Monday, April 30, 2007

Cast your vote

I originally designed the quilt with a horizontal layout - as you saw in the diagram I first posted last...let me check...last Monday.

Really? Just one week ago? Wow. That was fast.

Anyway, by the time I was ready to start laying it out, I had decided that I wanted a vertical layout, so that's what I made.

Something about it is bothering me, so I decided to flip it (using the magic of computer technology, not hours of repositioning fabric triangles) in order to conduct a comparative study.

Unfortunately, it's not just a matter of how I hang the quilt, since my subconscious isn't budging on the light upper left / dark lower right aspect of it all. So it will have to be one or the other.

I won't have to rearrange all the triangles if I decide on the horizontal orientation, but I will have to be much more careful when putting it together, since it would mean something like each block being a mirror image of its current layout. Or something to that effect.

So. Inquiring minds want to know.

Which do you like better?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

How many seams

I had an initial theory about how many seams it would take to join 756 triangles together into a single quilt top, but when I did the math it turned out I was wrong.

Any guesses?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Grand total: 756 triangles. That I'm using.

The time at Rita's house today was exactly what I needed. No phone calls...well, okay. One phone call, from Julia, who wanted let me know that she "throwed up" today. But no Internet and no cooking a hot Costa Rican lunch for our workman, as I've been having to do all week. Or has it been two weeks by now?


Rita has a couple of old doors that she leaned up against the wall (the first picture was taken when I thought I would only be using one door. Then I did some math and decided that I would need both.)

I brought a big sheet of batting to drape over the doors; the texture of the batting, plus the slight angle of the surface, keeps the pieces from falling off, for the most part. I did use pins in the first couple of rows because the ceiling fan was blowing the pieces off the board, but once I got down a little lower, that wasn't a problem anymore.

The photos show a few stages in the process of laying out the triangles and deciding how I want to position the different colors. I decided several days ago not to restrict the color placement to the traditional two colors per block, but instead to consider quilt as a whole and disregard the fact that it is built as a series of blocks. With the color placement crossing block boundaries, the blocks themselves are simply a means of construction, rather than the focus of the design. As I mentioned earlier, I do still have to obey the value placement (the relative positions of darker and lighter fabrics) or the illusion of circles and waves will be lost.

I ended up deciding on a vertical layout of 7 blocks by 9 blocks, so the finished quilt will measure 42 by 54 inches (plus any borders I end up adding). It's bigger than that right now because each triangle has a quarter inch of extra fabric on each edge for a seam allowance.

As I neared the bottom of the layout, I found that I was going to run out of dark fabrics before I got to the end of the layout. Since I knew my darkest colors needed to be concentrated in the lower right corner, I moved to that area and began working from the bottom up. I had to rearrange a bunch of pieces that I had already put in, but working from the corner upward made a dramatic difference in the overall effect, and was well worth doing.

I cut extra pieces from three fabrics, which provided enough triangles to complete the layout, as well as enough flexibility to shift things around and get a good flow.

Overall, I'm very pleased, and it looks a lot like I had imagined it, and also is not at all what I had pictured, if you can see what I mean. I'm not 100% satisfied with the layout, but it's definitely good enough to go ahead and make, if I decide I don't feel like getting back into it.

I transported it home by lowering the whole thing to the floor (with help!), then folding the extra batting up over the pieces, and rolling the whole thing up gently. I hope the pieces aren't being stressed, since a triangle cut out of fabric has bias edges (cut on the diagonal) and is fairly prone to stretching and distortion if it's not handled gently. But the only other option was to take it all down while keeping things in order and that didn't seem like a very attractive option at all.

Plus, this way I actually can go back and make a few changes if I really want to.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Triangles. Cubed.

Cubed in the sense that there are a looooooot of them. Nothing algebraic going on at this point.

I'm getting together with my quilting friends tomorrow and want to use the (child-free, phone-free and, most critically, Internet-free) time to lay out the whole design.

That means I need a lot of triangles. There are two different kinds of triangles in my pattern, and they are different sizes, so I need to cut my fabrics into strips of two different widths. I'll need some of each kind of triangle from every fabric, and overall, I'll need twice as many large triangles as small ones, so I cut twice as many wide strips as narrow ones.

