29 February 2012

The OC

I'm back in Orange County for a few days. As always, it's weird to be here. In my heart, I'll always be a California girl, but it doesn't feel like home anymore.

24 February 2012

Snark Bait

Apparently this is what I do on my lunch break when I'm feeling particularly irritated.

Last year I saw this full-page ad in a Christian e-newsletter I receive regularly. It rubbed me the wrong way, in so many different ways, that I put it in Paint and scrawled snark all over it. I have no recollection of what was going on in my mind at the time or why I decided to vent in this particular way; I just found this picture file on my work computer.

It's safe to say that I am not the target market for movies like "Courageous".

22 February 2012

New Found Glory

Listening to New Found Glory's "Coming Home" album always takes me back to the fall of 2007, when I was living alone in Visalia, pregnant, working at a small company that did architecture and construction engineering. Professionally speaking, it was one of the happier times, but everything else about my life then was very dark and difficult. You'd think that New Found Glory would thus have negative associations for me, but actually, I still really like their music and especially this particular set of recordings. "Familiar Landscapes" and "Boulders" are both songs that I can listen to again and again.

I listened to the album today, and I can hardly believe that it was all more than four years ago. On the other hand, I'm not even the same person that I was back then, so it's almost like experiencing the memories of some other individual, though one whom I know slightly and with whom I empathize. Also, more than ever, I feel as if I floated through the second wave of the pop-punk renaissance (2002-2006ish) without realizing that it would pass all too soon.

20 February 2012

Hot Tip for Cat Owners

Cross-posted from over at Simple Pleasures.

This post relates to two of the simplest of pleasures: owning (and caring for) pets and saving money. I enjoy both of those activities! As a cat owner and cat lover, I've spent a fair amount of money over the years buying the kitty cat necessities: food, litter, litter boxes and scoops, catnip and toys... I started out with the standard clay-based litter, and while it was functional, it didn't neutralize odors, it scattered and spread dust everywhere, and it created a lot of trash. I know that clay is a natural material, but it didn't seem useful to put a bunch of dirty clay in the landfill. I switched to silicon crystal litter, and while it was quite expensive by comparison, it absorbed odors much better than clay, it didn't have much dust, and it produced less waste because less of it was required to be effective and it lasted twice as long per unit as clay litter. Still, I didn't like sending all those bags of tiny rocks into the landfill to fester in nitrogenous waste. And even more than that, I didn't like spending top dollar on something for my cats to poop on.

One day, while shopping at the local grocery mart, I decided to take the plunge and try something completely new and different: plant-based litter. While more expensive than clay, it is far cheaper (~$5 for 10 lbs) than crystal litter. The pine pellets are resource-efficient: in addition to being 100% natural and biodegradable, they are formed from the waste product (sawdust) of another industry (lumber). Perfect!

I bought a few bags and found that I loved the effect: pellets absorb odors as well as the crystal (I don't have quantitative data, as I don't own a smell-o-scope; I'm just judging from my own olfactory experiences) and when stirred to activate or increase absorbency, they emit a pleasant "pine fresh" odor. I was happy with my choice and worked on switching over completely to the new litter system. And then... while researching pine litter on the internet, I read that the "pine pellet cat litter" is actually sold very cheaply in bulk at feed stores because it has been used as horse stall bedding for ages, and has just recently been adapted, remarketed and sold (with significant price increase, of course) as cat litter.

I live in a small town in a rural area, so at the next opportunity, I took myself off to the local farm supply superstore and picked up two bags of pine pellets, each bag $5 for 40 lbs. While not everyone would find it practical to stock up on 80 lbs of pine-scented cat litter (I know, for example, that there are apartment-dwellers who wouldn't have a place to put it), there are probably feed and farm supply stores that carry smaller denominations that still provide the benefit of bulk pricing.

I'm happy with my purchase. And I'm thinking about putting the post-usage sawdust in my compost, where it is likely to not only biodegrade (nature has microbiotic organisms who exist to break down nitrogenous waste) but also to keep away critters who have been messing up my bin but may be dissuaded by the scent of feline urine. I'll keep you posted.

17 February 2012

Friday Five: Five Things I'm Good At

Over at The Collective, the topic of the week is "Five Things I'm Good At", although being uncomfortable with phrases ending in a manner prepositional, I would probably restate it as "Five Things At Which I Am Good". And since I haven't done a Friday Five in a while, I thought I'd steal the theme to prompt for a blog post.

