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.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Ist Ihre Tochter achtzehn?"

This weekend is DsD's 18th birthday. Dear Lord, I'm the stepmother of an adult now...it's both exciting and a little bit scary. Mostly it makes me feel old. (eh, sonny?)

Over the past 15 years I've seen her grow from a preschooler to an intelligent, self-assured young woman, who I am proud to have had the honor to parent. Sure, there have been some rough bits along the way, especially in her early teens, but looking back it's a small price to pay for what she has become.

And now she's legally an adult. Old enough to vote, although not old enough to drink (in the US, anyway). She's already been accepted to one college, and has applied to another, and scholarship prospects are looking good.

I look forward to seeing what her future holds.

Happy Birthday, DsD!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

There's a snake in my blog!

Well, two of them, actually. I saw these fellows hanging around outside my garage door when I got home. I *think* they're black racers, which are very common around here (if you know different, let me know?) I see these once in a while, usually around my garage, and more often than not, somewhat the worse for wear from either the garage door or the car.

I saw a small one of these by the garage when I got home yesterday. DD tried to feed it cheese, but it wasn't interested. DD was certainly not afraid of them - she thought this pair was cute and that they were hugging.

I shooed them off into the landscaping, so they don't get run over when DH gets home.

These are probably the most common kind of snake we see around here, but not the only ones. I've seen king snakes in the yard, and I've heard there are a number of other species - most of which are, fortunately, non-venomous.

I don't know what this species eat, but if they'll eat palmetto bugs they can hang out here all they want!

Thursday, April 21, 2005


At work today, the project lead for the program I'm working on took the team out to lunch at a local Mexican place. The food was good, if a bit slow to arrive because we had a large party. I had a chicken salad, which was very good. And healthy for me.

Unfortunately for me, our group was out on the patio of the restaurant. It was a beautiful day, but rather sunny. Combine one pale-skinned redhead with an hour of direct sun exposure, and it was more than just lunch getting cooked.

So now I have my first sunburn of the year. It's a very mild one, especially compared to some I've had, and I've already put some moisturizing lotion on it so it's really no big deal. One of the occupational hazards of living down here in the Sunshine State.

Right now, though, I'm battling the other side effect of sun exposure...drowsiness!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Too much partying?

DD is of that age when it seems like every weekend, she's invited to yet another birthday party. We went to one this past weekend, and one a couple weekends before that. We'll be going to another one this coming weekend.

One might think that kindergartners party all the time!

DD's birthday is not all that far off, and her bestest friend's birthday is only a couple days after hers. To avoid conflict (and perhaps partly to cut down on the number of parties both girls are being schlepped to), the friend's mom and I decided to have a joint birthday party at a local Chuck E. Cheese-type place. The girls are looking forward to it and we avoid any potential conflicts with party scheduling.

We've also decided that the girls will not open their presents at the party, opening them at home instead. That way we won't have to worry about present confusion, comparison, or conflict.

I think they'll have a blast. Now if I can just make it to June with some modicum of sanity from all the *other* events going on...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam!

I got back from lunch to hear that we now have a new Holy Father - Benedict XVI!

I'm not surprised by the choice of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, but I will admit I was surprised at how quickly a decision was reached. I'd figured we'd know before Friday, but not before tomorrow.

I saw a special on the History Channel last night about papal elections, and one of the people being interviewed said that after long papacies, the College of Cardinals tends to elect someone older, "someone to keep the Chair of Peter warm without disturbing the surrounding furniture". So with the newly named Benedict XVI being 78, maybe they're hoping for that.

But then you never know - the cardinals made a 'safe' choice in electing John XXIII, and he called the second Vatican council!

So we'll see what happens. In any event, the new Pope has some mighty large shoes to fill!

Catching up with memes - ABCs

I'm a bit behind folks on memes, so I may be doing a bit of catchup. Here's another variant of the ABCs of Me I've seen around lately.