As it is currently designed, the quilt would measure 30 x 36 inches. In order to make it using the 22 fabrics I have chosen, I would need around 10 large and 5 small triangles from each fabric. However, I've decided that I want to make it larger than that; so, once I had cut a few strips and sliced them into triangles, I counted how many I could get from a strip and decided that I should cut two four-inch strips and one 2 5/8-inch strip from each fat quarter (a fat quarter is about 22 inches wide), and just one of each width from fabrics for which I had the full 44-inch width available. I'll have a lot of extra small triangles from the full-width fabric, but since I don't know how much I'll be using of each color, I'll just go ahead and cut the whole strip into triangles and figure out what to do with the extras later.

It took a lot longer than I thought to press the fabrics and cut my strips. Fortunately, once I had the strips stacked carefully together, it took a lot less time than I thought to cut them into triangles and then separate the stacked pieces back out by color.

The transparent ruler with the four triangles taped to it has been lying around with my quilting stuff for five years, which is how long it's been since I last made this block pattern (for this quilt). I knew there was a reason not to bother pulling the templates off!

There are two templates for each triangle, and they are oriented differently on the ruler. For the first cut, I line up the appropriate template with the edge of the strip and cut along the edge of the ruler. From there on out, I alternate between the two template orientations, lining up the paper cutout with the previous cut and the edge of the strip, and then cutting along the exposed edge. And voilà - six perfect triangles, all at once, with each cut.

I have no idea how many triangles there are in the picture below. There are around 25 or so large triangles for most of the fabrics, and anywhere from about 15 to probably 35 small ones, depending on the width of the original piece of fabric. The lightest blue was an oddly-shaped scrap (left over from this project - and it was only a fat quarter to begin with), so that had to be cut up on its own and with great care. It yielded fewer triangles of both sizes, but there are enough to use in two or three blocks, which is good.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Random Memory

I'm jogging (trotting?) up the stairs in our house. I'm about Robin's age - eight or nine. For some reason, I have a rubber band on my right wrist, which shifts as my arm moves up and down. It makes me feel very grown-up, this thing on my wrist, even though I'm fully aware that there's nothing particularly grown-up about it.

I've remembered that moment occasionally over the years; most recently, on Monday when someone reminded me of a task that I had to do later in the day. I usually remember errands and shopping lists fairly well without writing them down, but once in a while I can just tell that something is not going to stick. I decided to try the rubber-band-on-your-wrist trick to help me remember. It worked.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Getting physical

Maybe I'll blog the making of this quilt.

Until today, the design was all in my head and on the computer (and on a postcard I printed of it and have propped up on my monitor). I don't have tons of time, so I need to plunge in and get my hands dirty, as it were. (Actually, they need to stay pretty clean now that I'm dealing with fabric.)

Here's the mess I made picking fabrics (after, of course, cleaning off all the random stuff that was covering the sewing table to begin with):

My first criterion in choosing fabrics was that I wanted to use very pure colors, not grayed-out ones. Partly because I like them more, and partly because the idea is to represent lush, tropical flowers, even though I'm mostly just sewing a bunch of triangles together.

In order for the blocks, each of which consists of twelve triangles, to create the illusion of circles and movement (which you can hopefully see in the diagram I posted yesterday), I need to invert the positive and negative space in adjacent blocks.

Since I also want to achieve an overall gradation across the quilt, the fabrics I select actually need to provide me with two different gradations. Each block uses two fabrics, and there has to be a pretty good contrast between them or the effect I want won't be noticeable; that was one of the things that became clear very quickly when playing around with the software last week.

The very lightest blocks need one extremely light fabric and another that's dark enough to contrast with it. And the very darkest blocks have to have one extremely dark fabric and one that's light enough to show up against it. I also want both fabrics in the lightest blocks to be significantly lighter than either of the fabrics in the darkest blocks. So I need a very wide range of values (value is the lightness or darkness of a color).

By alternating the darks and lights as I lay them out, I can make sure there's enough contrast all the way through the gradation. The fabrics won't be paired up one-to-one in this order, and some of them may not be used at all, but this layout shows me that I should be able to do what I need to do.

By the way, there were about nine light and nine dark fabrics in the diagram, and I have eleven of each laid out here.

The balance of colors is about the same - mostly bluish purples for the darks, with a few blues and a couple of greens. I didn't really have any light yellows like I used in the design, so the lights start with cream and then get into oranges and deep reds that are pretty close to what I had envisioned.

