Thursday, December 18, 2008

reading about Africa

I've read a lot of books so far this year. Most of them have been fiction that explores the lifestyles of other cultures in places like India, China, and Africa.

Over the summer I read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which told the story of an American missionary family trying to survive and "spread the Gospel" in the Congo. It was fascinating. A few days ago, I finished Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Taking place in Nigeria, it is often compared to the great Greek Tragedies. Now I'm right in the middle of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche (translated from French). If you've seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, you'll be familiar with the subject material of this fiction-based-on-fact novel: the 100-day genocide in Rwanda in which approximately 800,000 people were viciously murdered in 1994.

This morning on the way to work I caught a story on NPR about the conviction of a Rwanda army colonel and two others for their roles in the genocide. Here's the CNN story. I always think it's interesting when past and present link up like this for a split second on the morning news.

And? Today is the anniversary of the day the 13th Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery went into effect back in 1865.

The irony gives me the chills.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the edge of panic

Warning: complaints ahead.

Friday night is the boss's annual holiday party. Ryan and I will arrive fashionably late, head straight for the bar, and spend a couple of hours socializing with the people I already spend more time with than anyone else.

Saturday morning will come way too fast, when I will have to run out to church to meet the piano tuner at 9:00 a.m. for an emergency piano-tweaking before choir rehearsal at 10:00 a.m. By 11:00 I will be yelling myself hoarse because no one listens to me when I say things the first time. What page are we on again? What measure are we on? Oh, I didn't know you were starting there. Are the men supposed to sing here, too?

Saturday afternoon we will not be having a brass ensemble rehearsal because everyone decided at the last minute that they can't make it.

So, I will go home to deal with my parents who want to come over so my father can perform "odd jobs" around the house for me, such as hanging wreaths and any other appropriate decorations. However, what this really means is that my mom and dad will come over, later than they said they would, and hang one wreath only. Then my mother will ask me if I want my father to do anything else. I will politely decline. My mother will then try to take me aside and "encourage" me to come up with something else for my father to do so he will feel needed.

Meanwhile, my father will begin poking around in the fridge for beer or other alcohol. When I finally think of something my father could do, he will have already consumed one beer and will have started sucking down a second. He will also complain about how he is now ready to go home and it is "all about control" with my mother.

It will be more of the same in the next week and a half until Christmas and then afterward. While we are eagerly awaiting the arrivals of my sister and brother and my brother's SO on Christmas Eve, neither Ryan nor I is excited about spending the majority of Christmas Day with my parents.

I don't necessarily want to air all of my family's dirty laundry here on this blog, but I do want to do a bit of venting. Alcohol plays a large part in the problems my siblings and I have with our parents. Couple that with over-emotional guilt-tripping and other assorted manipulative tactics and you've got a potentially volatile mix of personalities that keep my brother, sister and me on edge, all the time. (Yes, I realize at the beginning of this post that I mentioned I would be heading straight for the bar at the party tomorrow. Since alcoholism appears to run in my family, I am extremely careful to watch my intake and not go over-board. I monitor my coping mechanisms and believe me I am very aware of where my own personal imbibing can lead.)

I haven't fully enjoyed a Christmas in a very long time. Probably not since I was a kid, when I was too young to understand what was actually happening.

More on this at a later time. Maybe.

End of rant.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

belated thanks

I was catching up on some blogs today from WAY back and stumbled across the following. I think it is a nice way to put things in perspective, don't you?

I am thankful for…

the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends...

the taxes I pay because it means I am employed...

the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat

a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home…

my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine…

the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking…

all the complaining about our government because it means we have freedom of speech…

my large heating bill because it means I am warm…

the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear…

the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive…

the piles of laundry and ironing because it means that my loved ones are nearby…

weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive…

Well said.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

getting ready for Turkey Day

Our plans for the loooong weekend are coming together as I type this. So far, things are looking good! I'll be having some kind of tofu/veggie thing from Mamasans for lunch momentarily. Tomorrow, we'll be joining Ryan's and my parents for a feast up in Irondequoit, followed by an impromptu gathering in the evening at our house. Friday might entail some birding for lifers at Durand (we'll be looking for white-winged crossbills). I will NOT be shopping on Friday. Saturday I will be getting the hair that is dangerously nearing my waist-line CUT OFF. Finally. Sunday, Ryan and I will be enjoying The Nutcracker. As in, the ballet.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Frigid Cemetery

