Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mechanical Difficulty and Sexy Chicken

Bobby has been carrying on with his new mistress.  PDA all the time.  Shameless.

In flagrante delicto

He has taken a shine to rubber chicken in a way that is entirely unexpected and unprecedented.  But rubber chicken has kept his attention and most importantly, it fails to leave bits of matted fake fur, string, torn fabric, or anything at all in its wake.  And so, despite the fact that I am disturbed by the mind-boggling sexualization of a chicken, I too have taken a shine to rubber chicken. 

We spent Thanksgiving with D's parents, cooked them our awesome turkey (which is actually Alton Brown's awesome turkey), and watched an absurd amount of football.  And its been rough times at work.  Rotten Dog dug up the heuchera and astilbe in the back yard.  I had been putting a lot of time into organizing and promoting the event I'm putting together (with the help of some fine minions, I must say).  Not a great time to be struck with what seems to be carpal tunnel.  The pain is pretty much constant from on end of my right arm to the other.  It actually started about three weeks ago and has just gotten worse.  I've tried to baby it to see if it's just a strain of some sort, using my left arm instead, but all that has accomplished is establishing cramping in my left arm from all the typing and mousing I do at work.  I've been doing the paperwork at the office by pecking at the keyboard with a ballpoint pen.  So far, nothing seems to help.  

So though I've wanted to post a few things here, it's been difficult mechanically speaking.  Despite my best intentions, my online promotion of the swing dance event must seem a tad underwhelming.  I'll have to make up for it in face-time at other scenes.  My progress in online shopping for christmas presents is dead in its tracks.  I had a strong lead for awhile, our outside lights were up last Saturday, our tree and the stockings for the furkids are up.  Computer avoidance is a tad strange to me, but I've occupied myself with catching up with tv shows we've gotten behind on, notably Revenge (D is a huge fan of the original unabridged Count of Monte Cristo) and Modern Family

The Walking Dead has been a huge letdown in story-structure and pacing, with the apocalypse serving as mere background to the front-and-center angst and melodrama of characters who were likeable in the books but are flat and annoying in the poorly adapted tv script.  How do they survive?  Where do they get their water, how do they ration, who digs the latrines, is the redneck the only one who is useful or does someone else have a skill of some sort?  Everything that could be awesome about this blasted show is offscreen.

The idea of an apocalypse brings up stirring themes of cooperation redeeming mankind, the intricacies of human societies and how they suceed and fail, survival, the quality or transcedental import of civilization, there's a lot of good stuff there.  Man versus man.  Man versus nature.  Man versus self.  Man versus zombie.  When it comes to survival in general and survival of the species in particular, the skies the limit.  Show us how clever people can be, show us their obstacles and how they overcome them, don't spend thirty minutes of monologue lecturing to the audience about how depressing it all is.  What all?  What??  Instead of a few heartfelt scenes of backbreaking labor or teamwork or ingenuity, we're never shown how they live every day, there's just a bunch of empty blubbering about it.  It's filler.  I resent it.  And coming from me, who can find something redeemable in almost any piece of apocalyptic fiction, that is pretty damning. 

So even though we've been indoorsey because Cincinnati has had more rain this year than any other on record, there is less tv, which is good.  I'm finally getting back into Fallout New Vegas.  The xbox controller doesn't hurt my hand the way a keyboard and mouse seem to.  I'm also finally reading the rest of Earth Abides, which is a frustrating study in complacency and every single character is disappointing.  I'm not sure this one stays on the Post-Apocalyptic Literature shelf.  I have a hard time believing it has any re-read value at this point, but it is a classic, and the thematic struggle against apathy and complacency is a bit, ah, timely in my real life.  If it resonates then there's obviously some realism there. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Motivation

Motivation is the key to things getting done.  Or is it enthusiasm? 

Things can get done with no enthusiasm at all, but motivation?  When you don't have it, things usually don't get done.  Motivation is what keeps your bills paid on time, laundered clothing in drawers, it keeps friendships alive and hobbies current.  It is the freshly scrubbed sister to that pig-pen: Procrastination.  And of those two, everyone has their favorite child.  Mine personally depends on what day it is.

