taken with the MacBook's on-screen camera.

What a huge relief; my dining room is still not quite recovered, but frankly I ran out of energy. Tomorrow.....

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Worst Fiction

Yesterday's retreat reminded me that years ago I won second place in a WVU contest for faculty and staff to write the first sentence of the world's worst fiction novel. As I recall, there is a national contest for this as well (I'm too lazy to google it to check that). At any rate, I thought I'd share my entry, and the entry of the first place author.

The prince had danced with all of the eligible women at the ball, most of their brothers, some of the castle livestock, and anyone could see he was thoroughly bored, so Cindy was determined to make an unforgetable impression, twitching her ammo belt to reveal the right amount of cleavage, adjusting her satin cape and matching eyepatch, checking that the spikes of her wrist gauntlets were glittering, she tugged the leash of her dire wolf, stepped briskly across the floor, slapped the prince firmly across his plump cheek and in a husky voice snapped, "Wake up, dolt! My pumpkin's double parked. You interested in hauling ashes?"

But mainly I wanted to share the first place entry. Maybe you can guess the year from this...

Bill Case
Ronald Reagan Abercrombie (his mother had named him for her favorite TV actor, and the Abercrombies, whose pretensions to New England respectability were still strong then, not diluted by the events that came later, never forgave her) slipped his feet smoothly into the size-12 Bruno Magli leisure shoes the well-spoken African-American man had tossed at him from the window of the speeding Ford Bronco on LaCienga Boulevard, thinking fondly of the last leather shoes he had owned before his vegetarian girlfriend shamed him into wearing only cloth and plastic on his knurled and tired footsies--she was gone now, gone far away and would never--he hoped!--return, not in this life, not without some sign from above--the kind of sign he saw out of the corner of his eye through the smoggy Los Angeles air--a sign that called out to him, him alone, in a gaudy neon imitation of the tablets Moses wrested from the mountaintop in some old black-and-white movie his mother dragged him to in 1959, from its perch on the six-story block of flats, once owned by The Italian, now home to fallen movie stars, lost hillbillies, hopeful models and not a few forgotten felons--not that the shoes fit, mind you, but their very looseness was itself a luxury to him, who had known so many and missed them all.

I think you can see why it took first, yes?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Reader, Writer, 10 O'clock scholar

So, I attended the writer's 'retreat' today and thought I would marshal my thoughts here. There were 9 of us, all women of middle-ish age (I guess), and we all introduced ourselves, said what we wanted from the effort. Everyone mentioned what she was reading, or was inspired by, except me. I recognized none of their authors, although I might have read a review of one of them, but I didn't think telling them I was currently reading Dean Koontz (Brother Odd) would foster the image I was pretending to have. That's of being literate, without mentioning that I never voluntarily read anything other than for pure entertainment and/or escapism. Well, not counting Newsweek and Time, since I never watch the news on TV because they go too fast for me. The poetry we were given to read did what poetry always does for me--nothing much. To me, poetry is like marzipan; it tastes good, but in the end your mouth is empty and you've left thinking, is that IT? Some poetry is OK, but it doesn't go far enough for me, I want more story, details. I feel the same about short stories; even if my favorite author writes them, I never read them. So I think I'll forget the bi-monthly workshops, but still I got what I wanted from this session, which is the inspiration to get cracking again on my science fantasy novel. I never seemed to have the time to really make progress when I was a worker bee. Now that I am a Lady of Leisure, I can't use that excuse any more. Great literature it isn't, but I like to think it's a decent enough tale.

Monday is supposed to be Countertop Day, but I'll believe it when they carry it in the house and not before.

Now the 10 degree wind is howling around the house, revealing every ill-fitted doorjamb and leaky window seal. The outdoor cats are all in the garage huddled around the heater or under the rugs/blankets etc. The horses are in the barn wearing their winter woolies. They have liquid water twice a day for at least some time; I tell them to drink fast. Several years ago we had a water pipe burst in the house and had to shut off the water at the main valve. We attempted to melt snow for the horses to drink, but do you know how much snow it takes to get 15 gallons of water? Twice a day? In the end, we turned the water back on and held buckets under the split pipe for them, until a plumber could slog out to repair it. If someone had stopped by with a horse trailer and $50, they would have been gone, that winter.

I made bread last night (and it's all gone today). I ended up letting it rise inside a pre-warmed oven, because there are drafts in the kitchen from, weirdly enough, the attic. All my dishes and glasses are pre-chilled; if only we were drinking champagne or eating bouillabaisse or gazpacho. My old gas stove had pilot lights instead of sparking lighters, so the oven would be just right for bread. And yes, I know the new way is safer, and environmentally sounder, etc. etc., but I still wish we had an old one. It was also just the thing to hold your hands over after being outside.

All in all, it's hard to envision global warming today.