Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Testing, testing ...

If I told you what I was up to I'd have to kill you. Instead, why don't you listen to these wonderful bird sounds, recorded by Mr. Pants at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve in Ecuador:

UPDATE: If you cannot listen to these bird sounds despite your best efforts, could you leave a comment telling me what platform & browser you're using? Grazi.

The boy ain't right ...

Some time ago--I think it was during Mr. Gomez's adolescence--Mr. pants started calling him "Gomey Vision." I'm not sure exactly how the name came about, but it fits because having a dog like Gomey is just as good as television sometimes. Now the name really fits because, ladies and gentlemen, I present GomeyVision:

Our second agility trial was maybe even a little worse than our first, except that this time we had no course faults--we managed to take every obstacle correctly and in the right order ... Gomey just did a little sightseeing along the way and took about 20 seconds over course time.

First word sounds like ...

I'm looking for a book. Not just any book, but one I heard about on NPR--I think it was on "Fresh Air." It's by a guy who travels around the world eating all sorts of stuff--things that probably seem disgusting except to the people who eat them. I can't remember the name of the author or the book, and I can't seem to find any mention of such a thing when I look through the Fresh Air archives for the past month (I'm pretty sure I heard the program sometime over the past two weeks.) I've used several key words to search Amazon and I'm just getting a bunch of Lonely Planet guides (and a book by Elliot Hester that looks fun). Anybody have any idea what book/author this is? Leave a comment or something if you have any leads.

Speaking of books, I'm so thrilled that the Durham County Library has replaced their kludgy, slow, temperamental java-based online portal with something fast, easier to use and with a couple more features. You can still reserve books for pickup (my favorite thing because they notify you it's there and you just pick it up at the front desk) and now you can also renew online. Plus you can make a reading list of books you want to reserve in the future (you're not allowed to have more than five holds at once) and then with one click you can put them on reserve when you're ready. I love this because I'm always learning about new books I'd like to read but don't have the time for yet. So I put them on my list at the DCL site, and then I don't forget about them when I actually have time to check them out. Of course that's assuming the DCL has the book--they're pretty good but they don't get everything. If they don't have it I just fill out their online book request form. That still doesn't guarantee they'll get it, but sometimes they do. The library is so cool I don't mind that the overdue fines are rather large--it's still cheaper than all the money I'd be spending if I bought all the stuff I read.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Holiday in the Sun

I just spent my three-day holiday weekend doing agility, and although I was having fun, I asked myself several times if I was insane. It was damn hot--like middle-of-July hot. It's always fairly hot here in NC from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so I shouldn't have been surprised, but damn, it was mind-alteringly frakking hot. Also, I wore a baseball cap on Saturday, but it made my head so hot I switched to a visor for Sunday and Monday. Now my scalp is sunburned up at the crown of my head (I have terribly thin hair). So now on my agility gear wish list is some sort of ventilated sun hat ... I'm sure there are lots of outrageously expensive ones out there just waiting for me ...

Dogs can have a hard time in such heat--they're covered in fur and they only sweat through their tongues and the pads of their feet, so their preferred course of action is not to be running around doing athletic things in the sun. So when they're not running we do all kinds of things to keep them cool: get them to jump in baby pools, spray them with water, keep them in the shade, put "cool coats" on them, etc.

Lucy handles heat fairly well, but it does dampen her enthusiasm for running fast. She seems perfectly happy to do agility with me when it's hot, albeit slowly. I usually get her wet before her runs (I bribe her to get into the baby pool and then splash water on her belly and back) because she's always friskier after a swim or a bath. The downside of this is that she also really likes to roll in the grass when she's wet, and she did so during two of her runs. Both times she did it when I was trying to steer her back on track after a mistake--once when she had an incorrect weave pole entry and another when she ran by a jump she was supposed to take. I think that when I stop her forward momentum and try to turn her around to attempt something again it stresses her out a little, so she defaults into a behavior she knows she will enjoy-sometimes she goes into sniffy terrier mode, sometimes she decides to have a little happy roll in the grass. I think it's her way of saying "screw you, you have no idea what you're doing out here, so I'll just amuse myself a bit."

