Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflecting on 2007

Interesting In 2007
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
  • Personal heroes this year: Dr. Peter Argenta (my Oncologist) and his nurse, Joan. He saved my life. She has been compassionate and supportive, helping me navigate the office visits and such needed during healing.
  • Three high points of the year: Successful cancer surgery. My cousin returning from deployment abroad. Every day with my Mister.
  • Significant gain this year: I've made several new friends and renewed contact with a few old friends I didn't think I'd hear from again.
  • A Lesson learned about myself: I've learned that I can cope with a lot more physical discomfort than I thought I could. I've learned how much pain I can push through, and at what point it puts normal life on hold.
  • Reading for pleasure: Read 18 fiction books this year. My 3 favorites were: Invoking Darkness (Babylon 5: The Passing of the Techno-Mages, Book 3) by Jeanne Cavelos; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling; Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Bk. 4) by Charlaine Harris
  • Most surprising place I found myself this year: Hiking through an 8 foot high cornfield with my husband, looking for a lost model rocket. Not once, but twice.
  • Something beautiful in nature I'd never seen before 2007: Hoarfrost
  • Hobbies: This year I did more knitting and photography than any of my other hobbies.
  • Favorite meal in a restaurant this year: Tejas in Edina, MN. Wild Mushroom Enchiladas with Humboldt Fog cheese.
  • Favorite meal at home this year: My mom's spaghetti
  • Favorite movie released in 2007: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Favorite movie I watched this year (any release date): 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama
  • Favorite TV series this year (with new episodes): Colbert Report
  • Favorite TV series in re-runs: Conquest
  • Most watched (re-watched and re-re-watched) dvd this year: Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids
  • Gratitude: I am filled with gratitude this year for the compassion and support of so many people. Family and friends who either came to help when I was undergoing my surgeries, or who sent their love and support from afar. Co-workers who helped cover for my workload while I was unable to work. Financial support from family, to help me cover the bills that medical insurance didn't cover. I can't thank everyone enough.
  • Regime Change in 2008: My preferred candidates for next year's Democratic party presidential candidate have narrowed to either John Edwards or Barack Obama. But with so many primaries and caucuses being held earlier than Minnesota's, and since Minnesota holds a caucus rather than a primary election, I don't think my preferences count for much.

2008 Goals

Be more physically active.
Do more quilting.
Learn to crochet.
Observe at least one thing of beauty each day, however simple.
Practice the disciplines of the Eightfold Path.

FSM Cookies

Originally uploaded by fsmcookies
There's a step-by-step how-to on making FSM cookies on flickr if you follow the link from the image. I MUST try this!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Playing WoW with my Mister

Winter Veil in Orgrimmar
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Spent a bunch of time this weekend playing World of Warcraft with my Honey.

I've been playing on the laptop with my puffy foot up on the couch, and having it elevated a bunch has brought the ankle down to normal size. The rowing machine also seems to be good for it, as it gets my circulation going without having the foot lower than the rest of the leg.

Haven't done anything particularly productive over the last two days, except providing a lot of loves to the kitties.

I was really tired on Friday, so my Honey decided to let me sleep in yesterday, figuring he'd just let me wake up on my own. When I was still sound asleep at 11:30 AM he gave up on that plan and came up to wake me, as it seemed likely that 13 and a half hours was probably more than enough. Goodness knows how long I would have slept.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday in Virginia

Holiday in Virginia
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Catching up.

A lot has happened since my last post. The Mister and I flew out to Virginia to visit my family out there over Christmas. We had a lovely time, and among others we got to visit with Niece C, Nephew P and my 90 year old grandmother.

Grandma is amazing. She may be more frail, and move more slowly than she did years ago, but she's still sharp and beautiful, and still has her sense of humor.

The fingerless gloves I knitted for her fit, wonder of wonders. My hands are so very much bigger than hers, and I didn't have anyone around who wears her size to try them on. They are wool, cashmere and silk, so they should breathe well and be warm and comfy against her skin. If I could wear wool I'd make myself a pair of them from the same yarn in a heartbeat. I'm just glad I can knit with it, even if I can't wear it.

