Friday, July 30, 2010

Five Question Friday - July 30, 2010

1. Did you have a favorite blanket or toy as a kid? If so, do you still have it?
I loved toys when I was a kid, and coming up with stories and scenarios with them. I particularly remember a little plastic toy of Simba from The Lion King. Simba was always the hero. I have no idea where that little toy went.

2. Do you dream in color?
Yep. I don't remember ever dreaming in black and white.

3. How tall are you? Do you wish you were shorter or taller?
I am 5'5''. I think pretty much the most average height you can be. I think it's just about perfect. I wouldn't want to be any shorter and if I were taller I would bang my head on a lot of things.

4. If you could have anyone's (celeb or other) voice as the guide on your GPS, who would it be?
Hmm. Darth Vader? I'm sure someone's done that. "I find your lack of ability to navigate disturbing."

5. Do you return your shopping cart to the corral or leave it wherever in the parking lot?
Return it.
I got this gecko last night. Now he has a home in my cubicle. Isn't he awesome?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt: Remember on Sesame Street when they said that today's episode was brought to you by the letter M? Well, the prompt today is brought to you by whichever letter you choose!  You can be silly and choose a letter of the alphabet, or you can be serious and talk about an actual letter.  Whatever you choose to use, have some fun with it if you can!

A is for Android. Over the weekend Scotty and I both got Android phones (the LG Envy Ally - thanks Alicia!), and I'm so addicted!
B is for Their forums are a wonderful resource.
C is for Cucumber. My sandwich today has cucumber slices, cream cheese, turkey slices and pepperjack cheese. Delicious.
D is for Dairy Queen, where we stopped last night after running some errands. I love the simple vanilla cones.
E is for Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev, the current book I am reading (and it's very good so far).
F is for Family. Love ya.
G is for Games. A collector's edition of Dead Rising 2 was just announced and looks awesome.
H is for Hope.
I is for IBS, which is very annoying.
J is for Jones Soda. Scotty bought me some last night and I am enjoying one today - Fufu Berry.
K is for Kitten. Someone left one in a Philadelphia library bookdrop last week. Why do people do things like this?
L is for Loki, who is now eight inches long and still super cute.
M is for Magazines. A pile of them at work today.
N is for Nervous. Darn anxiety.
O is for my stuffed Owl, who perches on the edge of my cubicle reading all day long.
P is for Politics, which I am thoroughly sick of.
Q is for Quit. I just saw on AZCentral that Louis Amundson is likely leaving the Suns, and it's depressing.
R is for Rain, which finally came last night. It smelled so good outside and I loved it.
S is for Savings - slowly going up.
T is for T.C. Eggington's, where Scotty and I went for breakfast with his cousin on Sunday. Yum.
U is for Underneath. Under my Jones Soda cap, it says, "a friend will bear great news."
V is for Valentine's Day - hopefully watching that movie with my mother- and sister-in-law tonight.
W is for Workshops. The date of the workshop I will be putting on for the county, on social media, has been set - September 10.
X is for X-Files. I saw a copy of the recent movie for sale last night and it reminded me how much I used to love that show.
Y is for Yoohoo. I almost got a case of that drink last night. What makes it so delicious?
Z is for Zelda. The new Legend of Zelda video game looks like it will be fun.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Today and yesterday and Saturday

Oh my gosh. There are so many starred items in my Google Reader that I need to write about for Hearing Sparks, it's kind of overwhelming. I am happy I've found enough to inspire me to write a daily blog post Monday through Friday, but sometimes it feels like I need to be writing all day to keep up with it.

Today has been long. Long and boring. I did the laundry and took a shower and cleaned the room and watched Loki and Animal Cops. For some reason a lot of television has had the power to make me teary today. I caught a little bit of Pet Stars before Animal Cops and I almost started crying because it felt like the animals were so happy to be performing and making people happy. Seriously, hormones? That's just crazy. Then, of course, watching Animal Cops didn't help either. Poor little Floridian and Arizonian puppies and kitties and parakeets.