Anyway, as usual our results varied this weekend. I had two qualifying runs in Advanced Pairs, which is one more than I needed for that title, so now I move up to Masters in that event (an explanation of the different USDAA events can be found here). I also qualified in Snooker, which means one more Q will move me up to Masters in that one, too. A had an almost-Q in Gamblers-we made the gamble but went .74 seconds over time. We have such a hard time in that event that I'm sort of considering that a victory ... maybe it's not an official Q, but it feels like progress to me. It was our first trial in Masters Jumpers, and we didn't get any Qs there because o off-course obstacles (but someone assured me that we looked like we belonged on the Masters course, so that was a good thing). We got no Qs in Advanced Standard, either, which is actually fine at this point because one more Standard Q and we have to move up to Masters in that, too. It doesn't seem as fun in Masters-a few of the people get far too intense and it's stressful to be around them. Once you get to Masters it's not enough just to qualify, because for some of your titles you need "Super Qs," for which you must finish in the top 15% of your class. So people get very competitive. I don't want to ever get to the point where it's not any fun, and I certainly don't want to forget that it needs to always be fun for Lucy.

There's one guy who runs an awesome golden retriever named Cider, and he has a tag on his leash that says something like "Laugh with Cider today because tomorrow you may be crying without her." So now I think of that (with Lucy's name in place of Cider's of course) every time I find myself focusing on qualifying runs or feeling down about errors. So every run is a victory as long as Lucy's having fun.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cake, doughnuts, shoes

The diet lifestyle change is on a bit of a hiatus. While I was sick I ate whatever I wanted because my body needed resources to fuel its snot production. Then yesterday we had cake in honor of Rakka's birthday, and today my boss brought in doughnuts. (Yeah, I know I didn't have to eat any, but shut up.) I plan to resume input contraols Tuesday, after a weekend of agility trialing (I'll be running around in a field, I'll need fuel).

Anywho, so via Consumerist I stumbled upon this video, with which I think a couple of people I know might identify (warning: contains loud f-words):

Thursday, May 25, 2006

People suck

This message came over my flyball club list:
Hello, Dog Lover!

Justice wandered up to the door of a fellow dog lover bearing the scars of what the vet believes was a firecracker tied to her back. Not only did she have to undergo this painful abuse, she has also tested positive for heartworms. It appears that she has already had pups, even though she is only 1-2 years old.

A generous local vet has offered to donate her heartworm treatment and her spay surgery in the hopes that it will make it easier for her to find the loving permanent home she deserves. Remarkably, she is still friendly and sweet to people. She is also good with other dogs.

Justice is staying with the college student who found her. Right now, Justice desperately needs a crate of her own, at least during her heartworm treatment. If you have a crate you could lend or donate to this sweet dog, please contact Nicole.
Contact information for Nicole can be found here.

Why do we love Durham?

The Indy published its "What I Love About Durham" list this week. They solicited entries a few weeks ago and I wanted to contribute, but the whole laziness thing got in the way. But it's a really long list! The Duke Park traffic circle up the street from Christa's house even gets a mention! I think one of the things I love about Durham is that most of the people who live here love it just as much as I do, while people who don't live here just don't get it. So I feel like one of the few, the proud ...

Here's a good one:
A few years ago during a morning stroll in downtown Durham, a young man approached and with great enthusiasm told me about his new restaurant, the Cocoa Cafe. He urged me to give it a try. I agreed. We walked a few blocks and to my surprise entered another business, Mr. Shoe. In the back of the store an old man waited on a customer. Near the front, amid the racks of repaired shoes, was a table and two chairs and a counter with several packages of store-bought cocoa. I smiled as the young man boiled some water. He asked how I liked the cocoa. I told him it was great. I left the Cocoa Cafe, amused by Durham's quirkiness. Later that evening I spotted him handing out business cards on Ninth Street.--Bill Pope
Yesterday someone told me that my house was an example of one of the things they love about Durham (seeing as how it's bright orange and all). Hey, I'm more than happy to do my part to keep Durham a kooky little city!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bwah ha ha ha ha!!!

I just rejected my first evil comment, and boy was it fun! See, ever since I first wrote about That-Which-Cannot-Be-Named, This blog has attracted vile comments from disgusting people (This guy "Anonymous" is really busy--and really pissed off!). So I turned on comment moderation. Plus I stopped mentioning certain keywords, so the fuckheads weren't showing up here as often. But I blogged a Washington Post story earlier, and that paper has a tracking function that lists the blogs that link to a given story ... so in short, hello assholes! Don't get too comfortable here, because I'm just waiting for the pokers to get red hot enough to cause great discomfort when I shove them up your rectums. Or would that be recti? Oh, I jest. Stay as long as you like, but your comments are going straight down the pooper. It gave me such glee to flush an asswich comment from good ol' "Anonymous" just now. You should see me--I'm doing the pants dance.

You thought I had forgotten ...

I've avoided talking about you-know-what for a while because it's very disconcerting and it draws horrible people I'd rather not interact with to this blog. But the Washington Post rand an an article called The Duke Case's Cruel Truth that I think is worth a read. That's it ... no further comment from me! Nothing to see here ...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Secret agent reports in ...

I did my first two mystery shops, one yesterday at lunch and the other this evening. One establishment not only got glowing reports, their employees fulfilled two criteria that won them a bit of bonus cash. I don't dispense the actual cash, but I did get to notify them that they had won and get their names. That was really fun because they were very happy I felt like sucha bringer of joy. It's the only time I'm supposed to reveal my secret identity. The other establishment didn't do so well. They didn't win and had a few issues that have to be noted in the report. But the guy employee I dealt with was very nice--I'll be sure to note that.

I thoink I may sign up with a few more mystery shopping companies. It's not a bad way to make a few bucks.

As for the alpha-tester gig (which doesn't pay except in geek cred), it was supposed to start today but it has been delayed until tomorrow. There's been a little trouble in developerland. It's so top-secret that I don't know what I'll be able to report back.

Hey, thanks again Jesus ...

... I still don't believe in you, and I can't agree with all of your musical tastes, but thanks for the heads-up about Matthew's celebrity Pixies Covers. How does he do it? Maybe it's a miracle ...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's the Arockalypse!

Finnish demon-metal monster group Lordi kicks ass and takes names in the Eurovision Song Contest, previously the province of the planet's Celine Dions:

Not that we get to watch the Eurovision here ... and not that I would have wanted to watch it if it didn't feature Finnish demon headbangers who sing about "the day of rockening" ...

Fortunately, it's baseball season, and we do get to see the occasional bench-clearing brawl, such as happened between the Scrubs and the White Sox yesterday. Actually, if it weren't for YouTube we wouldn't even get to see that, having dropped out cable service down to the "Four Shopping Channels And Not Much Else" plan. Fortunately, Game 3 of the Crosstown Classic will be on WGN, which we do get, and since we still feel like crap today we may as well lie on the sofa and watch it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The adventures of secret agent girl

I'm a alpha tester and a mystery shopper! And I can't really tell you about either one. But isn't it just so exciting? OK, maybe my life is so dull it just seems exciting to me ...

Really, neither gig has started yet. The alpha tester gig--super-secret and I can't tell you anything even if you tickle me--doesn't start until Tuesday. I get to try and break a brand new "Web 2.0" website that hopes to do everything the others do, but better. Perhaps it will earn me some much needed geek cred. At any rate, I'm really looking forward to it.

I will have my first mystery shopper gig tomorrow, but I don't want to say any specifics about it, except that it involves food. Unlike the alpha tester gig, this one pays a little bit of money and includes a free meal. It's not really all that exciting, but with a life like mine one learns to look forward to the little things. And I'm the type who is always mentally writing critiques of my consumer interactions in my head, thinking "They should do something about X, Y and Z," or sometimes even thinking that a particular employee deserves to be commended for being so nice or helpful, but I'm always too lazy to follow through. Now I have an incentive and sort of a direct line for my impressions to get to the company. Of course, I don't get to pick which companies I evaluate, but I think I'll have fun nonetheless.

Friday, May 19, 2006

You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny

I still feel really crappy ... maybe crappier than yesterday, even. However, I did go to work. I sat there like a zombie all day ... a zombie that sneezed and blew its nose a lot. So naturally, I feel like having a good cranky rant.

Wanna know what I hate? I hate it when people (dumb people, obviously) who, upon being disagreed with vociferously, retort "just because you don't like my opinion, it doesn't make it any less valid than yours." Um, sure, if your definition of "valid" includes "stupid, retarded, or just downright wrong" then yeah, you've got a point there. And if you wear a hat you can cover it up. I mean, if I thought your boneheaded opinion was valid, would I go to the trouble of bothering to disagree with you?

Equally asswich is the statement "I'm entitled to my opinion!" Yes, and I'm entitled to my opinion that your opinion is boneheaded, backward and/or silly. I'm entitled to my opinion that you may as well take up crack smoking for all the good your existence is doing for the planet. I'm entitled to my opinion that you should be the terminus of your genetic line. I'm not entitled to slap you silly, however, because life is just plain unfair.

On the bright side, White Sox just beat the Cubs. Every once in a while life is fair for a brief, shining moment.

Be sure not to tune in to WXDU (88.7 FM here, elsewhere) tomorrow from 1-3 pm Eastern time, because I shall be spinning the discs for "Mondo Mundo" (that's the world music show, don'cha know.) I will probably still be snotty and hoarse, which means that wierdos are going to call me up and tell me I sound sexy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sick bay: Day 2

I stayed home again today. I now know that what I have isn't strep because I wasted an hour and a half of my time and $23.50 worth of co-pay money (when did it go up to $23.50? Bastards) yesterday afternoon to find out. I got really ticked off at the doctors office, too, because although they called me into the little room right on time, took my vitals, swabbed my throat and then asked me to run down my symptoms, they then left me there, in a very uncomfortable chair, for 50 minutes before the PA came to see me. That's right, I waited almost an hour for a physician's assistant--not even a real doctor. Damn, people, hand me a test kit and I can rule out strep on my own in 15 minutes!

But if I had just waited a day I could have ruled out strep without even doing a test, because now the other symptoms have started, i.e. massive mucous production (see, snotty nose is NOT a strep symptom, and I didn't have it yesterday).

At any rate, on the way back from the doctor yesterday I realized I needed some foodstuffs, and the Galaxy Supermarket was closest to my route. I'd been meaning to stop in there sometime to check it out anyway and one of the things I wanted to buy was corn tortillas, which I've discovered they don't sell at stupid Harris Teeter. (Seriously--what the hell is wrong with Harris Teeter?) But Galaxy rocks! Amazing variety of Mexican and Central American foodstuffs! Yuca bread! Frozen arepas with cheese! Strange fruits and vegetables! The cheese case has all those cheeses and creams you only get in restaurants (in fact, many versions of cream: crema hondureƱa, crema salvadoreƱa, crema mexicana ... I wouldn't have any idea what the difference is). If I had felt better I would have spent more time just wandering the aisles looking at things and reading labels. At any rate, it's worth a future visit, most definitely.

And now I think I'll lie around a while. All this being upright is soooo tiring ....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Things to do when you're home sick ...

I'm going to go to the doctur later to see if this is strep throat, but right now my big dog wants to go outside:

Greetings from sick bay

I stayed home from work today because my throat is on fire. I had just been thinking last week about how healthy I'd remained all winter, never even so much as getting the sniffles. The last night after I got home I started feeling a tickle in my throat that slowly blossomed into full-fledged pain. My energy slowly started draining away and I knew I was hit by something.

I blame my trip to Whole Foods, where I got a little salad with tofu from the salad bar. That's the problem with any salad bar or buffet-type food: to get your food you have to touch utensils handled by the great unwashed masses, and you have no idea where their hands were before they touched those tongs. Even though I washed my hands before eating my little salad, I'm sure the damage was already done. Somebody passed me the crud. Bastards. Well I'm doing my part not to spread it around by staying home today ... although I think I should be drinking orange juice, so maybe a trip up to Whole Foods is in order ... but I won't go near the salad bar and I'll touch as little as possible.

But home is not necessarily a restful place, because Battlecat will not shut up. And Mr. Gomez thinks that I stayed home bcause I want to let him outside, let him inside, let him outside, let him inside ... etc. (Did I mention that I use him frequently as a example of training don'ts in my puppy classes? I'm always saying "As I know from experience, don't do X with your dog or you are setting yourself up for a life of Y bad behavior. Do Z instead and teach your dog good habits from Day 1.") Damn, he just saw another squirrel out the window and he's barking his fool head off again ...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hello ... is this thing on?

Trying out this YouTube thingie ... this is Lucy and I on our rock-the-course jumpers run:

If you like watching agility videos, you can see a bunch from the World Agility Championships here. I recommend the toy dog class--the papillons are awesome! It's hard to believe that little foo-foo dogs can go so fast! There's also this border collie agility montage on YouTube, and this Agility and What can Go Wrong video from the UK (where they seem to have a different style than in the US--here it's sort of frowned upon to yell harshly at your dog, and in fact a judge can eliminate you if they feel you are being too negative).

I'll probably post at least one more video from the weekend either at YouTube or Vimeo. I have to decide which one is the least embarrassing ...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Can I brag about my cool little dog?

I had a good agility weekend. I was at a USDAA trial in Fletcher, NC, and Lucy and I had some great runs. We had some really crappy runs, too, but one of this weekend's course maps had a quote by Dale Earnhardt that I am taking to heart: "Don't let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones." Of course, he said that before his own Great Big Bad Moment taught us all that some bad moments are much worse than others ... but never mind. I take the quote to mean that I shouldn't let the moment when I ran into a jump wing and knocked it down during a gamblers run spoil the moment when Lucy and I finished a virtually flawless jumpers course. When we finished, I thought to myself "Damn, we rocked that course!" It was a great feeling. It was our third qualifying score on an advanced jumpers course, which means that now we move up to master's level jumpers competition.

Mr. Pants took video, which I may upload to Vimeo later in the week. He also recorded the embarrassing jump collision--but nobody wants to see that kind of thing, right?

We also competed in our first Grand Prix qualifier on Saturday. I knew we weren't really ready, because the courses are harder than we are used to and the competition is stiffer, but I needed to try it. There were a lot of spectators, and we provided much entertainment as things went spectacularly wrong ... all due to bad handling on my part. No big deal--a lot of people I had never met came up to me afterward and gushed about what a cute dog Lucy is, and that's really the important thing, right? It doesn't matter who wins as long as your dog is cute ... and my dog is indeed very cute.

Anyway, I'm exhausted and my little dog is snoring next to me. I hope she had as much fun as I did.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's the next best thing to Durham?

It's Carrboro!

(The lyrics are at the It's Carrboro blog. Also Billy Sugarfix will be appearing with Fluff Chick tonight at OpenEye cafe, 8 pm ... maybe he'll do the It's Carrboro rap live. I really want to go but I take/teach doggie classes on Thursday nights.)

Seriously, Carrboro is a very cool place. I'd live there if I got kicked out of Durham or something.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Food is good. I like food.

Things that go bad are worse if they happen when you're hungry.

But first, something's going right: I went back to the dentist today so he could check on the results of the gum-torture procedure he performed last week. Apparently all is span-spiffidy so far ... my gums actually seemed to like the torture, because he pointed out to his helper-tech woman how healthy my gums look. I'm cleared to chew actual food again as long as I don't use the front teeth (those were the gums he tortured).

I had brought a sweet potato for lunch--I was going to nuke it and mash it up--but I decided that I needed to to celebrate my permission to chew. I decided to stop on the way back to work at Whole Foods and get something tasty from the hot bar. Have I mentioned before what a gawdawful heinous clusterfrack the Raleigh Whole Foods is at lunchtime? I think I have but it was a while back, so it bears repeating--because I had forgotten: Do not ever go to the Raleigh Whole Foods for lunch if you are going to arrive any later than 11:45 or so. That is unless you enjoy the irony of being one of about 50 vehicles (many of which are high-end SUVs) circling the parking lot spewing health- and environment-destroying fumes into the atmosphere while the occupants look for a parking spot so they can go enjoy a healthy and perhaps environmentally-friendly midday meal. On my second pass through I was about to give up and go nuke a sweet potato when I found a space for the Pantsmobile.

Once inside, I fought my way through the hordes of well-heeled barbarians to the hot bar, where I assembled the following repast:

lunch from the hot bar

I decided that while I was there I needed to restock my work stash of "Chocolate Underground" yogurt, which allows me to pretend I'm having dessert or a decadent snack whilst eating something not in and of itself isn't likely to make me fat. The bastards were out of it! Nooooooo! I screamed, shaking my fist at the dairy case gods who had let me down. Then I decided to try the chocolate soy pudding:

chocolate soy pudding

which weighed in about the same as the yogurt in terms of fat-production capacity.

Having only two items, I said no thanks to both paper AND plastic at the checkout like a good little world citizen and bobbed on back to my internal combustion vehicle ... which was completely blocked in by an idling semi! I thought surely the semi driver knows that his mega-vehicle is blocking in about 15 cars and he is going to move any minute now, right? After several minutes of no movement by the semi, I went to ask him what the frack? Apparently a delivery van was blocking the way to the back of the building, which is where semi driver needed to go. So he was planning to sit there until delivery van guy moved.

Did I mention this was about an hour after my normal lunchtime already, and I was starving and my little plate of food was getting cold? I was almost ready to just start crying ... but apparently somebody with a cool head talked the semi driver into moving a bit to let some cars exit their parking spaces. Full meltdown averted, I got into my little pollution pod, went back to the office and chewed my food. I felt much, much better.

And the soy pudding kicks ass. I can't wait until lunch tomorrow so i can have another one.

Perhaps I shoult start the "Panty" awards ...

A Panty award goes to Rakka for a post yesterday that I think is the best blog post evar! The post hits every important topic: volcanoes, pie, hypnotic-and-fascinating-but-otherwise-useless viral internet videos, crafty T-shirts and computer-game-themed wall art made out of green index cards.

And speaking of viral videos, the strange, catchy leek twirling video to which she linked (and which Mr. Pants says is certainly some kind of mind-control mechanism--no doubt devised by the same people who engineered Condoleezza Rice), is not even as hynotic as a video of the Finnish folk group Loituma performing the song live. Maybe it's the serenity of their well-scrubbed, youthful faces ... but I for one welcome our new Finnish overlords.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Seemingly at random

Whilst looking for ... well, I don't know what, really, I came across a page that will serve up random quotations, if you want them. I like this one:

There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.
Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), De Divinatione

The random quote thingie also has a weblog attached to it, by a person named Laura. The weblog links to this article on Choosing to be Childfree which, while interesting seems to end mid sentence. At any rate, it contains this interesting quote:
"There was one study that asked parents what was their primary reason for having children. The number one answer was, 'I don't know,'" says Sharon N. Covington, a clinical social worker at the Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland.
Why do I mention this? I don't know, but I discovered all this while listening to Juana Molina's latest cd, Son. It's so facking good, I can't even begin to describe it. Even though I review cds regularly for WXDU (my reason for being in possession of this cd, in fact), I really suck at it. I'm just not good at describing music, and have a really hard time coming up with Pitchfork-esque bullshittery. And legitimate, concise descriptions like "bringing together a bubbling thrum of acoustic instrumentation, organic electronics, found-sound fragments and of course Molina's honey-glazed vocals," don't occur to me like they do the reviewers at Boomkat. But anyway, so I really like this cd. And I also like this Pop Matters review of it.

At practically the opposite end of the I-like-it spectrum is Experimental Dental School, an "art rock" group from San Francisco or thereabouts who sound remarkably as one would expect from a group with such a name. Sort of like surf/garage-rock on meth ... very hyperactive and slightly disturbing in a carnival-of-vampires kind of way. See, that wasn't even a complete sentence. I suck at reviewing music. Good thing they have streaming samples on their website so you can see for yourself.

And for something completely different, I've also been listening to ¡Arriba Suena Marimba! Currulao Marimba Music from Colombia by Grupo Naidy on Smithsonian Folkways. ¡Marimbalicious!

And on one more audio note, have I mentioned how much I love everything musical that comes out of Mexico? Yep, I even like the cheesy synthesizer cumbias they play on "La Ley" (albeit in small doses). Well in honor of Cinco De Mayo (I know, I'm a few days late), Neil Hohmann, who produces a radio show/podcast called Ritmo Latino, put together a nice tribute to the many musical flavors of Mexico and its diaspora (several of the groups featured are US-based). Here's the playlist, and you can download the podcast for free from iTunes. (This may or may not be obvious, but you need iTunes installed on your computer first). ¡Mexilicious!

And to end very far from whence I began, I have this constant Mac-vs-Windows gripe that I would like to air: Windows' handling of special characters sucks. I'm talking about the upside-down exclamation points and accent marks of Spanish, which I often need to type. It's probably not such a pain for those using Windows on Spanish keyboards, but on an English keyboard, having to type a different alt-plus-four-number combination for every possiboccurrencence of an accented vowel or tilde (with capital letters having their own combination separate from lower case) is just a retarded, annoying way to do it. On a Mac, a simple option-e followed by the letter to be accented puts an accent (the right-flying one they use in Spanish--there's a whole 'nother one in french, plus several strange squiggles and such) wherever you want, and option-n gives you a tilde--regardless of whether you're using caps or lower-case. Easy to remember, easy to use. I have to tape a list of common special characters and their secret codes near my Windows computer at work. (The only one I have memorized is the bullet (option-8 on the Mac!) ... the rest I have to hunt for.) Sucks.

UPDATE: I should mention that sometimes I just resort to the "Type Spanish Accents Online" website.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I made something else ...

coconut-mango kanten
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants.

It's coconut-mango kanten. Click on the photo if you want the recipe.

Why can't it rain on Tuesdays?

I had a super productive day yesterday. In addition to trying out the strawberry rhubarb soup recipe (see previous entry), I made great strides in some yard work I had been neglecting. In the morning, after my trip to the Farmers Market, I started hacking away at the back garden, which has really become more of a weed corral than an actual garden. It's been hard to find things that thrive there (Nigella and purple coneflowers love it. In fact, the purple coneflowers are acting like they own the place), plus recent droughtiness has made me not really feel like putting in much effort. But it's gotten to the point where if I don't put the work in, it will just become a snake habitat, and I certainly don't want that. I was going to put in more work there today but now it's raining (although that is a great time for weed-pulling).

I also did a little work in the front garden, which is shaping up beautifully. It;s been an evolution over the past several years, ever since I decided to give up on growing grass there and turn it into a garden. I started with no real plan, just a decision to work within the existing border plantings (bearded irises, creeping phlox and daisy mums). Yesterday I added a couple of annuals (a container of amaranth "Love Lies Bleeding," some lantana (which may be perennial depending on what the winter is like) and a Mexican heather.

I realized yesterday that the layout of the garden has clearly manifested itself at this point, and I rally need to put in a path. But I'm against spending a bunch of money on stones, and I don't want to put in anything too uniform or prefab-looking--it would go against the crazy mish-mash aesthetic I've got going on (which was the only "planned" aspect of the garden--that I didn't want it to look planned). So then it hit me that I have the makings of a footpath already--I've been collecting all kids of stones and bricks, plus a bunch of flagstones I pulled out of the back--and I can just arrange them all higgledy-piggledy into a path. So I started that ... I'll keep at it piecemeal through the summer. If you have any interesting bits of stone or brick that you don't need I'm accepting donations.

Alas, today it's raining, which could be a sign from the universe that I should focus on the inside of my house now. I think I just need to get rid of everything I own. That would neaten the place up a bit.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Look, I made something pretty

strawberry rhubarb soup
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants.

... and delicious. And easy. I didn't find any rhubarb at the Farmers Market, however ... it doesn't actually grow that well around here, come to find out. So naturally I bought myself a rhubarb plant (they had those at the market). The guy, who sold it to me said "You have to really love it to get it to grow around here." He said it only wants morning sun, and you need to keep it moist. He also said to fill the hole with lots of organic matter like compost, which coincidentally I have plenty of--I declared my latest batch of compost "ready" about a week ago. So I planted the rhubarb on the east side of our shed where it's well-protected from that nasty afternoon sun, and I'll see how it goes.

Anyway, so I bought rhubarb at Ho Foods, and made some absolutely scrumptious strawberry rhubarb soup using this recipe from Veggie Life magazine:

1 cup 3/4-inch dice rhubarb
1/4 raw sugar (I used regular old white sugar because that's what I've got hanging around my kitchen.)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1-1/4 teaspoons arrowroot
1 cup water
2 tablespoons raw sugar (again, I used white)
2 teaspoons rose water (optional ... good thing too, because I wasn't about to buy rose water for one lousy recipe)
1-1/2 cups chopped strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 425. In a medium bowl combine rhubarb, 1/4 cup sugar and orange juice. Transfer mixture to a baking dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until rhubarb is cooked but still retains it's shape. (I baked for 15 minutes, and it retained its shape until I added it to the final soup, when it fell apart. Still tasted good, though.) Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

2. In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and 2 tablespoons water. Whisk until smooth.

3. In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons sugar and rose water (or not rose water. Your call. I skipped it and didn't miss it.) Bring to a simmer over medium heat and slowly whisk in arrowroot mixture. Continue to cook until liquid becomes clear--but don't let it boil. (OK, my liquid never really became clear--it stayed a little milky and then I just grew weary of simmering it and said fuck it, I'm done. It tasted great.) Remove from heat.

4. Add strawberries, cooled rhubarb and accumulated juices. Chill well before serving.

Feeling somewhat better, thank you

So I ended up having boiled eggs and mashed sweet potato for dinner yesterday, and it made me feel a bit better. Then I went slightly over my rations allotment by having a mango paleta from Francisco, the Mexican ice cream man who roams my hood. Fabulous--there was a an oversize chunk of mango in my popsicle, so it felt like I was eating real food ...

But seriously, the soft-foods amendment to the diet has made it almost unworkable. I think that texture is almost as important as taste in my food enjoyment (which is why I have a hard time eating things like cooked zucchini--the texture makes me sick). As much as I love cottage cheese, oatmeal, yogurt and the like, often when I'm hungry I really want to chew something. I'm starting to exhibit prisoner behaviors ... last night while I was cutting up dog training treats (this stuff) I had a momentary urge to shove a handful of them in my mouth, not because I was starving but because I just wanted to bite down on food (the stuff smells like summer sausage ... quite appetizing to me, really). I resisted ... it does have meat in it, after all ...

Anyway, I'm going to walk to the Farmers Market now and get something to puree ... I have a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb soup and I think I'll try it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Yeah, I'm in a crappy mood, can you tell?

I can only eat soft foods because of my teeth. Make that low-fat/calorie/whatever foods because of the "lifestyle change," through which I've lost a measly 2 lbs. in the first week (yeah, yeah, I know I should be happy about that, but shut up.) My pants still feel tight. I'm hungry. I'm having boiled eggs and cottage cheese for dinner ... ooh, I should stop and get some spinach that I can steam and then run through the blender. Yum.

But what really frosts my shorts is that my boss (who is younger than me) calls us "children." As in "'Bye chldren, have a good weekend." She does it all the time and it pisses me the hell off ... and yet I'm too passive aggressive to do anything but blog about it.

I'm also just fcking overjoyed that I live in a country where consigning humans to "rot" is considered a worthwhile allocation of assets.

But what comes with number two?

yeah, I know this is turning into the "I read Consumerist so you don't have to" blog, but before I run off to get a job at Target I had to pass along this link to Target's magical employee-motivation ditty ("I move fast! / I have fun! / Smiling comes with number one!"), which I found, of course, over at the Big C.

In other news, someone in my neighborhood may be interested in giving Mr. Adorable Kitty Cat a home.

And after apprentice-teaching "senior puppy" classes for the past six months, I taught my first one as bona-fide instructor. It went well except that I ran out of time for the planned material because I had to address a lot of potty-training issues (which never really came up before because most dogs are potty-trained by 5 months or so when they get to "senior puppy" level). Ach, I really need to start a "dog blog" because I could really go on and on about this stuff ...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

You need a cat

the li'l guy's back
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants.

And what a coincidence, because there's an adorable little one hanging around our house. Still a kitten, too. Extremely sweet. Based on this info I think it's a male. Seriously, he loves people--you'd love him.

The teeth, they don't hurt

So my teeth feel fine. The pre-op literature and consent form had all sorts of warnings about pain, swelling, bleeding, exploding gums ... OK, I made up the last bit ... but other than soreness yesterday and extreme exhaustion from the ativan I took (I sleepwalked through the afternoon at work and then went home and feel asleep for several hours), I feel fine, as long as I don't try to eat anything that requires even minimal chewing. Makes me wonder if he did it correctly ... no pain, no gain, right?

Anyway, enough about me ...even though this is my blog ... yesterday georg, who is what I would call a foodie, posted some of his fave food blogs. But he left off one of the best, in my non-foodie opinion: chotda/santos' The Scent of Green Bananas. I may make meals out of cereal, chips and guacamole or a hunk of cheese, but that's only because I don't live on Guam. 'Cause if I did I'd be hanging out over at chotda's house all the time ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The dental thing, it was OK

I'm not hurting. But I'm still a little mellow from the ativan. I took some ibuprofen, and maybe I won't have to take and vicodin. But I don't really feel like doing anything and I have these splints on the backs of my upper front teeth that are driving me nuts. I can't leave them alone with my tongue. Before we started the dentist asked "Aren't you excited?" because this procedure is relatively new and has been demonstrated to regenerate bone denisity in some patients. I laughed because I was really dreading every moment of it. He was excited, though, because he thought I was a prime candidate for good results. Maybe I'll be excited in a matter of months when we look at my dental X-rays ... right now I'm just relieved to be out of that chair.

Anyway, I botched Rakka's "How well do you know me" quiz at 30%, but now everyone has a chance to botch mine.

With a name like Fluckers, it's got to be good.

It's Painful Dental Work Day, everyone. In an hour I will be taking an Ativan so that I can go let the dentist torture my gums. He's using a laser for most of it ... it's a relatively new thing, I guess, and it's supposed to give a better end result than the sharp and pointy objects they used before ... but the before-the-end result is likely to be a lot of pain plus an entire month of babying an area of my mouth and rinsing with some nasty substances that's supposed to stain my teeth. (The dentist assures me that they can polish the stains away at the end of the month, but I'll be avoiding smiling for the entire merry month of May.)

I have Sterolab cued up on the iPod, for it has been deemed by a panel of experts as the music most likely to soothe in the dentists chair.

Maybe the earth will open up and swallow the city of Raleigh, where my dentist is, and I will have to postpone the appointment ....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yet again ...

... Consumerist makes my day complete! Seriously, click the link! Watch the video! Especially you, georg. (And thanks for the Wacky packages link. Those were my absolute favorites as a child!)