My step-brother-in-law is Italian, and his family joined us for a sumptuous multi-course Christmas dinner, complete with a cheese plate, oysters Rockefeller casserole (which I forgot to take photos of... Doh!), ham, home fried potatoes, lasagna, and almost too many kinds of desserts to count. My step-sister made an amazing orange and cranberry sauce to go with the ham. I think I ate more of the cranberry sauce than the ham.

My step-brother was there for the weekend, too. I haven't seen him in ages. We've never been close, but it was good to see him, and he seemed to be doing well.

My Honey and I bought each other new Crocs. The kind with the fuzzy lining in them. That came in immensely helpful, because my foot started to swell up the day we were to fly out. It had been doing a little swelling for maybe two months before, but not like this. My foot was swelling too much to wear regular shoes, but Crocs are so loose and comfy I could still wear them even with warm, thick socks. So we opened the crocs as soon as we arrived so we could enjoy our comfy feet during the visit.

We flew out just in time, I'm told, because there were white out conditions the following day that would have made flying out much more difficult. They had chilly days at home, and snow, while we enjoyed temperatures as high as the 50's and 60's F, and a little rain. The locals in Virginia were quick to mention that it was getting cold at night (down in the 20's to 30's F) but it was still warmer than what we've been seeing the last few weeks in Minnesota.

While we were visiting we discovered a lovely local pear port, made by the Horton winery. It was tasty enough to buy some to bring home, which now-a-days means finding a way to keep it from being smashed in your checked-through luggage. Wasn't such a big deal back when you could still carry a bottle of wine in your carry-on luggage. But it made it home without incident.

My Mister and I don't celebrate Christmas left to our own devices (though we do observe the winter solstice and Pastafarian season of Holiday). But Christmas is a very big deal for the rest of the family, and we enjoy being able to share it with them. Our extended family is so spread out that we don't get to see more than a few of them at a time each year. But we try to at least make sure we call on the phone to touch bases. And this year a number of my family members have added Pastafarian Holiday to their winter celebrations, so there was an added level of cheer all around.

Ack, which reminds me that I still haven't mailed out my holiday cards. Good thing they are "season's greetings" cards (to cover the variety of holidays celebrated by my friends this time of year). Note to self: get that taken care of this weekend.

Any way, be brought games for all the adults in the house. We played several games of Settlers of Catan, and a card game called Fluxx. Dad hooked the laptop up to his TV and I showed the kids what the winter holiday in Azeroth (World of Warcraft) looks like. Niece C especially liked watching that, and perched next to me as I made the run through some of the seasonal quests. My Honey also demonstrated the PC game Portal for me and Dad. I couldn't enjoy trying to play a game with so many mind bending changes of perspective, but watching the Mister play it was a whole lot of fun.

Dad and Grandma took me to a wonderful little yarn store near (in?) Middleburg, VA, and let me pick out some yummy yarns. I picked all things I can actually wear. Recycled sari silk, bamboo, and soy silk. Grandma really liked a Möbius cowl that was on display, knitted of very fine mohair and sprinkled with delicate beads. After looking it over for a bit I offered to make one for her, so I got the yarn for that as well. I've never knitted with anything so delicate before, but I am really looking forward to this project. Just need to go out and get some beads and a beading needle to get started.

It was a plush toy Christmas for me. I fell in love with a stuffed toy manatee (I named him Hugh) while shopping for the niece and neffling, and my Honey bought it for me. And I was also given a plush turkey vulture, along with other lovely presents. Niece C and Nephew P drew us some very detailed pictures, too, which was delightful.

