A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Alternate realities

I reject your reality, and substitute my own! - Adam Savage of Mythbusters

Welcome to Reject Reality Monday, as declared by my wondering and landed friends. Several of us will be rejecting reality in various forms in our blogs today.

Let us, then, step away from this reality, from torrential rains, tornadoes, and overflowing patios. Away from the frenetic tempo of the workaday world...

...and come into the courtyard of a small castle of dark stone, set in the mountains of Wales. Not in ruins as it stands in this reality, but built into its full glory, overlooking a river that winds through a forested valley. A soft breeze blows past, bearing with it the scents of spring.

Away, then, through a door at the base of a square tower and up to a room with comfortable chairs and a pot of tea at the ready. Arched windows look down upon the outer ward, upon roses standing guard along the wall.

Such is my refuge, if only in my mind. Far away from the land of hurricanes and heat, to a land that sings in my heart, and where worries hold no sway.

And where, if only in my mind, the formidable castles and majestic cathedrals remain untouched by destruction. I've walked the ruins of many castles, and tried to imagine them as once they stood. I've seen the shattered bones of cathedrals, and wondered at the glory they may once have held...

So many things have passed away, stolen away by time or by the hands of man.

Earlier this month, we visited the city of Speyer, on the banks of the Rhine, and we visited the imperial cathedral there (which, btw, is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The cathedral is nearly 10 centuries old, and architecturally it's very beautiful. But it's also rather...bare...for such an august structure. At a nearby museum, there are several richly decorated chalices, vestments, and other liturgical items that give a tantalizing hint of how richly decorated it must once have been. But in 1689, the French raided and set fire to it. Restoration was finished in 1784....and in 1794, it fell victim to the French Revolution. Anything monetarily valuable and portable was carted off. Everything else was burned.

But at least the cathedral still stands, and is still in use as a cathedral after all it's been through. So many of the places I've been are not even that. A cathedral and a castle in St. Andrews, Scotland. Fotheringhay Castle in England - a few stones are all that remains, and I can only speculate on what may have been. So many other places....

If I get to Heaven, I should like to think I could go back and see things as they stood at their prime. To see Speyer, Orvieto, and other cathedrals in their full splendour. To walk the walls and towers of Fotheringhay and other noble castles. Perhaps even to see places that exist now only in history, like the Library of Alexandria...

It would be the reality of which our own is but a shadow.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Back to the grind...

Thursday, and it's back to the daily grind. We arrived home around 9:30 last night, although to our bodies it was about 3:30 am! We were all wide awake this morning, though, which is the good thing about going west.

It's only 7pm, and I'm already dragging. This is the bad thing about going west.

The trip was wonderful! We had plenty of good food and good beer. We did a lot of walking (which hopefully will counteracts the effects of the food and beer...). And I brought home some good chocolate, most of it dark. I did find myself idly wondering how much chocolate I could bring home before US Customs had fits, but didn't act on those wonderings. (Apparently in general, one can bring home about $800 worth of goods duty-free per person. So we could have, if so inclined, brought back over $3000 worth of wonderful European chocolate. Such is the stuff of dreams....)

I'll write more about my trip later. Right now I have 4 suitcases to unpack, and a large bin of mail to go through, so I'd best get back to it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Of Kinder and Räubertellers...

Guten Abend, liebe Freunde!

I'm here in Karlsruhe, in western Germany. The girls and I arrived Friday morning, and DD got her first experience of snow. We landed in Stuttgart, and drove up here, stopping along the way to let DD play in the snow. She made snow angels, and we had a snowball fight.

It's been snowing off and on since we arrived, much to DD's delight. Fortunately, the roads here are very well-kept, and the Winterdienst trucks keep the major motorways plowed and cleared.

I don't know how typical Karlsruhe is of German cities, but other than graffiti, it is rather clean for a city. I've seen almost no litter around, and everything seems in good repair. And the people are quite friendly and helpful.

And I can say I've not had a bad meal since I've arrived! The food is excellent, and so is the beer. (Friday was hard for me, since I couldn't order a meat dish, but I got to try a fish dish I would not have otherwise, and I've had a fair bit of spätzle!)
Several restaurants have something on their menu for children called a "Räuberteller" ("robber plate") - they bring the child an empty plate so they can mooch off their parents! I guess that's a common enough practice for it to be a menu item!

I'll describe our sightseeing adventures in another post...DsD is leaving tomorrow, and I've usurped her laptop! Bis später!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Birthday surprises

Today a few of my coworkers took me out to lunch at a local Indian buffet.
I love having Indian food once in a while, and this place is very tasty. I
also figured I was safe from the ubiquitous rendition of "Happy Birthday".