I've always hesitated to combine hand dyed fabrics with prints, but I'm going to do it here. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Do I owe you a quilt design? Why yes, I believe I do.

A group of quilters from Hawaii are coming to Costa Rica this year, and the cultural center that is hosting them is going to have a quilt show while they're here.

The theme is "Tropical" and the show is apparently going to be titled Two Tropics, One Quilt - this sounds a little better in Spanish, and the idea is that quilting is one common ground for two very different tropical cultures.

I was pleased to be invited to contribute a quilt, and recently had (well, asked for) the opportunity to play with my friend's Electric Quilt, which is quilt design software (What? You're surprised such a thing exists? Never be surprised. Everything exists.)

Here's what I came up with. It's my favorite traditional quilt block, called Kaleidoscope. I envision making the last few blocks in the lower right with actual flower petal shapes rather than triangular patches.

I didn't take this photo

Mantis, originally uploaded by Lawraa.

But I found it on the Internet.

I love the title suggested by one of the commeters over at Flickr: Yaying Mantis.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

One more thing

Before I close up shop for the night:

A nice little Earth Day video for those of you with high-speed connections. It's in Quicktime format and very slow to load, so open the link in a new window or tab and then do something else until you hear the lady start to talk.

On a related note, seismic activity seems to be more frequent around Costa Rica's change of seasons, when all of nature is kind of shifting gears. As a result, it's not uncommon for there to be some kind of tremor or earthquake during Easter Week. Costa Ricans' particular mix of devout Catholicism and folk traditions is an interesting one. Many Costa Ricans (including those I am most intimately related to) will tell you, for instance, that it always rains on Good Friday. I don't know about "always," but it did this year. I have to imagine that the occasional earthquake during Holy Week must really get folks' attention.

But the major earthquake of 1991 did not happen during Holy Week. It came on April 22, perhaps getting folks' attention at an even more appropriate time.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Be good to your planet :)


On Friday I got rid of an ant infestation in the dog food, using nothing more than a broom, a plastic bag, and some patience.

I object to bug spray not because of the bug death it engenders (although I'm not too crazy about that either), but because I don't like spraying or spreading poison about the place.

Plus, this was the dog food, so poisoning wouldn't have been an option even if I had spray on hand and were inclined to use it.

Basically, I moved the bag (which was flimsy to begin with and somehow had become perforated with many, many tiny, ant-sized holes) from Point A to Point B. I swept the ants from Point A out the door, then waited 10 seconds or so for good measure, and moved the bag back. Sweep ants from Point B and repeat ad infinitum.

Once I began seeing fewer ants on these repeated passes, I got the plastic bag from the last batch--which had been punctured when taking it out of the trunk and was already doubled up with the plastic bag from the previous batch--and transferred the dog food, a scoop at a time, watching for ants.

I found a few in the bulk of the food and took them out, and found a many in the crumbs at the bottom, and got rid of them too.

I put the double-bagged chow up on a stool and, periodically throughout the day, I swept the stragglers that crept out from under the baseboard on the floor where the food is normally kept. By the end of the day, the ants were gone.

And here it is Sunday and they've stayed gone. I wouldn't have thought it possible.

Ants. Plumbing. Rocks. Turbines, for crying out loud.

Yup, I'm going to lose all my readers.

Tell you what, tomorrow I'll post a cool quilt design I made on my friend's Electric Quilt software, 'kay?



Thanks, Dad!

[Alternate Title: Wow, I had no idea I had that much to say about plumbing.]

The sink in our downstairs bathroom has had a leak pretty much since the house was built. Every once in a while, as I was sitting, um, nearby, I would think about how we really should do something about it, and wonder how complicated it was going to actually be. And how much damage the cinder block and other house-parts were sustaining, what with the continual moisture, and all.

It got worse. Costa Rica has occasional tremors and earthquakes, and Alex thought maybe one of them had contributed to the problem by further splitting whatever it was that was, apparently, split. Around the same time, he thought he noticed a slight improvement in the water pressure, so he further hypothesized that the water company was delivering better pressure, and that that had increased the leak.

Anyway, both sides of the cinder block wall were starting to blossom with mold or mildew or one of those fearsome things, and really we needed to do something about it.

Alex's response was, characteristically, "Get right in there and dig holes in the wall! Now!" Which he did. And verified that, yes, there was a leak. A steady one.