Most of the adults went out after Christmas dinner to see the Tim Burton movie Sweeny Todd (based on the Stephen Sondheim stage musical). Not a jolly, happy holiday film, but then we're not a "normal" family. I'd watch a recital of the phone directory if it was directed by Tim Burton. And I particularly enjoy Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman and my Mister especially likes nearly anything with Helena Bonham Carter in it. So we were all for my step-sister's plan to make that our post-dinner outing. The film was dark and disturbing, funny and touching, and the sets, costumes and visual effects were lavishly macabre. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Feast of Winter Veil

Winter in World of Warcraft
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Visiting Dad and Step-mom's house for the holidays. They've got extended family under one roof, including my step-sister, her husband, and their two kids.

We attached the laptop to the TV to show the kids World of Warcraft. Much fun was had by all. At least for the duration of a 5 year old's attention span.

Myzithra earned some preserved holly from a quest that turned her regular mount into a reindeer. Used on her flying mount, it had a delightful result!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Packing to travel

Logging off shortly to finish packing to travel to visit my family in Virginia. I'm really excited about this trip. Last year I was at home during the winter solstice, looking cancer in the eye and facing my second surgery. This year as the year wheel turns around again, I am cancer free. I may have lingering issues since the surgery, but none of them are cancer. None of them are life threatening.

Got a new playlist on my iPod for the trip:
  • Morrowind Title - Bethesda Softworks
  • Under a Phrygian Sky - Loreena McKennitt
  • Sing Along - Blue Man Group/Chris Matthews
  • I Love You Goodbye - Thomas Dolby
  • My Medea - Vienna Teng
  • Mirror to My Woman's Eyes - Peter Murphy
  • White Out Conditions - Bel Canto
  • The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Assylum) - Fun Boy Three
  • Lindy's Party - The Bolshoi
  • Hallelujah - k.d. Lang
  • Dedication of Merit - Rev. Heng Sure
  • Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
  • Pictures of You- Oingo Boingo
  • The Ship Song - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • Bläck (Ink) - Garmarna
  • Land of Confusion - Disturbed
  • I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
  • ASouling - Lothlorien
  • Wanting Memories - Keali'i Reichel
  • Clohinne Winds - Sharon Shannon
  • White & Nerdy - Weird Al Yankovic
  • The Promise - When in Rome
  • The Boxer - Simon and Garfunkle
  • Bring Me To Life - Evanescence
  • Losing My Religion - R E M
  • The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove - Dead Can Dance
  • Green Valley Serenade - Vienna Teng
  • Into the West - Annie Lennox/Howard Shore

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I just couldn't resist...

One moment later...
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
I just couldn't resist celebrating freedom of expression by adding a new twist to my regular shot of the billboard by the 52. Click on the image for the larger version, and the description of the "event".

"Yes, Virginia. There really is a Flying Spaghetti Monster."

In other news, the poor air quality alert is starting to pass, and we've warmed up to 23°F (-5°C), with expectations of reaching 32°F today. (0°C).

And for those of you following the LFG web comic, I got a serious chuckle out of today's page.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's their way, or the highway...

This is a billboard next to Highway 52 in St. Paul, where the highway crosses the Mississippi river. I took this photo while stuck in traffic on the way in to work.
It reads:
One God
One human race
One Way to heaven
Read the Bible
The small text between the lines are the passage citations for each. My cell phone camera wasn't quite up to the task of catching those in focus.

It's a Clear Channel billboard. I wonder who sponsored the ad? I wonder if they have a preference as to which of the many versions of the Bible we are supposed to read? Knowing me, I've probably read the wrong one.

For the record, I value diversity in the world. So I can't agree with their message. Which is a bit of a tricky balance. Because valuing diversity means tolerance of their ways, even when those ways are intolerant (as long as those ways aren't violating anyone else's human rights). But it doesn't require me to celebrate intolerance. Only accept it. Which is, admittedly, still tricky.

But this sign does demonstrate two very important American values I certainly agree with:

Freedom of speech provides them the right to post such signs. (And me the right to write this post.)

Freedom of religion provides them the right to have such beliefs, while providing me with the right to disagree.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Working late

I've been at the office nearly 13 hours. Still a lot of work to do. Now, of course, the server decides to be slow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Knitting and cake by candle light

My Honey was on the party committee at his company this year, and the final big event was the holiday party. It was quite a nice event, good food, lots of people having lots of fun. They had a casino night theme, so there were lots of games for everyone to play.