I love you, tree

Motivation takes many forms, often a simple matter of penalty-avoidance.  All of the old growth trees on our block have nearly finished dumping their colorful armloads, and we noticed suddenly that we were practically the last house on the block to rake off the crunchy mess. 

Motivation :  Negative-Neighbor-Cred Avoidance

Enthusiasm:  Doggie Has It

Sunday at the homestead, we raked up five giant bags of leaves.  From the front yard.  And we ran out of bags, so we mowed up the rest.  The back yard?  Please.  

Spirit Of Teamwork :  Doggie Totally Thinks We are Playing with Him

I also worked in the garden, and managed to retrieve Max, who had somehow escaped into the outdoors, panicked, hidden underneath the deck, and refused to come out.  I did all the laundry, put it away, picked up our den of slobbery bedroom.  I hemmed a pair of pants.  I realized I hemmed the second leg inside out, tore out the stiching while bitterly complaining, and re-hemmed the second leg.   

This all rode in to O-Town on the coattails of motivation to do one task: yardwork.  I think for most people, motivation is something that expands within pre-set boundaries.  Something like achievement set to yardsticks.  Maybe I'm weird that way, because I hadn't intended to hem or straighten that day, and yet I was being productive anyway.  I was super-unenthusiastic about hemming pantlegs, and yet I was motivated to do it.  I seemed to be thinking, I may as well just ride out the productivity.  And its funny how motivation can be like that.  Also procrastination, now that I think about it. 

I've been dealing with motivation and enthusiasm in other aspects of my life.  Enthusiasm is like water, it's eager to fill any space you give it.  It pours into cracks and breaks apart stone (-ey faced apathy).  Whereas enthusiastic people aren't always helpful, at least enthusiasm can be catching.  Their enthusiasm might jumpstart your enthusiasm.  But if helpful people aren't enthusiastic, you might not get anything out of them, or worse, they may suck your enthusiasm dry.  This is where I was for awhile. 

When I really decide I want something or want to do something-- while capable of taking constructive criticisms-- if my reasoning is sound, generally it gets done.  When I decided to go live in Japan when I was 18, I pretended to ask my parents but when they said no I told them I was going anyway.  Not in a cheeky way, but my mind had been made up.  Ask D.  Recently, I was motivated to affect a change.  Nothing altruistic or anything, I'm not changing the world.  Just accomplishing certain of my goals by way of establishing a project.  A small thing, but nonetheless a project I strongly believe to be a worthwhile endeavor.  But my enthusiasm got rubbed off when my thoughts and efforts were met with negativity.  Not objection really, more like cynical apathy.  And even though people weren't actively standing in my way, with every piece of cynical feedback, I felt more of my enthusiasm drain away. It felt like they were counting off reasons that they expected me to fail.  I kept at it.  Like I said, worthwhile endeavor and all that.  But my enthusiasm had dried up.  

On the flip side, D and I recently learned that on the precise weekend of the RunForYourLives 5k, we will be going to a wedding.  As you know, that had been the impetus to my couch-to-5k aspirations.  My motivation gone, my enthusiasm crashed into the basement, and I haven't run for over two weeks.  What for?  I had gotten a group of our friends excited about it, and we were all going to look for excuses to train together.  Go rock climbing at an indoor wall, etc.  Chase eachother through an open field like dogs and bunnies.  Or, you know, zombies and survivors.  And it was not idle talk.  I had paid.      

It's funny, but I couldn't tell you why the motivation stayed when the enthusiasm didn't.  Or, in the other case, why the enthusiasm to train didn't stick around when the motivation vanished.  D is trying to sell me on trying to transfer our entry fees to a different race on a different day.  Not so sure about that.  I could use the exercise, its true.  And I liked how I felt after a morning run.  (not how I felt trying to get out of bed early enought to do a morning run, though)  But running as its own goal?  ehhhh....

