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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Willkommen in Karlsruhe! (Germany travelblog part 1/4)

At long last, the first installment of my Germany trip...

Wilkommen in Karlsruhe!It was a snowy day in Stuttgart when our flight touched down. The transatlantic flight had been uneventful - DD and DsD had slept part of the way, but I stayed awake reading and working puzzles from a magazine I'd picked up in Atlanta. As the plane started to land, DD learned her first German word: Schnee ("snow").

And indeed snow would figure prominently in DD's enjoyment of the trip from the beginning. DH met us at the airport, and as we were walking through the falling snow to the car, DD made a snowball and threw it at me. I, of course, returned the favor, which precipitated a three-way snowball fight while DH paid the parking voucher.

Once in the car, DH gave me a late birthday present of several bars of dark chocolate, including Lindt 70%, 85%, and 99%! I had given up fast food and junk food for Lent, but the argument could be made that dark chocolate, being rich in antioxidants, does not qualify as junk food. Still, I would hold off on the chocolate until much later.

Fun in the snowOn the road from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe, the snow continued to fall. DD was so enamored of the snow that we stopped at a rest area to let her play for a while. The snow was several inches deep, and DD dove in with abandon. She made her first snow angel, threw more snowballs, and in general reveled in the white stuff. One would think she had never seen snow before. Although I suppose she hadn't, the last time she did being when she was an infant. The rest of us took advantage of the facilities, though I have to question the wisdom of having metal toilet seats in an unheated building, especially when it's freezing outside.

After DD had her fill of snow for a while, we got back on the road and made it to Karlsruhe around noon. After getting settled in, we walked across town to a pub for lunch. It was Friday, in Lent, so I had to forego the tasty-sounding meat dishes. Instead, DD and I had bowls of spätzle, and DH and DsD had tuna salads. After lunch, we went back to the hotel, and I took a much-needed nap.

Dinner was at another pub across town. DsD discovered that she was indeed legally old enough to order beer with her meals, and did so. I had a good baked fish, which I would not have otherwise tried if it weren't Friday, and a great dark beer. Then back to the hotel for a quiet evening. DsD wandered down to the hotel bar to get wireless access on her laptop, while DD scoped out the German TV stations.

The bed linens were different from what I'm used to - instead of a single top sheet, a blanket, and a bedspread that most American hotels have, there were twin-sized comforters in bedsheet covers (like very large but flat pillows, or futon covers). I'm not sure what they're called, but they were actually a neat idea. Each person has their own covers, no worrying about blanket thievery!

Monday, March 28, 2005

I am officially sick and tired of being, well, sick and tired.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Life has been busy the past few days, which explains the latency between entries. I'm just going to recap here, since I've been under the weather the past couple days.

This weekend we went to a fundraising semi-formal event for DD's school. It was fun to dress up nice, and I finally found dressy shoes that aren't murder on my feet. We had a good time, although the auction items we'd put up didn't go as well as we'd hoped. But with the hurricane season we just had, I can't really say I'm surprised.

DD and DsD both got perfect report cards this grading period, so we went out to breakfast on Saturday. Sunday we met DsS for lunch, and he came over for a bit.

Monday we went to an evening prayer service at which DH was singing. It was quite lovely, with candles and beautiful music. And DH did a great job, as always.

Yesterday I left work early because I was feeling rather woozy. I came home and took a nap before I picked up DD from our carpool partner's house. Last night I went to bed at a reasonable time, but the night was spent in a weird semi-conscious state that often accompanies illness for me. It seemed like I looked at the clock every hour, while my mind turned on strange thoughts, but I don't feel as tired as I expect I would if I didn't sleep at all. Very strange. I'm feeling clearer-headed today, if a bit wobbly.

I did get a progress picture of Last Supper. I'm 110 hours in so far, and it's shaping up rather well:

And more Peep fun - check out PeepResearch.org. Peeps in liquid nitrogen, among other things.

Now what I'd like to see is mixing the Mythbusters and Peeps....

Friday, March 18, 2005

And Bingo was its name-o!

One of life's certainties seems to be that if you have a child in parochial school, you will at some point be working Bingo.

When you think of bingo, the image immediately comes to mind of little old ladies hunched over a stack of cards, ink dabber in hand. And you wouldn't be that far off - last night probably 80% of the bingo attendees (of an estimated 250-300 people) qualify for the early bird special. The other 20% were younger women, and even men of all ages (including a couple of biker-types).

