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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!



Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you have a fun evening with friends and/or family, and a wonderful year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Moss Landing Beach/Breakup Blog, 4 months/Layoff Blog, 2 months



It was a nice day today, and I needed to get away from my brother, so I went to the beach.  (I'm a mean sister, I know, but I did give him the option of joining me and he wasn't interested.)  I went to Moss Landing Beach.  Why there?  Well, I've never been and there was an article in the AAA magazine about it, which I read when I was in the bathtub last night.  I also thought I might want to hit the outlet mall on the way back.  It's a really nice beach - several miles of wide, sandy beach to walk on, and it's shaded from the wind.  I walked and walked and looked for sand dollars and rocks for the rock tumbler.   As I walked the sand dollars became less and less damaged, but it wasn't until I hit a river draining into the ocean that I found whole ones.  I gathered up six of them and turned around.  I also gathered a lot of rocks, since I need a new batch. There were lots of little round, colorless jellyfish on the beach as well.  It was about 4 by the time I got back, and I developed a blister, so I skipped going to Elkhorn Slough, but I may go there some other time.  There are a lot of birds there and you can rent a kayak.
It's been 4 months since T broke up with me.  I still have my ups and downs, of course, but the last week was a lot better.  Early and mid december were hard, since I was fragile anyway from the job stuff and I was getting hit with both holiday shit and anniversary reminders.  Remind me not to start new relationships during the holidays;-)
I'm stressing a little bit about my mammogram. OK, a lot, but I'm trying not to think about it. When I went to the OB/GYN last week for my IUD followup appointment, I mentioned that I was being laid off.  My doctor is very proactive and sent me in for routine bloodwork and a mammogram, even though I wasn't scheduled for one for another year.  The technician took a lot of pictures of my left breast, and even called another technician in to look at the pictures.  NOT a very reassuring experience...I'll report more once I get the results back.  I'm hoping that it's either deodorant residue or my thick layer of muscle and fat around my ribs that made it hard to get a good shot.
It's also been two months since we first heard that we might be laid off.  In some ways it's easier now that I know for sure, but at the same time it still sucks.  There's not much I can do between now and new year's, other than surf the job ads and apply for ones that sound good.  As part of our layoff package, we get a month's worth of services from a company that helps us with our resumes, job hunting strategies, etc.  I made an appointment to start the process the first week of January.  Who knows, maybe it will be useful, or maybe I will meet some hot unemployed guys there.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snuggie Thief

I'm going to burn in hell for this, I just know it.  Today about 15 fancy red gift boxes were deposited in the front lobby.  They were all addressed to business development people who are no longer with the company, and were sealed up so that you couldn't see what was inside.  After an hour or so, about half of the boxes had disappeared.  I knew my coworkers were thinking the same thing as me - free mystery box!  What are they going to do - fire us?  I pilfered one and took it home with me.
I opened it up when I got home.  There was a card that said "We hope you enjoy a warm, relaxing 'snug' moment to yourself during the holidays"  I started to get suspicious.  Inside the box was a bottle of port, a box of really nice chocolates, and yes, a Snuggie(tm).   Yes, it's official, I am a Snuggie thief.  So are some of my coworkers.
Being a practical person, I immediately began to think what I could do with it.  Use it as a cat blanket?  Put it back in the box and give it to my brother as a gag gift?  Give it to one of my parents as a semi-serious gift?  The possibilities are endless.  Got any other suggestions for my sexy  black Snuggie with a red corporate logo embroidered on the front?  Let me know!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Layoff Blog, middle of the night pissed off version

It's the middle of the night.  I drank too much at 'happy' hour, then woke up in an angry state of mind at 4 AM.
I'm pissed about the layoff. I know I'll never know the full answer as to what went wrong, but I'm sure that mistakes were made and that pisses me off.  F%$&ing greedy incompetant CEO...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

SWF seeks Mr Right Now

Soon to be unemployed SWF, 41, with a fondness for LOLcats, fart jokes, and baths, seeks Mr. Right Now for fun times and distraction during a sure-to-be annoying nationwide job search.  Must be kind, honest and not too clingy.  Sugar daddies and married guys need not apply. 

:-(

The deal fell through.  We found out this morning.  I have a job until January 31. 
I know there's more to the story than that, but so far no details have emerged.  I knew something was up when I got to work this morning.  My boss and another guy were talking for a long time in the parking lot.  Then he was talking to someone else out in the parking lot.  The parking lot is the location of choice for private conversations.  At first I thought that my boss had found a new job, then I thought that the deal had fell through.  It turned out I was right on both scores.  Anyway, then my boss asked if G had talked to me yet.  I told him no, but that told me all I needed to know.
Then G came in and told me what happened.  I'm still kind of in shock.  If the past is any indicator, it'll get submerged and then resurface as moping about T, or at least hit me when I've got my guard down.
I need to start listening to my intuition more.  I couldn't sleep the last few nights.  I blamed it on alcohol one night and caffeine the next night, but it was still sort of odd.  I wondered about it since the same thing happened before we originally found out about the reorg two months ago.
My boss ended up getting the job at the startup where I interviewed.  He accepted it before we found out about the deal falling though. Small world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday LOLcat


journal article

For the last few months (ok, for the last nine months) I've been ever so slowly writing a paper. It's on some chemistry I worked on in 2003-4. I started it around the time I had knee surgery, exactly nine months ago tomorrow.  I was too drugged after surgery to do much on it, and since then I've been working on it in an on again, mostly off-again fashion.  After T broke up with me, I made some more headway on it.  When the reorg was first announced, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my spare time doing something for my company.  My boss' boss kept pestering me to finish it, so eventually I figured that (a) that was a good sign about us getting bought (b) if I stayed it would help keep me in his good graces (c) I might need it for my resume and (d) I no longer felt guilty about working on it during business hours.  So I wrote and I wrote and I procrastinated and then I wrote some more.  I spent way too many weekend hours working on it, but the truth is that it partially kept me from moping about T so it did serve a purpose.
It's done. It's a big behemoth of a paper, even though I left out a lot of stuff and just referenced our patents. It's comparable in length to two chapters of my thesis.   I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.  My coworkers are supposed to review it by Friday and then it gets sent out to the legal department and also to the legal department of the company that paid for the work.  At that point I expect nothing to happen for a while, but at least it's out of my hair. 
Meanwhile, we're winding down with our current program.  We have our last phone conference tomorrow, so everyone's just got odds and ends to tidy up.  The weekly update meeting about the status of the negotiations is also tomorrow afternoon.
I still haven't started Christmas shopping, although I have started baking. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reorg Blog,7 weeks/Old Biddy Wish List

The negotiations are still going on for the sale of my group.  So far it seems to be going well. The level of detail has progressed to the almost trivial level, i.e. which printers are part of the deal, do we get food service, putting stickers on all the lab equipment that is part of the deal, etc.  This is a good sign. I'm trying to be positive and calm and yet not get my hopes up too much.  If they're going to this much detail, I hope they remembered to include the espresso machine is part of the deal! I may have to go and put a sticker on it in case it isn't....Caffeine is the true catalyst for the catalysis group.
They told us that if the deal isn't signed by next week, they will automatically extend everyone's layoff date by one month.  That's a relief, even though I had an unofficial two month extension anyway.
The startup where I interviewed made an offer to one of my coworkers.  I don't know who, although I do have my suspicions. I did manage to inferentially confirm that it was one of my coworkers.  I didn't like their business plan, so I'm not too disappointed.
I'm not actively looking for jobs at the moment.  It was just too much stress to throw myself 100% into it.  I'm still very vulnerable. I had dinner with Judy last night. She thought that I should look for jobs more aggressively, but I just can't until I know what's going on.  There's not much hiring going on right before the holidays, anyway.  Likewise, I'm holding off on putting my profile up onto Match.com. I'm just circling the wagons trying to get through the next month or two.
It is weird trying to get all the health stuff squared away in case I have to switch insurance providers.  I got the OB/GYN exam and birth control issues out of the way, but decided to get my eye exam out of the way too.  Unfortunately, they found some trouble spots on my retinae, so I've got another appointment to get that looked at more.  I may have to get them sealed up with a laser.
So anyway, on a lighter note, here are a few things I'm going to buy do if I stay employed.
1.  Figure out what to do with the rest of the living room project, including window treatments, redoing the fireplace, and paint.  This may also include a new TV in time for the 2010 World Cup.
2.   I'm still tempted to get a kitten.
3.  I had originally planned to get laser hair removal of my old biddy chin hairs and also get rid of some redness/spider veins on my cheeks as a birthday present to myself.  My midlife plastic surgery, such as it is, will once again be a possibility.
4.  I want jewelry.   I'm on a big jewelry kick. In place of plastic surgery,  I bought myself a nice watch as my birthday present to myself.  I plan to buy a nice necklace or some cool rings or earrings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baaa Haaaa Haaaa!