For today's Skywatch Friday post, I would like to share with you a photo that I took last Winter during a visit to Mt. Hope Cemetery. It's one of my favorites. I know it's an old photo and some of you may have seen it before because I'm sure I posted it soon after I took it. It effectively captures the mood I'm feeling today. It's very cold and windy outside, and the sun has yet to make an appearance. But, I'm optimistic that the weekend will be a little better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

less stress but not stress-less

Yep. It's getting to be that time of year again. The time when I typically want to bury myself under my down comforter and not come out until December 26th.

As a loyal and faithful (and paid) church musician, my time in the next few weeks will be spent furiously coordinating extra rehearsals, re-arranging music because volunteers have suddenly decided they are too busy to come to rehearsals, and general peace-keeping among those who think that I, as the Music Director, am not focusing my attention where they think it ought to be focused.

I calculated that I've already worked a total of 48 hours this week, as of today, between my church duties and my 8-to-5 paralegal gig. By Saturday I'll be well over 50. Which, to me, is a lot. However (and that is a big 'however'), for some reason, this year seems a lot less hectic than years past. Of course, I haven't hit the 4-rehearsals-a-week mode yet. That doesn't come until the week after Thanksgiving. But, still, I'm in a much more calm state of mind today. Perhaps it's because I have planned out my time better this year. Or, perhaps it's because of the Yoga stretches I've been trying to do each night and the Prem Joshua tunes I've been listening to at my desk all day long. It's hard to say.

I've been mostly relaxed about everything, but I do want to let loose a few gripes. Here are some of the things which have been really irritating me lately:

1. Tailgaters. Seriously, people. I can only drive as fast as the person in front of me. Back off.
2. People who talk to me like I'm stupid. And it's not really condescension. It's stupid people talking to me as if my IQ, like theirs, is below room temperature.
3. Junk mail. It is SUCH a waste.
4. Our cold house. It's freezing. Especially the toilet seat.
5. I somehow expect everyone to be patient and uber-flexible with me, when I, myself, need to work on these traits. I'm not good about being go-with-the-flow. I'll keep trying.

Now, here are the things that are making me smile lately:

1. The Welcoming Committee. That would be the kitties greeting me at the door with their excited 'meows' (read: 'feed me') when I come home from work. That would also be Ryan waiting with a hello kiss and the glass of wine he already has poured for me.
2. Crocheting. The blanket I've been working on for over a year is almost done. I'm also working on a shawl and a butt-warmer to put over the c-c-c-cold leather seat in my....
3. car! Now that my old one finally has been put to rest, I no longer have to worry about making it to work safely every morning.
4. Having everything I need. A roof over my head, good food to eat, a healthy, loving relationship, two good jobs, health-care coverage, a supportive family, the freedom to do and say whatever I want, and many other blessings.

Pictures to come soon. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Questionable Music Purchases

Thanks to Julia for tagging me on this one.....

These are really bad.

Pre-18 years old (Go ahead and laugh, I give you my full permission):
1. Whitney Houston: Whitney Houston, released in 1985 (I got this with my hard-earned baby-sitting cash just for the song How Will I Know?)
2. Huey Lewis and the News: Fore!, released in 1986
3. Clint Black: Killin' Time, released in 1990 (Don't even ask. I was going through a brooding, teen-angst period, and for some reason, country music was a good outlet at the time.)
4. I also remember purchasing at least one or two Weird Al Yankovic albums, but I don't remember which ones.

I need to spend some time thinking about the embarrassing music I've purchased as an adult. Perhaps I'll have to do a Part-2 post.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 11/7/08

Montezuma NWR is still lovely on the cloudiest, dreariest of days.

Be sure to visit Skywatch for more cool photos!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

my post-election post

Watching the returns come in on Tuesday was exhilarating. Ryan and I sat on the couch in front of the laptop, refreshing CNN every 30 seconds or so. Around 9:00 p.m., I turned on the little TV and we watched everything unfold. We were nervous until Obama clinched California, and then we started to realize what was actually happening.