Accent: American Southern, specifically Virginian with occasional tendencies toward Georgian.
Bra size: Big enough to need one, small enough not to attract unwanted attention.
Chore I hate: Anything involving cleaning up expelled biological matter.
Dad's name: Dad to me, PopPop to the kids
Essential make-up: Don't usually wear any.
Favorite perfume: Don't do perfume (DH has problems with strong scents) - occasionally will do floral scented powder or body spray, usually rose or lavender.
Gold or Silver: Yes.
Hometown: One of the DC suburbs
Interesting fact: I can't see ghosts.
Job title: Software Engineer
Kids: 3 - 2 step, 1 bio
Living arrangements: Standard single-family ranch home with DH, DsS and DD.
Mom's Birthplace: Virginia
Number of apples eaten in last week: One
Overnight hospital stays: Only once that I recall - premature labor/childbirth with DD.
Phobia: Those big flying Florida roaches, euphemistically called palmetto bugs. They usually make me scream like a girl.
Question you ask yourself a lot: Where does all my time go?
Religious affiliation: Roman Catholic (convert from Episcopal by way of agnostic)
Siblings: One of each, both younger.
Time I wake up: Weekdays, around 6:15. Later on weekends.
Unnatural hair color: The one time I had my hair dyed, to what I thought would be its original (non-sunbleached) color, it had a bit of an orangish tinge.
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Bring 'em all on!
Worst habit: Grinding my teeth.
X-rays: A couple on my feet (as a child), one for a dislocated shoulder (late teens), an ultrasound when I was expecting DD, numerous routine dental X-rays.
Yummy food I make: Rum cake, carrot cake, pot roast.
Zodiac sign: Aquarius, I think. Dog if we're talking Chinese zodiac.

Monday, April 18, 2005


With all the progress in communication since the last papal election, you just *know* it's going to drive the media nuts not being able to know *anything* about what's going on until we see the white smoke. We're so used to up-to-the-minute info on everything (whether we want it or not!) - the silence from the conclave is going to give them fits. They've speculated, placed odds, but we won't really know until we know.

Personally, I'm rather amused at the discomfort this will give the media.

Edit to add: And to noone's surprise, CNN has a 'chimney cam'. Unfortunately you have to be a paid CNN subscriber (which I'm not) to view it. Makes you wonder how people survived before modern media...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Stupid driver tricks...

I've seen some less than stellar vehicular behavior in my time. Sometimes I think I've seen more than my share - maybe the Florida sun has affected people's brains.

Today, however, I have seen the flat out stupidest thing I have seen in my life.

I was stopped at a railroad crossing - the barricades were down (I was the 4th car back). I could see the oncoming train.

Some bozo in a silver compact whizzes by me, weaves through the barricades and out the other side. The train was maybe 20 yards away by the time he cleared the tracks.

Stupidity truly knows no bounds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Happy blogiversary!

A belated blogiversary to Alternate Dementia! I first started blogging on April Fool's Day of last year, but with current events, life, and random senility on my part, the momentous occasion got lost in the noise.

I didn't know where it would lead when I started blogging, and I don't know what the future may hold, but it has been an entertaining journey of discovery. Hopefully for my readers as well as myself.

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Three Is Company," The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Who'd have thought??

Your Inner European is Irish!

Spirited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Walk in the Black Forest (Germany blog part 4)

Monday morning after breakfast, we headed back toward Stuttgart. DsD had decided when we got tickets to fly back a couple days earlier, to minimize lost class time. She was to have a math exam at her evening college class, which would make for a very long day! (As it turned out, flight delays in Atlanta prevented her getting to class, but we didn't know that at the time.)

The drive to Stuttgart was uneventful - the roads were clear from the day before, and there were only a few flurries. After getting DsD squared away and bidding her farewell, we headed back to Karlsruhe - with a stop at a rest area along the highway to let DD play in the snow for a while. From the rest area, we got quite a nice view of the surrounding countryside and of the Black Forest (so named, one presumes, because it is densely populated by dark-wooded evergreens). Very lovely.

Once back in Karlsruhe, we had lunch at the Gutenberg, the pub at which we ate on Friday. This time I could actually have a meat dish, which was excellent. Walking back to the hotel from the Gutenberg, we stopped inside St. Bonifatius, a nice little church along the way. Like most of the churches in Karlsruhe, it was a relatively new building (20th century) but had the feel of an older-style building. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the hotel room. DD took the opportunity to scope out German television - there was Gummibärenbande, which looked to be sort of like Care Bears, and Spongebob Schwammkopf (just like the English but overdubbed in German). Evening programming proved to be her favorite, with an unusual show called Bernd das Brot, starring a puppet who was…a loaf of bread. She called it "the bread show", and was pretty psyched that she understood a few words, like "danke".

Dinner was at the Italian restaurant in the basement of our hotel, run by an Italian family. The food was quite excellent, and DD and I shared a dessert of ice cream and himbeeren (raspberries).

By Tuesday morning, the snow had started to pick back up again. We had decided to drive down to the resort town of Baden-Baden in the Black Forest, which boasts a number of sites including Roman baths ("baden" being German for "bath"). Our main destination, however, was the Altes Schloss - a 12th century fortress overlooking the city. We picked up a map at the visitor's center, and departed for the Schloss. After a few missed turns, which showed us the scenic route around Baden-Baden, we went up a forested hill and arrived at the Schloss.