And the project?  We're midstream now, and I've sold some aspect to people who support it.  I'm trying to lead by example (not that being a leader is my goal).  I got some attention though, and more people are talking about steps and changes.  Well, its too soon to tell.  And, for whatever reason, enthusiasm is slowly returning.  Maybe its something to do with the saying, "whatever is worth doing is worth doing well."  Or something hideously more cliche, "be part of the solution."  I guess what has come about (without my consciously knowing about it), is that I have been evaluating what it is that I have a stake in and then owning that.  Now I'm at the part where I make things happen. 

"You must be the change that you want to see"  Ghandi

So... yeah.  That's what's been on my mind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

OurBrau Label

  Craft brew sales are on the rise in the U.S. again (or rather, still), and has been even during the worst year of the recession.  That's saying something, because on the average craft brew seems more expensive.  What it says to me is, if you're going to drink Miller Light, why drink at all?  Then again, I'm a weak drinker, so what I drink has to count on a taste rather than per volume basis.

After you buy all the grains and whatnot to brew at home, is it cheaper to just buy craft beers at the store? ... I'll get back to you on that.

Soon we'll be able to crack into the Scottish Ale we bottled previously.  It smelled quite good when I opened one (for quality testing purposes).  But it was still a bit too young.  D and I are already plotting our next batch.  D enjoys the chemistry and crafting of beer as well as drinking it. 

I thought it would be fun to come up with a maker's mark if you will, slap some labels on our drab little brown beer bottles.  Perhaps something with our name (not that we're selling them, just because.  Becauuuse... its neat to have beer with our name on it?  And maybe we can give some as gifts or something.).  Previously I had supposed that most homebrewers don't bother with labels.  But when you consider all the creative mixing of spices, choosing of malts and boiling of hops, etc. that goes into creating their intoxicating intoxicant of choice, why wouldn't they be creative about it?  Not that a pretty label is indicative of anything at all.

Thank Heaven For Beer puts it succintly:
Clearly, the aesthetic qualities of a bottle of beer (or the lack thereof) will not manipulate my taste buds into appreciating a particular beer more or less, but they may arrest my attention as I stroll down the beer aisle.   If anything, they will leave me obliged to the brewer for putting heart and soul into every detail.
On the other hand, drinking a nasty beer out of a beautiful bottle irritates me.   

Beer by State, from Bottoms Up
 I got a bit of enjoyment out of some labels out there.
Like this one from Brisbane. (ha)
This label from Beer in Baltimore?  Classic.  Love it. 
This one I quite like. Quite gothic.
These altered labels, good for a laugh
These fake beer labels, which I enjoy

I had to start looking into beer brewing to get a better idea of where to begin.  There's an entire forum dedicated to the art of beerlabels at HomeBrewTalk.  This directed me to the Beer Labellizer.  I thoroughly enjoyed how easy this was to mock up a label with our brewname on it.  I showed D what I had chosen, and he was scandalized by how girly it was.  He flat out refused! 

from the Beer Labelizer

Well you know what that means.  Now I have to make my own.  I've decided.  Perhaps a wee heavy.  I shall call it the Fancy Drop. The bottle will be the girliest thing you've ever seen.  I mean I will glue ribbons onto it.  Glitter, perhaps.
 I am not a graphic designer (my art software is Paint, if that tells you anything), but I'd like to roll up my sleeves and give this a try.  It'll be fun!  
Well, if you know of a good stock image source, let me know!   Somewhere with vintage images.  Or overly feminine jpegs.  Ponies, rainbows, that sort of thing. White fluffy kitties sitten on damask patterned davenports. 
I'll have to measure the bottle to see if that's the look I like.  Of course, by "I like" I mean "we like."  I'll be trying to mock something up on the computer and print out a batch.  If it looks all right I'll print another batch onto 8.5 x 11 in. sticker paper (which is not cheap).  The internet also imparted this wisdom to me: Laserjet not Inkjet.  Laserjet = resists water damage, while inkjet = wet, runny mess. 

Hm.  What kind of printer do we have...?

This foray into the world of beer has been quite educational.  I've learned, for example, an entirely unexpected use for milk

What am I getting myself into,
This Wee Heavy recipe may as well be written in Latin.