Also characteristically, having appeased his do-it-now instinct, he considered further action to be of secondary importance. We did start turning off the hot water at its source and shutting off the breaker switch to the water heater except when someone was actually using the hot water, since that seemed to be the side that had the leak.

(Lest you think me unsupportive, I was actively pursuing my own live-with-it instinct, adapting to the new status quo of gaping holes in the wall and using the hot water on a need-to-know basis without too much trouble.)

Finally, a week or two ago, he had a guy come over to look at the problem and fix it. This is the same guy who is laying the stone on our front walk; true to the Costa Rican skilled labor norm, he's multifaceted.

He agreed (and so did I) with Alex's thought that whoever first installed the sink hadn't consulted with whoever installed the pipes, and nicked the pipe when drilling the holes for the screw anchors. If this were the case, then the girls leaning on the sink when they wash their hands would be another factor that could have made it worse.

Well, Gilbert went ahead and finished digging holes in the wall, and it turned out Alex's theory was correct. The drill had made a dimple into the hot water pipe, and you could hardly even see the split, but it was enough for a steady, audible leak whenever there was water in the pipe. We all agreed that it would have been better if they had gone ahead and drilled right into the pipe, since then it would have been fixed right then. Oh well.

Of course, there was also a smaller leak on the cold water side, which was probably more recent and would have needed fixing anyway. Or might have gotten cracked when Alex dug his initial holes in the wall back in January. Either way.

In any case, I'm not actually here to talk about my leaky bathroom sink.

What I really want to discuss is (one of) my pet peeve(s) regarding the construction of this house.

Traditionally, Costa Rican homes did not have running hot water, and many still don't. It's more common to have an on-demand heater built into the bathroom shower head, and to do everything else exclusively with cold water.

So installing hot water pipes alongside cold ones is not automatically a part of home construction here. I get that.

Still, it's certainly not unheard of, and it has bugged me from the outset that the builders working on our house ran hot water to both bathrooms and to the kitchen sink, but not to the laundry room. In fact, they had to run it right past the laundry room in order to get it to the kitchen, but didn't leave even a capped-off pipe in there, and in fact buried the pipe itself in a cement sidewalk outside the house, so getting to it is a non-trivial affair. (Unless we were to go in from the other side, where the hot water pipe runs, exposed, along the surface of the back yard. Don't even get me started.)

I don't mind doing most of the laundry in cold water, although sometimes the gymwear would benefit from some heavier-duty cleansing.

But dyeing fabric is a whole 'nother issue. The dyeing process itself takes place in warm water, and is done in smaller containers anyway, so that's fine. But the final rinse has to be in hot water in order to remove the spent dye from the fabric, lest it bleed out during subsequent washings. This final rinse has to be done in very hot water, in the washing machine. Well, I guess it could be done without a washing machine, but I'm not going there.

I have experimented with carrying buckets of water from the sink to the washing machine, but aside from the obvious drawbacks of that system, the water isn't as hot as it should be by the time it gets to the kitchen sink. (Did I mention the pipe that runs along the surface of the back yard?) And then it cools off more while the bucket is filling, and even more as it's poured into the washer.

The last couple of times, I have dragged the washing machine into the bathroom (it's narrower than a standard US machine and just barely fits through the two doorways). Aside from the obvious drawbacks of that system, filling the washing machine by dropping the hand-held shower head into it meant that I had to be there to turn it on and off whenever the washing machine reached the appropriate point in its cycle.

Not being there when it needed to be turned on resulted in a lot of lost time.

Not being there when it needed to be turned off resulted in the uttering of a lot of bad words. Some of them directed at the builders of this house.

Anyway, when Dad was here for a visit, he looked over the setup and came up with the best solution, under the circumstances; the bathroom and laundry room share a wall, and the hot water could be routed over to, and then through, that wall without too much in the way of wholesale destruction.

And it turns out he was right. With the pipes exposed already, running hot water off to the side and through the wall cost about $10 extra in materials and took so little time (at $2 an hour) that I think Gilbert did it while I was out picking up the girls from school one day. By tomorrow, the cement will have had several days to dry and he'll re-hang the sink.

And yes, he measured the position of the pipes this time.

Julia made a zoo

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Oh, all right.

Fine. I'll read the dang newspaper.

Online, of course.