It looked like rain today (and my phone is telling me there's a flood warning), but the sky is blue and it hasn't rained a drop today. That's how the monsoon season has been so far around here. A few drops yesterday, a 30-second downpour on my way home on Saturday. Nothing compared to previous years. However, the rain from this spring means there's a lot of animal activity around, and many of them are flourishing - I've been seeing a lot of rabbits, hawks, vultures and coyotes. A couple week or so ago a huge California king snake slithered under the side porch and last night we spotted this tarantula on the same porch:

Sorry for the terrible picture, but isn't he cool? I thought he was, at least.

There was also a cool rainbow on Saturday.

Yesterday Scotty and I went out for breakfast with his cousin Stephen, and stopped at the Verizon store on the way home so I could look at the Android phones. My brother just got an Incredible, and Alicia has a Droid. Scotty was due for an upgrade, and they are having a deal - buy one Android phone and get the second free. So we got a pair of LG Allys. (I liked the Droid but the Ally has a better hearing aid rating.) I have to say it is quite awesome. We got both phones for $50 (once we get the $100 rebate back). A smartphone for $25 is hard to pass up even with the monthly fee. I love this phone. It's sturdy, it has access to all the apps I could ever want, it's quick, and I have a pink case for it. It is awesome. Plus that's another blog entry I can write about - how accessible it is.

Ok... I'll end this entry with more Loki pictures, because you all know I love my lizard.

She looks SO SMALL in this picture, and it was only a week or so ago. Must be the angle.

That's a water droplet on her head. She hates the water, unless she's running through her water dish on the way to something more important. I saw a video where somebody put a drop of water on their baby dragon's head and they licked it off, and it was so cute. So I put a drop of water on Loki's head and I got this look.

"I'm on a gecko."

Waiting patiently for live crickets.

Cute look. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Five Question Friday - July 23, 2010

1. What were your school colors?
Black and gold - go Prospectors.

2. What's the best compliment you ever received?

 I was thinking about this today and unable to come up with anything, but then I heard some wonderful compliments from one of my coworkers. I will be running a workshop on libraries and social media for the libraries in my county in September and I am a little nervous about it. She helped me feel more confident about it by telling me that whenever I talk in our staff meetings she always feels very comfortable asking questions and for clarification. I really like the confidence my coworkers have in me. I just hope I can talk loud enough at the workshop for people to hear me - or that they have a microphone.

3. Do you buy cheap or expensive toilet paper?

I haven't bought toilet paper in months (my in-laws buy it) but I think I usually buy Charmin. I'm not sure anymore. Definitely not the most expensive or the cheapest at the store.

4. Have you ever had a surprise party thrown for you? Or have you had one for someone else?

I don't think I have ever had a surprise party for myself. It always seemed like it would be terrible to be the person the party was for since you'd spend all day thinking nobody remembered your birthday. I think at times we have thrown a surprise party for my Nana or other relatives.

5. What is one material possession that you "can't live without"?

Definitely my camera.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Loki update

I can't help it, I just love this lizard. :)

Loki is now 7.5'' and almost done shedding her legs. I think her back will be next.

I also made a little sign for her. I know... I'm crazy. But the sign was cute (99 cents at Michael's) and Scotty came up with a really easy way for me to paint it and have nice crisp lines.

We added some slate tiles to her tank over the weekend which should help keep her nails trimmed as she runs over them. Pretty good deal at Home Depot - four slate tiles for $4. They are heavier than they look!

This is her current tank setup with the tiles over reptile carpet, the tree she uses for basking, her little dragon figure, the tiles and some other odds and ends for her. (Can you spot the bearded dragon? And no pointing at the fake gecko - only baby Lorelai is allowed to do that!)

And here she is on a tile:

Loki also particularly loves her little hammock. She sleeps in it every night but she is also prone to jump to the other side of it from her basking log. Then she hangs out there until she feels like dropping down onto the floor (I admit I thought she was stuck the first time I saw her do it.)