We had voted earlier that evening. Our polling place is a small neighborhood church right around the corner from our house, within walking distance. It was a gorgeous, balmy evening, and on the way home I remarked how I had just voted for our next President.

Later, as we were watching Obama's victory speech, Ryan and I both choked up and got a little teary. We were deeply moved by his words. Ryan commented that he hoped this historically important day would help this country begin healing from the 400 year old rift that has been the cause of so much pain for so many people.

In the few days since the election, I've had some heated arguments with my co-workers. We're a divided office and I am often out-numbered. The card-carrying Republicans I work with are not happy about the election results. In fact, they think this is the beginning of the end of the world, acting as if Armageddon is inevitable and right around the corner.

Now, my office is pretty laid back. It's a small office of about 10 people or so, and we often call ourselves a dysfunctional family. Everyone is in everyone else's business, and yes, we call ourselves friends. But some topics around the office are definitely bones of contention. Politics is one of them. In the last two days, I've been called Socialist, Communist, lazy, and ignorant, among other things.


My response to that was "walk a mile in my shoes and then make a judgment call."

Politics can do nasty things to people, but in the last several months it has also ignited a certain fire. My greatest hope, however, is that once people get over themselves, and once Obama starts implementing the great ideas he's told us about, we'll all be better off.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 10/31/08

Happy Halloween!

This week's Skywatch Friday photo was taken last weekend: we watched some fabulously ominous storm clouds roll in over Henderson Bay in Sackets Harbor, New York.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

sackets getaway

We made it up to the cottage over the weekend. It was probably my last chance for relaxation before the holiday madness.

The weather on Saturday was completely miserable. It rained all day long. So we stuffed ourselves full of food. Kristi and I made some great progress on our crochet projects, and we carved pumpkins!

Kristi's Mr. Bill pumpkin was the result of a happy, unintended carving mishap:

The weather on Sunday was much more conducive to coffee on the beach and strolls up Woods Road:

Stay tuned for photos of the storm rolling in over Henderson. I'll post those on Friday for Skywatch. They're pretty incredible.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 10/24/08

For Skywatch Friday... I have been taking a lot of photos of marshes and swamps lately. This one was from the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Images of Autumn, Part 2

Ahh, Montezuma. Last time we visited, we didn't see anything too out of the ordinary. There were lots of great shore birds, ducks and geese. Loved the coots and American wigeon. I was hoping to see some brant or snow geese. No such luck. We did get some good looks at a bunch of yellow-rumped warblers bee-bopping around in the area below. They sure enjoyed flashing their rear-ends at us!

The vistas were spectacular as always, but the leaves floating in all the various pools were also interesting to look at.

Last weekend Kirk and Kristi joined us for a roasted turkey breast dinner. We gorged as usual. I think the table looked unusually nice, with my assorted gourds and herbs and clippings from the yard. I wished I had some pinecones, though!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Images of Autumn

A few weeks ago I was out in the yard trying to get some things cleaned up, weeds pulled, leaves raked, etc. It was a gorgeous day.

These gourds came right out of the compost pile in the backyard:

I pulled out a ton of weeds, but I left the pokeberry, in case some passing Cedar Waxwings happened to stop by:

I've got a few other great photos from our visits to Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuges from the same weekend. And shots of the dinner party we had this past Sunday. I'll get to those eventually.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

mice stories

Very early this morning whilst dreaming about John McCain's angry, rolling bug eyes and the phrase "the failed (insert your favorite issue here) policies of the last eight years", at approximately 2:34 a.m., I heard a thud followed by a scurry and then Isabel's anxious whirring and howling. Scurry under the bed, scurry around the bedroom. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. More howling and a little whining. I figured she just had a bad case of the midnight crazies.

"Isabel! Shut up!" (Yes, we know yelling at the cats really is not all that effective a deterrent, yet for some reason we do it anyway.)

Scurry, scurry.

By now, Ryan and I were both wide awake and wondering what the hell was going on. Something had Isabel ALL worked up and it was obvious we would not be sleeping until this issue was resolved.

"I'm turning on the light."