Crazy cat lady


When I am an old biddy, in perhaps a day or month or two, perhaps longer,  I want to be a crazy cat lady.  I'm resisting the urge to get another cat, but the main reason is that I told myself I'd get a pair of kittens when one of my cats dies, rather than get one now. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Butt Cold Birthday Biddy/Get the door, it’s Domino’s

Note to an unnamed chemical company: It would help your recruiting immensely if you put your out of state candidates up in a hotel in downtown Boulder rather than a Best Western in the middle of nowhere. Then again, every single chemist I met was originally from Colorado, so I’m sure they didn’t even think of that.
It’s my 41st birthday. I am sitting in a motel room in Longmont, Colorado, after having finished my interview. It is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and about -8 with wind chill. It is snowing and the roads are icy/snowy. My original plan was to drive 15 miles over to Boulder for a really nice dinner and walk around, but it’s too damn cold. I’ve been trying to warm up and motivate myself to get out the door for the last hour, but in the end I just decided to be truly nice to myself and do what I wanted to do at this moment in time, not what I wanted to do in some other, warmer moment. And what I really wanted in this moment was to just order a pizza and then go sit in the hot tub and not think about the fact that some weather forecasters are predicting blizzard like conditions for tonight/tomorrow. I’m waiting for my pizza now. Nonetheless, if I were in Boulder now and didn’t have to drive too much I would get off my lazy ass and go look around.
My interview went fine. I’ll write more in a future post. It’s been a mildly ill-fated trip, though, mainly due to the weather. My flight got in late. I had printed out every damn set of directions except the ones from the airport to the hotel. The hotel is on one of the main highways and normally the rental car agents give you a map and point you in the right direction. Not the Denver Avis, though. They give you a map at the exit and you’re on your way. It’s probably their way of getting people to rent the GPS unit. It was pissing down snow when I got in my car and the route to the freeway wasn’t clearly marked. I got lost and went on a skid-filled sojourn through the neighboring areas. Did I mention that my car is a Chevy Cobalt and that I have no experience driving in snow?!?
I finally got on the highway and had gone about 20 miles when I realized that I was going in the wrong direction. I turned around and encountered massive amounts of traffic. It was 5:45 by the time I got to the exit for my motel. I located it but didn’t check in. Instead, I called my host to let him know I’d be late for dinner, which was 25 more miles north. Then I got back on the highway and drove for another hour. All told, I drove for 3 ½ hours yesterday. Fortunately, I didn’t have to drive to my interview sites today, as was originally planned.
Most of the interview was conducted at the main plant, which consists of a lot of trailers that are used as offices and larger non-insulated buildings where the labs, pilot plant, and scale up facilities are located. There was a lot of walking between the buildings. I really should’ve worn some heavy socks under my knee high dominatrix boots. So part of my problem is that I’ve been getting chilled and then warming up and then getting chilled again all day.
There was a brief respite from the snow today, but it was starting up again when I got back to my hotel. It’s supposed to get heavy after midnight. Hopefully I will be able to get to the airport without trouble. If the roads are ok in the morning I may go over to Boulder before heading to the airport.
The good news about all the weather-related issues is that it distracted me from getting nervous for the interview. I know I talked a bit fast at my talk, because I was combining a 45 minute talk and a 20 minute talk. It went ok and was nice to be able to tell the two stories at the same time. Thanks to the paper that I was working on, all the data was very fresh in my mind so I could quote all sorts of obscure data when prompted, even though it took place 5-6 years ago.
It's time for me to go hit the hot tub now. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday LOLcat


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday LOLcat


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bah Humbug!


Interview Suit

I pulled out my old interview suit yesterday and tried it on/squeezed myself into it.  It's a size 14 dark green suit from Ann Taylor.  I still think it's the prettiest suit ever, even though it has those 90's power look shoulder pads.  I still look good in it, I just can't move.  I bought it almost exactly 14 years ago, when my first faculty interview was scheduled.  Sheila came with me and helped me pick it out.  I haven't worn it since 1997, but I keep it since I like it so much.
It didn't really fit, even though I am the same weight as I was when I bought it.  I'm not surprised - my weight has shifted around and more of it has ended up on my waist and torso.  To be honest, the skirt was a bit tight when I bought it - at the time Ann Taylor only went up to size 14, and there's been size inflation since then, so this is more like a 12, or possibly even a large 10 in the waist.  Nonetheless, it's definitely tighter now.  I blame perimenopause, soccer, swimming, and genetics.
Most women have one or more types of clothing that they just hate to shop for because it's hard to find things that fit properly. For me, that item is suits.  Weight goes up 5 lbs, it doesn't fit.  Weight goes down 5 lbs, it doesn't fit.  Add or remove a type of exercise - same result.  Go on or off the pill - same results.  Big shoulders = bad.  Big ribcage and fat/muscle around ribs = bad.  Long torso + short arms = bad.  Contrast this to men who can still squeeze themselves into suits they bought 30 lbs ago.  They get free tailoring too.  Not fair. Sadly, they do not make "athletic fit" suits for women like they do for men.  If I'm ever in a position where I have to wear suits frequently, I'm getting one custom made, and just to be safe, I am getting it made out of something stretchy.
For my interview nest week, I'll probably wear last year's interview blazer and a pair of slacks.  It's a bit too loose in the torso and tight in the shoulders.  Grr!  Net weight difference = -2 lbs, net workout difference = +swimming, - soccer, net hormone difference = no birth control pill this time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moping

I didn't keep myself busy enough this weekend.  I thought that I needed a lazy weekend. Bad idea.  I was pretty sad today.  It's a simple equation - my job and my relationship with T were very important to me.  Now one of those things is done and the other one is in jeopardy.  No wonder I'm a stress case.  I have no influence over the job situation, other than to look for jobs, and I don't even know what's going to happen.  Making matters worse, it's harder to distract myself from the T situation by working long hours, and I'm severely limiting the amount of retail therapy I do.  So I work out, blog and play Bejeweled Blitz way too much.  Usually it helps.  It's not an ideal solution, though.
Before the layoff announcement hit, I was starting to get motivated to do online dating again.  All that motivation went away once I started looking for jobs.  The two activities are too similar and all my motivation got funneled into the job stuff.  Judy's going to take some cute pictures of me in a few weeks, so once I have those and know what's up with work, I'll post a profile to match.com and maybe some of the other sites.  In the meantime,  I could always get the naked handyman* to come and help me with my house projects..uh, no.

*the naked handyman advertises on Craigslist.  He wants to work in the nude while women watch.  It's sort of like the dude in Boston who used to want to do housework in the nude. Sadly,I did not have much house cleaning to do back so I used to joke around about having him come and clean my glassware in the lab.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Interview Blog, Week 3

So for the third Friday in a row, I had an interview. This time it was with the CEO of a company out in Colorado that makes custom reagents for the chemical industry.  It was a pretty low key interview. The real interview will come when I go out there.   I think that mainly he wanted to make sure I knew that this job does involve being in the lab.  It made me wonder what kind of candidates they get. 
Anyway, I could do this job easily, and it's a pretty cool company, but I'm not sure I want to move to Colorado, and I'm not sure there's any room for advancement.  I'll have a better feel for it after my real interview. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday LOLcats


Friday, November 13, 2009

Calgon, take me away!

