Wednesday, November 30, 2005

(VF)RotW: Best Pasta Salad Ever

pasta (rotini is best)
sweet onion or shallots
red bell pepper
parmesean cheese
good Italian dressing (I use the Good Seasons mix and make it with balsamic vinegar)

First, you must cook the pasta. For 2 people, a 1 lb box is sufficient if you want leftovers for a day or so. While it's boiling, chop up the veggies. I usually end up using about 1/2 an onion or 2-3 shallots, 2 tomatoes, 2 avocados, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2-1 bell pepper and 10 or so baby carrots.

When the pasta's done, rinse it with cold water, and put it in a bowl in the fridge. While that's chilling, make the dressing (if required). I usually put some parmesean in the dressing and then add it (parmesean) to the salad afterward as well. Stir the pasta a few times so all the noodles can cool down, and then add the veggies & the dressing. If you can stand it, put the bowl back in the fridge for another 35 minutes or so until the whole salad is nice and chilled. However, I always end up dishing some up immediately; it's just that delicious!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Conversation with the Flower Lady

But first, a haiku for Haiku-Tu (I resisted for a few weeks, but I shall join in the fun):

handsome man of mine
twenty-six years ago born
you are no oldster

Happy birthday, Tom. :)

After such a warm reception to the bridesmaid post, I figured I would share this as well. Yesterday evening I spoke with the woman who provided all the flowers when my best friend got married 3 years ago. My buddy gave such a glowing recommendation of this lady, and while I'm not really a flower person (what the cats wouldn't eat, I would probably kill), I do remember her wedding flowers being nice. Not just your run-of-the-mill roses and carnations and daisies, but also some more uncommon varieties. I don't really know names, but I know I thought they looked pretty and not boring. And I'm all about things that aren't boring.

Anyway, I called the Flower Lady to see if she was available for the day we're getting married, and indeed she is. She said she usually likes to meet with clients a bit in advance of the wedding to get a feel for what sorts of things they like; trouble is, she lives in Southern Oregon, and I won't be up there before the wedding. She told me that's all right and that we could do our consulting through the mail. As in, the "real" mail. I'm to look through magazines/books/etc., find pictures of the sorts of things I like, cut them out and mail them to her. It's kind of exciting and fun, in a "send me your swatches!" kind of way. ;)

So as I am something of a flower dummy, I started doing a bit of research online last night, and I learned a very interesting thing. Up until last night, I thought nosegays were a type of flower. Not so! They are in fact a style of bouquet.
Nosegay: A hand-held fragrant cluster of flowers designed as a small bouquet. Dating from 14th century, this clutch of flowers and foliage was originally used to mask unpleasant odors, thus the name "nosegay". Also called a tussy mussy.

Hehe. Tussy mussy. That's great. :)

Anyway, I have no idea what will be in bloom in mid- to late-May, but researching this should be fun. Any flower experts, enthusiasts or aficionados out there with any advice to offer?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bridesmaid-ly fun

This wedding planning sure is tricky when you live 800 miles from your closest bridesmaid. Fortunately, the magic of the internets has helped us tremendously, and we were able to find something that appealed to everyone. The lovely 2-piece ensemble pictured at left earned high marks from all concerned because a regular bra can be worn with it. (An important consideration, you know!) So now all that's left is to decide on a color; I'm having swatches sent to me. How exciting is that? Swatches, I say! Hehe.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Catblogging: On the cover of High Times

It's a pity this photo turned out blurry...Leo was looking all funny and dopey, sitting there with his tongue out.

Friday, November 25, 2005

We came, we feasted, we rolled away home

Thanksgiving dinner this year was held at my aunt & uncle's place. Tom & I arrived around 1:00 to a fine spread of hors d'ouvres. We had both the traditional - spanikopita, feta & olives, dolmathes, chips and onion dip - and the innovative - baguette slices with cream cheese, homemade pesto and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. We snacked, drank wine, watched football (Joey, please stop throwing interceptions...we beg of you!) and chatted while the rest of dinner was being prepared.

Soon it was time for the eating. There was a fine turkey, 2 kinds of stuffing (vegetarian version for me, bacon-laced version for the others), green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams & marshmallows, homemade cranberry sauce, and corn. We ate until we could eat no more!

After dinner we retired to the living room and fought off sleep. Later, it was time for the annual writing upon the Thanksgiving tablecloth. This was a tradition started only 2 years ago, but I think it's a really good one. We have a big, white tablecloth, and every year we write upon it what we're thankful for. There's usually much laughter involved, and this year was no exception. Silly me, though; I neglected to get a photo of it.

By the time we put the tablecloth away, we all decided we were finally ready for a bit of dessert. Since Tom's birthday is coming up next week, we put candles on one of the pies for him. Of course, we didn't have the right candles, so he'll be turning 81 this year. Looks good for his age though, doesn't he?

After dessert, we were treated to an impromptu performance by Aunt Teresa, who has recently discovered her talent as a tamborine virtuosa. Her playing truly is something to behold!

We then settled down to watch The Polar Express, which was even more horrifying than I expected it would be (and I didn't have high hopes for this movie at all). Fortunately, all of us were equally horrified, so nobody took it seriously, and we mocked it all the way through a la MST3k.

And so there it was; a fine time was had by all. Excellent food, excellent company, and much, much laughter. But then, I wouldn't expect anything less in this family. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The roof, the roof, the roof is...


We've had some nasty roof leaks here for a long time, but today, finally, the roofers are fixing them. I'm grateful, for sure, but not exactly jumping up and down at the prospect of marinating in tar smell all day.

New Wednesday Feature

It's time to bid adieu to Song of the Week. It was fun (for me) for a while, but even I have tired of it. In its place, for now at least, will be (Vegetarian-Friendly) Recipe of the Week. This won't even always be "from scratch" food, but it's my little way of showing the carnivorous world that even vegetarians can eat well. :)

All right, this week's (VF)RotW is: Spicy Black Bean Gardenburgers (TM) with Goat Cheese

MorningStar (TM) Spicy Black Bean Patties - frozen
Goat Cheese
One ripe tomato (hard to find this time of year, but sometimes you luck out)
Hamburger buns
Red onion
Ketchup (or other preferred condiment)

Now, Gardenburgers can be microwaved for quick & easy eating, but they're even better pan-grilled. You can just plop the frozen patty in a frying pan over medium heat and cook it til the center's hot. Flip it over a few times, of course, and the last time you do, put some crumbled goat cheese on the top.

While you've got the goat cheese warming up and getting just slightly melty, toast the hamburger bun by whatever means you prefer. Put your favored condiment on the bun - as a side note, I was skeptical about Tom's recommendation of ketchup, but it ended up blending really well with the spiciness of the patty! - and a slice of tomato and/or red onion on the bottom bun (since you've already got all that goat cheese-y goodness on top of the burger). Totally simple, takes all of 7-10 minutes to prepare, and it's very, very tasty!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Um, thanks?

What exactly is the proper response when someone you don't know very well informs you that they're praying for you?

I was walking down the hallway at work this morning when the following exchange took place:
Coworker (in the sense that we work at the same company but don't typically interact on a daily basis): Hi Susan.
Me: Hey, how's it going?
Coworker: I'm praying for you.
Me (with raised eyebrow): Okay.......?

And that was it. He just kept walking. Then I saw him later in the cafeteria and he didn't say a word. It was really...odd. I'm not at all sure what to make of it.

Well, except blog fodder, of course. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2005

I wish...

...I wish, I wish I were a fish, 'cause fishes have a better life than peo-ple.

Er, sorry, had a Mr. Limpet moment there. What I really wish is that I'd had my camera with me this afternoon. There were about 5 different kinds of clouds in the sky, from big puffy ones to crazy swirly wispy ones. The Mt. Wilson Solar Towercam caught a pretty decent shot with the clouds and the sunset this evening, but I'd still have liked to get pictures of the dark clouds to the west that were still bright white at the tops. They reminded me of Statue of Liberty torches.

Here's the towercam pic from this evening, with the sunset over the ocean.

And here's a daytime picture from yesterday with labels as to where things are.

Photos courtesy of Mt. Wilson Observatory.

Bully for productivity!

I am, in general, a big fan of spending my weekends relaxing. Sitting around reading, napping, recuperation from and preparation for returning to the rat race again on Monday...these are things I consider good uses of my weekend time. However, sometimes it feels a whole lot better know you really managed to get something accomplished. This past weekend was one such bastion of productivity for me (I'm not actually sure if a non-physical object thing can be a bastion...thoughts on that, anyone?). Here's what I managed to get done in the past 48 hours:

  • Studied for and took my long-ass Major Case Investigation final
  • Finished and turned in my term paper on firearms examination
  • Did 3 loads of laundry
  • Washed a bunch of dishes
  • Cleaned and vacuumed the living room and bedroom (which hadn't been done in a few weeks, since Tom & I have both been busy lately)
  • Beat another Spiderman 2 level on the Xbox ;)

  • Hmm...doesn't look like quite so much when I list it out like that. Oh well. Still means I have a nice, clean apartment to return to at the end of the day. ;)

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    Sunday Catblogging: Keeping Evil Spirits At Bay

    Leo doing his gargoyle impression.

    Longest. Test. Ever.

    I had my final exam today for Major Case Investigation. The prof had indicated it would be comprised mostly of essay questions with possibly some multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank and/or true-false questions thrown in as well. Fine. I was surprised when I took the midterm on Tuesday (yeah, the schedule was just a wee bit strange for this class, with the midterm and final only 4 days apart) that it was a closed-book test. All of the other exams for this class and my previous two have been open-book, open-notes. But whatever, I was okay with that. Would've been nice to know beforehand, but at least I now had an idea he'd probably do the same thing for the final. So I spent most of the day studying the gigantic-ass textbook for the class. Then around 6:30 I felt I could study no more. I took about a 10-minute break and started the exam.

    Holy god. The time allowed for this one was 3 hours, not 2 as the previous tests had been. And there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 multiple-choice and 20 essay questions, some of them with 3 or even 4 parts. And these were not trivial parts either. One of them required that I construct a crime scene and then describe how I would examine it. And then there were another 3 parts to the question! I knew pretty much from the get-go that it was going to take me damn near the full 3 hours to complete. And it did. I think I finally submitted the thing after 2 hours and 54 minutes. I don't think I've been so brain-weary after an exam since I took P-Chem in England.

    The good news is I'm pretty sure I did all right. At least I don't have that sense of impending doom that I had after P-Chem. ;) I'll enjoy my day of rest tomorrow before I start another class Monday.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    A Study in Contrast

    The moon was still fairly high in the sky when I left the house this morning. I'd wanted to get some pictures of it yesterday, when it was quite a bit lower and bigger-looking, but I forgot my camera. I still think I got some pretty decent shots today.

    Leaving the house

    The exposure in this one was a bit long, so the moon looks unusually bright

    This one, however, has a much shorter exposure. Damn near perfect.

    I call this one "Moon over Warehouse with Palms." Allow me to draw your attention to the creepy decapitated palm at the far right...

    It was nice to have such pleasant scenery on the drive to work. I wish I could say the same for the drive home. Unfortunately, Los Angeles isn't exactly known for its clean air and clear horizons. It's really unnerving, the extent to which we pollute our air.


    Kind of makes me want to wear my respirator home from work...

    Cap in Hand - The Proclaimers

    I didn't really think anyone would get this one (except maybe Tom), but it's a good song, and I wanted to share the lyrics. So here they are. Oh, and in case you didn't know or couldn't guess, The Proclaimers are Scottish, so picture this being sung in a fine brogue.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Song of the Week: #5

    Nothin' like a little rebellion to start the morning off right. (Well, maybe more like protest than full-on rebellion...) Yes, that's a clue. ;)

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    If you can't say somethin' nice...