I peered over the end of the bed, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the sudden assault of light. Isabel was hunkered down, crouched over something. And then, under her paws, I saw the little tail swish. And then she let the poor thing go and it took off. We watched Isabel play a cruel game of catch and release with the creature until Ryan got out of bed, captured the thing, took it downstairs and let it go outside.

This is the second time this month the cats have proven themselves to be at least halfway decent mousers. A few weeks ago while Julia and Matt were visiting us, the cats discovered and chased a cute little brown one all over the house. The darn thing ran up Ryan's pant-leg to get away from everyone. Ryan ran outside, clutching at his jeans, to let it go. About a half an hour later, when things had calmed down a bit, we were sitting on the couch in the living room when his face paled.

"I think it's still in my pants, " he said.

We went out to the back porch. He took off his jeans and shook them and out dropped the mouse. We let that one go outside, too.

At this point, mice in our house are no big deal anymore. As in, I know they're around and I don't freak out about them. Though they seem to have a relatively high entertainment value, I just don't want them pulling out the couch stuffing. I thought the buggers were coming in to the house from the cellar by way of the water pipes under the kitchen sink. I had jammed a bunch of steel wool under there, so either that didn't work, or they're infiltrating from elsewhere.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for humane pest control.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

uh oh, a rash!

Does anyone have an antihistamine handy? I have developed a rather nasty red, itchy rash on my face, neck and chest. And while I can’t see it under my hair on my scalp, I suspect it’s there also, as well as behind my ears. My eyelids and cheeks feel puffy and swollen and I am in a general state of malaise.

I don't normally have bad allergic reactions. I stay away from the things that I know cause me problems, i.e. large quantities of MSG in my Asian food and medication from the tetracycline family. I discovered the tetracycline allergy the hard way - in 1999 I was taking Doxycycline for a UTI when after about 12 hours or so, every inch of my body above my waist broke out in hives. I was a hideous scarlet splotchy freak of nature when I went on a job interview the following day. That's probably why I didn't get that job.

Anyway, this morning, after my shower, as I was combing out my tangles in front of the mirror, this rash appearead. I can't figure it out. There are only two things I did differently in the last 12 hours, so maybe one of those things is what caused this.

Last night, while watching the debate, I had a monster cup of chai from a Tastefully Simple mix that I bought from a friend of mine. I've had it before, but not in a really long time, so this morning, I double-checked the ingrediant list: Pure cane sugar, nonfat milk powder, nondairy creamer (partially hydrogenated coconut oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate,
mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate, lecithin), natural tea blend
(black tea, darjeeling), honey, natural flavors, bourbon vanilla extract from
Madagascar, natural spice blend (cinnamon, aniseed, cardamom, clove,
ginger), vegetable gums.

EEK. I suppose it's possible that I have a sensitivity to one or more of those CHEMICALS. Like dipotassium phosphate. Which is used as a fertilizer and pesticide.

The other thing that deviated from my usual morning routine was my facial cleanser choice. Both Ryan and I use Kirk's Castile Soap for facial cleansing (and he uses it for all-body cleansing as well). Well, Ryan is out of town for a couple of days and took with him the bar we had in the shower. So I used Dr. Bronner's Citrus Liquid Soap to wash my face instead. I have used it several times before, not usually on my face, but I have washed my neck and chest with it before and did not get a rash.

Maybe my eyelids will swell shut and I'll have to go home. That would be better than being embarrassed in front of clients all day long.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

getting tired of politics

I admit it. I'm fed up. I'm tired of the he-said-she-said stuff. I have grown weary of the hypocrisy, especially that of the Republican "spin-machine."

It pissed me off big time when Sarah Palin, during the VP debate last week, accused Joe Biden of dredging up the past. And then what did she do? She turned around this week and brought up the whole Obama/William Ayers/Weather Underground thing. Real classy, Palin. She conveniently omitted from her baseless attack that Obama was 8 years old when Ayers was doing his anit-Vietnam protesting.

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, a political campaign is like a great big circus, where there's a mass baptism and a few hangings along the way.

Yes, I am going to watch the Obama/McCain debate tonight, but I'll be glad when this is all over.

Friday, October 03, 2008

date night/debate night

Instead of going out for date night this week, we decided to stay home and park it on the sofa. We ordered a pizza from Little Venice, opened a bottle of Yalumba Shiraz Voignier, and watched the debate.