It was another crazy week.  Here's the play by play.
Monday: VP of my group walks into my office,closes the door, and asks if I'd be interested in working on a certain project if it gets extended.  This would push my layoff date to March 31, if we don't get bought.  I say yes.
Tuesday: T IM's me and apologizes for not calling or emailing, that he'd been sick with the worst cold he'd had in years.  Whatever  I am relieved that he didn't find the blog, happy to hear from him, still annoyed with him and annoyed at myself for still caring so much.
Wednesday: We have our layoff meeting with HR and the placement firm retained to help us with career services.  Us old biddies and geezers are told to take graduation dates off our resumes.  I get back from the meeting and find an email from the startup where I interviewed last week, inviting me to come back for interview #2, this time with a non-disclosure agreement, real chemistry discussions, and meetings with the folks I didn't meet last week.  T lurks in IM but I don't IM him.  I begin to ponder the fact that if the project gets extended, but we don't get bought, and I get a job offer, I may not get my severance package.  hmmm.
Thurday: a relatively uneventful day.  I send in my resume for a job in Colorado doing synthetic organometallic chemistry.  This company does a lot of scaleup for the chemical industry. There's a strong possibility that catalysts that were first made by me are now being made in large quantities there.  Someone emails me to tell me that the company where one of my former bosses is working is hiring. This is the boss who kicked me out of his group in a hush hush manner a few years back.  Not many people know about this.  Even people who do know still as me if I'm going to aply there. I give evasive answers and forward the email on to coworkers who are not on old boss's shit list.  Meanwhile, I look at the ACS job listings, and guess what - my other former boss's company is hiring!  I email them my resume, which now has graduation dates omitted, even though they know when I graduated.  There are other local jobs too, one for an organometallic chemist and one for someone with experience in emissions catalysis.  Weird.  I have never seen so many local listings for people in my field.
Friday: I go for my second interview at the startup.  It's total 'holy grail' chemistry they're doing.  It could be entertaining but I need to read more of the literature to really understand it.  The interview lasts twice as long as planned, so I don't get back to work until 2.  The stress is starting to get to me.  Naturally, when I would like to IM T he is not lurking.  When I get home there is a  message on my answering machine from the career services firm, as well as an email.  No, I do NOT want to start the process now because I DO NOT HAVE A FUCKING CLUE and we only get one month of services so I want to use it wisely.  I send them a polite email telling them that so much is up in the air that I would contact them when I know more.  I go to the bathroom.  Period is here.  Woohooo.  Need to call tomorrow and make that IUD appointment.
So yeah, that's the short version.  I'm off to go swim/sit in the hot tub, but with a week like I've just had, I may need to start drinking and take a bubble bath when I get home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Painting Boondoggle, Trim edition

This weekend, my dad and I prepped and painted the trim on the house.  As usual, it took longer than expected.  The garage trim and the metal railings still need to be painted.  I am pleased with how it looks.  I had trouble picking out the trim color - the first was too brown ("babyshit green") and the second was too blue, and the third was too green.  I ended up having to rely on picking something that was in between all of those shades.  It didn't actually look right on the color card, but I took a chance and bought a gallon.  As soon as I saw it on the trim, however, I knew it was the right color. I'll take pictures and post them once the tape comes off.
As of now, I have painted, modified and/or replaced virtually single surface of my house, inside and out, at least once. OK, I haven't done the roof, but that doesn't count.  The exception is the garage trim, the fireplace and and the trim on the inside of my front door, and they're all at the top of the to-do list.
I got a lot of help from my dad. I didn't plan it this way, and didn't ask him to do anything, but he kept volunteering.  He's been working on it during the week, doing a lot of the odds and ends that didn't get done in our three day painting marathon.  Today is his 79th birthday.  I took him and my mom out for brunch and then we painted.  I apologized for having him paint on his birthday but he said he liked it.  He'll work on the garage trim this week.
My grandfather was a painter. He painted cars for Chrysler and did houses to make extra money.  Apparently,the painting gene is strong because my dad, my brother and I all have it.  I haven't gotten my dad to help with very much painting prior to this, since I mainly painted the interior.  My brother, who doesn't own a house, has even painted the exterior of a friend's house.  So yes, insanity is hereditary.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Interview blog: Startup edition

I had an interview at a startup company today.  They are very small (4 people) and are looking to hire a chemist with my background.  The CTO knows a lot of the current and former people from the company where I currently work, including all 3 of my former bosses.  (Hopefully, he won't talk to one of them!)  Not surprisingly, they had already talked to a number of my coworkers about the same position.  In fact someone else was being interviewed at approximately the same time, at another location. 
The CTO was a good looking, fast-talking guy of extremely confident, slightly shorter than average, slender but muscular, dark-haired variety.  They seem to be fairly common in academics but this was the first industrial one I've met.  In any case, I've known a few in my time so I felt about as comfortable as possible, considering it was an interview. The other guy was an inorganic chemist with approximately the same job history as myself (do postdoc, then go to tiny startup company and stay there for a very long time).  He'd just started there last week, although he and the CTO had worked together twice before.  I was assuming, since it's a startup , that they'd have people right out of grad school, but this guy was about the same age as me, and they'd also hired someone with 30+ years experience who starts next week, so at least they'd done their homework and realized they needed some experienced people.  Whether this translates into giving me a competitive advantage over my younger colleagues remains to be seen. 
Anyway, it's very long-shot technology.  They are going to need a good business plan to succeed.  Since this was just a preliminary interview, they didn't have me sign a non-disclosure agreement and couldn't tell me exactly which reactions they were targeting, so it's hard to judge how feasible the chemistry is.
I'm still in this strange phase where I'm not stressed about the reorg or the interviews.  Part of me thinks that the deal will go through and we'll get bought, part of me feels like it would be nice to get a fresh start, even if that means moving to another part of the country, and part of me is still burnt out from the stress of T breaking up with me that I'm guarding myself from feeling too much.  Nonetheless, it does help that I've already had two interviews and the job market for chemists seems to be picking up compared to the summer.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This week's fortune

"A small lucky package is on its way to you soon"...(in bed)
hmm, i was kind of hoping for a large lucky package!
-from a fortune cookie I got at a lunch interview

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reorg Blog, 1 week


Things were pretty depressing at work last week.  No one got much done.  It's marginally less depressing now, but I feel like I have to be careful not to be too cheerful in my autoresponses when people ask how it's going.  Not like I really am very cheerful these days, just numb and unmotivated, but I have an annoying tendency to pretend to be cheerful.
Rumor has it that the acquisition is a done deal and it's just in the hands of the lawyers now.  I hope that's the case.  I had my lunch interview at the solar company yesterday.  I enjoyed talking with the manager of the group, and it sounds like a good place to work.  Unfortunately, I have neither the requisite skill set nor much interest in polymer properties, so it wasn't a good fit.  They called me to set up a full day interview, but after reflecting on it overnight I withdrew my application. It's not them, it's me;-)
I also have an interview at a startup on Friday afternoon.  It's a very long shot technology.  It will be interesting to see what they've done so far.  I am surprised and pleased to get interviews so quickly with so little effort.  There seem to be a lot of job listings for chemists as well.
I haven't told my mom about the reorg yet.  My plan is not to tell her anything until I have to.
I've discontinued Breakup Blog unless I have something that I really HAVE to write, and removed the old posts.  If I do post, it may stay up for a few days and then get removed.  Since splitting the blog in two it's easier to find this blog with a simple Google search, unfortunately, and not realizing this, I posted the link to the other blog on Facebook.  I won't post the latest things that would've made it into Breakup Blog, other than to say that if I don't get a polite response in the next few days, either by email, IM or phone, to my email describing what's been going on at work, I'm going to stop making the effort to stay friends.  To paraphrase one of you, I'm not wasting any more of my energy and emotions for the sake of his serenity.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Breakup Blog, 2 months/Reorg Blog, Day 1

On not getting laid, and possibly getting laid off...
It's been exactly two months since T broke up with me.  I've been distracted, first in good ways (painting my house), then in not so good ways (see below) so it was sort of a non-event. 
Yesterday we had group meeting.  The weasely HR guy and CEO were at the meeting - not a good sign.  First they told us they were reorganizing and getting out of doing research.  I must've gotten pale because G (former officemate, now VP of the group) leaned over and told me it was going to be ok.  Then they told us that they were in negotiation to sell our group to another company, who wanted to set up a research center here.  But since it wasn't 100% a done deal, the HR guy still had to give us the 'what to expect if you do get laid off' talk.  They told us to keep quiet until other groups had been told.  They didn't really tell us who all would be affected. It was very strange and surreal. 
It put me in a strange mood, and it was weird not being able to talk about it.  I ended up IM'ing with T for a long time that afternoon, although since I was still at work I didn't mention it to him.
Today a lot of people in other groups got told that they would be laid off when their project ends, or at the end of the year.  I didn't realize that they got told right before lunch, so I walked into a minefield.  They asked if I was affected.  I had to say that I didn't know.   I've witnessed two layoffs now and lunch is always weird, sort of like being at a funeral.
Once I realized how many people were affected, I got mad.  While I was babysitting my experiment, I spent the afternoon looking at job postings online.  Hey, they told us one reason they were giving us advance notice was so that we could make arrangements, so that's what I was doing. Later in the afternoon, a VP of the company who wants to buy the group came and talked to us for more than two hours.  Hopefully, the deal will go through and we will still be employed. 
I did wish that I could call T and talk about it.  There's probably no reason that I couldn't, but I didn't.
Tonight I skipped going to the gym.  I came home, played a lot of video games, baked cookies, and blogged.  I'm going to go pour myself a stiff drink and take a bath now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Painting Boondoggle, day 3: Reflections on my weekend fling