Today, she is eating like crazy. She has already eaten all of the canned crickets I put in her food dish (tho she hasn't touched her kale or her pellet food) and I had to give her more. Growth spurt I guess!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Italian-style chicken rollups

I got this delicious recipe from Kraft with some modifications. It is so delicious and it is another "in-law approved" meal! Thanks to my father-in-law for helping me learn the ins and outs of pounding chicken!

This is how I made it (yeah, a little heavy on the cheese. I love cheese!):

8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese
1 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4'' thickness
8 cheese slices
1 cup spaghetti sauce 

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together the green bell pepper and cream cheese, and set aside.

Top each chicken breast with a piece of sliced cheese and spoon 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture on top of that. Roll up the chicken and place, with the seam down, on a 13 x 9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top the chicken with spaghetti sauce. Cover baking dish with foil.

Bake 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove foil and top each piece of chicken with the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered 3-5 more minutes, until cheese is melted.

I made rice to go with this with some more bell pepper mixed in, and we had the chicken pieces over the rice. It was delicious!

Five Question Friday

1. Do you collect anything?
Sure. Books, and anything cows. I have so many stuffed cows and cow figures... in my family, if you like something, you will get it for every Christmas and birthday from then on! Unfortunately I don't have room for many of my cows at all. A few sit in my cubicle at work, one favorite is on my desk at home and the rest are in the storage shed in the backyard for now. Eyeing the 'savings for a house' ticker on the right...

2. Name 3 celebrities that you find good looking.
Ewan McGregor, Felicia Day and Robert Downey Jr. (I just really like him as Tony Stark I guess!)

3. Do you have any scars? If so, what’s the story behind it (them?)?
Yes: a scar on my knee from falling in the alley behind our house when I was a kid (it used to look strangely like the division symbol in math), a scar on my spine from surgery to remove a mole (not cancerous as it turned out), and a scar in my belly button to remove an unsightly birthmark.

4. What is a food that you like to eat, but others might think it’s gross or weird?
Hmm... well, I love dipping my fries in milkshakes, but I know a lot of other people do that. I can't think of anything else.

5. Have you ever seen a tornado in real life?
Nope. There aren't a lot of tornadoes where I live (Arizona). I've heard the watches/warnings on TV before, but never seen one.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

63 years

Today is my great-grandparents' 63rd wedding anniversary.

According to my Grandpa,
"We eloped to Lewiston Idaho on July 14, 1947. (They said that the marriage would not last!) I had to move fast as she was torn between me and another. I don't believe that we will make another 63 years but at least 10 more for sure. Our love for each other will keep us going."

 I love you Grandma and Grandpa. 63 more years may not be in the cards but I know your love will be around forever.

Me, my Great-Uncle Lonnie, and my grandparents:

Complications, by Atul Gawande

4 out of 5 stars
Total read in 2010 so far: 79
(Also posted on my Goodreads profile here.)

Recently I had to see a doctor for something that was bothering me. I went to my normal family physicians group, who referred me to a gastroenterologist, and eventually had to have a couple procedures in the hospital before I was offhandedly diagnosed with IBS. I say "offhandedly" because that's what it was: the gastroenterologist at first said I seemed to have had some kind of stomach bug that threw me out of whack, and then, when I asked further, finally said "Yeah, I think you have IBS." He didn't tell me what kind of foods I might try avoiding, only to take a probiotic every day, and didn't give me much more information.

I walked out of his office feeling a little confused. The doctor seemed almost dismissive of everything I had explained to him even though he was willing to do tests in the hospital. So when I read this book, I kept thinking of that office visit, which was rather unlike other visits I have had with other doctors, who have always seemed willing to listen and be open. By the end of the book I was kind of wishing that Atul Gawande (or any of the other good doctors mentioned in the book) were my doc. I enjoyed Dr. Gawande's openness and his very thoughtful approach to medicine. So often doctors are looked upon as omniscient beings with the whole of medical science at their fingertips, but Gawande blasts away this notion and effectively conveys that they are just as human as the rest of us.