Like most everyone else, we had pretty low expectations for Sarah Palin. I don't like her. Not even close. I think she makes women look bad; like we wouldn't be able to hack it in the White House. I think she is recklessly undoing all of the good that Hillary Clinton has done for women. (For further commentary on this particular dymanic, see this article from Slate.)

Ryan and I cheered for Joe Biden and shook our heads in digust when Palin started rambling on about things that didn't make any sense. We were worried that Joe wouldn't keep his cool. I have to give him a lot of credit for holding himself together every time Palin said something asinine. Instead of getting angry, he just flashed that spectacular Irish smile.

I think both candidates handeled themselves well, but Biden clearly had more of a command of the issues. His experience spoke volumes above Palin's lack thereof. (In fact, I like to joke that I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin simply because I was a Student Ambassador and traveled overseas. To other continents. I even attended a session of Parliament in Canberra in 1992. That qualifies me for the VP, doesn't it??)

So, Obama's poll numbers jumped after last night. Good. What I want most out of this election is for people to realize that voting is about using your brain just as much as, if not more than, using your heart. It is blatantly apparent, abundantly obvious, painfully so, that Sarah Palin should not be in this race. What will it take for the American people to realize this?

Don't you want someone in the White House who is smarter than you? I do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

my thoughts on the Cleveland Orchestra

This afternoon on the way home from work I caught this story on NPR's All Things Considered. It seems The Plain Dealer's long-time classical music critic is ceasing to be just that via possible 'demotion' for writing less than stellar reviews of the Cleveland Orchestera. Or at least that's what it looks like to most people, despite the refutations of the newspaper's editor.

Being a former resident of Cleveland and one who attended many, many Cleveland Orchestra concerts, I have a special attachment to all things Cleveland. I read The Plain Dealer regularly because it was delivered to my house every day. I also read Don Rosenberg's reviews of Cleveland Orchestra concerts with some degree of religiosity, especially since I was in attendance at a lot of those performances, even after college was over.

I like to brag that while in Cleveland, I got to hear quite a few famous musicians, including Alfred Brendel, Mitsuko Uchida, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Joshua Bell. I was at a performance when it was learned that the great Robert Shaw had died, which prompted a spontaneous rendition of Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (How lovely is thy dwelling place) from the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem.

Christoph von Dohnányi was the Music Director back then. As a theory and composition major in college I was even fortunate to attend one of the master classes he occasionally gave down at Severance Hall. It was more like a lecture, but really, it was Dohnányi so who cares what it was? Back in those days, I used to watch him conduct the orchestra and fantasize that is was me up there on the podium, flailing my arms around, commanding those glorious harmonies to come forth. He was a fascinating, intense personality to observe in action.

When it was announced that Franz Welser-Möst would be taking over for Dohnányi in 2002, I admit I was shocked. Not long after, I went to a concert under the new direction. The difference in energy was noticeable. It wasn't as exciting or captivating, and I remember hearing similar complaints from friends. There was a reason why good old Franz Welser-Möst earned the nickname "Worse-than-Most" among us.

So, in summary, I agree with you, Don Rosenberg. I knew what you meant when you said, in your review of a performance of a Mozart symphony, that "the key of C had never sounded so mirthless." I hope everything works out for you. It's good to know there are people out there who still refuse to sacrifice honesty and integrity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

so long, summer

Tomorrow is the final day of summer - the Autumnal equinox is September 22nd this year. In celebration, Ryan and I spent a lazy afternoon in the backyard, savoring the warmth at the end of the day.

We spent some time earlier running errands. I also re-filled the bird feeders, pruned the tomatoes a bit and yanked out a few errant weeds. Around 4:00 we settled down in the backyard with some Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA. (Wegmans, Aman's and Herrema's are all carrying Great Lakes beer, which is very close to my heart. Seems their distribution problems are over!)

Autumn is both Ryan's and my favorite season. We are both looking forward to the Fall migration period, changing leaves, soups, stews, braises, and our Harvest Party, which we've started to plan. We're hoping to host a gathering in early October to honor our favorite time of year.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I was tagged by Julia. Again. Thanks, Julia. :) Here is my meme of 7 fun or interesting things about me.