At first, this topic sounded pretty easy. I generally remark that one of the curses of being me is that I'm actually pretty good at a lot of stuff, but I'm not great at anything. So surely I could find five things wherein my performance could be described as "good". Right? But then I remembered that many of the things I do well are actually things I used to do well and haven't done for a while. Example: Dance. I was no Anna Pavlova, but I was at least good enough at ballet that my ballet teacher asked me to work as her teaching aide for some of her younger classes. But unfortunately, the summer before I was to start doing that, she had emergency surgery on her foot and couldn't dance or teach anymore, so not only was I not helping teach ballet but I didn't even have a ballet teacher myself, and I never found another instructor that I liked, and so I stopped dancing in my senior year of high school. I haven't done ballet for 15+ years and while I'd like to start dancing seriously again, my lifestyle (single parent who works fulltime) doesn't support that kind of effort. Life is about trade-offs. Oh! But I'm kind of good at trade-offs, then, right?
  1. Trade-offs - I still have a lot to learn and gain in this area, but I'm pretty good at maximizing what I can do within the restrictions of what I can't. Does that make sense? Case in point: graduate school. Now, I'm as dedicated as anyone to wanting to get straight A grades, and I have for most of my life. But during the majority of my time in grad school, I was working fulltime and married. I could have done nothing but work and schoolwork the whole time, and come away with a perfect 4.0 GPA, but I decided that I wanted to spend time with my husband and family and friends, go to Disneyland, read fun books, watch movies and TV... Basically, I opted for having a life while also working and in school, and so I was willing to take a GPA between 3.8 and 3.9. I graduated with high honors and managed to do most of what I wanted. Not bad, all told. [Note: This is an engineering trait. We are essentially lazy; we devise ways to get maximum return for minimum investment and then use terms like "efficiency" and "earned value" to paint ourselves as virtuous and disguise our inherent lack of interest in putting forth any more effort than is absolutely necessary.]
  2. Being a dedicated mother - I've had to accept that nobody can be a perfect parent 100% of the time, but I really do care about being a good mother and try hard at it every day. I'm going to count myself a success, because after more than 4 years, my child is still alive, relatively healthy and well-adjusted. He solves puzzles far above his age level and can do addition and subtraction in his head.
  3. Traveling - My style may not be to everyone's taste, but all things considered, I'm very very good at traveling, especially internationally. I make good packing lists. I can include everything that might be needed but travel light and pack everything into an impossibly small piece of luggage. [My primary fault is packing too much reading material--books and magazines are heavy, you know--but to be stuck in an airport or airplane without something to read would be a travesty.] I try to know everything I can about my destination(s). If I'm traveling with companions, I might even put together little travel-sized pamphlets for everybody, containing useful things like maps, our itinerary and schedule (even though we don't usually stick to our schedule), phone numbers to the American embassy and our hotel/airline, even (if necessary) key phrases in languages spoken where we'll be traveling. I probably already know a lot about the history and geography of our destination(s) (see #4, below) but I'll research everything that I don't already know and then bore you to tears by telling you about it. When in country, I'll spend way too much time in museums, staring in awe at some particular artifact that is very important to me, even though it looks like just a dusty old piece of rock to everyone else. Despite my US passport, I am invariably mistaken to be German, even by flight attendants on Lufthansa, so it makes for some fun and funny confusion at times. If we get stranded anywhere, miss a flight, lose luggage, whatever, I'll be loads of fun in the airport while we wait, and I'll make sure that everything turns out all right in the end (okay, I don't have any control over most of what happens in airports, but I will always maintain a positive attitude and take care of my friends). Lets save up several thousand dollars and go to Europe together--you won't regret it, I promise!
  4. Retaining obscure knowledge - I remember all kinds of generally useless facts on any and all subjects. I read a lot and have good recollection for things that I've read. This makes me a force with which to be reckoned at Trivial Pursuit. Sadly, unless I go on Jeopardy, this mastery of trivia is unlikely to be beneficial in a monetary sense.
  5. Old movies - I have spent many hours of my life watching classic old movies, from silents (veritable antiques) to 1960s epics (not so old). I really enjoy films from a bygone era, and as with general trivia, I remember pretty much everything about my old movies. I can recognize even obscure character actors. I know all about German expressionism, film noir, new wave, and other cinematic trends. I have strong opinions about a lot of things related to film in general. Good times, good times.

08 February 2012

Best Quote of the Day

...and it's only 8:15.

From Michelle Malkin: "Romney gets Rick-Rolled". =D

Being a libertarian (more or less), I don't have unreserved love for Santorum, but I'm impressed that he's soldiered on while being cast consistently as the underdog in the current Republic presidential primary.

I'm not particularly political on this blog very often, so there's your nugget for the week.