    Every time I've sat down to blog in the past few days, it's been to bitch about something. Airfare prices are out of control. The weather's too warm again. I get up way too damned early in the morning. I'm never going to make it through that big-ass book for my Major Case Investigations class. Et cetera. By the time I'm halfway through a post, I'm already bored by my own whining and refuse to waste other peoples' time with it as well. I know I won't be all witty and insightful and whatnot all the time, but I don't particularly want to post drivel just for the sake of getting something posted. Ergo, things have been a little quiet around here.

    Hopefully I'll come up with something interesting to write about before too long. Until then, go check out this week's Perry Bible Fellowship comic...more than meets the eye, eh?

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Sunday Catblogging: Whoop-ass Edition

    You see this paw, bitch? Take a good look, 'cause in a minute all you're gonna be seeing is stars...and maybe some a them little tweety birds...

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Current events? What current events?

    Apparently some people do live under rocks. Here's a nice little excerpt from my class tonight.

    Prof: What strategies would you use to interrogate these two types [of rapists]?
    Student 1: Guantanamo?
    Prof: Student 1, you are killin' me! (laughing)
    Student 2: What's Guantanamo?

    Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues

    Here are the lyrics

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Song of the Week: #4

    So I guess I've been a tad on the obscure side as far as my song/band selection. This one ought to be easier. I hope. ;)
    Update: Okay, apparently it's still tricky to get. But it's a song with which most everyone should be familiar, at least.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    French Kiss Moment

    There's a line in French Kiss that always pops into my head when people at work (or anywhere, really) are driving me batty. It's one of Meg Ryan's lines, and she's imitating Kevin Kline's character.

    "My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch."

    Somehow it always makes me feel a little better to mutter that under my breath as soon as I'm out of earshot. Anyway, just thought I'd put that out there.

    Gmail scares me sometimes

    Okay, I don't know how many folks use Gmail, but for those who aren't familiar, it's a free email service (like Hotmail) except it's run by Google. You get a ridiculous amount of space, and it's set up rather well, I think. The thing that is a little creepy from time to time is that the way Google can afford to offer such a great free-mail client is that they run text ads along the side of the screen. They're "smart ads" or something, which basically means Google uses its stellar searching capabilities to look for certain words in your emails and then the ads are supposedly tailored to your interests (or whatever it is you're writing about at the time).

    Tom & I both had a heck of a time falling and staying asleep last night, and this morning I sent him an email to the effect of "Blargh, I'm so sleepy today." Upon receiving his reply, which said, "I'm sorry you couldn't sleep either," Gmail presented me with 4 text ads for...chloroform! Not Lunesta or NyQuil or melatonin -- chloroform.

    I'm scared.

    Wardrobe New Additions

    Yay to Tom for buying us some cool shirts! This one for me, and this one for himself. They're awesome.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Whole Lotta Reading

    My prof assigned 400 pages of reading this week. Actually, our quizzes are on Thursdays, we'll have to get through 100 pages/day in order to have all the material read by then. Yikes. The reading covers 10 chapters that are about specific classes of crimes. The chapter on narcotics violations (50 pages long) is beaten in length only by the homicide chapter (110 pages long). By comparison, the sex offenses chapter spans only 38 pages, and the assault chapter only covers 18 pages. Something about that seems wrong to me. Yes, I know drugs are bad, but come on. More coverage than assault and sex offenses? Also, larceny, burglary and robbery are all covered separately, which I find a little surprising. I guess I'll be learning a lot about the nuances of "taking shit that doesn't belong to you."

    Better get to it. Yippee skippy, happy Monday.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Sunday Catblogging: Yoga Style!

    Presenting the incredible, the amazing, Leo the Yoga Cat!

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Movie Review: Jarhead

    Last night we went to see Jarhead with some peoples Tom knows from school. I'm usually not one for war movies, but this one looked like it would be pretty good. And I wasn't disappointed. It was, to borrow Tom's adjective, very affecting.