1. I make pretty accurate-sounding monkey noises to get the cats all riled up. Oooo-ooo-ahh-ahh!

2. Too much wine gets ME all riled up.

3. I must make the bed every night before going to sleep, no exceptions. I'm obsessive-compulsive about it.

4. I cry when I laugh too hard. Really, I mean seriously crying. It's like some weird switch gets flipped because I'm wired so strangely.

5. Ryan thinks a I sound like a seal when I laugh hard.

6. I treat gardening, birding, and all outdoor things as religious experiences.

7. I've been to both Australia and New Zealand. I think that's pretty interesting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

sweet dreams

I'd like to just mention that Vicodin can be a very effective sleep aid. I'm still experiencing some residual pain from my fall last month. At the end of the day, sometimes my ass really hurts so I take a pill before going to bed. Last night, I had a dream that Ben and I were socializing with the Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice.

Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11 date night

Last night, in addition to it being the 7th anniversary of 9/11, it was also date night. Ryan and I went down to The Little to hear Lumiere play some French freedom -style jazz.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

choir picnic croquet

Everyone looks forward to our annual church choir picnic because it usually involves lots of food, lots really bad musician jokes, Croquet, and, yes, drinking. (Note the beer bottle in Ryan's shirt pocket.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

supporting my sweetie

I hadn't been to a lot of Varnish Cooks shows lately, so I went to one at Johnny's Irish Pub right before we left for Cape May. (Ben was my date for that show.)

When I wasn't indulging in the many Pale Ales that kept showing up in my hand somehow (even people I barely knew were buying me beers!), I was doing a lot of picture-taking of the band, and of the friends who attended the show.

I love how the lights are swirling around in some of these shots. It's almost an exact pictorial representation of my slightly inebriated, happy state of mind at the time.

Last weekend, I tagged along with Ryan and the other guys to the Turtle Hill Folk Festival. There was something serenely relaxing about sitting in a church pew listening to the band while casually thumbing through the Presby hymnal in front of me. Maybe it was because I never get to sit in a church pew and meditate because I'm always sitting behind the piano instead.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

bye, bye Ben

A few weeks ago, our friend Ben moved to NYC after accepting a position at the American Museum of Natural History. On the eve of his departure, he invited Ryan and me over for a pretty swank dinner.

We had some lovely appetizers, but the main course of surf and turf was a real hit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

caption needed

Lauren took this photo of Isabel last weekend and I think it is just screaming for an 'I Can Has Cheezburger' LOL Cats caption. Any other suggestions?


Friday, September 05, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 9/5/08

I love looking at the Skywatch Friday posts on the other blogs I usually read . I have a lot of photos of the sky, so I decided to participate. My contribution this week:

I took this photo* a few weeks ago. This was the view of a protected nesting site in the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. I love how three-dimensional the clouds look in contrast with the flat beach.

[*at the suggestion of a commenter, I enlarged it and re-posted.]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

gross incompetence

Yesterday, something so ridiculous and asinine happened to me, I just had to share it.

I got home from work at the usual time. I walked in through the back door, into the kitchen, and set my purse and lunch bag down on the kitchen table. Isabel mewed at me so I gave her some love and then wandered into the dining room to look through the mail.

Me: "The RG&E bill AGAIN?? I just paid this! I can't believe we're getting ANOTHER bill!"
Ryan: [grunts from his office]
Me: [sigh as I open the bill]

What I see nearly takes my breath away: Total Natural Gas Cost........$8,714.73.

That's right, $8,714.73. That's almost NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

I didn't make it up. Really, I didn't. Here's the proof, just in case you're not sure if I'm telling the truth.

I immediately got on the phone. Of course, I was on hold for 15 minutes before I actually spoke to a living, breathing, cranky customer service rep. I explained to her that the electric portion of my bill (only $52.00) was ok, but that I was particularly alarmed by my alleged natural gas consumption.

She pulled up my account and said, "Well, I can see why you're concerned about this."


Now, let us consider that last month we paid a mere $72.00 for our gas usage. Let us also consider that the highest our entire RG&E bill has ever been, in the nearly two years we have lived in that house, even in the middle of Winter, was roughly $467.00.