(This is a follow up to the entry posted earlier today and will make more sense if you've already read that.)

Apparently what we have is a system of rationing. Damage to a 40 megawatt turbine earlier this month had caused a reduction in the amount of energy generated, and damage to three others (in three different places) on Wednesday brought the supply down to the point where it couldn't meet the demand, and the reserves had already been depleted by the first incident. It doesn't say how the turbines were damaged.

Gilbert (our stone mason for the week) was right about the coming days; somehow, they're going to be able to leave the power on all weekend, but are planning on a rationing system for all of next week. The main power company dictates to the distributors how much power they each have to conserve per day, and the distributors are responsible for...well, distributing the cuts among the various districts they serve.

Hospitals, industry and emergency response units are not supposed to be affected, and the distributors are supposed to keep any given district from losing power for more than two hours at a time (which, itself, would be an improvement).

Ah. [Reads article while composing blog entry] Politics also comes into it, because apparently Panama used to sell energy to Costa Rica, but stopped a month ago. Plus what I mentioned earlier about the dry season affecting the hydroelectric plants. Plus the turbine. So I guess it all came to a head on Wednesday.

Note to self: Just make the coffee before 3:00. Make the coffee early and make sure Robin has the rechargeable flashlight, and everything will be just fine.

Getting old

No, not me. These power outages.

When Alex is out of town, I vary my bedtime ritual to have a bedtime snack and fall asleep on the couch while watching a couple of episodes of Friends. I never do that when he's around; we either watch a rented movie together or each do our own thing on the computers until somebody decides it's time for bed.

Anyway, he left on Wednesday and I was already looking forward to my nightly RerunFest.

Alas, it was not to be. The power went out on Wednesday evening. Fortunately, I had made the girls' dinner and they were eating it. Unfortunately, I had not made anything for myself yet, so I had to have cookies for dinner. (Okay, the relative fortunateness of that may actually be up for grabs.) It came back about 9:30, by which time we were all asleep.

Well, these things happen.

But when I went down to pick the girls up from school the next day, the power was out down in town (3 miles from the house). It had apparently been out since noon, and came back while we were picking up some things at the grocery store (which had a generator to provide some light and power the computerized checkouts).

When I got home, the power was out here. When it hadn't come back by dinner time, we went over to the restaurant across the street (which also has a generator). The lights came back on while we were there, so the girls were able to get into their pajamas and brush their teeth without candles. They were on the phone with my Mom when the power went back out. It apparently came back at midnight, given the fact that my digital clock (which resets to 12:00 when power is restored) was flashing the correct time the next morning.

Yesterday it went out from 3:00 to 7:30 pm again. Here at my house. Different friends in different neighborhoods have had other patterns. Some of them have lost water as well, but that hasn't happened at my place.

Apparently; nay, clearly, the national power system is in some kind of crisis. Not being a news watcher myself (and not having power at regular news-watching times anyway), I haven't gotten the official word, but everyone seems to have a theory.

Needless to say, the rumors floating around any given neighborhood are generally relayed more authoritatively than anything anyone has heard from an official source, but I've heard it all over the past few days.

Costa Rica gets much of its power from a hydroelectric plant at Lake Arenal. The lake is low at the moment, because we are at the end of the dry season and the rains haven't really begun in earnest. So apparently that's a factor; the supply is simply insufficient to meet the demand.

Then I heard that there was some sort of explosion at Arenal, although that was said to have occurred on Thursday while the first major blackout, affecting most of the Central Valley (and, therefore, over half the population of the country) simultaneously, occurred on Wednesday. (Since then, there seems to be more of a rolling blackout pattern, with the power coming and going on the hour or half hour.)

I also heard there was a problem with an electric plant in Limon, which was damaged or destroyed by fire several months ago. Several months ago? Uh, okay.

The guy who is installing the paving stones on our front walk (which is coming out really beautiful, by the way) says he heard the power would be working normally over the weekend, and that the rolling blackouts would resume on Monday. (He can lay the stones without electricity, but some of them need to be cut to fit, and he can't use his power tool to do that.)

My mother in law says she heard the president of the power company (which is a government monopoly) and some repair techs on TV yesterday, and that they all seemed like nice people, and people do make mistakes. And, too, that this nice young sexologist who is on once a week had some suggestions for making the most of the blackouts.