What surprised me is how wrapped up in bingo people seem to be. Many of the people had their stacks of cards, and as many as 15 different ink dabbers. There were a lot of good-luck tokens lined up neatly in front of players, from family photos, to little glass gems such as those used in floral arrangements, to trolls, angels and other figurines. And being St. Patrick's Day, there were several leprechauns in evidence as well. There are specially-made bags for holding one's trinkets and dabbers (cards are always sold at the door - you can't bring your own). Many people even had items for getting the spotter's attention: "bingo!" signs, a stuffed hand, and even electronic light/sound devices that reminded me rather a lot of lightsabers.

Bingo itself is a bit more high-tech than I expected. There are still the light-up board and the balls bouncing around to be drawn, but there are also monitors that are fed from a tiny camera trained on a spot that holds the most recently drawn ball, while the bingo caller is calling an earlier ball. This provides a 1-2 ball lookahead. Which is why people have the attention-getting items. Granted, that makes it easier on the spotters because we just need to look for someone raising a hand, so when the number is called and "Bingo!" is shouted, we're right there. And instead of calling off numbers, we just read a serial number on the card, which the caller types into a computer, which displays the card associated with that number on the screen, highlighting the appropriate bingo sequence.

It's also a bit more complex than just getting 5 in a row. There are a number of different patterns that can be made, from 'standard bingo' - 5-in-a-row, to '5 around the corner', '2 postage stamps' (two 2x2 blocks), 'proper Y' and so on. Each round generally consists of 3-4 'games', all played on the same card - sometimes sequentially, sometimes concurrent, where numbers are drawn until all of the games are 'closed', which is done by someone calling Bingo on a particular 'game'. For example, they're looking for 'proper Y', '2 postage stamps', and '5 around the corner', and someone bingos on the postage stamps, they keep going, but now only a proper Y or 5-around-the-corner is eligible for bingo.

But ultimately, it's still a matter of being hunched over little cards, ink dabber in hand, waiting for numbers to be called.
I personally don't see the appeal, but maybe I'm a bit biased from spending 5 mind-numbing hours watching a room full of little old ladies...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

An Irish Blessing
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
Slow to make enemies,
And quick to make friends.
But rich or poor, quick or slow,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

Check out some other Irish blessings and prayers, and the famous Breastplate of St. Patrick.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

One more Peep....

It's that time of year, when Peeps, those sugar-coated marshmallow chicks and bunnies, are out in stores again, in all their pastel glory.

I don't really care for Peeps. Well, not eating them anyway. I'm just not big on marshmallow things.

But there is plenty to do with Peeps that doesn't involve their actual consumption. Peeps and microwaves are often an entertaining combination (such as peep jousting). They also tend to be popular in office pranks.

But some folks who have entirely too much time on their hands have come up with Lord of the Peeps, and Peephenge!

Cool work, guys, but what I really want is some of that spare time!

Monday, March 14, 2005

I remember....doing the Time Warp...

There are several times over the past week where I've felt caught in a time warp....Thursday afternoon seemed to take a month to get to quitting time.

I'm convinced that I've found the other end of this warp in the time continuum...in my weekend. I had a three-day weekend, and somehow found very little time to spend on myself. It all seems to have been eaten up in the thousand and one domestic crises that invariably present themselves whenever I'm around.

Hmmm... does that make me a catalyst for chaos? What power!

Now if I could only use that power to reverse this time warp....

Saturday, March 12, 2005

In the bag...

Whoever invented gift bags is an absolute genius.

I discovered gift bags at a baby shower, and I've been using them ever since. No worrying how to wrap irregularly shaped items, or whether the paper is wide enough. Or where you left that roll of scotch tape... Just get a bag, the gift, some tissue paper and a bow, and you're all set. And the bags are reusable!

I took DD to a birthday party today, and the gift was in a cute little purple bag with a sparkling butterfly. Took all of two minutes for us to wrap the gift this way, and she did most of the work.

I have actually, on at least one occasion, gotten the gift and wrapping for it on the way to a party. By the time I got out of my car, the gift was packaged up as pretty as you please.

Try doing that with wrapping paper!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Battles of Britain

Where does the time go? It's been nearly a week since I've blogged! I'm not feeling overly inspired, so I'll have to go with another data dump. The travelblog is on my To-Do List for the week, though, so watch for more entertaining posts.

But without further ado - this week's edition of What I Did Over The Weekend.

Friday was an off-work Friday, and DH and I went appliance shopping. We're getting a new refrigerator - one of those side-by-sides with filtered ice and water in the door. Huzzah! No more funny tasting ice! Once the fridge is delivered and installed, that is! We're also getting a new dishwasher, since our old one has been in the throes of Degenerative Appliance Disease (caused by the virus Warrantiae expiredus).
Friday night I worked on getting our parish bulletin up on the church website. This is my first 'official' week as parish webmistress, and as with any transition of power there was a bit of adjustment involved. I did at least get the website updated on Friday - at around 10:30pm. I have this week's bulletin in hand already, so things should go much more smoothly!