A few things bothered me about the book: at times Gawande seems almost too thoughtful, making him seem hesitant and ineffectual; many of his stories are from him just starting out, which may have contributed to this impression. Also, he seemed at times a bit reserved from the patient themselves, reporting simply the facts and very little emotion. It seemed at odds with the way he made sure to follow up with many of his surgical patients at their homes, and the way he still remembers such specifics years later. Perhaps some of the emotional writing would have gotten in the way of the story, but it was hard for me to see the patients beyond simply what was wrong with them.

I was surprised to see that this book was published in 2002. A few things about it seemed somewhat dated. I would have pegged it at 1995 or thereabouts.

All in all, a solid book. I enjoyed it even if I didn't get much insight into why my gastroenterologist was so rushed (unless he's like the surgeon in the book who works 80 hours a week to pull in a $400k income and seems surprised when he gets burned out). But I certainly learned a lot about the way hospitals work and the way doctors think.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I believe they're amazing

I just began reading this wonderful blog called Sunday Scribblings. Every week a prompt is posted to encourage writing. This week's prompt is to watch this video, and write about the person it makes you think about.

The story behind this video is heartbreaking; it's in honor of a young woman who lost her battle with cancer last year in May. But what grew out of it is something amazing: the website I Believe She's Amazing and the chance to recognize the wonderful women in our lives.

I have been blessed to know many wonderful women in my life. So many of the women I know are true role models that I can look up to.

My mom is amazing. When I see the dancers in the video I think of her. She taught me never to give up, to always keep trying and always beat the odds. My strength comes from her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for always being there, ready to talk or listen.

My mother-in-law is amazing. I have known her for seven years and I couldn't ask for a better mother-in-law or a better friend. I love her sense of humor and approach to life. I'm so lucky that even the women I know who weren't part of my family when I was born are still so amazing and strong.

My aunts are amazing. Aunt Heather, Aunt Kirsten, Tia TK, Aunt Eva, Auntie Anne, and every other one of my aunts and great-aunts: I love you and the laughter you bring to every family party. I love that I grew up with women who don't take anything laying down. Who always keep their heads up. I love all of you.

My grandmothers are amazing. Nana, Granny, Grandma Cindy, and Grandma: all of you have taught me life lessons over the years. You are always there with advice or something to make me smile. I always knew I had amazing grandparents to turn to no matter what.

And to all of the other women in my life: thank you for everything you do and for being there for me and everyone.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Four legs and fun

Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. - George Eliot

On this quiet Monday morning, I just wanted to share a few photos of Loki and Pepper (my sister-in-law's puppy, who recently recovered from parvo, and has such a wonderful puppy personality).

Sometimes I don't know if I have a lizard or a monkey.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flyaway, by Suzie Gilbert

 5 out of 5 stars
Total read in 2010 so far: 78
(Also posted on my Goodreads profile here.)

I think I read this book at exactly the right time. I currently have a tiny seven-inch-long bearded dragon* in my bedroom. Since getting her on June 13th, things have changed around here. I get up at 6am whether I like it or not because that's when her lights come on and she wakes up, climbs out of her hammock** and starts looking around for food. I go and put some reptile pellets, vegetables and kale in her feeding dish, give her pieces of vegetables from my hand, take her out, pet her, let her watch the computer screen, put her back in, and then give her either live crickets or dead ones from a can. Oh yes, I have had to face my fear of crickets. I hate crickets so much. Or, I used to. Now I get to put them in the tank and watch my tiny pet predator go after them with the precision of a cheetah on the plains of Africa and it's great. The canned crickets are pretty gross, though. They are all juicy and yucky and dark colored, unlike the light tan crickets from Petsmart.

Then I go to work and come home and give her more dead crickets and try not to throw up from the smell.

And then her light turns off at 8 o'clock and we turn the bedroom lights off because she can't sleep with them on, and it makes us sleepy and we go to bed earlier. Which is probably a good thing.