Walking around the Eden Prairie Center shopping mall earlier in the day sent several of my muscles into an unhappy spasm, so I spent most of the evening at our dining table.

I generally try to avoid all shopping malls during December. I'm not an enthusiastic shopper at the best of times. But I've been doing so much better lately, and the shopping needed doing. So I made the trip, bought the necessary items, and paid for all the hiking through crowds a short time later.

At any rate, I finished the cuff on one of my grandmother's mittens while people danced and my Mister mixed and mingled, did his party committee duties, and won tons of raffle tickets at the Texas Holdem table. Even so, he came back to check on me frequently. I was in good company at the table, and was glad he didn't feel tied down because of my limitations.

Not surprisingly, someone knitting in the middle of a party with 600 attendees did draw some odd stares. Go figure.

Now I'm on the couch with the laptop, and the kitties are taking turns sitting with me and providing me with cat gravity.

I've got a bunch of work I brought home from the office that needs doing, so I'm going to grab a snack and make some progress on that.

The project, a label design, has been a poster child for scope creep for the last two weeks. We told the department in question before we started this project that the deadlines were contingent on my having what I need in the way of data, and not being showered with change requests during design and implementation. That being said, inflexible plans involving travel were made for testing based on those deadlines.

Of course, we're up to our eyeballs in change requests and data revisions. It's all things that can be handled except there has been no adjustment to deadlines in response to the changes, and now questions are dropping out of the adminisphere about why the project is behind. I'm too low on the totem pole to dictate deadline changes, so I need to adapt in response. Joy.

I'll be glad when I put this project behind me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Up too late

Stayed up too late tonight.

The rats are boxing in their cage (which is darned cute, I must say) and the cats are all staring at me, waiting for me to go upstairs so they can have their bedtime goodies on the cat tree. I'm disrupting their schedule, I suppose. Didn't get any knitting done tonight. Didn't get much of anything done tonight, really. Too tired to be productive, but disinclined to stop being awake, despite being sleepy. Insomnia, I suppose. Too much going on in my head right now, with the deadlines looming at work, holiday planning, anticipating traveling to Virginia soon, my Mister looking for a new job, and other life stuff mixed in.

I'm just in an odd mood.

Well, time to tell the mood to take a hike and give the ol' sleeping thing a shot.

Oh, and for the record it's 5°F (-15°C) outside right now. Can't believe people lived in this part of the country before the advent of central heating and polar fleece.

Balmy today, not as warm tomorrow

Just remembered something from this morning that made me smile. The tv weatherman this morning described the forecast for today as "relatively balmy" and tomorrow's weather as "not as mild as today". He was predicting temps in the high 20's°F, possibly "as warm as" 32°F (0°C) in some places.

I just love when they start using terms like "as warm as" and "balmy" to describe temps at or below freezing. It makes me smile every time.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I'm fascinated by weather. If I hadn't had such a phobia of math as a kid (ok, until my late 20's) I would have gone into a scientific field. Fear is a potent inhibitor, however irrational that fear might be.

Frosty Morning Commute

Frosty Morning Commute
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
The photos in this collage were all taken on my way to work on Dec. 12, 2007 at around 8:30 in the morning, using my cameraphone. Those taken while in motion were blind captures. I was driving in much later than usual, so I had sunlight to see a wonder of nature I'd not experienced before.

We had hoarfrost that morning, which coated all the trees with shimmering ice crystals. Part of my drive was through a fog composed of very tiny bits of ice that looked like glitter floating in the air. There was very little in the way of a breeze, and MPR was reporting the temperature as around 6° F (-14° C).

It made me glad I'd decided to go into the office instead of working from home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Catrina on Squirrel Patrol

Catrina on Squirrel Patrol
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Working from home one last day. Might've gone in today, as I'm nearing ready to entering a bunch of data into our database, which is slower over the vpn. But I started antibiotics yesterday for what might be strep (culture isn't back, definitely an infection of some kind) and I don't want to be near a pregnant co-worker until we know I'm not contagious.