My own opinion? Whatever it is, they seem to be working on it, and if I could only learn to make the coffee before 3:00 pm everything would be fine. Well, better anyway.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

And of course I mean that in the most innocent sense of the word.

I remember, as a child, tucking my stuffed animals into my bed in hopes that it would get me out of making the bed. Mom said they could stay there for the day, but that I couldn't do it again.

Alex had the girls out with him this evening. When I went around closing windows and curtains I also opened up their beds as a tiny contribution to the upcoming bedtime rush. Robin had tucked some of her animals into her bed and let me just say, they looked...cozy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Washing rocks

That's how I spent my day.

Apparently the paving stones we bought on Friday need to be cleaned before being installed.

But look how pretty they're going to make our front steps!

This is 30 square meters of paving stone:

These are the (inevitable) helpers:

This is my day:

This is how far I got:

Those rocks in the background aren't what's left for tomorrow, they're all the ones that the girls (mostly Julia) washed. The ones left for tomorrow are all of those, plus another pile two or three times that size. The rocks I actually washed - the ones stacked on the steps - are probably a little more than half of the total.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Practically a Day in the Life post, but not quite.

I had a busy day - off to the store before breakfast because I forgot until too late last night that it was Julia's turn to bring fruit for 25 kids. I also forgot that the store doesn't open until 7:00 am...fortunately the dinky little in-a-pinch store opens earlier and had a whole box of bananas and they were in great shape. I bought 30 bananas and five big carrots, since there was no other kind of fruit for sale. (Are avocados a fruit?)

Joanna came while the girls were eating, so I had her peel & slice the carrots for me.

Got the girls to school right on time, took the food in, went to the gym. Carlos usually splits the dance class into two parts, with two different kinds of music, but today did cumbya for the whole hour - my favorite!

Quick (cold) shower at the gym, and off to pick up José, who wasn't where he said he'd be. I finally mustered my feminine wiles and asked a newspaper vendor if he would let me use his cell phone. I don't think he really wanted to, but he did. Called José and found out where he was, went there and got him.

Alex has been working a lot lately, and also recently signed a larger-than-usual contract, so although he's not home much, he's taking some interest by proposing some home improvement projects. My job with José today was to buy 33 square meters of paving stones so we can spruce up the front steps and sidewalk.

We went to the stone place and found that the stones cost half what we had been told to expect to pay, so that was nice.

...And now Alex is ready to go out for dinner, so I'll have to tell you the rest another time.

Or not. Here it is in a nutshell: 33 square meters is a lot of stone, and heavier than you'd think. Nobody was sure how it would go, but in the end the guy's truck made it up here okay and I was only 15 minutes late to pick up Julia which, as we established earlier in the week, means nothing.

Julia is growing out of her clothes and gets out of school at noon on Fridays so I took her to the thrift store, where we got 26 items of clothing for $12. There is actually a three-tiered pricing system, so really I got 20 items for $4, four items for $6 and two more items for $2.

And some of it was for me!

Right. Now I'm going out for dinner.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Didn't see that coming: Navy edition

I have no idea if this is real or not, and I don't care. It's my new favorite thing in all the world:

This is a transcript of a radio conversation between US and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the
South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again,
divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.


Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
Posted in a comment on this post at Shakesville. The quote that makes up the body of that post is also one of my new favorite things, but in an entirely different way.

Didn't see that coming

We're trying to decide whether or not our Greece trip should include a couple of days in Turkey.

It's perfectly logical, but hadn't actually occurred to me, that Googling the phrase safety in Turkey would provide plenty of tourism-related results, as well as a whole batch of these:

Turkey Safety (Turkey for the Holidays)
Basic tips on how to thaw, stuff, cook, and store turkey properly.
Oh, right. That.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In which music ties it all together

Driving to the guild meeting this evening, I found myself flipping between two radio stations - the one I wanted to be listening to because the English-speaking DJ was about to start his "drive home" show, and the other one because the song was better.

Considering that I argued and then kind of mostly made up with Alex over the course of the day, I found it amusing that the songs in question were (the obnoxiously whiny) "I Will Always Love You" and (the much more listenable) "Our Love's in Jeopardy."

In addition to playing with the radio, I was obsessively checking the clock and my watch (four minute difference), since I had left the house considerably later than I should have, plus it was rush hour. And raining. I knew from the outset that I would be late for my meeting, but I was beginning to suspect I would be even later than that.