And that is absolutely nothing compared to what Suzie Gilbert and other wildlife rehabilitators do on a daily basis for the mammals, reptiles and birds that surround us every day. Whether they are affected by humans, disease, other animals, or the environment, wild animals need care too, and Suzie Gilbert opened my eyes to what the people who care for them have to do. My developing bond with Loki let me see especially how people come to care for animals beyond cats and dogs. How a lizard or a bird can have its own personality. And how caring for an animal can make you do gross stuff like cut up baby mice or spoon crickets out of a refrigerated can.

The author takes us through an intensely personal journey, as she faces the difficulty people who care for animals face. When you have taken in one injured animal, what's another? And another? You can't just leave them to die. And it takes an immense personal toll. There are many you cannot save even with dedication and time and you know injured animals will never stop coming.

Suzie's love for birds (and all animals) shines through her text. I felt as though I was there with her in the story. It's a wonderful book.

* She will eventually be two feet, according to what I've read. Crazy. This is her now.

** Yes, she has a hammock. She sleeps clinging to one of the suction cups every night. Whatta weirdo.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reptile obsessed

Yesterday, Scotty deposited his first paycheck into savings and we are now 1/10th of the way towards a down payment on our house. Not much, but in two weeks that will go up again, and keep climbing, with any luck. I'm excited, trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I can feel them brush the ceiling. I can't wait to start looking around. It's not even entirely just because we'll be picking out a house. I also have this fascination with floorplans and house layouts and what people do with their homes. Getting to peek into people's houses, legally, is going to be kind of fun.

Although I do think somebody could make quite some money taking photos for realtors. Surely satellite photos and crooked, blurry, timestamped photos don't do much to sell a home.

I finished a book today called Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert. This particular book is part of the library's nonfiction book club, though I didn't read it to participate in that. It's about the author, and the at-home bird rehabilitation center she sets up to take care of injured songbirds (and of course the occasional raptor or duck). Taking care of injured animals is tough business, but the journey Gilbert takes is absolutely fascinating. All I have to take care of right now is a baby bearded dragon, but I really saw some similarities in how she cares for the birds and how I take care of Loki every day. Luckily, unlike a baby songbird, Loki doesn't need to be fed every 15 minutes.

Speaking of Loki, I feel as though I need a t-shirt that says "Reptile Obsessed." Going to Petsmart and Petco are doubly fun because I get to look at all the reptiles there. Corn snakes, Chinese water dragons, their bearded dragons, leopard geckos... I just think they are all so cool. Petco in particular had some beardies bigger than Loki by a few inches and one that looked almost mature, just small (and cranky!). They were really fun to watch, though they seemed a bit shy - definitely more shy than mine, but then, Loki gets taken out of her cage pretty often. We went to both those stores last night looking for a particular basking light (an Exo Terra SunGlo bulb) but were foiled because we didn't know what wattage the lamp itself takes. While we were there, I got a little purple dragon statue in the aquarium section for her tank. She just needs some virgin sacrifices, I think, to really feel like a dragon.

Well, my lunch break is just about over and I better get to work again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fourth of July weekend

My 4th of July weekend:

A day at the Arizona Science Center with my in-laws

(these places are always more fun with kids)

A new "viv" (vivarium/terrarium) for Loki

(she loves the new space)

A Fourth of July party with swimming, delicious food & family
(Burnout Paradise and Mike's Hard Lemonade included)

Fireworks from the middle school

(best seat in the city)

It was a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Name of this Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch

4 out of 5 stars
Total read in 2010 so far: 74
(Also posted on my Goodreads profile here.)

You know what I don't like?

How you can have a great sort of pseudonym like Lemony Snicket or even Pseudonymous* Bosch and all it takes to expose them is to type their name into Google. Granted, apparently Mr. Bosch was able to keep his pseudonym secret for three years before he was discovered (and how he must have howled and eaten several pounds of dark chocolate when he was discovered), but still, I just don't like knowing. Perhaps I am in a secret-keeping mood thanks to this book.