By this time, we were starting to get a bit hungry. And conveniently, there was a nice restaurant there! We had an excellent meal - I had coffee, roast wild boar with spätzle, and a greens salad. DH had a wild game dish that had venison and boar, and DD had Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup). We all enjoyed our meals. And since we were actually in the Black Forest, what better dessert than honest-to-God Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake). It was absolutely divine, and puts to shame anything in the US that pretends to the name of "Black Forest". DH was so impressed that he was inspired to blog about German cuisine when we got back to the hotel.

After lunch we wandered around the Schloss for a time. The snow was falling pretty heavily by this time, which looked beautiful but did limit what of the castle we could see - stairs leading to the upper walls were rather slippery, as DH discovered. There was a chapel down a path from the Schloss, and we walked through the snow-covered path through the woods to visit it, only to discover it was closed for the season. Still, we could get a good view of the town, so it was not really a wasted walk. On the way back, DD noticed a beautiful icicle formation on the side of the castle. DD wanted to play in the snow a little bit. By the time we got back to the car, she had snow an inch thick inside the hem of her pants, and she was finally beginning to realize that snow was, well, cold, and declared she'd finally had her fill.

Our last dinner in Germany was at the Chinese place with the wonderful duck dishes that we'd eaten at on Sunday, per DD's request. We had different duck dishes than we'd had previously, and they were just as good as the ones the previous visit. It was mildly surprising to me, although I suppose it shouldn't be, that the two best Chinese restaurants I've ever visited were there in Karlsruhe, and in York, England.

The next morning, we had our last breakfast at the hotel, then returned to the room to collect our bags (which had been packed the night before). Bidding a fond farewell to Karlsruhe, we headed one last time toward Stuttgart.

The snow was falling steadily, although not as heavily as when we went to Speyer. There were a few traffic delays, and at one point we were a bit concerned that we might miss our flight, but the delays cleared rather quickly compared to how similar rubbernecking delays clear in the US, and we made it to Stuttgart just in time to get checked in. We passed two security checkpoints - one for the normal airport security, and one to access the US departure gates. From there, we boarded the plane, and had an uneventful flight home.

I was very glad we went, even if it was only for a few days. I would definitely like to go back someday, though next time, I will bring back much more chocolate!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

In-Speyer-ed (Germany blog 3 of 4)

The steady snowfall of the evening continued into Sunday morning. Our plan was to drive to Speyer to attend Mass at the imperial cathedral (called the Dom) and then go sightseeing. We left Karlsruhe at 8:45, which would give us plenty of time to get there and perhaps see a bit of the cathedral before Mass at 10:30.

Man plans, God laughs. The snow was falling heavier along the highway, accumulating on the road faster than the faithful Winterdienst ("winter service") vehicles could keep it plowed. (DsD managed to get a picture of it.) Travel was slow, and DH later admitted that there were times when our car was in full hydroplane, but we did arrive safely in Speyer, on the banks of the Rhine. We found a parking place, and traipsed through the snow toward the spires of what we assumed to be the Dom. Upon arriving, we discovered that the spires we saw actually belonged to a large reformation church. Spotting another pair of spires down the street, we arrived (after a brief misguided detour down a side street) at St. Joseph's, and ducked in during the homily. As it happened, a Monrovian nun was giving a presentation on an orphanage there. In English, so we not only understood what she was saying, but had the experience of hearing it translated into German. There was also a baptism during Mass. Despite the language barrier, we had very little trouble following along with where we were - any Latin rite Mass is going to follow the same format as any other.

St. Joseph's was a beautiful church, and it put me in mind of a small cathedral. Unfortunately they don't have a website, and we didn't get any pictures. After Mass, we went over to what turned out to be the parish library, and got directions to the Dom. The lady I spoke to didn't speak English, and my German was rusty, but I understood the words for tower, right, and left, and was able to get a visual. A quick stop at a pizzeria for lunch, then we finally arrived at our original destination.

The Dom is nearly 1000 years old, and its architecture is quite impressive. The crypt area houses several Holy Roman Emperors and queens, including Konrad II and his wife, and a number of bishops. One of the upper chapels houses the relics of several saints, and a memorial to Edith Stein, a Jewish intellectual who became a Catholic nun and was martyred at Auschwitz.

Surprising, though, most of the main area of the cathedral was rather sparse in decoration - a cathedral that old should have had beautiful windows, rich mosaics, and impressive statuary. We later learned that there had been a fire in the late 1600s, and not long after restoration was completed, it was ransacked and desecrated during the French Revolution. Who knows what treasures were lost....