Well, not quite. One of my coworkers mentioned to the waiter that it was my
birthday, perhaps hoping they'd sing it in Indian or such. That didn't
happen, but the waiter did bring out mango ice cream and a dessert bread for
all of us at the table., At which point another coworker decided that since
we had the requisite cake and ice cream, "Happy Birthday" needed to be sung.

So my coworkers all sang to me, and I apparently turned bright red. And
practically the whole restaurant applauded. Fortunately, it's a very small
restaurant. And while I was highly embarrassed, I'm also sort of tickled
about the whole matter.

That was not the only surprise so far, though. When I got home last night,
I discovered that my parents sent me a floor lamp for my stitching as a
birthday present. Very nice! I'll have to try it out when I get back from

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The storm before the calm...

The few days before one goes on vacation are hectic enough to make one need the vacation...

The girls and I leave for Germany in a couple days to join up with DH, and we've got packing, laundry, and various and sundry domestic details to handle. And that's not counting trying to get caught up at work! It always seems like the busiest day before one is out of the office is the day before one leaves.

But at least this vacation should be pretty relaxing. Plenty of good food, and beer (for DH and I anyway), some minor sightseeing. DD is very much looking forward to seeing snow. I'm looking forward to this trip, too. I've never been to Germany before.

So I had a long weekend, courtesy of a 6:30am call from a nun on Friday morning...
Overnight, a water pipe had burst in DD's school, flooding the second floor and parts of the first. So school was closed Friday and Monday, and with DH leaving town my weekend got extended to 3.5 days.
One might *think* I had time to get in plenty of stitching, reading, or other leisure activities, but 'twas not to be. I spent most of yesterday cleaning out DD's room in between processing Mommy interrupts. But at least now her room is clean except for vacuuming.

Tomorrow is packing day, once I get home from work. Never a dull moment.

Well, never a non-busy moment.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Swept off my feet...

My DH is a continent away, and yet he managed to sweep me off my feet this Valentines Day.
First, he sent me a lovely letter via email - it was so beautiful it made me teary-eyed. I printed it out so I can keep it in my purse.

So I was thinking that was already one heck of a Valentines present. But this evening, the doorbell rang, and I opened it to find a lovely bouquet of roses and stargazer lilies in a crystal vase. I'm just stunned speechless. They're absolutely beautiful... And unfortunately DH took the digicam with, so you'll have to click here to see what they look like...

DH also sent lovely bouquets to both of the girls as well - DD's has flowers and a teddy bear, and she just loves it. DsD is at class, so I don't know her reaction to her bouquet yet.

The house smells beautiful right now, and I'm just completely in awe...

I've got the greatest DH in the world!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bedroom archaeology

Sometimes it actually does pay off to be a slacker. Our now-spare bedroom has become a bit of a cargo bay - old papers, clothing to be donated, the rest of the Christmas decorations, and various and sundry other items have found their way there due to lack of time and motivation for them to be dealt with otherwise.

I discovered last night that trying to spend time in quiet reflection is not exactly the easiest thing to find in a busy household. However, the spare bedroom would be a great place to find solitude, if only there were actually room in there to sit down. So I started taking out all the clothing intended for donation, with plans to hit the thrift store this weekend (and perhaps find some extra sweaters for DD).

Lo and behold, while I was cleaning it out, what did I find but DD's sweatshirts and pants from our last trip to colder climes! At the time I pulled them out of her dresser I didn't think she'd wear them again before she outgrew them. But they still do fit her.

So thanks to my slacking, DD actually will have sufficient warm clothing!

A fine and private place

So I had the grand idea of spending some time each night in reflection (the Examen I mentioned earlier). However, there are certain challenges inherent in trying to find a quiet place with very little external noise in which to do so. I'm not as good as some people about tuning out the world around me - I guess I need to work on that as well.
We do have a spare bedroom, although at the moment it resembles a storage unit, what with all the stuff that's been tossed in over the past 7-8 months. That would make a good quiet place.

So I have a weekend project - get the spare room cleaned out, at least enough to get a chair and some walking room. I can do that by making a clothing donation - much of the stuff currently taking up space are items to be donated. I'll gather them together and take them up to the thrift store.

And while I'm there, I can look for a few more sweaters for DD.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


In preparation for our trip next week, I needed to get DD a couple more sweatshirts or sweaters - she's outgrown the ones we got for her last year. So off I go to visit several stores over the past week.

Heh. Try to find a sweater in Florida in February. The stores are all full of spring outfits - short-sleeve or sleeveless tops, shorts and short skirts. Maybe the occasional light jacket, but nothing at all appropriate to freezing temperatures. Definitely nothing likely to keep my little Florida girl warm!