So then a song came on that had to do with not being on time. I can not for the life of me remember what it was. All I know is that it wasn't this one, but once I thought of that one, I couldn't get past it to figure out which one it was (even with the help of some very creative Googling).

Of course, by then the drive home show had started, so the whole "on time" thing might have been the DJ's way of telling everybody to chill before he reported on all the fender benders (which apparently began piling up right behind me, because he mentioned at least three points I had already passed without incident.)

I got to the meeting 40 minutes late. I wasn't late for the guild meeting itself, but the board members were supposed to get there ahead to discuss something that had been left pending at our regular board meeting two weeks ago.

I figured people would be inclined to blame rush hour and the rain, although I was prepared to admit that I had left home later than I should have as well. I wasn't really surprised that some of the others were as late as I was, although I was a bit taken aback to find that only one of us (not me) even remembered why we had agreed to meet early, and then we blew it off anyway.

This, my friends, is why it is sometimes very hard to hold oneself to the punctuality that one is raised to expect of oneself.

I don't want to look up one day and find that I've become incapable of being on time for things, but you know what? I have to acknowledge that I do live in a world where 40 minutes late doesn't always mean you've missed anything, and in many cases 15 minutes late doesn't mean anything at all.

Anyway, on the drive back home I found myself listening to an REO Speedwagon song; I think it was Keep on Loving You. I had that album--Wheels are Turnin'--back in high school; you know, back when there still were albums (although my copy was on cassette). I remembered a particular time when I listened to it while driving myself home, also at night, back when doing so was still a novelty.

When something connects the past and present like that, you can't help but compare the two moments; the person you were then and the person you have since become. My 17 year old self just had no idea that I would be hearing that same music on the radio while driving myself home one night 20 years later. To say nothing of the greater context - Central America and all that.

It made me feel affectionate for my past self. I didn't tend to worry a lot about the future back then (still don't), but it would have been nice to reach back, just for a second, with a quick message: "It's like nothing you can imagine, but it all works out."

Monday, April 09, 2007

So very five

Julia has been talking really loudly lately. So much so (and so consistently) that I was beginning
to think we should get her hearing checked.

Fortunately, the school sent home a note that they would have nurses or doctors or whatever the specialists are in to do (optional) hearing and vision screening last week. I sent in our $10 (each) and when I asked about the results today they were, unsurprisingly, normal.

I think it's just that she's five. She's really really five. She wakes up before six, talks loud, touches everything, gets her clothes dirty every single day, wants to do it herself, is in love with life 93% of the time and inconsolable 7% of the time, and konks out reliably before eight.

(Speaking of ages and stages, did you see how tall Robin is getting?)

Day off (line)

Julia caught a 24-hour bug that hit her on Saturday night. I figured my iffy stomach was a result of cleaning up after her (cleaning up my bed, I might add) but that turned out not to be the case.

Neither one of us actually felt that bad by Sunday morning, but I was so tired I actually turned off the computer after breakfast (turning it on is pretty much reflex at this point) and never even went near it for the rest of the day.

Now that's tired.

I spent the whole day napping and reading a book of essays by women who had experienced disasters of one kind or another while traveling abroad.

Why would I read such a book at this particular point in time? I don't know, exactly, except that it was given to me recently and was on the top of the pile when I needed a book. It didn't, in point of fact, make me feel any different about the upcoming trip, but still. What was I thinking?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Even better

And less controversial.

The only problem now is that I'm going to have trouble taking the system seriously enough to get any decent information on Greece out of it.

As per usual

Easter week is a very big deal in Costa Rica, both religiously and as a national vacation. The whole country doesn't really shut down like it used to, since each year more and more businesses find it profitable to stay open for much or all of the week, but it's still very much National Go To The Beach week.

Which, of course, makes it National Stay Away From The Beach Week in my book. Not that we go to the beach that often anyway, but Easter is sure a good time to continue our long tradition of Not Going To The Beach, what with all the crowds and traffic and everything.

Instead, we go over to my friend Rita's house and swim in her pool and watch videos for a couple of days. This year Alex even came with us.