I had a weekend fling with my paint sprayer. We had a volatile yet satisfying relationship.  It got the job done but in the end it couldn't keep up with me and started leaking at inopportune moments and making weird noises.  I should've just rented a professional grade one for my fling.  Live and learn. It will still be useful for painting the fence.
Anyway, it behaved a lot better today.  It didn't clog once. I had only about 50 square feet left to spray and the valve started acting up.  I was able to finish that section and put an extra coat on the back of the garage. I would've liked to put two coats everywhere, but it didn't really need it and it was getting late.  So I acheived my goal of getting the walls painted this weekend.  I still have to do some sections under the eaves, but those are fairly easy.  I'll do them when I do the trim.
It was dark by the time I got the sprayer cleaned out and some of the masking removed.   Now I'm exhausted but still wired.  I'll take some pictures tomorrow now that the windows are unmasked.
I like the color. Somehow, it looks less green in bulk than it did in the small test sections.  In some lights it looks taupe or grey.  When I paint the trim, I'll see how I like it with just the primer. If it looks good I may use white for the trim instead of dark green.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Paint boondoggle, day 2: my tumultuous relationship with the paint sprayer

I had a hard time falling asleep last night.  My brain was going a mile a minute running through all the things I needed to do today, as well as fretting about the water heater.
This morning I continued masking and doing last minute stuff. So much for having it all ready to go.  My dad came over around 10:30, and we continued doing last minute stuff until noon.  Then I tried to run the paint sprayer.  I connected up all the hoses and set it to run water through to flush out the tubes. I plugged it in, turned it on, and nothing happened. The motor never came on.  I fiddled with it, and my dad fiddled with it, but there was a bad connection or faulty motor. So I took it back and exchanged it.  This required me to go to a Home Depot that was further away, since the one near me didn't have any more in stock.  I then had to wait in line behind a bunch of people returning small stuff like tape or caulk.
About 45 minutes later, I was home again with paint sprayer #2.  The motor worked on this one.  Unfortunately, it still didn't prime properly.  It didn't help matters that  the manual was probably the worst example of technical writing I've ever seen.  My dad and I messed with it for a while, and then finally I gave up and started painting under the eaves while he continued playing with it.  It has an adapter that lets you connect it to a garden hose. Apparently the slight pressure from the water in the hose was enough to unseize the valve, and then it started working.  It was probably 3 PM by the time I actually started spraying paint.  I got three walls of the house painted, and much of that time was spent on the paint sprayer learning curve. The actual painting took very little time.  I was very impressed and relieved that I was able to paint all the way to the top of the front of my house with only the 8-foot ladder rather than the extension ladder.  That was what I worried about more than any other aspect of the painting.
The paint sprayer will spray up to 1 quart per minute. That's a lot of paint.  In some areas I overdid it and laid down a pretty thick coat. I'll be more careful tomorrow. 
It looks pretty nice so far.  I am pleased with the color.  Tomorrow I'd like to finish up the exterior walls.  I think it's manageable provided that the paint sprayer doesn't act up to much...knock on wood!
Oh yeah, the water heater.  It just needed to be rebooted.  Unfortunately it doesn't like being partially covered either, so it turned itself off again after a while.  D'ohh!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Paint boondoggle, day 1: don't try this at home

Armed with my new paint sprayer, I'm painting my house this weekend with help from my dad. Everyone, including complete strangers, is telling me that I am crazy to do it. So of course it's a good topic for this blog.
I pressure washed and did a bunch of other prep work last weekend. My dad did miscellaneous prep work this week. Today we masked everything and did a lot of last minute stuff. I worked until it got dark and then headed off to Home Depot.
When I said we masked everything, I meant it. I did the windows and chimney. My dad did the other stuff, including the tankless water heater. I didn't really think about it until later, when I realized that might not be such a good idea. Sure enough, water had condensed and the ignitor didn't work. D'ohhh! We are pretty dumb sometimes, considering that he has a PhD in physics and I have one in chemistry.
Tomorrow we will be painting.  I'll be wielding the spray gun and my dad will be helping out, holding the ladder, doing all the last minute prep work that we forgot about today, etc.  Hopefully we can get a lot done.  Ideally, I'd like to at least get one coat of paint on everything with two coats in the areas that require me to climb up to the top vertex of my house (about 16 feet). That way, on Sunday when my dad isn't around, I can finish up the areas that are easy to reach.

Friday LOLcats


Monday, October 19, 2009

Knee update: seven months/1 year

I was on the treadmill at the gym tonight watching a Mexican League soccer game. I felt pure nostalgia for how it feels to play soccer, to run at full speed down the field with the ball, or to make those perfect passes or shots on goal, or even those workman-like defensive moves which aren't pretty but get the job done.  I also realized that this was probably the first soccer game that I have watched without cringing in sympathy for all those knee-busting moves, and then I realized that not only has it been seven months since my surgery, it has been 52 weeks since I injured my knee.  (See, I keep track of all sorts of random anniversaries in my head, not just the ones pertaining to T.)
Anyway, it's a lot better now.  My knees are probably healthier than immediately before my injury.   I've been strengthening up my core, glutes, and legs with a class at the gym.  We do a lot of lunges, etc.  My legs have gotten a lot stronger from it.  It was a catch 22 for a while because while the knee was healing I couldn't even think to do a lot of the exercises that we do in the class. 
I miss soccer, but I'm not going to go back.  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Windows remodel=all done. Now it's my turn to work.



John finished up the windows last week.  A massive storm blew in and he had to switch into high gear to get everything zipped up in time.  Anyway, they look great and I am pleased with them.  I could've went with somewhat wider windows and it would've looked even better, but I'm happy nonetheless.
Now I need to paint the windowsills and wall, figure out a window treatment, and decide if I'm going to do something about the fireplace this year.  I'm going to see if I can hire Janet for an hour or two and pick her brain. Janet's the designer who did my kitchen and bath.  She is really great at coming up with creative, workable solutions very quickly where other people can't.
More urgent than the living room decoration is getting the house painted.  I'm doing it myself.  This is my big crazy project to take my mind of T.  Except I had already decided to do it before we broke up, and now I'm less in need of distractions.  If John had been a bit more speedy, it would've been a good distraction. I don't have a huge house, and the siding and paint are in good condition on the house, and so-so condition on the garage. 
This weekend I did prep work.  I really should've allotted two weekends for that.  I scraped and sanded and chopped back all my shrubs yesterday.  Today I did more cleanup around the perimeter, more sanding, and washed down the house and garage with my fancy new pressure washer.  If I had known how useful it would be, I would've bought one sooner.  As it was, I was going to borrow my dad's, but the hose adapter broke again and he couldn't find or jerry-rig a replacement.  Mine is a lot bigger and more powerful.
I was going to paint the windowsills tonight, but I'm exhausted.  They can wait until tomorrow.
My dad is going to help with some sanding and miscellaneous stuff this week.  My plan is to take Friday off to do all the last minute prep work, and then rent a paint sprayer for the weekend.  I am alternately excited and scared of the paint sprayer.  I'm excited because it will save me a lot of time and sounds damn fun, but I'm scared because I have heard some horror stories about it being a giant pain in the ass.  It's a much larger version of the bane of my existence, the spray station.  The spray station is the apparatus we use to spray slurries of catalyst onto ceramic rods prior to testing.  Same idea - a slurry gets sprayed.  Sometimes it works great, other times it's a pain in the ass when things get clogged.  My hope is that both the paint sprayer and the paint are more optimized for that specific purpose, as opposed to a first generation research instrument that sees a wide variety of materials.
I'm painting the house a light grayish green, with a darker green on the trim.  The windows themselves, gutters, and roof trim are white. If I have a last minute change of heart, I may paint all the trim white. I'm not planning on doing the trim next weekend, though.  I hate doing trim.. 
Stay tuned for the full paint sprayer report!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday LOLcat