Meanwhile, There are about 5 squirrels outside as I type this. They're fighting over the dish of corn outside the window.

The cats have been taking turns making sure the squirrels don't come inside. It must be a big deal having squirrels by the window, to make it worth interrupting the kittons' mid-day naps.

Zabartik tried to dig his way through the window for a few minutes. The squirrels were not impressed. He stalked away in what looked like a huff before I got out the camera. He's back now, watching them again, but the camera has been put away so I can get back to work. (edit: I did eventually pull the camera back out and take some shots of Zabster, too, but later on in the afternoon.)

Catrina has long since given up trying to actually reach the squirrels. She watches intently, but with none of the agitation the other cats display.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back and forth

Back and forth
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Back and forth from home today to visit my doctor. Picked up a bug somewhere along the line that turned into a sinus and throat infection. I've been sick for two weeks, and getting progressively worse. Fortunately, it's the kind of thing that responds quickly to the miracles of modern medicine.

Also lucky for me it had warmed up quite a bit today, so I wasn't uncomfortably cold while out running around while sick. With temps around 20°F (-6° C), and no breeze, the locals were mostly out and about without hats or gloves, jackets unzipped. The fellows at the local Lunds grocery store who carry groceries out to your car even had on short sleeved shirts. I'm still "not from around here" and I am sick, so I had on a hat and warm jacket.

Also on a medical note, we just got the results back from the autopsy on our pet rat. The cause of G'Kar's death was apparently a heart defect that made him too weak to be anesthetized. The good news is that he tested completely negative for mycoplasma, which is very common in the domestic rat population, and highly contagious.

This is good news because we didn't have a proper quarantine period when he came into the house, and his cage was in the same room with our lady rats for several weeks. Our vets says that since he was clean, it is nearly certain that they don't have it either.

We're still very sad to have lost him. But we're so very glad to know he didn't die of something contagious.

Now, when we decide to bring a new male rat into the house, we'll need to try to seek out a breeder who is fairly certain that s/he doesn't have mycoplasma in her/his colony. You can't be positive with such things, I know. But outside of finding a lab rat, a reputable breeder is our best chance to avoid introducing the illness into our home. We just got lucky with our adoption from the Humane Society, and then a pet store rat.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Catrina helps with the mitten knittin'

The first mitten is nearly done. I've made more progress since taking this shot of Catrina, modeling the cables.

Warmed up into the mid teens F today, which was welcome as we went running around today. We had dim sum with some friends at Yangtze in St Louis Park.

My cold still persists, which at this point I think is worth getting looked at by a doctor. Two weeks, with my throat getting worse instead of better. I'll see how things are going tomorrow, and decide then.

Memories of Grandpa

Funeral Flag presentation
Originally uploaded by studio.nuovo
My father posted some photos of my Grandfather's funeral. I wasn't able to fly out there for the memorial or interment of his ashes at Arlington. I'm so grateful for the photos he made available. I am lucky, because I have so very, very many fond memories of Grandpa.

I feel so blessed when I think of my family. We may not see each other as often as we would like, separated as we are by so many miles. But they are always in my heart.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Mitten Is Born

A Mitten Is Born
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Ah ha! Mitten is progressing. I had to frog the whole wrist because I'd miscounted my cast on, but it's slowly becoming a mitten. Click the photo for more info.

What? You say it's still just a tube? Well, yes. But I can begin to see the mitten where now there is only empty space. I can dream, can't I?


NOAA says it's 6°F (-14°C) outside right now. The evening sky is an even pale gray, the light on the snow is gray. I'm getting tired of my cold, which still shows no signs of giving up and going away. But I'm inside and it's warm and comfy, and I'm knitting with kitties all around me.