Hey, tell you what. Last year Blogger was acting up and I never posted the kids-in-Rita's-pool pictures. Since it turns out I took a lot more last year and they came out better than this year's pictures anyway, why don't I post a few of those as well:

Friday, April 06, 2007

The ultimate guidebook

Having spent hours (upon hours upon hours) reading travel websites recently, and knowing full well what the Internet is capable of, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to stumble upon this today.

Hell (also known as Hades and Aitch Ee Double Tooth Picks) is a place of eternal damnation in the Underworld. It is (for many travelers) the ultimate destination. Hell is popular with travelers rich and poor alike, at all times of year. The good news is that going to Hell requires little planning, but it's not for everyone.
And it goes on from there.

I found most of it quite funny, but use your judgment clicking through. A few of the folks that read here regularly would probably find it distasteful.

Well, okay. Just one more quote:
Reports vary on the climate of Hell. Reputable Middle-Ages travelogue writer Dante Alighieri described it as dark and cold, and indescribably frigid at its center. However more recent descriptions suggest very high temperatures, with a snowball having little chance of surviving. Sounds like global warming has already affected the tourism appeal of this destination. One notable exception to this longstanding heat wave was a brief period on October 27, 2004 when Hell in fact froze over. Experts are still debating the nature of this cold snap, though anecdotal evidence suggests that it may have been caused by the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's no spring chicken, but Loren likes it.

We bought a roast chicken for dinner last week.
Two days later, I made the leftovers into a stir fry.
Two days after that, we had the stir fry leftovers for dinner again.
Today, I'm eating the last of it.

The parrot next to me is utterly enamored of this dish, and keeps asking for more chicken.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Culinary conjecture

I trust that I will return from Greece with a heightened appreciation for both olives and sardines; two foods that, I will admit, I have been quite happy to omit from most of my culinary pursuits to date.

Of course, even as I look forward to enjoying these foods when procured fresh and at their source, I must admit that I also foresee an ongoing distaste for the varieties that are available locally, where "locally"="this side of the Atlantic."

Also? Even while reading about the raptures of Greek cuisine, and anticipating my own appreciation of the same, I have to acknowledge that little of what I've seen so far holds any aesthetic appeal whatsoever.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Gotta love an honest guidebook

Talking about renting a car on the Greek island of Lesvos, free online guidebook author extraordinaire Matt Barrett has this to say:

As for driving on the island, if you are a good driver and enjoy driving you will love it. The roads are quite entertaining, as mountain roads tend to be, and they are in good shape. The only dangers are other drivers but if you drive defensively you will have no trouble. If you are prone to drifting and absent-mindedness, preferring straight lines to curves, then you should take the buses or taxis.

Alas, they found none

Someone found this blog by Googling the phrase chicken and egg smoking pictures yesterday. I knew you'd want to know.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

This too shall pass

Julia lost her second tooth today.

A few minutes after lunch this afternoon, I noticed that her space was bigger than before, so I asked her where her tooth was. Her eyes got big and she started checking inside her mouth and looking all around her on the floor.

We were at the mall, and she wanted to retrace our steps to look for the tooth. I tried to convince her that we wouldn't find the tooth on the floor of the crowded mall, but without delving too deeply into the fact that she probably had it right there with her, if you see what I mean.

I told her that Lisa had lost one of her teeth when she was little, and that all it means is that you have to find something else to put under your pillow. She thought maybe a grain of rice would be a good substitute. When she continued to fret, I told her that I might have access to Tuesday's tooth, and could let her borrow it for tonight. She thought that was a good idea, and then needed to know if I was her Fairy Godmother.

She eventually connected the dots herself, vis à vis the whereabouts of the tooth, and allowed as how she had felt something hard when she ate her lunch, but that she had swallowed it. Unfortunately, she was unconvinced by my "Oh good! Then it's safe and sound right here in your tummy!" But, being Julia, she was pretty much over it by the time we got home - as you can see.

Got kids? Show them this picture.

I remember when this happened to me, back in the day.

In fact, I would hazard a guess that, at some point, this probably happens to everyone who has long hair as a child. You just can't know until you've tried it how big a mess will result from rolling long hair up on a brush or even (in this case) a comb.

I read a blog post a while back about someone who ended up pulling the individual bristles out of a hairbrush, one by one, with pliers in order to get it out of a child's hair.

A comb is probably the least-worst way to learn this lesson, but even so there was a point last night where I thought that the time might have come to find out how serious she was about wanting to cut her hair short "like yours, Mommy."

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