Friday LOLcats are a new feature.  Feel free to add a different caption.
(No, this isn't Max, although it does look like him)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Recipe Geek: Key Lime Pie

Even though my recipe geek record is pretty dismal when it comes to pies, I was not to be deterred. In honor of the fact that I'm going to Sacramento tomorrow, I made a key lime pie to bring with me.
Key lime pie is pretty simple. You beat some egg yolks, add a can of condensed milk and some lime juice and mix. The acid from the limes causes the milk proteins to crosslink and the filling gels. You then put it in the a prebaked graham cracker crust and chill it, then top with whipped cream. Although I've made key lime cheesecake, and key lime bars, I've never made the pie.
I used a recipe from "Cook's Illustrated." They're pretty obsessive, which is fine with me since pies are not my strongest point They messed around with the recipe a bit and made some changes. First, they add lime zest to the filling, and once the filling has been put into the crust, they bake the pie for 15 minutes. Supposedly it was too gloppy when it wasn't baked. I prepared the graham cracker crust and baked it for about 15 minutes, then let it cool while I made the filling. Once all the ingredients are mixed, you're supposed to let it set for half an hour. I distracted myself with an episode of "The Tudors" so that I wouldn't be tempted to play with it or sample it. It worked pretty much as described. I filled the crust and baked it, and now it's in the fridge. I'll pack it in a cooler for the drive and top it with whipped cream once we're ready to eat it. I'll put the taste test results in the comments section once we've tasted it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Goodbye Tomatoes, Hello Fall


I pulled out half of my tomato plants today. The other plants are still producing so I left them for now.
Luna immediately took advantage of the situation by sleeping in the soft dirt where the tomatoes had been.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe Geek: Glazed Butternut Squash

I'm getting my cooking mojo back slowly. It helps that I am not longer doing large chemical syntheses in lab. Anyway, I got a trial copy of "Cook's Country" magazine in the mail today. This is the sister publication to "Cook's Illustrated". In the past, the recipes tended to be very retro, down-home style stuff, but now it seems like it's more diverse, with a greater emphasis on easy recipes. (Nonetheless, there are still a lot of pork and meatloaf recipes)
After my last few Recipe Geek disasters (including a few that went un-blogged), I wanted something that would actually work as described. I've made the mistake of not trusting my instincts and then regretting it. Every recipe from the America's Test Kitchen folks gets tested and optimized multiple times, so you don't have to worry about using the wrong oven temperature, improper procedures, etc.
There was a recipe for Glazed Butternut Squash which caught my eye, since I had three butternut squash on the counter. (What can I say, I got a good deal at the farmer's market!)
Here it is, since I can't include a link

Glazed Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Adjust the oven rack to the middle level in the oven. Heat oven to 425F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Toss squash cubes with butter/sugar/salt/pepper until mixed thoroughly. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove squash from oven and sprinkle with vinegar.

This recipe works exactly as described. I'd expect nothing less from the recipe geeks at America's Test Kitchen. The squash was tasty, tender, and not dried out, and it looked very pretty. It was a bit too sweet, so if I made it again I'd use a bit less butter and sugar. The vinegar sounds like a weird thing to add, but it did give it a nice zing and balanced the sweetness. I might try lemon juice next time - it would do the same thing but give a touch of lemon flavor.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Windows Remodel: Day 3




John put in the first set of windows today and replaced the siding. It looks really nice. I feel much less exposed when I'm sitting on the couch surfing the internet and blogging. I probably could've gotten away with wider windows but I'm ok with the way it is. I had to get the super low-e coating to qualify for the stimulus money, so the windows are somewhat darker than standard double pane windows and are slightly reflective, so that looks a bit different at first but adds to the feeling of privacy during that day.
I'm pleased with John's work so far. I know he could've worked faster, but I appreciate having the house all zipped up at the end of each day and not having too much plywood up at any given time. Also, he knows the quirks of my house and that's helpful too. So far, it hasn't attracted the attention of the woman who lives down the street and works for the permit department, or perhaps she saw it but figures it's a "don't ask, don't tell" situation. Knock on (ply)wood!
I had a crappy day today. I majorly backslid and was pissed off at T. I had to go to the gym at lunch to work off a lot of my nervous energy. That helped, but by the time I came home I had slipped into a mopey phase, so it was like a giant breath of fresh air to see the windows.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Window Remodel: Day 2



OK, so it's not really the second day of the remodel, it's the 4th. But it's the second day that John worked. Yesterday he just picked up the windows. I'm kind of used to this from the kitchen remodel, and am ok with it, for now. I know he juggles other jobs, child care issues, etc. If I wanted instant windows I would've gone with the place that quoted at nearly 3x what John is charging. Besides, I'm just happy not to be doing it myself.
Anyway, today John framed the openings for the two larger windows. He did a nice job. I am very pleased with the footprint of the new windows. It was hard to really visualize it when the other windows were still there. I was afraid they'd be a bit low, but they're just right. I'm also pleased with the two foot strip of wall in between the windows.
Structurally, I'm happy about it too. The old layout had 6 ft x 12 ft of glass with just a 4"X4" supporting it in the middle. In an earthquake, I'd be worried about the strength of the header, not to mention the glass. I've seen the headers that were used in the kitchen and bathroom and know it's not all that great, so every bit of extra support helps. Now I've got 7 full length 2"x4"s and 11 short 2" x 4" under the window frames.
My house is very creaky, as most of you know. The funny thing is that during construction, it doesn't creak at all. There's just a bit more give. Once the drywall goes up it starts creaking again. I'm curious to see if getting rid of the big windows has a more permanent effect.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Window Remodel: Day 1

The first stage of the window remodel began today. Naturally, we got the first significant rain of the fall last night. Fortunately, it had stopped raining by the time that my contractor, John, showed up this morning. He's doing the windows in two batches of two, so today he started on the large ones.
He got a bunch of plywood and then removed all the trim from the interior. He mounted the plywood on the inside and then smashed out the glass from the outside and removed the exterior trim and metal window frames, and took the trash to the dump. He also locked himself out, so the key and his check were still there when I got home. This is pretty typical for John.
John is taking classes to become a paramedic, and he has classes on Tuesday, so the construction will resume on Wednesday. In the meantime, I've got plywood where my windows used to be. It's ok - nowhere near as bad as dealing with the kitchen or bathroom remodel.




I put the old drapes on the guest bed. They're older than I am, and I'm going to throw them away. I'll have to wait, though, because Luna has decided to make a nest in them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fort Ord State Park




I went to Fort Ord State Park today. It's a long stretch of beach located in what used to be part of Fort Ord's firing range. Fort Ord was decommissioned in 1994 and is still in the process of being converted into civilian uses, such as the new CSU-Monterey campus. The park opened up earlier this year.
The park consists of sand dunes and about 4 miles of beaches. I was in the mood for some serious beach walking today, so it was a perfect match. It's a gorgeous beach - longstretches of wide, sandy beach. The surf zone is very dangerous there, and there are a lot of rip tides. Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of the water. I saw a few people getting their ankles wet but no one (including me) went in any deeper.
I walked for a long time I didn't quite cover the whole length, but probably walked about 6 miles. The beach was pretty empty - I walked for a long time without encountering anyone. South of the entrance, I encountered a few more people but it was still very empty. I took a break for lunch and later, I lay on the beach and read for a while. It was very pleasant and relaxing.It was slightly cloudy, but the rains had not arrived yet.
The surf was pretty high today. The beach is north of Monterey Bay, so it's less sheltered. As I walked, I couldn't help but think of T, since he spends so much time in Monterey. I wondered if he was out there in the water. But although I was still somewhat sad at times, it was ok.
I saw a sleek seal. It was lying in the sand resting. It looked at me with limpid eyes and eventually flopped off into the water.
I also found seven nice sand dollars. I was surprised to find so many, since the surf was rough and they're usually hard to find south of San Francisco. Iguess it helps that there weren't many people on the beach and a bunch had just washed in.
I'm glad I went and would recommend it for anyone who wants a nice long walk along the beach. Don't bring little kids though - the beach is still contaminated with lead. I wish I'd known that when I decided to lie down on my towel.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Window Remodel: update + musings

The parts came in for my contractor's other job, so he will be starting the windows next Wednesday.
I wish I'd been blogging during the kitchen and bath projects. Most of you got the updates from me via email, but it would've been entertaining to have them all in one place so that I could go back and read it.
For reasons that I can't quite comprehend, my brother has very vehement anti-remodeling sentiment. It certainly wasn't from being overexposed to it as a child. We're both cheap and suspicious of the bubble-induced herd mentality, so that may be part of it, and he's seen friends get burned in the real estate market. He thinks it's a waste of money and a sign of being a yuppie scumbag. "It's so 2005", he said. Perhaps it is.
While I agree that there were lots of people who took it way too far, I don't think I'm one of them. Of course, I'm biased. I've lived in my house for almost nine years. At some point I realized that I didn't want to change the location or size of my house, but just make it work better for me. If I sell it, I may not get back all of my investment, but then again, maybe I will - the kitchen, which was the big ticket project, was paid for mainly through the sale of stocks, which of course are worth a lot less now. In any case, I'm glad I did it.
My brother's other objection is that people get so wrapped up in their houses as a way of finding meaning in their lives or avoiding dealing with other stuff. I had to chew on this one a bit more. In fact, I'm still pondering it. My peak remodeling years coincided with the latter half of my relationship with T. Partly it was because I started to see my house from a new perspective, and there were things that I'd just gotten used to, even though they bothered me when I first moved in. The same could be said about T himself - I'd gotten used to things about him that had bothered me at first. He certainly encouraged me to do it, since he likes to be the armchair remodeler. (He moves a lot more slowly when it's his own project.) And, to give him credit, he had some good ideas and supported me. However, I do think that my brother has a point, and in retrospect, perhaps I was doing it to distract myself from facing reality about T while at the same time I had accepted that I would be in my house for a while longer and I'd better make it the way I wanted it to be.
Of course, my brother does like to torment me, so perhaps that explains it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recipe Geek: Impossible Coconut Pie

I'm a sucker for really weird recipes. I'm also a sucker for coconut. This week, my local newspaper had an article about "pies" with self-preparing crusts. I hate making pie crust, so this was right up my alley. Basically, you make a thin batter and then the flour sinks to the bottom and forms a crust as the pie is baking. This sort of recipe was popular in the 50's and 60's, I think. I vaguely remember it as being sort of retro when I was a kid. I decided to make the coconut pie. I mixed all the ingredients in my stand mixer and poured it into a glass pie pan. You could also mix it in a blender. Then I popped it into the oven.
As it baked, it puffed up a lot and turned toasty golden brown. It smelled pretty good. It was still jiggly when I took it out of the oven. I let it cool or a while and tasted it. Bleah! It was too greasy and kind of eggy. I should've trusted my instincts and used less butter. I gave the rest of my portion to Recipe Geek Taster Cat. She liked it better than I did. I put in the fridge to chill overnight. Being cold did not improve it. I dumped it in the trash, which I NEVER do. For the next few editions of recipe geek, I'll be sure to avoid recipes in which the proportions seem off or the synthesis is unusual. Or I'll just avoid pies.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger libel case

Today Google was forced to reveal the identity of a blogger who was sued for libel. If you haven't read about it, someone had a lovely blog called "Skanks of NYC" or something similar. Someone who was named the "skankiest skank" sued for libel and won.
Now, in case you were getting worried that you might have to sue me for libel, rest assured that I would never, ever do that in my blog, and even if I did, you already know my identity so you wouldn't need to take on Google before you haul my ass into court.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Recipe Geek: Enjococado Sauce (First Attempt)



As I mentioned in a recent post, Fiesta del Mar and their sister restaurants all serve various chicken dishes with enjococado sauce. It's a delicious creamy, mildly spicy orange sauce and they fiercely guard the recipe. Maybe my palate is not very sensitive, but I could not guess the mystery ingredient(s) other than to hazard a guess that there were ground pumpkin seeds in it.
A quick Google search turned up two kinds of recipes. Yogurt/sour creme is common to both types of recipe, since there is a type of Mexican yogurt called jocoque. One type is mainly pepper based, and the other one contains oranges and almonds. The latter recipe sounded more like what is served at the restaurant, although not exactly. Here's the recipe, and the story behind it can be found here.
Pollo en Jocoque (Chicken in Yogurt)
4 to 6 persons
1 mandarin (a mandarin is somewhere between
an orange and tangerine and more sour)
1 orange (large)
3 large garlic cloves
3 green onions
2 -3 red poblano chiles
3 tbl olive oil
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups jocoque (jocoque is a type of yogurt
that is close to "creme fraiche")
2 lb chicken pieces
1 cup sliced almonds (soak in hot water and
remove skins)
Preparation:
1) Wash chicken and dry well
2) Char chiles over open flame or in frying
pan and place in plastic bag for 5 minutes
to sweat.
3) Remove from bag and remove charred skin,
inside veins and seeds.
4) Heat cup of oil until very hot and fry
chicken until done and remove from pan..
5) Remove remaining oil from pan, leaving
chicken residue and add olive oil to same
pan.
6) Chop garlic. onion, almonds and chiles
and saute in olive oil until done.
7) Add chicken, orange and mandarina juice
and cook for 10 minutes, stirring gently so
as not to break up chicken.
8) Add jocoque and salt to taste (do not
add pepper)
** you can add more juice or jocoque to
taste as you play with the recipe
This afternoon I headed off to the Mexican market in search of ingredients. I shouldn't have bothered, since my local supermarket actually has a bigger selection of peppers and Mexican dairy products. I bought a couple of mandarins, two green pasillo peppers (I couldn't find red poblanos, but the green poblanos are also called pasillos), some green onions, and some yogurt and Mexican sour creme.
I followed the recipe fairly closely, but used twice as many green onions since I know that Mexican green onions are picked later so they're bigger than the ones I bought. I added some orange zest and coarsely ground up the almonds. I used mostly yogurt with a blob of sour creme. Lastly, when I fried the chicken, I used about half the oil that was called for, and put the cooked chicken on papers towels to sop up the oil.
Given my recent recipe geek experiences, I was expecting a nasty color and texture. Ground almonds + green peppers + yogurt and orange juice just did not sound promising. Much to my surprise, the sauce looked OK - pale yellow orange with green pieces of peppers. I served myself a bowl and ate it with a corn tortilla.
Results: It was very tasty. I wanted to lick out the bowl, but Recipe Geek Taster Cat (aka Rugrat) was intent on doing the same thing, so I let her. She liked it, even though there was no chicken left in it. It did have that certain je ne sais quoi of the restaurant dish, although it was not identical. The combination of oranges, garlic, almonds and yogurt is right. I think the restaurant uses more peppers, and red rather than green ones. They puree the sauce, too. They may add a bit of chicken broth too.
As a stand alone recipe, I will make it again, although I will lighten it a lot and just saute the chicken instead of using so much oil. I will probably add more peppers. The yogurt really toned them down. The almonds were tasty and I'll add them if I have them, but I think it would be tasty even without them, or with less of them. Likewise, the sour creme wasn't necessary.
I'm going to try one of the pepper based sauces to see how it compares to the restaurant version, and may try to come up with my own version based on what I learn. Nonetheless, this recipe is a good start.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swim Class Update 2

So tonight was the second to last session of swim class. It would've been the last class, except for the unfortunate poop-in-the-pool incident a few weeks back.I've gotten a lot better in terms of speed, form, and endurance, although I still am not quite where I'd like to be on anything other than freestyle. Butterfly and doing flip turns were a lot easier than expected, and breaststroke was a lot harder. Meghan, the instructor, thinks this is mainly due to my knee surgery. She should know - she switched to swimming after she blew out her knee at soccer, and doesn't like breaststroke either.
I don't feel weak anymore, which makes me happy. Soccer is a good whole body workout, and I lost a lot of muscle all throughout my body after I injured my knee, and for a long time it was very slow to return. When the class started, I gained two lbs at first, and then lost it. My waist is slightly trimmer. My shoulders, ribs and arms are slightly more muscular, although it's not noticeable unless I wear my black blazer, which no longer fits even though it was fine two weeks before class started. Sigh. Some people hate shopping for swim suits or jeans, but I hate shopping for blazers.
What I like the best, however, is the fact that I can do an exhausting workout and not feel the least bit sore afterwards. That is a very good thing. I get cranky if I don't get enough exercise but I also get cranky if I'm too sore, so swimming has been a good way to wear myself out.
A few random notes, in case you're thinking about hitting the pool. If you can, buy a swimsuit made of a certain kind of durable polyester rather than lycra/nylon. (I won't bore you with the chemistry reason for this) They're usually marketed as 'endurance' suits or some similar name. I've had one for five years. It's outlasted at least five or six lycra suits.
If you wear a swim cap, wet your hair down with unchlorinated water before getting in the pool. That way your hair is saturated with plain water and it takes a lot longer for the chlorine to diffuse in. I've noticed a big difference since I started doing it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mini-vacation

Last week, Sheila visited me for a few days. As usual, I'm a little bit slow to document the trip.
Sheila's flight got in last Wednesday at 2. We had lunch at a pho place and then went to Sports Basement to get last minute stuff for camping. I also bought a purple rashguard top since I wanted to look as sausage-like as possible in all the pictures. We then went to a free Celtic music concert in Redwood City featuring Molly's Revenge.Although the concert was part of the same summer series as the Tempest concert a few weeks ago, and the two bands frequently play together, the vibe was totally different this tie. This time it was definitely the yuppies (of the Bay Area mid-peninsula variety) with kids scene. Seriously, it was even worse then going to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's right after work. Although, form the looks of everyone's picnics, that's where they'd just been. Anyway, it was fun but I think I prefer other venues, particularly ones with single guys over the age of 5. After the concert we had sushi and then came back to my house.
On Thursday we got up, drove to Pt. Reyes and backpacked in to the campsite. it was about a 4 mile easy hike to Arch Rock, then a harder hike to the campsite (about another four miles.) There were some great ocean views, although the fog was really rolling in. There was a deceptively long uphill stretch,and I received multiple death threats from Sheila during this portion of the trail. Eventually, the trail leveled out, and then we were greeted with a view of a valley and beach. That was our campsite. We walked down the hill and found our campsite. The camp was nice. It was about 100 yards from the beach and there were two toilets, running water, and trash bins This was not exactly backwoods camping. I began to wish I'd packed some steaks and charcoal instead of couscous and foil packs of Indian food. Although our spot was officially a group campsite, we didn't have to share it.
We unpacked our stuff, put all the food in the raccoon-proof cabinet, and went down to the beach for a walk. When we returned, we drank mojitos and cooked our dinner. At this point the fog was turning into mist which was very close to turning into rain. We went to sleep rather than tough it out. In the tent, we could hear the waves crashing, with the occasional seal barking plus a few airplanes flying out of SFO.
The next day everything was completely drenched. It didn't really rain but it really misted. The night before, we put everything away except for our matches. Yes, we both have PhD's! We had breakfast and discovered that someone had walked off with out trail mix and some of our granola. Grr... I suspect the stoners at the next camp over. If this had been a multi-day backwoods trip we would've been in serious trouble. We walked to go see a waterfall on the beach and then packed up our gear and hiked out. We took a different trail, which was shorter and easier, although it was still 6 miles.
My knee help up fine on this trip. It helped that the trail was very even. I did roll my ankle when I got distracted by some good-looking guys, but it was no big deal.
Once we got back to the car we bought sandwiches at a deli and drove north to go see Drakes Beach + the lighthouse. There was some serious fog rolling in at the lighthouse. I found some sand dollars. The lighthouse was cool but we had to climb up a hill and then do a bunch of stairs. we were pretty tired. We came back and had dinner at Fiesta del Mar.
Fiesta del Mar and its' five sister restaurants are owned by an extended family. (Side note - it's a small world. When one of my coworkers was installing some reactors at JIRSA in Mexico City, one of the chemists there told him that her cousin owned one of the restaurants.) All the restaurants serve excellent Mexican food. The enjococado sauce (aka Grandma's secret sauce!) is not to be missed. It's a creamy orange sauce that they put on chicken dishes. We did our best to chat up the waiter and find out what the secret ingredients are, but he wouldn't tell us. I wasn't surprised - I've tried before, as have a lot of other people. I found a recipe on the internet, so I'm going to test it in an upcoming edition of Recipe Geek. Stay tuned! (Hint - oranges and ground almonds...)
On Saturday we went to Angel Island. We were slow moving in the morning and then hit a lot of traffic. We parked, got lunch and then got on the 1 pm ferry from Tiburon. I've never been to Angel Island before. It's pretty cool. We hiked to the top. It was sunny but SF was covered with fog. We couldn't even see the Golden Gate Bridge for more than a few seconds at a time. Once we were done with that trail it was around 4. we decided to catch the 4:30 ferry. We drove over to Rodeo Beach but it was foggy and cold, so we didn't stay long. it was around 6 pm at that point so we drove over to Sausalito for dinner. We went to a seafood restaurant right on the bay. Sheila's new iPod was very helpful with its restaurant app. We got really lucky and got a table right away, but it then filled up immediately. If we'd gotten there just a few minutes later we would have had a 1 - 1 1/2 hour wait. We could see Angel Island and the ferries from our table. That was massively cool.
After dinner, we drove back to my place. It was too short a visit, but nonetheless I was exhausted. After I dropped Sheila of at the airport at 6:30 AM on Sunday I came back and slept until noon. Yes, I'm an old biddy.
Sheila's got a great photo blog and posted a lot of stuff from the trip. Scroll back through the photos until you get to the Point Reyes/Angel Island pictures.
Random note #1: We saw two dead seals. I wanted there to be a lot of seals for Sheila to photograph, but this was NOT what I had in mind. However, we also saw a pair of extremely feisty seals who were leaping in the water. That was really cool.
Random Note #2: The weather was very typical for this time of year. It can be gorgeous, sunny, and warm, but you get tons of fog once you're within a half mile of the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swim Class Update

My swim class is almost halfway done. I was mistaken in my original blog - it meets three times a week, not two. So far, we've covered freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. With each stroke, we learn the individual components, and then put it together. I've learned a lot. Backstroke took about two classes before it sank in. Breaststroke is a lot harder. It's different now than when I learned it, and I've had to relearn it. I'm hoping it gets easier soon.
It's interesting to learn a new sport or physical activity as an adult. It's very different than it was as a kid.
In any case, it's a buttkicking one-hour workout each class. I'm in a lot better shape now, even though it's only been a few weeks. Much to my annoyment but not to my surprise, I've gained two pounds. My midsection is trimmer but my arms and shoulders have bulked up. This is pretty typical for me - I build muscle very quickly.
We start learning butterfly next week. The one good thing is that I've never learned it so at least I won't have any pre-existing bad habits that I'll have to break.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe Geek Extreme Edition: Chocolate Almond Pie, aka Vomit Pie

Sometimes I go overboard when I try new recipes, and make stuff that just doesn't work out. Usually this happens when I am trying to cook something extra nice for a special occasion, like the Valentine's Day Steak Disaster. Last weekend I made chocolate-almond pie in honor of my mom's birthday. It sounded so good - the filling was supposed to taste like cannolli filling, and contained ground almonds, ground chocolate, mascarpone and ricotta cheese, and whipping cream. The filling was put inside a cookie crumb crust and chilled. I improvised and made a crust out of some leftover biscotti. That part worked well, at least.
The proportions and order of addition for the filling seemed a bit off, but since i don't make a lot of pie fillings I ignored my instincts. Making matters worse, I messed around with the recipe and scaled it up slightly non-proportionately. It tasted great, but had the color and texture of vomit. It was kind of curdled, rather than smooth and creamy I filled the pie crust and chilled it. It firmed up but still looked nasty.

I covered it with grated chocolate. It looked slightly better but was still disappointing.

It tasted ok, but even the combination of cannolli-filling and biscotti flavors couldn't offset the weird texture.

Tempest Concert, Redwood City "Music on the Square"

Last Friday, T and I met up in Redwood City for the Tempest concert at the "Music on the Square" series in downtown Redwood City. A lot of local cities have similar programs during the Summer. The formula is simple - a free outdoor concert in the early evening to get people to come downtown and spend money. Redwood City takes it a step further and has movies, dance, plays, etc on the other nights, as well as lunchtime concerts.
In many ways, Redwood City is a typical of the towns along the San Francisco peninsula, which sprouted in the last 100 years. There is a downtown that is bordered by El Camino Real and on the other side by the Caltrain tracks. During the 70's and 80's, the downtowns were pretty stagnant. My own town, Sunnyvale, actively changed its downtown by building a mall in the middle of it. (What can I say - the Sunnyvale City Council has a long record of stupidity regarding the downtown area.) Most other cities, including Redwood City, just ignored their downtowns. T still calls it Deadwood City* - old nicknames die hard. Lately there's been a bit of a Renaissance.
The concert was at the Courthouse Square from 6-8 PM. I had swim class from 5:30-6:30, so there was no way for me to get there before 7. I didn't want to drive all the way up there if they were going to be done by the time I got there. Fortunately, through Facebook I was able to verify that they would play until 8. I got there around 7:15. T had gotten a good seat by the fountain. I couldn't look up the fiddler's kilt like i normally do, but it was a prime spot for hanging out and people watching.
There were a couple of thousand people there. The whole square was packed. A lot of people had brought food and wine and were picnicking. It was a more diverse crowd than is typical for a Tempest concert. Afterwards, I bought a Tempest T-shirt and T and I went for dinner. It was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Small Step...

It's almost the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, which means that it's almost time for another important anniversary. Yep, I'm talking about me starting toilet training.
On July 20, 1969, my mom was watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on tv. I was 7 months old. She was 2 months pregnant with my brother. It was a hot humid July day in the Washington DC suburb where we lived. It must've been time for me to pee or poop, and my mom decided to put me on my little baby potty and see what happened. The astronauts did their thing, and I did my thing. Mission accomplished, or at least, mission begun.
In my mind, I like to imagine that she put me on the potty right when Neil Armstrong was giving his "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" speech. I'll have to ask her. Most likely it was during one of the more boring moments.
So, of course, because of the moon landing, I get to hear this story every year. Now it's your turn. Hah hah!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recipe Geek: Noodles with Red Curry Almond Sauce

It should come as no surprise that I enjoy reading cooking blogs. 101 recipes is one that I like. It's all vegetarian, mostly vegan, but the blog is well written and there are some interesting recipes. This week's was soba noodles with almond sauce. It sounded good and I'm a big sucker for noodles with nut based sauces, having subsisted on noodles with thai peanut sauce and tofu in my grad schools years. $2.50 bought a big portion from the food truck - it was enough for lunch and dinner. You can still get similar lunches there, although the price has risen to a whopping $4. $1.50 bought a massive slice of spinach pizza, which was my other favorite lunch. I was mostly vegetarian back then. But enough of my grad school nostalgia.
Now, one of my problems with the 101 recipes recipes is that they usually call for unusual ingredients. Believe it or not, I had most of the ingredients for this recipe*, save for the pea shoots. I decided to substitute baby spinach instead. Upon closer inspection, my soba noodles really weren't soba, but that wasn't a big deal. I cooked them up and then made the sauce, which contains almond butter, red chili paste, water and lemon juice. I wasn't paying close attention to the recipe, so I misread the amount of red curry paste to add. I added 3 tablespoons instead of two teaspoons. Ooops. Fortunately for me, my red chili paste is fairly wimpy. The sauce was very red and moderately spicy. I mixed it with the noodles and braised the tofu and spinach. It was tasty, and only a slight bit too spicy. (Disclaimer-I did eat a bowl of jello to quell the burn). If I were to do it again, I'd add less curry paste and would maybe add some ginger and sesame oil, because everything tastes better with ginger and sesame oil. I'd probably also go back to using peanut butter, since it reminds me of grad school.

*it was purely random that I had all the ingredients, but I guess it's like the proverbial monkeys typing - given enough time and they'll replicate Shakespeare's works, and given enough time I'll have all the ingredients for a 101 recipes recipe.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Swim Class

I signed up for a swim class. It starts tomorrow and is twice a week for two months. It's geared towards people like me, who want to improve their freestyle technique and learn or improve butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke . In theory, after taking this class I will be ready to participate in the Masters' Swim program at my gym, which meets practically every day, is free, and takes over the pool at prime time (6-7 PM). I've been trying to find a replacement activity now that I'm not playing soccer. Ideally, it would force me to work out harder than I do on my own, and maybe help me meet new people, and it wouldn't be hard on my knee. Masters' Swim may fit the bill. There's nothing like a little bit of competition to get me to work my ass off, and everyone seems to sit around in the hot tub for a long time afterwards and talk, so it looks pretty fun. Also, there are hot swimmer dudes for me to ogle. But even if I'm not ready for Masters' Swim once the class if over, I think it will be useful for me.

Tomato Geek

As most of you probably know, I'm a little bit obsessive about my tomato plants. I plant about 6-8 plants per year, mostly heirloom with a few early hybrids thrown in for good measure. I'll plant a few token squash,eggplant, herb and pepper plants, but they all play second fiddle to the tomatoes.
My dad is pretty much the same way about his tomatoes, so we have a friendly competition. The two main differences between us are that he only plants hybrids, and that his garden has a lot more sun. So the typical outcome is that he gets a lot more tomatoes, but my plants are bigger and my tomatoes have more flavor
Because I was out of town for five weekends in a row, I was very late in planting them this year. As usual, I planted them in a rich mixture of dirt and aged manure, with an added dose of abalone guts for good measure. They grew like gangbusters right from the start, but it wasn't enough to make up for lost time. It's currently early July, and it'll be at least three weeks until I get rip tomatoes. That's about a month behind schedule. Its been relatively cool so far this year, so that hasn't helped things. My dad isdefinitely winning the tomato competition so far this year.
Nonetheless, I have high hopes for my tomatoes. I've got a lot of interesting hybrids I haven't tried before, including several purple varieties, such as Black Trifele and Black Krim, as well as "Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato" (a big orange variety) and something called "Red Fig", which makes small pear shape tomatoes which can be dried in sugar to makes sort of a fake fig. Not that I'm going to do that. The big tomatoes don't have much fruit - it's been too cool for them to set much fruit. I'll report back on the results once the fruit is ripe.
If you're a tomato geek like me, the tomatofest web site is a fun way to waste time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Mattress/Redecorating

I bought a new mattress today. I am ridiculously attached to my old mattress, which I bought as an IPO gift to myself when my company announced it was going public. Yeah, I'm a big spender, I know. I've had it for ten years. It's nice and super-firm, but is almost too firm now that I'm an old biddy and my back is sore every morning. I knew I had a problem when it was more comfortable to sleep on Missy's floor or the back of T's truck.
Before that I had the evil sag-bag mattress that I bought when I got to Chapel Hill. It was cheap. It sagged in less than six months. Good thing I was a young biddy then. It took me four years to replace it. The per year cost was actually higher than myIPO mattress, so I guess it wasn't such a bargain.
Anyway, I went mattress shopping today. It wasn't as bad as I expected. At the first place, I found one mattress that made me want to fall asleep on it. I went around to a lot of other places. Nothing quite compared. Armed with an internet price, I went back and they matched it. I got a firm mattress with a thin layer of memory foam for my old biddy back. It was just enough to make it feel comfy but not so much that it had that annoying hot feeling. Some of the softer mattresses felt nice, but I know from experience that too soft is not a good thing for me.
Mattress buying is like buying a car. It's hard to get out without them selling you something else. They did talk me into buying an anti-dust mite mattress pad. I could sleep in a tub full of dustmite poop mixed with cat dander and dust and not have problems, but T's pretty sensitive, so I bought it. It's not entirely unselfish on my part. I sleep better when he's not congested and snoring.
It will be delivered tomorrow. Hopefully it will help me sleep better and wake up less sore.
I'm putting my old mattress in what used to be my computer room. It's dark and cave-like in there. I think it will work better as a guest bedroom than the back room. I partially disassembled my computer desk and moved it to the back room. I'm pleased with it - it's a much better spot for my computer room and I happily posted two blog posts from it already. I had to move the futon out. The futon frame is a behemoth. When I moved in we barely got it into the back bedroom and would not have been able to bring it through the hall, and so that's how the back bedroom ended up as the guest bedroom. Since then, I've had the sliding glass door retrofitted and the opening is slightly smaller, so I didn't think it would be possible to get it out. My dad cam by and we partially disassembled it so that it could fit through the door.
There's only one problem. Luna. The futon was her favorite spot, and has been for her entire life. While we were taking it apart she kept coming by and meowing at me. She was not happy and was scolding me. I felt very guilty. Good thing my (old) bed is her second favorite spot. I'm going to have to put her special bedspread on it and maybe leave my cheap sleeping bag on it as well to ease the transition for her.
So anyway, as of tomorrow, the guest bedroom will soon be operational and equipped with high speed internet access, a very firm mattress, a dark peaceful atmosphere, and Luna. Come visit me in my spiffy redecorated house!