If you look at the bill closely, it says the reading for the electric was an estimate, while the reading for the natural gas was actual. Now, in order to get to the gas meter, which is LOCKED UP IN THE BASEMENT, the meter reader would have to knock on the door and ask Ryan or me to let them in. The electric meter, on the other hand, is on the side of the house, easily accessible. Last week we did get one of those yellow Sorry-We-Missed-You hangy tags on the front door handle and the fence next to the electric meter had been KNOCKED DOWN.

I think the idiot meter reader thought the electric meter was the gas meter.

What galls me is the following: Surely it says in my account somewhere that the gas meter is INSIDE. And, at some point, the numbers from the meters have be entered into a computer and linked up with our specific account. Wouldn't the person doing the entry notice the enormous difference between last month's usage and this month's? Don't you think a warning bell would have sounded and maybe someone over there at RG&E would have called me to read the meter? Or, perhaps they would want to come out and check to see if their meter had been damaged somehow or is just flat out broken.

Of course not. Not in a million years. Instead, the send out a clearly inaccurate bill. Did they think we would not notice the error? Worse, still, did they actually think we would pay almost nine thousand dollars without thinking there's a problem here? Come on.

Conclusion: they don't get paid enough to care.

I gave Cranky Customer Service Rep the meter read that Ryan had taken while I was on hold. She said that will lower our bill considerably. No kidding. We also have a scheduled meter read set up for next week, and an adjusted bill should be coming to us in the near future.

To be continued.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

s'mores don'ts

When you have leftover s'mores fixin's from a recent camping trip, do not think you are being smart by cooking them in the microwave. If your marshmallows do not explode first, you will have one giant gooey mess on your hands. And face. And everywhere else. Trust me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

sun, sand and seafood

We got back from Cape May late last night. It was a very relaxing long week-end, but we managed to pack in quite a lot of activities.

We saved money by camping instead of staying in a hotel:

We spent a lot of time on the beach.

We did a lot of birding.

I added many life birds to my list, including these juvenile Laughing Gulls:

Most importantly, however, was the seafood. We ate ourselves silly:

Everyone had such a good time that we're already planning next year's trip.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

blog browsing procrastination

So, as I am avoiding putting away the laundry and cleaning the bathroom floor and scooping the cat poop out of the litterbox, I am reading the blogs I usually do. I usually read my favorite blogs through Google Reader. I was catching up with Julie Zickefoose, my favorite bird blogger, who posted another adorable ode to her pet puppeh. I clicked the link mentioned in the post and it took me right to Julie's blog, which I had never visited before. Just looked at through the RSS feed.

And, lo and behold, my mind went:




And, in other news, my tomatoes are still not ripe. I'm betting they'll start to redden approximately one day after we leave for Cape May next week. Bah.

something you don't see every day

Each morning before work, I take puppeh outside so she can do her business. Today, as she was sniffing around for "the perfect spot", I watched the birds come to the feeders and admired how tall the weeds in the back yard are getting. I was slurping my way through a lovely warm bowl of flaxseed oatmeal with some divine local blueberries when I happened to glance upward.

Do you KNOW what that is? Fried squirrel. That's right, it's an electrocuted squirrel hanging on by his front paws, dangling away on the power-line. I know it is dead because it was in the exact same position when I came home from work.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

hopped up on goof-balls

That's right, I am. And it is GLORIOUS.

The short story is:

I fell down the stairs at church on Sunday. In front of everyone. And I was wearing a skirt. I went to an urgent care center where I had x-rays taken. Upon review of the x-rays, it was determined that I had not broken anything, but most likely bruised my coccyx. Badly. I was also given a prescription for Vicodin which I promptly filled at Wegmans.

Tuesday I went for a follow-up with my regular doctor, who told me that the very tip of the coccyx had most likely separated from the rest of the bone and that I would have pain for several more weeks while it heals.

The rest of my body is bruised and swollen, but I thankfully didn't break an arm or sprain an ankle or anything like that. It has been a painful challenge getting in and out of bed, standing up, sitting down, bending over, using the bathroom, etc. I was using a cane for a while to help with going up and down the stairs, and a walker in the bathroom to hang on to while getting in and out of the shower. I have an inflatable donut I sit on for support, which helps a little with the pain.