Favorite Home Brew Labels from the web :

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Hallows Nothing

I had had plans for Halloween.  It's true.  I'm a planner.  It drives D mad.

 Starting in late summer I had looked up ideas on the web, for spooky house decorations on a dime.  Cheap dollar store cobwebs, that sort of thing.  And I had found truly awesome photos of carved pumpkins that really got the Halloween spirit up.  The pumpkins at this site are awesome.  The author of one the blogs I follow, the Art of Doing Stuff, is a masterful carver. 

The Art of Doing Stuff

And Bobby could have been a shark.

Toys R' Us dogshark: it's a hammerhead!

 Or a dinosaur.  Because who doesn't want their own stegasaurus?

Target: there's also a little raptor outfit, which Bobby would also tear to pieces

There was no shortage of inspiration out there.   And I was in the festive mood myself.  I wore my bearhat all day at work on Halloween.  I'm not sure it was all right, but it was one day.  And its just a bear hat.  It took the office a good eight minutes to notice it at all.

But previously upon discussing Halloween in our neighborhood with the Neighbor Lady, I had been deeply disappointed to learn that no one, not even Neighbor Lady herself took her kids trick or treating on our block.  No one does that here, she informed me.  It's an older neighborhood, and apparently the generation of kids that grew up on the block were finished growing up a bunch of years back. 

So we didn't decorate, and we didn't dress up (except I was still wearing my bearhat.  I like my bearhat.  I like saying bearhat. Bearhat.).  But still D bought some candy (because what if some did come?) and last night on All Hallow's Eve, we turned on the lights and opened the shades and we waited.   


It became evident that she hadn't been exaggerating.  After awhile we went outside stood in the dark, looking up and down the block at the row of houses whose facades were dark and unwelcoming.  Even people who normally had their porch lights on after dusk as a default had turned them off last night.  Ours was the only house with lamps lit, but nothing stirred in the dark.  It was so eerily quiet, maybe for the knowledge that there were groups of kids and parents out there, or should have been, but no sound could be heard except the rustling of the leaves in the trees.  Not once did our doorbell ring.  Our anticipation grew to disappointment, our mounded bowl of candy remained untaken.

That's not true, I had a mini-candy bar.  Two really. 

We brought the candy to our respective offices so that we don't eat three bags of halloween candy ourselves. 

After all, we are in training. 

Of course you wouldn't know we were in training.  We haven't done any actual training for over a week.  Maybe two weeks.  I've been out jogging perhaps twice in two weeks, but really only to get the dog out and to settle him down.  I've not really even pushed myself. 

I've overslept almost every day for the past two weeks.  Like a bear (bearhat) my body doesn't want to leave the den.  It's warm in bed.  It's not warm outside of the bed.  As someone who is almost always cold, it's not an easy thing to drag myself away from.  It's so comfortable.  And so I roll over and go back to sleep until I'm running quite late.  I daily leave the house with madwoman hair, spill hot coffee on self, and eat breakfast cereal out of sandwich baggies as I drive.   

So, I fell off the wagon.  Out of the saddle. 

I get a text from Runner's World every morning around the time I'm supposed to already be up and moving around.  They are supposedly inspirational but rarely stirring Quote of the Day texts.  And me, chronic oversleeper and at a post-wedding weight high (or a new low, it might more aptly be said), I truly was in need of some inspiration.   

I got it. 

"In the end I have to hold myself accountable. It is my career and my responsibility to do what I need to do to be the best I can be. I had to make a change if I really wanted to reach the goals I had set for myself. I had to get out of being comfortable and get into a situation that was going to really push me. "
Kara Goucher on joining the Oregon Track Club Elite group

That?  you're saying.  That is what inspired you to get out of bed at 630 and run in 33 degree weather with frost on the ground??

Actually, yes.* 

Back in the saddle again.

*Also Bobby guilt.  He hasn't gotten a jog since Saturday.  In retribution, two of my small terra cotta pots are gone.  He's taken to standing on his hind legs and pulling down pots and things from the railing on the deck.  I picked up the shards from one pot yesterday, as well as detrititus from other things he's ripped apart.  The other terra cotta pot is still missing.