    Jake Gyllenhaal did a darn good job as Tony "Swoff" Swofford, the reluctant Marine; he wanted to go to college, but his dad was in the Corps and expected Swoff to follow in his footsteps. Early on in the film, Swoff is being berated by his drill sergeant at boot camp. Seargent Whatever says, "What does this recruit think he's doing here?" Swoff's reply amused me: "Sir, the recruit got lost on his way to college, sir!" While at boot camp, though, Swoff is recruited to be a Scout Sniper, and it turns out he's really good at the sniping. Not only that, he loves it. Still doesn't much care for the Corps, but he does love being a sniper.

    Anyway, without going into a lot of detail, the film is set right before the first Iraq war (not the current one, which is what I'd gathered from the trailer). Swoff and his company get deployed, and you can guess the rest. A few highlights (or lowlights):
    • There is a scorpion battle, which I guess is something soldiers do for fun in the desert. I had to peek through my fingers at the six-foot-long scorpions on screen. It was hideous. (Oh yeah, and the theater was packed, so we were in the very front row.)
    • The kid from Sling Blade, who also played Stevie in The X-Files Movie, was one of the guys in Swoff's company. I spent a good twenty minutes wracking my brain trying to figure out where I recognized him from before I figured it out. He's a lot taller than he used to be. (Duh.)
    • The wives and girlfriends of military peoples are apparently some seriously bad ho-bags. There were some pretty upsetting moments wherein this fact was illustrated.
    All in all, a good movie. Extremely well acted, equally moving and disturbing, not a blood-and-guts war movie so much as a story about a guy trying to survive in an awful situation without losing his mind. It was based on a book of the same name, written by the real Anthony Swofford, which I'd now really like to read.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Devil, thy name is Procrastination

    Does anybody know how to cast out that inner demon that causes you to think it's okay to put something off until tomorrow? Fear doesn't do it. If I actually learned anything from the number of times I've been sweating those metaphorical bullets, trying to finish a paper before a deadline, you would think I wouldn't still find myself in that situation over and over again. Planning doesn't do it. I can make all the plans in the world and then promptly neglect to follow through on any of them. Rewards don't do it. I was all proud of myself last week when I turned in my weekly paper a whole day early, and yet here I was this week, scrambling to meet the 6pm Friday deadline.

    The worst feeling is trying to write anything, anything at all just to meet the word requirement, knowing that everything you're writing is crap. You know you could do better, if you only had the time, but damn it, you don't.

    I would resolve not to make the same mistake again next week, except that I know such resolutions are futile. Does anyone have a procrastination-avoidance technique (ooh, how's that for meta?) that actually works?

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Attack of the pr0n

    We have a big tractor trailer out back in which we store empty shipping boxes and other miscellany. I was digging through it this morning in search of absorbent sand, and I came across a box that claimed to have chemicals in it. Wondering why we had random chemicals in the storage trailer, I peeked inside. What I found were a bunch of old files...under which was buried a rather sizeable stash of, erm, shall we say, adult reading material, presumably left behind by the guy who worked here before me. Big old box of nekkid lady magazines. Charming.

    Tangerine Speedo - Caviar

    What, no Caviar fans in the house? They hail from Alley Rat's new home, Chicago.

    Oh yeah, and yesterday's image was created by artist Christina "Smudge" Hanson.

    Here are the lyrics

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Sorry fellas, I'm spoken for!

    (Well, I've technically been "spoken for" for a few years, but now it's official.)

    That's right. The news is out. Tom and I have set a date upon which to enter into the bonds of holy matrimony. We'll be getting hitched on the 20th of May, up in lovely Grants Pass, Oregon. Yay. :)

    Song of the Week: #3

    Hopefully this one will be easier than last week's...

    You can ignore the wings. They are unimportant. (I'll credit the artist tomorrow, just in case anyone wants to buy this fine image on a t-shirt.)