The yarn is a soft tweedy gray, a blend of wool, cashmere and silk. I'm working on a pair of mittens for my grandmother. But I'm a bit distracted, so it's been knit 4 rows, frog one. It's what I get for trying to knit and talk on the phone at the same time. Mom is sick. Fortunately it's nothing that some hydration, antibiotics and a hefty dose of rest won't fix. Mom just called to say she's home and the kitties are making sure she's getting that doctor mandated rest by sitting on her and being too cute to disturb them.

Now that I've received that good news, maybe I'll be able to focus on the mitten at hand. I'm going to rustle up some herbal tea and work on making friends with this mitten. No point in fighting with yarn. The yarn always wins if I approach it like that.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Work, work

Missy Tash
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Just finished the hardest step of my current project. Won't be done working for another couple of hours, so just breaking to grab a little dinner and pat some kittons.

When this project is caught up, I'm going to jump for joy. Then I'm going to dive into knitting a gift for my grandmother. And editing some photos for my cousin. And at some point I need to squeeze in some holiday shopping. Keeping things simple this year, and it's a darned good thing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shhhh. We's nappin'

Shhhh. We's nappin'
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
I have pretty much figured out by trial and error that there aren't many cold medicines that I can tolerate given my current daily meds. Even 12mg of Benadryl these days will make me too loopy to focus on difficult concepts (or read for pleasure, or type without liberal use of the backspace key and spell checker.)

Afrin seems to do alright, but since you can't use it for more than a couple of days, it doesn't help with a persistent cold. Guaifenesin seems to be side-effect free so it's on the approved list, but has limited effectiveness for a cold all by itself. Vitamins, liquids, the humidifier and healthy foods help, but not with immediate symptoms.

So this cold gets to run amok for the rest of the day, while I take a break from work before I do more harm than good to my project under the influence of a child's dose of Benadryl.

Going to have to make up the time tomorrow. In the meantime, I think the cats snoring on the sofa and in the sunbeams nearby have the right idea. All the critters in the house are napping except me.

Bodhisattva in the Snow

Bodhisattva in the Snow
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
Coffee break!

Beautiful sunny day out there today after snowing most of the day yesterday. Still chilly, 7°F (-14°C) according to NOAA, but the sun is sparkling on the snow and warming the kitties lying in the sunbeams indoors.

Worked until 9:30 last night, and will be working late again today to meet a deadline. Today should be the hardest day of the project, and then it should start to roll into the smooth but tedious phase.

Coffee's ready. Back to work. Sooner it's done, sooner I can goof off!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ratties on the mend

Hiding with the stuffed toys
Originally uploaded by Pockafwye
I'm pleased to say the rattie girlies seem to be showing continued improvement in the sneezing department. All signs of porphyrin around their eyes or wee nosies are gone. Hardly any sneezing from Dureena and Talia. And Delenn is better each day. The humidifier is on full power, we've checked for drafts, and they're still getting a tiny dose of baby Benadryl each day.

I'm also adding a bit of couscous with olive oil and garlic to their meals. I take omega 3 supplements all winter to help with dry eyes and sinuses, so I figured the olive oil couldn't hurt them. They're so tiny, I don't want to take any risks with fish oil based supplements in case there's any mercury in them. And they love the olive oil flavor. Garlic is recommended on the web in various places to help keep them healthy, too. So this pasta salad seems to be a hit. I'm going to look for whole wheat couscous next time I shop. Right now the girls have just got the regular stuff.

No word yet on G'Kar's autopsy. The doc says it will take a while so they can do the cultures properly.

Monday, December 3, 2007

First snow

First snow accumulation of the year. We got a pretty decent snow fall on Dec. 1st. A kind of dry, gritty snow that fell all day, but didn't pile to more than 3 or 4 inches deep. It was good and windy, though, and cold enough to keep us happily indoors. We've obviously still not "gone native."

It's 20°F (-7°C) out right now, according to NOAA with a wind chill of 9°F (-13°C). Tomorrow we're expecting an Alberta Clipper to come through with some more of the white stuff. Glad I'll be working from home, since the morning commute gets so much more "interesting" when it snows during rush hour.

Speaking of working from home... break is over. Time to make myself useful.