I figured the situation was unique to Florida or other similar climates, so I mentioned my issue to a few friends and found out that it's not just a Florida problem. Even Canada has spring stuff out!

Consumer marketing is insane. Christmas stuff is out in August. Spring stuff is out in the middle of winter. I don't know what universe these marketing geniuses live in, but it ain't this one.

I did find somewhat of a solution - I found a couple of cute little sweaters at a local thrift store this evening. Perhaps this weekend I'll have similar luck at others in the area.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super weekends

I had an awesome weekend! I got to stitch for a while, and Sunday we had some friends over to watch the Super Bowl. A great time was had by all - it's definitely more fun watching with friends. And the commercials were hilarious - my favorite was the Ameriquest cat commercial, though some of the beer commercials were also funny. (I hated the GoDaddy ad, though...very stupid). And in one of the football pools I was in, I picked the point spread exactly, and am now $280 richer. Definitely a pleasant end to the season!

And today the Bloodmobile came around at work, and I got to donate this time! My iron was just barely high enough. And they've changed the questions a bit regarding foreign travel - the 3-month restriction only applies to the UK between 1980-1996 (I only had a week there) instead of 3 months cumulative in Europe (which I'd be hitting within the next year or so). Now it's 5 years cumulative in Europe, so I've got *plenty* of travel left in these veins!

In other news, I think I've decided what to do for Lent - I'm going to spend some time each evening in reflection (using the Examen developed by St. Ignatius). I'm also going to give up junk food and fast food. The junk food part probably won't be so bad, but the fast food part could be tricky. But I think I'll be healthier for it.

I thought about giving up the snooze button/sleeping in, but that might be close to impossible!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Onward and upward!

A few minor milestones today. Taxes are complete and e-filed! (And there was much rejoicing). And DsD just found out that she got accepted to one of her colleges of choice! She's rather excited about that.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Decisions decisions...

Only one week to go until Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. And I have yet to decide what I'm going to do, either in giving up something, or developing a new habit.

The past two years, I've given up caffeine. The first year I started a week early because I knew I was a horrible caffeine addict, and I certainly got headaches the first few days. Last year I didn't get the headaches for as long. I thought about doing it again this year, but DH wonders why I bother because I always get re-addicted afterward.

One year I gave up swearing - I stumbled the first couple weeks, but even today my language is a LOT cleaner than it was when I first started. Definitely a good thing!

Some ideas have come and been discarded, like giving up junk food, but I don't eat a lot of junk food anyway, so it wouldn't be much of a sacrifice.

Perhaps giving up caffeine and/or junk food, and developing a new spiritual practice? Maybe. I'll have to think on it.

In the meantime, I'd welcome suggestions.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Windows into my world

Two months after the end of hurricane season, and I've finally gotten around to putting everything back up on my office walls. And there was much rejoicing...

I'm fortunate enough to have an office to myself, albeit a small one. No windows - I'm not that lucky, but it is an 8'x10' space I can claim as my own. And as such, its walls have become a reflection of my thoughts, desires, and experiences.

Looking around, I currently have 43 postcards tacked up, the majority of them from trips I've taken to England, Scotland and Wales (postcards make cheap souvenirs!). They're clustered under a row of tea towels: two with Celtic designs, one with the lineage of the British royal family, and one with Welsh castles. All the Welsh castle postcards are, of course, clustered under that one. I also have a group of postcards from my recent Italy trip, and a group of American and Canadian postcards on a separate wall.

One wall holds two posters: "Unix Magic" and "Unix Feuds", featuring a wizard and various other pictures. They are two of a trilogy put out in the late 80s/early 90s by Unitech for trade shows. The third, "Unix Views", I've only seen twice, and would *love* to get to complete the set. (I saw it once on eBay, and bid, but not quite high enough.) The "Unix Magic" poster is the oldest acquisition on my walls, having followed me through every computer-related job I've ever had. I was a Unix system admin in a past "life" - rewarding in some ways, but a job with very little respect in most circles. A large fractal poster, my second-oldest acquisition, is tacked up by my whiteboard. I've had many posters, mostly of scenery, adorn my offices through the years, but these are the ones that remained.

I also have a box of various desk toys and figurines, many of which are dragons or trinkets from various business trips. Those are still in a box, having been put away during hurricane preparations. And like any horizontal space, the shelf that holds them has since been put to other purposes. The stuffed Buzz (the Georgia Tech mascot) and Cloud Aisha (a Neopets Happy Meal toy) are back on my monitor now, at least.

And then are the normal office decorations - photos of DH and the kids, my diploma, a service award, a wall calendar. Such are the windows into my world.