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Just Alito bit scary...

    Okay. I've done some reading, checked out both liberal and conservative opinions on the guy, and have come to the (tentative) conclusion that Alito is pretty dangerous, but not quite the spawn of Satan that a lot of lefties are making him out to be. I'm willing to go with "minor-level demon," but not all the way to the Devil's golden boy.

    The way I see it, it shakes down like this: Alito's got some frighteningly conservative views that are dangerous because, if confirmed, he will represent 11% of the Supreme Court. He's just one guy, but his opinions have more impact in a group of nine than they do among the whole country, or even among the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, where he's currently appointed. The 3rd Circuit Court has 14 seats (though only 11 of them are filled at the moment), and it's known for being rather on the liberal side, so Alito's conservatism doesn't carry an undue amount of weight there. On the SCOTUS, however, his vote packs a bit more of a punch, so to speak. I'll illustrate (and feel free to correct me if I've got my facts wrong here).

    In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1991), the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring married women to notify their husbands before obtaining an abortion. Alito submitted the only dissenting opinion on that ruling, claiming basically that husbands have a right to know if their wives are considering an abortion. And sure, in a healthy and loving relationship, you would think a woman wouldn't make that decision without talking it over with her husband, whom she loves and respects as a partner in the relationship. The reason Alito gives for his dissent is that "some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems - such as economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition." So in Alito's world, hubby says, "Gee, I don't think we should have kids before I get that new job," wifey gets knocked up the next week, decides to get an abortion, tells hubby about it after the fact, who then says, "Oh no! We could have made it work! Why didn't you tell me?" All right, well that's an unfortunate misunderstanding, but since when do we make laws designed to prevent misunderstandings?

    So the Pennsylvania law, in Alito's opinion, was a valid one to have because of situations like the one above. The problem is that situations like that one are extremely rare. In fact, 95% of married women seeking abortions do notify their husbands. (That post I linked there is a good one; read it.) Of the other 5%, most (if not all) cases involve a relationship that is abusive. So in effect, the law required some women to put themselves in dangerous situations with their abusive husbands. Wow, sounds like awesome legislation to me. Sarcasm aside, Alito thought the notification requirement was a good thing, which is why he submitted his dissenting opinion when the 3rd Circuit Court ruled to strike the law down. Fortunately, he submitted the only dissenting opinion, and the rest of the court agreed the law was bogus.

    Here's where things start getting scary (and where I'm not sure I'm 100% correct in my understanding of the facts). The Supreme Court later ruled to uphold the 3rd Circuit Court's ruling. But where the 3rd Circuit ruled 13-1 or whatever, the Supreme Court only upheld that ruling in a 5-4 vote. Four of the justices on the SCOTUS thought the Pennsylvania law should not be struck down. Of the other five, one of those justices was Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Alito will be taking over. Had he been sitting on the SCOTUS at the time of that ruling, the vote would have been 5-4 in the other direction. The 3rd Circuit's ruling would have been overturned by the SCOTUS, and the Pennsylvania law would still be on the books. Not so good.

    By all accounts, Alito is a really smart guy. (Apparently also a really nice guy, as well as a really quiet one, which they seem to keep repeating on NPR.) I'm all for smart people on the Supreme Court. Harriet Miers was a horrible choice because of her apparent complete ineptitude even with speaking and writing professionally ("Oh Mr. President, you are just the coolest ever!"). But, as Tom said last night, Justice Scalia is also wicked smart; too bad he's evil. I worry about Alito turning out to be the same way. His dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey definitely gives me cause for such worry, but I'm hesitant to form a complete opinion on the man's qualifications based on one piece of evidence that he's a complete wacko nutjob (who's a misogynist, to boot). I mean, he did concur with a later ruling that a New Jersey law banning partial-birth abortion was unconstitutional, so there's that. I guess I don't want to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, so to speak. I'm willing to wait and see what comes out in his confirmation hearing, but I won't exactly be waiting with a lot of optimism.