Saturday, DsS came over. We were all pleased to see him, especially DD. We were amazed that he actually decided to get his hair cut and donated to Locks of Love (turned out to be 16" worth!), and seeing the before-and-after was rather dramatic. Basically, imagine going from Grima Wormtongue to Matt Damon. And he's been doing rather well and was rather upbeat. I confess I never gave a whole lot of thought to how serious BPD can be, and that it's not just 'all in your head' - the meds and counseling are working wonders. Very positive changes.
Anyway, while DsS was over, we played Kingmaker, a Wars of the Roses strategy game, and a family favorite. (I first played Kingmaker with DH and family friend M about a week after we married, and it's spurred an interest in that period of history.) We played a short-game variant, and I actually won. Barely. DD did pretty well also.

Sunday DH, gaming buddy J, and I played Britannia, another strategic board game involving Britain. This one is more of a big-picture look - each game turn covers about 50 years or so, and each player plays multiple tribes involved in the history of Britain. Tribes come and go over time. I thought from hearing DH read over the rules that it was going to be long and tedious, but it was actually relatively quick to play, and rather fun! It was neat to see peoples come and go as time and fortunes changed. We did the short-game version this time, but I'd be up for the full version sometime.

I've started crocheting again - it's something I can work on in situations where it's not really feasible to work on my stitching. I've started in on the rather popular 63 Squares Afghan crochet-along, after seeing several of my online friends working on it, and a bunch of other folks are joining me. I'm only about 4 squares in, so it'll take me a while. I'll still be giving priority to Last Supper whenever feasible.

Time is, as always, the determining factor in so many things....

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wanna bet?

Yesterday I got my SuperBowl winnings, which prompted DD to comment that she wanted to change her name to mine so she could get my "football money". I did fairly well in the office pool as well, so I figure I'm about $300 up on the year. Not too bad, really. I know a little bit about football, although I'm not at the point (yet) where I can intelligently discourse about West Coast offenses or when to use an I formation. Mostly I play in the pools because it's fun to see how well I do, and how I stack up against others. Plus it gives me reasons to watch games in which I'd otherwise be disinterested.

NCAA basketball is drawing to a close, and the playoff tournament will be starting soon, in what is commonly called "March Madness". And there are always "bracket" pools - starting at the initial field of 64 and picking who progresses on each game, all the way to the final winner. Last year I got in on a bracket pool, and had a shot at a payout through the last game (I needed Georgia Tech to beat UConn, but they didn't.). And I watched basketball for the first time in my life, and learned a few things. I still prefer football and hockey, and I only really pay attention to basketball when it's tournament time, or getting close.

Amazing what having a little "vested interest" can do...

But other than the occasional sports wager, I'm actually not much of a gambler. I sometimes play the lottery when someone's running an office pool because the jackpot got large, and on even rarer occasions I'll sit in on a loose-change poker game. But I avoid casinos and slot machines, and racing holds no interest. I'm not much of a risk-taker, and the thought of wagering large sums doesn't sit well with me.

But there are people who will bet on anything. I heard there were odds on what song Paul McCartney was going to play first at the SuperBowl halftime show, on whether certain players would start, or how long they'd play.

What really got me, though, is that there are actually *odds* on who the next Holy Father will be. There just seems something wrong with that....

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wednesday wrapup..

I still haven't gotten around to writing my travelogue yet - hopefully this weekend.
In the meantime, I'll just give a data dump of things as they stand.

Good news! We now have hurricane shutters installed - that happened on Friday. (We also got our tax refund, which will help pay for said shutters). Now we just need to get the roof patched!

I got another wonderful package from my Secret Stitcher! I got Victoria Sampler's Renaissance Lace and accessories, a beaded Celtic knot kit, DMC Medici wool (the first of the items for the MarBek Nativity), and a Vanilla Plum bath/body kit!

A local stitching friend picked up a large bag of knitting needles at a yard sale for $2, and she's letting me pick through it. So right now my computer room looks like a porcupine met a painful demise in it. There are some *real* nice needles, though! I can barely knit, but I want to become more proficient someday.

I had code reviews the past week, and all my code has passed. I'm pretty happy about that.

Mythbusters is on right now, so I'll just leave you with a couple of pics:

Altes Schloss, Baden-Baden, Germany

Heads up, Mom!