After leaving the Dom, we went to the nearby Museum of Palatinate History, which was very large. There are several floors of exhibits, including a children's museum area with a lot of activities, a Jewish exhibit, a Roman and Frankish historical section, and an exhibit of cathedral treasures. These last were absolutely stunning - chalices, reliquaries, liturgical vestments, tapestries - these give a tantalizing hint of what the cathedral must have been like before its tragedies. DH had me try to translate some of the information about the reliquaries, and I was able to make out the gist of most of them.

Like the museum in Karlsruhe, the Speyer museum also had a variety of hands-on activities in all of the exhibits, including a Roman lock and key mechanism that one could try out. I wonder if the experiential aspect of these museums is typical for Germany, or whether we just got lucky.

It was starting to get dark by the time we left Speyer, but the snow had stopped and the roads were clear thanks to the ever-present Winterdienst. We had dinner at a little Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel. I don't recall the name, but it translated to "Chicken and Duck". Most Chinese restaurants in the US only have one or two duck dishes, if any, but this little place had as many duck entrees as any other meat. We each had a different duck dish, and they all were absolutely wonderful. DD announced that she wanted to come back sometime before we flew home.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel. DsD was flying back in the morning, two days before the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The times, they are a-changin'

I must admit that I have been less than amused at the switch to Daylight Savings Time. Not that I object to the time itself - having daylight in the evenings is nice - but having to reset our clocks every six months is highly annoying. And in our increasingly global and high-tech society, I think it's also an obsolete concept.

Nobody in my family adjusted well to this most recent change....we had a much easier time adjusting to returning from Germany!

Speaking of which, I will post the rest of my Germany travelblog, hopefully this weekend. I just need to write it. The next entry is our trip to Speyer, and the telling could take a while....

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Servus Servorum Dei

Today, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, passed from this life to the next.

I admit I am both saddened and pleased by the news.
Saddened because he was a man to admire, a man of deep faith and concern for the world, a worthy successor to St. Peter's chair, who left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church and on the world as a whole.
Pleased because he is no longer suffering in a body worn by age and crippling disease, and that now he is running joyfully to the arms of the Lord he loved and served so well, and to the companionship of his family and friends and all the saints who have gone before.

I have only been Catholic for a few years, and I never had the honor of meeting him face to face. I have been in St. Peter's square for a papal blessing, this past May, and that was an experience I will never forget.

Rest in peace, John Paul, and pray for us who still have a long way to go....

Friday, April 01, 2005

Schlossing about (Germany travelblog 2/4)

Saturday morning dawned to light snow. We went down to the hotel bar for breakfast, which was quite hearty. There were small wursts, a variety of sliced cheeses, eggs, a selection of yogurts (including a heavy mousse-type yogurt that I really liked), breads, cereals with a variety of toppings, and juices. I liked the Johannisbeere (currant) juice. And there was coffee. An excellent coffee, good enough that DH, who is not at all a coffee drinker, had coffee with breakfast every day. DD had hot chocolate, which was a darker chocolate than its American counterpart.

After breakfast we went back up to the room, and to DD’s delight discovered that housekeeping put small packets of Gummibären on the beds after making them. (I gave the Gummis a pass, but bought myself a large bag at a local food store later for post-Lenten consumption.)

Karlsruher SchlossThe day’s main activity was a trip to the Karlsruher Schloss, an 18th century palace that now hosts the Badische Landesmuseum. The exhibits cover much of the history of the Baden-Württemberg area from prehistoric times to the present day. The Schloss was once home to the ruling family of Baden, and many artifacts of the family (including some rather expensive jewel-encrusted items) are on display. There were also a number of medieval religious artifacts and statues that were quite beautiful.
Family jewels
What impressed me most about the museum is that there were a lot of hands-on activities in many of the exhibits. One could try on Roman perfume or healing ointment, try to scrape or cut hides with a stone tool (which was surprisingly difficult), write on a wax tablet with a stylus, try on 18th century party masks, and actually walk into reproductions of houses and rooms from bygone days. There is a dramatic difference between merely reading about the past, and actually experiencing it in some way.

We spent several hours at the Schloss, then headed out in search of lunch, a hasty affair at a bakery stand. The snow had turned into somewhat of a freezing rain, and we realized that while it was smart to pack a scarf and gloves for DD, the rest of us had somehow neglected such winter gear. After remedying such a critical oversight, we visited a couple of local churches, then headed back to the hotel for a bit.

Dinner was at the Brauerei Wolf, which I highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Karlsruhe. The food was excellent, and the beer was even better! We also discovered the phenomenon of the Räuberteller (“robber plate”) – an empty plate for kids to mooch from their parents! DD rather enjoyed that.

By the time we left the Brauerei, it was dark and the snow was falling heavier than it had been thus far.