Yes, this book is all about secrets, big and small, good and bad, but it's also, intriguingly, about synesthesia and the sense of smell; each of the books in this series are/will focus on a certain sense. The book really has a lot going for it: a good puzzle, secretkeeping, adventure, humor, and clever methods to keep the personally engaged. The riddles were very good, the kind of thing I bet a kid would have fun working out before they read on to reveal the answers, and the appendix is full of random, interesting information.

If you don't like quirky books, you'll hate this one. I can tell from reading the Goodreads reviews. While it may get to be too much in future books, I think old Pseudonymous handled it very well. It didn't annoy me once throughout the book.

* The name choice made me smile; "Hieronymus" is one of my favorite names ever even though I can't spell it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Soulless, by Gail Carriger

4 out of 5 stars
Total read in 2010 so far: 73
(Also posted on my Goodreads profile here.)

Okay, I'm going to be honest, I saw the cover of this book and I just started giggling. I mean, whatever position Miss Tarabotti is walking in on the cover of this book looks absolutely ridiculous and painful. She looks kind of like a skinny penguin with an umbrella which is just funny in itself.

So I was not in a position to take this book seriously from the get-go, which I think was a perfect way to come at it. I was really pleasantly surprised by what I read. I am not a huge fan of the time period this book is set in, but the steampunky and magic aspects introduced just enough interesting flavor to the setting to keep me reading. And, yes, at times I was pretty annoyed by Miss Tarabotti, but the book is so light and fluffy it is hard to get really worked up about it. I liked the intriguing secret society aspects, introduced with just enough detail to lend themselves to the sequels, but the ending was so neat and tidy that I'm not sure how well future books that follow Miss Tarabotti will keep any romantic bits alive. (I added them to my to-read shelf anyway.)

I am also a total sucker for a Scottish accent, so that is probably what gave this its fourth star.

Our Media PC

Yesterday Scotty and I set up our new media PC. We wanted a computer hooked up to the television that could play any file type of videos and music, basically so that we can just go to that PC rather than figure out if the PS3 can play it, which computer to watch it from, etc. It needed to be cost effective, obviously (we are 'allergic' to credit - I won't pay for anything I can't pay cash/debit for anymore), so we decided that the best thing to do would be to upgrade a few parts of Scotty's PC first. He got a new motherboard, processor, and memory. The parts he replaced went into my PC and I also got a new video card and larger hard drive. The media PC, then, got my motherboard, processor, memory, hard drive and video card. That way we were able to 'build' the PC from old parts rather than buy new parts and then buy new parts again when Scotty wants to upgrade. We did buy a new case and a BluRay drive for the PC, but altogether didn't spend too much at all.

I love the case a lot:

It sits next to the TV with the Wii to the right of it and the PS3 and Air Mouse on top. It actually goes pretty well with our Crosley radio/CD player (with a record player on top):

The Crosley radio and record player used to be in the spot the media PC is now, but now it is next to the bed. When we have our own place again I think both the radio and media PC will look nice in the same entertainment center.

The media PC has an 80 gb hard drive, which is small for a media PC, but it won't store too much on that hard drive. Most stuff will either be played from physical media like CDs and DVDs or will be pulled from computers or the file server. It has a BluRay drive and DVD burner, and in the front you can see a card reader setup that can handle CompactFlash and SD cards. There are three USB slots in the front, and a Firewire and ESata drive, neither of which are actually connected (my motherboard is kind of limiting and I don't think we even have any Firewire or ESata devices).

It has an analog TV tuner in there and will be running Mythbuntu last I heard. Scotty installed that last night. Mythbuntu is a flavor of Ubuntu Linux that is for media. It allows you to record shows and other cool stuff, so it's like your own DVR. According to Scotty, with the tv tuner and the right setup we will be able to get PBS World again - which means I can watch History Detectives again! Excited about that. Currently it is hooked up with HDMI cables but that might have to change. HDMI cannot carry closed captions so we need to see if there is any way around that or what we can do.

I really like the setup, and I'll have to see how it all works once we really get time to play with it. I'll be working on a blog post for Hearing Sparks about how the caption issue works out. And I'm glad we were able to do it on a budget - it is a really nice addition and it will last us a long time, I'm sure.