But, I am supposed to not be sedentary, to keep with my regular routine as much as possible.

I've stayed home from work all week using my accumulated sick time, which has been most helpful in my recovery. Each day I've felt a little better and have been able to perform more tasks than the day before. (This is the first time since last week I've been able to check e-mail.) If I keep on keeping on, my hope is to be mostly pain-free by the time we leave for our trip to Cape May in two weeks.

Thanks to all of you who have offered your well-wishes!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

dinner duty, night 1 = pesto

While Ryan's been helping our friends renovate their new home, I've been on dinner duty. Monday night, I turned this:

2 C firmly packed basil leaves
1/4 C toasted pine nuts
3 large cloves of garlic, toasted
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan
7 TBSP of the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil we have
salt & pepper to taste

into this:

I tossed the pesto with whole wheat fusilli pasta and a little of the pasta water to thin it out. I served it with Caprese salad: fresh, local tomatoes (since mine STILL aren't ripe yet), fresh mozzarella, fresh basil from my garden, and drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday we had grilled onions, peppers, green beans, celery and carrots tossed with grilled, Asian-seasoned chicken breast that I tossed with Teriyaki sauce and served over herbed rice. However, my culinary ambitions ended there. The rest of the week we ate take-out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

over the river

Friday night, Ryan and I were sipping drinks out in the backyard when we heard some music drifting over from across the river. It sounded like Superman to me. We gulped down the drinks, gathered up the puppeh and walked over to Corn Hill to catch the RPO's Genesee Barge Concert. We were only there for a little while, though, when puppeh started getting fussy and barking a little, which I'm sure disturbed the concert-goers.

On the way home, we stopped on the Ford Street Bridge and I snapped this photo of our fair city:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

do you like pina colada?

This has become my new favorite summer drink. Mmm!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

summer blooms

The lilies have arrived in an




Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Should, I Wish, I Love

I love it when Julia tags me:

My ex... is someone with whom I had absolutely nothing in common.

Maybe I should... stop futzing around on the internet while I'm at work and make a dent in these motions that need to get filed.

I love... being in a happy, healthy relationship with someone who "gets it."

People would say...I'm anal and uptight, but I think I'm just really well-organized.

I don't understand...why 24 hours in a day aren't enough.

When I wake up in the morning... I pet whatever animal is closest - one of the cats, or the dog, or Ryan. :)

I lost...track of time a lot this week.

Life is full of...little blessings and small miracles. You just have to have enough awareness to recognize them.

My past is something...I have often blocked out, intentionally, only to discover it lurking around later on, rearing its ugly head when I least expect it.

I get annoyed when... people are rude to each other.

Parties are...more fun when they're at our house!

I wish...I didn't worry so much about things I can't control.

Dogs...we have 1. She makes a great substitute for an actual kid.

Cats... we have 2. They are just as loyal as the dog, but require a lot less attention.

Tomorrow... is one day closer to Friday.

I have a low tolerance for... litterbugs, smokers, people with a false sense of self-importance and co-workers with bitch-mouth.

If I had a million dollars... Ryan and I would retire to the Adirondacks after paying off all our debt.

I'm totally terrified of...making the same mistakes my parents made.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

the Reverand still has it

Last week I scored free tickets to see Al Green at the Jazz Fest. We had a blast at the show, and some pretty decent seats, too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

bino-scoping, 101

I've been reading up on the techniques of digiscoping and binoscoping lately, and becoming more and more fascinated. Digiscoping requires a spotting scope with an apparatus for mounting your digital camera. I don't have a spotting scope as of yet, but it's on my long list of things to purchase some time soon. You can achieve the same sort of effect by pointing your digital camera through your binoculars. So, I decided to try it. My first go at it wasn't so bad. My set-up looked like this (you can see the bird feeders in the background):

I had to take a couple of practice shots before the birds showed up:

First to visit was a male house finch:

We also have an entire family of downy woodpeckers hanging around. The darn things move so erratically that it's difficult to get a shot that isn't blurry. This is my favorite one. Even though you can see the outline of the eyepiece on my binos, I love this photo of Mom feeding Junior: