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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Friday, December 31, 2010

Blogging from a plane..for real this time

Unlike my other posts where I write stuff on the plane and then post once I am on the ground, this time I am actually posting my blog in flight. It should come as no surprise that this is because the wireless access is free. It doesn't make up for the flight delays, though.
Anyway, happy New Year's everyone and best wishes for a wonderful year in 2011! And please drink a few drinks for me as I am probably going to be stuck in transit!

Blogging from a train and a plane

I’m on a train, returning from Sacramento. Since I haven’t gotten into my book yet, and there is no internet access here, it seems like a good time to get caught up on my blog.It’s been a while, so I’ll cover a mishmash of topics. Perhaps I will split it up once I actually post it.
The train is passing just south of where I usually drive. I did not recognize it at first. In the car, it is easy to forget that much of the area is actually delta wetlands. On the train, after a month of rain, it is easier to see.
I’ve been in Ithaca for more than six months. It was almost midsummer when I arrived, which meant that it still hadn’t warmed up and the forest hadn’t completely filled out. Now midwinter has passed, bringing with it subfreezing temperatures for most of the month, but surprisingly little snow. On the evening of the solstice, I passed flocks of crows roosting in the trees. They looked like large black leaves in the winterbare trees.
Although I do like to talk about the weather, the adjustment hasn’t been too difficult. I’ve had to buy some more clothes but other than that it isn’t too bad. It helps that I have good cold tolerance, and that I’m fatter now than I was a few years ago. There is a damp chill in California in the winter, and poorly insulated houses, and it’s good preparation for colder climes.
Ithaca is cloudy much of the time, due to the influence of Cayuga Lake. The hilly terrain and the large number of trees add to the overall effect. It is rare to be in full sunlight, and it is noticeable when it does occur. Nonetheless, the light is amazing.
I have not been blogging very much lately. The combination of a very busy month at work and my budding relationship with cowdude have apparently sapped my motivation to blog. Hopefully it will come back before I get sucked into the next research proposal.
I saw T when I was in CA. It was odd to see him now that I am seeing cowdude. It felt like there was more distance between us, and at times I wondered what I saw in him or why I stayed with him so long. He kept insisting that we get together if I had time left after I got back from Missy’s. There won’t be enough time to do anything, but I wouldn’t have called him. Something about it sounded empty, like he was just saying that to fulfill some sort of imaginary obligation. (Missy – this is the other reason I wasn’t in a rush to get back.) It is time to sever that tie. I debated whether I should defriend him on Facebook, but I should’ve done it when he broke up with me. For me to do it now it would be too little, too late, and might send a message of something other than indifference.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Perfect timing

Yes, it's true, the new version of Bejeweled is being launched on my birthday. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scene from my bed, many mornings


Rugrat and Luna have it down to an art form.  If they are especially hungry and/or I am sleeping in too long, they both climb on my bed, and Rugrat proceeds to annoy Luna, who growls and starts to have an asthma attack.  If that doesn't get me up, Rugrat will move in closer and Luna will bitch slap her.  Eventually I get up and feed them.  The instant I start heading to the kitchen they forget their act and are friendly to each other again.
Anyway, that's not really blogworthy but when I saw this cartoon I just thought it was perfect and wanted to share it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's that time of the year again

I am such an old biddy that even though I know my birthday is coming up, I was totally unprepared for Missy to start calling me "Old Biddy". Perhaps it's because I've been so busy with work, or perhaps it's because I'm an old biddy year round.
It's been a crazy three weeks. All I want for my birthday is 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and a clean house.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bacon Cake

You know you want it. Yes, it's time for me to make a bacon cake. I'm going to Thanksgiving dinner at one of the grad students place. We've had many discussions about bacon, so it seemed just fitting.
I found a recipe online which sounded good and I had all the ingredients. Here it is.
Bacon-Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

6-8 slices bacon (regular or sugar or maple-cured, but NOT peppered or jalapeƱo or garlic or anything you wouldn't want in cake)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups AP flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup uncooked rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the bundt pan.

Fry the bacon slices until crisp. Set aside to cool and drain.

Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in to creamed mixture and blend.

Crumble or chop bacon slices into little pieces. Add dark brown sugar and oats, and mush together with your fingers to get the bacon and sugar blended and clumped with the oats. It will be a loose mixture, but you want the three elements to be well-acquainted with each other.

Put half the cake batter into the bundt pan (you'll have to put globs of it in--it's a thick batter), then top with half the bacon mix. Put on the rest of the batter, and top with the remmaining bacon mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until done (test with a toothpick or your finger). Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating. If you let it cool for a few hours, the cake itself seems to taste a little sweeter.


The preparation of the cake went pretty much as described. I cooked up a bit more bacon than called for, since I knew the cats were going to come and beg. (They did) The bacon/sugar/oat mixture didn't stick together like it said, but instead made a sort of loose bacon streusel mix.
There was a bit of collateral damage when I tried to remove the cake from the pan. The bacon struesel had stuck to the sides and the cake didn't pull out cleanly. I covered it with some frosting so it didn't look quite as bad.
The cake was pretty rich, and tasted sort of like a cake doughnut that had sat on a plate with some maple syrup and bacon. It was tasty, and the grad students liked it. As for me, I don't have the metabolism that I did when I was a grad student so I'd better just stay away from bacon cake as a matter of principal.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Brief Snippet in Time

A Friday morning walk/jog around my neighborhood. The air was cold, the sun was just coming up, I was listening to my favorite new song, and one of the neighborhood dogs came over to greet me with doggy kisses. As I looked up I saw the first few snowflakes start to fall, and saw the golden sunrise on the horizon, and realized that I had passed through one of those moments when my little section of the universe is in perfect balance.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Matching Set of Parking Tickets

That's what cowdude and I got while we were on our date today, courtesy of the friendly university parking folks. "A memento," he said.
Anyway, it went well, but in keeping with my general philosophy I'm not blogging much about it. Give me a call or keep an eye out for my email if you want the juicy details.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lions in Winter

My cats think it is the bitter depths of winter now. This is not surprising since the weather is now similar to mid-winter in Sunnyvale. They do not want to stay outside for more than a few minutes. My dad wants pictures of them the first time they experience snow, but I am beginning to think that it may be impossible to get them outside then.
Luna is old and mellow and does not act very different than usual. Rugrat still has a lot of pent-up energy which she used to get rid of when she was outside. Now she is restless and high maintenance. I had tabled my plans to get another cat, because they seemed so happy during the summer and early fall, but now I think Rugrat does need someone to tire her out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grad student feeding experiment, part 2

My boss bought the grad students an air popcorn popper for the conference room. However, being graduate students, one of them brought in some popcorn, everyone ate it, and then no one replaced it. They are actually quite generous about bringing in food for birthdays, etc, but popcorn is not one of those things you think about at the grocery store.
As a joke, I told them I would buy them a big bag of popcorn at Sam's Club. However, it turns out that the bag is 50 lbs. I didn't think they could go through that much popcorn, but then they went through a 2 lb container in about a week. So when I was at Sam's Club this weekend I bought them the 50 lb bag. It was $18. I'm starting a pool about how long it take for it to get all eaten.
1 big bag = 630 servings
19 students and postdocs

I am guessing March 31.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Match.com upate: Very superstitious

As you may've figured out from the fact that I'm not blogging much, emailing much or playing Bejeweled Blitz very often, things are still progressing entertainingly with cowdude. I'm still superstitious so that is all I'm going to write on the matter.
I'm not superstitious enough to keep from using him as an excuse to stop emailing pinball wizard and Mr Player, however. In the end, I just didn't feel like meeting up with either of them, and took the easy way out.
I did sort of cyberstalk T on Match. I verified that he has a profile, and seems to be logging in often, but due to the non-anonymity of it, I didn't look at his profile. I don't really want to see what's in there, anyway.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween 2010

In pagan lore, it is said that the veil between the worlds is thinnest on Samhain/ Halloween. I spent it in the air, flying back to Ithaca on the red-eye. I can’t say it was a mystical experience, but at least it was an uneventful flight. Now I’m in the Newark airport, which is probably as far as one can possibly get from a mystical experience.
In my own personal own biddy lore, in the last week the veil between my worlds was thinner than it’s been in a while. It was great to be back and see everyone, but at the same time I felt like it is no longer 100% my world. I’ve gotten used to my world in Ithaca and am glad to be going home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Most annoying paper, continued

I’ve gotten the most annoying paper to the point at which it’s ready to be submitted. This entailed pretty much a complete rewrite. I should’ve just rewritten it at the outset. Instead I kept finding new things to change every time I went back to it. It took me a lot longer than writing a paper of similar length on my own research. Note to self – always start from scratch.
In return for my efforts, my name is now on the paper. I did not ask to be it, but given that it would never make it out the door without me, I didn’t say no. I am sure this is going to set off a shitstorm with the Annoying Postdoc (AP). He likes to stir up trouble. In the past this was manifested as subtle sniping about my boss. Now he’s turned his malice on his labmates, disguised as concern. Some of what he says is valid, but he is the cause of much of the problem. I suspect he knows that he is on the shitlist and is trying to deflect attention from himself, or perhaps he’s just in a pissier mood than usual. I am glad that I will be out of town if and when the shit hits the fan.

Big Red

I got the lowdown on the neighborhood bear. People think there’s just one, and it makes the rounds every fall. I have heard more noise on the patio/in the yard recently, but it could be coincidental. He’ll be hibernating in about a month, hopefully not in my yard. Someone took a picture and took it to a taxidermist, who estimated the bear is about 400 lbs. He is partial to taking out bird feeders and barbeques. The neighbors were surprised he didn’t go after my smoker. I think he was too busy messing with my sewer vent cap* to pay attention to my smoker and grill, but hopefully he won’t mess with anything when I am gone.
I am calling the bear ‘Big Red’, in honor of Cornell’s mascot. I’m bringing a Cornell T-shirt for Missy’s son Kadin. It has a bear on it, of course. I am going to tell Kadin that it’s the bear that lives in my neighborhood.
I haven’t actually seen Big Red. I am kind of disappointed about this.

* Bears are interested in stinky and chemical smells. They would frequently overturn the pit toilets at T’s gold panning claim, and one time a bear chewed a hole in a gasoline can. So popping the cap off my sewer cap and going after a Weber grill are pretty much par for the course for a bear.

Going to California

I’m on my way from Ithaca to California. I’ve finished my book but am not in the mood to start the second one or read chemistry stuff yet. I may start once I am done here. If I weren’t so miserly, I could even post this from the plane, but I’ll wait.
It’s kind of weird to be going back. I’m sure it will make me homesick for the place, as well as for my friends and family. I’ve felt the latter, but not the former. When it does come, it comes in unexpected hints, like a sadness when I see images of the ocean in a movie or on TV. I’m sure I’ll feel it more during the winter.
We passed peak foliage color about a week ago. Like a full moon when it’s overcast, the peak was hidden due to rain. I suspect that all the leaves will be down when I return in a week. It was kind of weird to realize this when I was driving to the airport today. When I arrived in early June, we hadn’t even hit summer. There was a prediction of snow yesterday, although it didn’t come to pass in Ithaca. The wheel turns differently in California, but it still turns, and it is windy and rainy there. I wonder if it will feel like a California fall to me now, or if my perspective has changed and it will feel like Ithaca did a month or two ago.
I will have dinner with T when I am in California, later in the week. I’m sure that will be weird, but I don’t know how much. Perhaps I am so used to change and weirdness now that it will seem weirder for him than me. Cowdude has been keeping me very entertained. The move to Ithaca really helped me get over T, and my ongoing flirtation with cowdude has helped get rid of most of the last vestiges of T-moping. I don’t know if it will lead anywhere but I am enjoying it. (And, in the interest of not jinxing things, that’s all I’m going to write about it for now.)
I’ll also be out at the spinoff of my former employer for a few days. I’m sure that will be weird too.
It’s so funny how songs have the power to pick up on a mood and amplify it, but when the mood passes they lose their power over you, and other ones step in to take their place. There is a whole new set of songs in my consciousness now. I’m listening to my iPod on the plane, and pulled up some of my older playlists from the last year. I still enjoy them, but they no longer evoke the mood that they used to, and that is a good thing, given that they’re from the breakup/layoff/job search phase.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Women Swimming

I've been kind of really lazy about swimming since I moved to Ithaca.  This is partly due to lack of convenient pool times.  I want the pool to be open from 7-9 pm, dammit, but alas, it is not.  So my options are to wait until very late, or go very early, or swim at lunch.
It is open on Saturday afternoon, and the first hour and a half are women only.  It was a convenient time and I thought it might be less crowded.  Wrong. Each lane had 3-4 women.  I got into one of the intermediate lanes and began swimming.  The first thing I noticed was that it was extremely calm and organized compared to coed swimming under much less crowded conditions.  There's less of a speed differential, and apparently women are better at sharing lanes. I should not be surprised by this. The second thing I noticed was that it was very peaceful not to have men around.  There were students, middle aged biddies, and old biddies.  Some of the people in the exercise lanes were chatting occasionally, but it was mostly just an amicable silence. 
It felt good to swim.  I'm going to have to get up earlier or try the late night swim.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Care and Feeding of Grad Students

I'm starting a new experiment tomorrow.  I'm pretty sure it's going to work, at least for a while.  I bought some Halloween candy. It will be put in a bowl on the table in my office.  I will not say anything about it to the students, but they will figure it out as soon as one of them comes down to talk to me.  Not a bad deal - a piece of candy in return for me asking them how chemistry is going.  I would've totally gone for that when I was a grad student.  There are lot of them who stop by a lot, or catch me in the lab or conference room, but some who don't.  I am betting a few of them will stop by.
It's not exactly a secret that free food is a huge motivator for scientists.  We know it, and we still get suckered in.  It doesn't end when you graduate, either.  Silicon Valley companies use the free lunch as a perk and a way to get people to work more.  Cookies and coffee are the standard lure for seminars everywhere.  In an ironic twist of fate, the grad students here are expected to provide coffee and refreshments when they do their oral exam and thesis defense, but perhaps that's more of an acknowledgement that profs like free food too, rather than a shakedown.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reunited and it feels so good....

I'm going to go back to having just one blog.  I'll leave Recipe Geek up for a while (and possibly cross-post) in case I change my mind, but the cooking blog posts will all be posted here now.  I don't think there are very many people who read Recipe Geek but not Old Biddy.
When I first started blogging, I only had this blog.  Although it's anonymous, I was still cautious about the world of blogging, and I stayed away from sensitive subjects.  When T broke up with me I started posting much more personal posts.  Some are still up there, but others were removed after a while.  I didn't save them.  It's best to move on.
Around this time, people at work found out that I blogged about cooking and wanted to read the blog, so I split the blog into two and directed them to Recipe Geek.  I did a lot of cooking and blogging during those post-breakup pre- and post-layoff days.
Now, however, I'm working more and cooking less, so it makes sense to recombine the two blogs. 

Smoked Turkey Breast

In honor of Canadian Thanksgiving, I smoked a turkey breast yesterday.  It was not one of my neighborhood turkeys, just an unfortunate one from the grocery store.
My brother is a big foodie and BBQ snob.   He's got a few dishes that he's perfected.  Smoked turkey is one of them.  The best turkey I ever ate was cooked by him on a beat up old Weber grill using wood from a dead cherry tree in my mom's yard.  He's also cheap, so does not rely on expensive ingredients or equipment.  I did not presume to think that I could match his results on my first try.  I was right.
Anyway, I brined my turkey breast in a mix of water, salt, apple juice, and brown sugar. (Here's a link, but I left out the maple syrup and cut the recipe in half.)  It took about a day longer than anticipated to thaw, so I only brined it for 5 hours.  This is fine for whole turkeys that have been injected with salt solution, but wasn't enough for this one.  Next time I will let it sit overnight. 
I fired up the coals and set up the smoker.  I used a mix of hickory chips with some of the wood chips from my dead tree.  I think it was a birch or ash. It certainly was ash by the time I was done.  I'm still getting used to the smoker.  It was too hot at the beginning and too cool at the end.  I wanted 250F but ended up with a range of 350-200.  I was planting bulbs as it cooked, so I didn't fiddle with it as much as I should've.
About half way through, Rugrat came by with a dead mouse for the BBQ.  I thanked her and called her the most badass cat ever, but I didn't cook it for her.  Next time she needs to bring me a wild turkey.
Anyway, it was tasty but a bit dry.  It had a nice smoky flavor but it was not so overwhelmingly smoky that it needed something bland to go with it.  The pink, 'smoked' layer didn't extend all the way through, which is consistent with the fact that it was roasted more than it was smoked.  It was not as good as what my brother makes.
The cats liked it too.  Cats go into turkey comas even worse than people do, and they both left me alone for the rest of the evening. 
Afterwards, my brother told me his other secret, which is that whole turkeys come out a lot better on the smoker.  I'll have to give that a try when Rugrat brings me one of those wild turkeys.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Multi-headed hydra of bad scientific writing

(I'm still a little bit paranoid/cautious about what to post on this blog.  So things that are borderline may get posted for a few days and then taken down, sort of like I did after T and I broke up)

I've been editing the most annoying paper ever.  It's not the worst paper ever; if it were I wouldn't have to edit it.  The science is ok, but the postdoc who wrote it is a huge pain in the ass.  He wrote it and gave it out to other people in the group to critique  So far, so good.  However, he never incorporated any of their suggestions or corrections.  He's not a native English speaker and that paper really needed help.  I realized what was going on and arm-twisted him into going through it with the sub-group.  When this happens, the manuscript is projected up on the screen and everyone who is working on related stuff will critique it, sentence by sentence. Before we started, some of the grad students took me aside and thanked me for making him do it, and asked me to be the 'bad cop' if necessary.   It took 5 hours and didn't even get to cover a lot of stuff.
Eventually, the paper made its way to my boss.  He took a stab at it but eventually got completely exasperated.  A lot of random mistakes and bad English had crept back in, which made my boss worry that even if he asked the postdoc to make corrections, it might not get done, or other stuff would creep in and necessitate additional rounds of editing. It was also full of vague claims and hype which needed fact-checking.  It was mushrooming into a huge job, so I got called in to do it. 
Like the multi-headed hydra in the monster movies, just when I chopped off one arm another one whipped up and smacked me in the face.  There were just so many mistakes that it was impossible to systematically correct them in just a few passes.  I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why it took so long, but I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that this postdoc is an arrogant pain in the ass. I almost think that if I had been presented with a stack of data and asked to write a paper, it would've taken me less time than I ultimately spent on it.
It's really good I colored my hair recently, because I'm sure I have a lot of new grey hairs from this. 

A little bit of entertainment at seminar

A few weeks ago one of my 'daily matches' on Match.com was a guy who posted a picture of himself with molecular models.  (For those of you who aren't chemists, those are just plastic structural models of molecules)  I was curious because he wasn't in the chem department but I figured he couldn't be that hard to find.  Sure enough, he was in another department.  He didn't sound like my type but I sent him a wink anyway since I liked the molecular models.
He was at the seminar last week.  I am so glad I never heard back from him.  He was pretty annoying and way too well dressed, which somehow is a turnoff for me. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dear Men of Match, continued..

It's not just the separated guys I am wary of, it's the divorced ones too.  Not that I have anything against divorced guys, if they are truly divorced.  I'm not so sure they are, though.  Perhaps I am being cynical, but I am having a hard time believing that all the divorced guys on Match.com who have kids have kids who live at home.  Not away from home, not sometimes at home, but 100% resident kids.  What are the odds?!?  Is there an unusual custody judge here who always sends the kids to live with their dad?  Are they trying to impress the women with how sensitive they are? Hmm...I smell something fishy here....Methinks that some of them are not really divorced.
Back when I was doing the internet dating thing a few years ago, I met a dude who claimed to be never married and in his early 30's.  We had an entertaining email exchange and then made plans to meet for lunch. After he stood me up, I got pissed and realized that some stuff didn't add up.  I got cranky and cyberstalked him (again, it's easy to cyberstalk scientists and academics).  It turned out he was 12 years older than he claimed to be, and there was a picture of him wearing a wedding ring .  That incident made me be a little bit more suspicious and on the lookout for things that don't add up.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You can teach old cats new tricks..or at least, they can learn them on their own

My cats are different here in Ithaca than they were in California.  I did not expect this.  Rugrat is the sweetest cat in the world, but she was kind of a wimpy little homebody who wanted attention all the time and was always underfoot.  Now she's much more independent and (gasp) actually doesn't bug me every time I go into the kitchen.  She really likes going outside and spends a lot of time in the underbrush.  She even caught her first mouse ever, at the ripe old age of 13, and has lost weight and reverted to some habits from her younger days, like running the steeplechase from yard to house and chasing bugs obsessively. I'm not really sure why, but think it has something to do with liking my yard, since most of this started after I loosened up and started letting them out more.
On the other hand, Luna has turned into a homebody lapcat.  I don't think she likes this yard as much as the one in CA.  It's missing the catnip patch, good napping places, and fences that she so loved.  However, she's gotten healthier too, and has filled out and gotten a very nice sleek coat.  She's turning into a real lapcat, too, which is the biggest surprise.  I suspect it may have something to do with Rugrat not obsessively getting jealous every time I pet Luna.
My kitties have learned new tricks, and I wonder if I have too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear Mid-life Crisis Men of Match and elsewhere

Dear Mid-life crisis men,

Yeah, you.  You know who you are, even if you won't admit it to yourself.  I see you on Match.com, emailing me.  I've got news for you. I don't want to be part of your midlife crisis.  I know some women might view it a an opportunity to get a good guy before some other woman snatches him up, pun intended.  I view it like buying a redesign of an existing line of cars.  It may be an improvement overall, but you just don't want to buy one in the first model year, no matter how nice the cupholders are.  I'll let the other women lease you for a year and work out all the glitches, or you can sit on the lot and let some of the issues work themselves out on their own with enough time.
"But why not, Old Biddy?" you say.  "I'm a nice guy and oh so sensitive and my ex-wife/ex-girlfriend just didn't understand me/appreciate me/etc.  Maybe we can just be friends and see where it goes?"  No.  I do not need the drama of a pissed off ex-wife, a sad-sack mopey dude, or, worst of all, guys who say they're separated but really aren't.  Not going to go there.  Look me up again once it's official. 
And yeah, you, T.  I think you're a mid-life crisis dude too, which is perhaps why I've got a such a grudge.  WTF is up with IM'ing me for an hour on Saturday night and going on about how stressed you are with work, how you're so tired, etc?!?!  They last time you were like this you were getting ready to break up with me.  Obviously that is not the case now.  I am actually starting to worry, but that doesn't mean I have any patience for your mid-life crisis.
I've had my own pseudo mid-life crisis, even though it does not technically qualify as one since it was mainly a response to external events.  So I feel I am qualified to comment on yours, if only in my blog.
Love,
-Old Biddy

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Date nut bread, hold the nuts ;-)

It's time for a rare break from tradition where I cross post something both here and on Recipe Geek, for all (one) of you who read this blog but not the other.  Perhaps I was subliminally inspired by my recent dates with nuts from Match.com  In any case, I picked up a big bag of dates at Sam's Club with the intention of making date nut bread.  I'm breaking with tradition and posting this on both my blogs.
I used the recipe from my favorite cookbook.  I'll list it here, since I can't post a link.

Date Nut Bread

2 cups chopped dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Combine dates, water and baking soda.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. The dates will soften up a lot from the combination of hot water and baking soda.  They will also fizz a little. Good times!

6 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used a combination of sour cream and milk since that's what I had)
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9" loaf pan.  Combine egg and milk and wisk to blend.  Wisk in sugar, vanilla and melted butter, then add dates and the soaking liquid.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix, then add the liquid ingredients and mix until just blended.  Add nuts. Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Anyway, that's the recipe.  I have a confession to make - I forgot the nuts.  I chopped them and toasted them but forgot to add them to the batter. Perhaps it was a subliminal thing - no more dates with nuts, ever!  Perhaps I was a little distracted.  The arborist was here giving estimates to my neighbors and I.  He was a lot better looking than the Match.com guys. He can come climb my limbs any time.
In any case, the bread was really, really good.  Soaking the dates made a huge difference.  They were tender and the bread had a great, light texture and a slightly carmelly flavor.  It was by far the best date nut bread I've ever eaten, even without the nuts. I took half the loaf in to work.  It had mostly disappeared after a few hours, even though not everyone was around.   I'll definitely be making it again, but next time I will add the nuts, and probably some chocolate chips too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear Men of Match...

Please do not suggest the 6:00 PM coffee date after work.  It just doesn't work for me. I know it's your way of keeping options open in case things go well or badly, but you are pretty much guaranteeing that I will not be at my best.  I have to leave work early, I don't get a chance to pretty myself up, and, worst of all, I'll be hungry.*   Suck it up and dare to suggest lunch, dinner, or a dessert date, drinks, or coffee after dinner, or, better yet, a hike.
Sincerely,
Old Biddy

P.S.  If you are smart enough to suggest a dessert date, that will pretty much guarantee that I will be at my best and that you will get major bonus points which might be useful later.

P.P.S.  I don't want to tell you this on a first date, but I am a cranky, uncommunicative bitch when I am hungry.

Some people hate coffee dates, but I never had a problem with it until it became this nebulous before dinner thing.  I'm not sure if it's an Ithaca thing or what, but musicprof suggested the exact same agenda as the other dude I met up with, down to the same coffee shop.  It would be rather funny if I ran into the other dude there.  Anyway, I have seminar until 5:45 so I suggested 6:30. We'll see.
I'm sure it spread like a virus. Some couple did the coffeedate after work, and then they took other Match dates there, until it was par for the course for Ithaca Match dates. Now that I am aware, I'll try to steer it to other times.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whasssupp!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meetup groups

People have suggested that I try Meetup groups as a way to get to know people.  Ithaca is not that big a town, so the number of groups is pretty small, and making matters worse, none of them really interest me.
There are several 'tea party' groups, and one 'coffee party' group to counterbalance them.  There are a couple of gaming and comic book groups, a kids playgroup group, a pop-psychology group, a vegan group, a polyamorous group (really) and a French language group, which is the only one I might even imagine attending.  Sigh.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Match update

I'm exchanging email with a few guys that seem pretty cool.  I won't jinx it by posting about any of them just yet, even though I did tell you about one of them by email.
I also get the occasional complete random introductory emails, like this one from a guy that I have no interest in.
lets go for a nice little hike. and then I will take you out to eat ?
I dont like to eat alone so I would be happy to buy you dinner to have the pleasure of eating with a good looking girl.
Not to sound to much like a guy

 Um, ok, whatever, bad punctuation man If it were Javier Bardem I might consider it, but not if it's some random 55 year old who lives 100 miles away.  (OK, I admit, if it were Javier Bardem he could live in Spain and have bad English and I'd still go for a hike with him...)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Skewers!

Classes start tomorrow. Being back at a university after a 13 year hiatus is a sometimes strange experience.  Sometimes I feel like I am the most ancient old biddy ever, and other times I am struck by how some stuff has not changed at all.  I'm not sure it makes me feel any younger, though.
On the way in to work this morning, the local college station played "Laid". It was not played as an oldie, but just as part of the mix.  Now, I don't remember exactly when it came out.  I think I was in grad school at the time, but maybe it was earlier.  In any case, it's older than the incoming freshmen.  Perhaps it was what was on the radio when they were conceived.  Later, I took a walk.  I was going to get ice cream, but resisted and walked a bit further instead.  They were selling posters in the quad.  The strange thing is that it was a very similar mix of posters as I remember.*  Those 'Abbey Road' Beatles posters were wayback retro 20 + years ago, kids.  You're not being a trendy hipster by getting one.  For all you know, your parents may have been conceived to that very album. 

*perhaps no one ever buys them and they're the same ones I saw when I was in school.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Craigslist Karma, part 2

I paid it forward a bit and gave my old Weber charcoal grill to a grad student rather than trying to get $30 for it on Craigslist.  She and her roommate had just moved to a new apartment which has a porch where they can grill.  She said they've used it almost every night. I am pleased that it is getting used rather than gathering dust and spiders in my garage.

Friday, August 13, 2010

This is my brain, on chemistry

Sometimes I think my brain is going to explode.  I reached the point where it got completely filled up a few years ago, and since then I have been forgetting stuff in order to make room for new information.  My few months of unemployment probably cleared up some room in there, but it's gotten filled up again.
What I would really like is to be able to systematically clear out whole sections of memory and then defragment my brain like I do with my hard drive..  It would be great to clear out the song lyrics section, for instance, and have more space for chemistry. Or maybe get rid of the plotlines from every single Sex and the City episode so that I can remember more random stuff about my new hometown.
When I started back to work, I felt like my brain was rusty.  This is hardly surprising, since I had been unemployed for a few months and before that was working in an area different than my main field of expertise.  Chemistry brain was still there, but it took organometallic brain a bit longer to come out and play.  Now organometallic brain is fully functioning, but I notice that organic brain is not functioning as fast as I want it to.  The only problem is that it's not a matter of remembering what I used to know and then getting caught up in the literature.  Nope, there's a lot of stuff I actually need to learn.*  This is why I need more space in my brain.

Organometallic chemists come in two varieties, usually influenced by who we worked for in grad school, but we tend to forget that when we're hanging out with other organometallic chemists. I'm of the solidly inorganic variety, whereas my boss is of the organic variety.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting my rocks off

My landscaper called the other day.  He wanted to see if it was ok if he took one of the big rocks in my yard for a project he's doing at home.*   It matches one he already has.  He offered to do me a favor in return, and suggested that he take away the nasty shredded sandbags/sand.  In the alternate universe where I am both bold about propositioning guys and quick with the witty repartee, I would have suggested that he help me get my rocks off in return.  In the real universe, it was dinner time and I was hungry so I said ok, no problem.

*  I don't know if this is really for his yard, or if it's actually for one of his paid jobs and he just said that to make me more likely to let him take the rock.  I didn't want that one, so it didn't matter. 

Freelance kilt inspector seeks Mr. Big(foot) for sexxxay timez

Yes, it's true, I finally posted a profile to Match.com.  With pictures and everything.  I even paid money. If you're nosy, you can go look me up, suggest guys for me, and give me helpful pointers about how not to scare teh menz.  (My username is forestcat14850.)  I'm even writing back to the guys that email me and winking at others.  For those of you who haven't been doing online dating recently, a wink is sort of like a poke, only you can't make as many crude jokes about winking as you can about poking someone.*  There are also lots of new cyberstalky features like seeing who's viewed you, etc.  I'm putting my finely tuned cyberstalking skills to good use.
There are a frightening number of guys who's username are "T_lastname"  Aaagh.  As a matter of principle I'm not responding to any of them. 
Anyway, there's not much to report now, but I'll be sure to give the full report if anything entertaining happens.

*  back in the day when I was a young biddy, you could cyberstalk someone by "fingering" them.  Despite the amusing name, all this did was let you see if they checked their email.  I did it anyway.  I think that match.com should liven things up by getting rid of winks and calling it "fingering" instead.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Mac

I have a Mac now.  It's nice.  There are some things I like better than on my PC.  However, it's not a unanimous decision.  Going from PC to Mac is just as painful as going from Mac to PC. It's not just the computer, it's all the slight differences in the programs I use. I notice very few differences if I'm just surfing the net, but a lot when I'm actually trying to work.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Craigslist Karma

Today I bought a brand new grill from a very nice couple.  They had won it in a raffle but it was too big for them, so they'd never even used it.  It was half price, and they even delivered it and gave me the cover for it and some veggies from their garden.  I scored big time, since I was all set to order this exact grill or its smaller brother from home depot. The only reason I didn't was that I was indecisive about which one I was going to buy.
I must've invoked some serious Craigslist good karma when I took the French woman's rug back to her.  Anyway, now I'm done with all my big household purchases.  It's a relief.  I hadn't even considered a grill to be a high priority item, but I found that I really missed having one.
More grilling details will be posted over Recipe Geek.

Monday, August 2, 2010

2 months out

Two months ago today, I left California with my mom and my cats.  It feels lie just yesterday, and yet it feels like a whole lifetime ago.
I like it here.  I like my job, my boss/the group, Ithaca, and my house.  I do need to meet more people outside of work and my neighborhood.  Once in a while I still get mopey about T, but it's not all that often and I can push it to the background when I need to, or go with the flow and ride it out, and it doesn't last long. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Rug(s), part 2: Old Biddy Garage-sailing

After my short lived ownership of the French woman's rug, I still wanted a rug for my kitchen, and somehow not just any rug would do.  I wanted one with a similar texture, and I wanted an interesting one.  There were a lot of nice rugs available online, but I continued to troll Craigslist. Meanwhile, my dining room table arrived and I needed a rug to put underneath that.  I did not have strong opinions on the dining room one other than wanting one that was cheap, clean, the right size and didn't clash too badly with the color scheme
I hit paydirt on Craigslist this weekend. Several people were having garage sales and selling rugs.  I bought an antique Turkish rug from a woman who'd inherited in from a family friend in 1995.  It had a similar texture to the other one,with slightly uneven edges.  It's a bit threadbare in spots, and I'm sure I will wear it out completely.  I think it will also be good for hiding dirt
















I know it's a bit odd to put a old handmade rug in the kitchen by the sink. I would never do that if I bought it new or paid a lot of money for it.  But somehow it seems that these sentimental favorites which have already been used and enjoyed by many people should be continue to be enjoyed rather than set off in some room that is rarely used.
In contrast to my weird obsession with getting a kitchen rug, I was not on a mission for a  unique dining room rug.  I got a very large rug for a very low price. It meets all my criteria and I got a really good deal.  The cats like it a lot too. It's also pretty dull.  There is not much history - the previous owners bought it new, had it for two years, and charged me 1/20th of what they paid. 
I haven't put it in the dining room, since I going to need to get one of the neighbors to help me move the table.
Yes, I'm turning into my mother.  She likes to go to garage sales and buy stuff, and then tell everyone the story behind it. If it's a good story and it's an item that gets used a lot, she'll still remember the story years later. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inklings of Fall

In late July or early August, there always seems to be a day when, all of a sudden, I can feel fall approaching.  I could feel it strongly in Boston, where the air would pick up a bit of crispness, if only momentarily.  I also felt it in California, but it would manifest differently, as a stillness in the air and a bit of humidity.  I don't remember noticing it in North Carolina. Perhaps I wasn't there long enough to get tuned in to the weather patterns, or perhaps it was less obvious due to the humidity.  Today I felt it here in Ithaca.  The air was crisp, there was a breeze, and even the light looked different.
It's strange that it always seems to be at the same time, regardless of location.  I notice the transitions between other seasons, of course, but for some reason the first glimpse of fall is the one that is most subtle and yet the most obvious.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forest Cat

My little baby is almost a teenager, and suddenly she wants to stay out all the time.  I am of course talking about Rugrat.  Back in California, Luna was the one who wanted to spend much of her time outside, and Rugrat tended to stick very close to the house.  It didn't help matters that she's not good at climbing fences now. When I first got to Ithaca, Luna was more interested in going out, and Rugrat stayed close to the house.  Somewhere along the line, Rugrat decided that she really really likes it outside, and that's where she wants to be if it's not raining. She mostly hangs out in the underbrush and watches/torments all the little critters that live out there.  I don't know if she's getting in touch with her inner Maine Coon cat or what, but it's quite a change.  When I'm not worrying that the coyotes will eat her, I'm actually kind of glad, because she seems happier and isn't as clingy.
I guess they're wrong about old cats not learning new tricks!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Old Biddy Speaks, Part 2: Thumb drives and stuff on the desktop

Dear Graduate Students,
Since I am an old biddy and we only had transparencies and chalk talks back when I was in grad school, this does not fall under the category of things I used to do but now tell you not to do.  Anyway, you're lucky you can just connect your computer up to the projector and give a presentation, but you might want to be careful with what you have on there.  Trust me on this one.  If you're using a thumb drive, get one just for work. Have lots of subfolders. The same goes for you computer.  Do not have lots of movies and naked pictures up there in the same folder as your group meeting slides.  Trust me on this. I may be an old biddy, but I do have naked pictures on my computer, but they are hidden away so deeply that there is no way they'd accidentally end up next to my group meeting slides. 
Likewise, and I say this as a great big email/IM fan, do not leave Gmail open when you are giving a presentation, or at least sign out of chat.  Please.  You know that's an invitation for disaster, especially if you still IM your ex, like some old biddies do.   Turn off that email notifier that gives you a preview of the message too.  (This one I have seen cause some raised eyebrows during phone conferences at my old company)
Thank you.
Sincerely,
-Old Biddy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The old biddy speaks: do as I say, not as I did

In my new job, I am conscious of the fact that I really ought to set a decent example in terms of safe laboratory practices, not wasting too much time surfing the internet, etc.  That part is relatively easy.  The hard part is that sometimes I have to get into "Do as I say, not as I did" mode. I feel a bit hypocritical, even though I've already trained myself not to do most of these bad habits.
In the last few weeks, I've had to look some stuff up in notebooks of former group members.  Gaaaahhh! A few people didn't see fit to write their names in their notebooks.  In some cases, they wrote their initials on the front, but some didn't even do that.  Yeah, I know it's your notebook and it sits on your desk and you know it's yours, but someday someone may want to look something up in there.  Others didn't write the date down for each experiment, or didn't write the year.  These things are so obvious that neither my boss nor I would've thought it was necessary to tell people this.  But there were other examples that fell closer to things I used to do, which are more along the lines of general laziness, e.g. abbreviating structures to the point that only the writer knows what it is, or saying that a reaction was performed as usual, without referencing what usual is.  I am guilty of those sorts of transgressions, and have already done my penance in the form of learning from my mistakes.   So, when we reinstitute the biannual 5 minute good lab notebook keeping practices reminder* at group meeting, I'm going to remind everyone that these are not good notebook keeping practices.  Even though I've learned from my mistakes, I still feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

*  we got these occasionally in industry, too

Monday, July 19, 2010

How not to use Facebook, part 2

There is a prof* here who 'friends' his grad students on Facebook, then if he logs into Facebook and sees that they're on Facebook during the day he gives them a hard time about it.**  Uh yeah.  Excuse me, I just took a break from playing Bejeweled Blitz and cybersnooping on my evil ex and I noticed you're logged into Facebook, so get back to work, dammit!
As for me, I'm conscious of trying to set a good example, so I am not Facebooking at work, and all IM'ing is limited to short exchanges with my brother.  Mr. X lurks in IM and Facebook occasionally but I either stay invisible or ignore him unless I'm actually at home and want to IM him.

*No, it's not my boss. 
** What works for Mr. X also works for the boss.  If you don't want to be seen in Facebook, stay out of chat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Treman State Park

I went walking at Robert H. Treman State Park today.  It's a few miles from my house, as the crow flies, although it's a bit further by car due to the idiosyncracies of the roads in the southern part of Ithaca.  I parked at the southern end of the park.
Like Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is also near my house, the main draw is the waterfalls and the swimming hole.  It's about 2 miles from the lower parking lot to the upper parking lot.  You can get there on either the Gorge Trail or the Rim Trail*, or do a loop. I walked up the Gorge Trail and back on the Rim Trail. 
Now, I know what you're thinking.  "Hmm, four miles is not that far."  This is not some nice flat midwestern trail, or even like the nice rolling hills in the Santa Cruz mountains.  Nope.  There are waterfalls, big ones, and that means lots of steep climbs interspersed with flat areas.  As was the case at Buttermilk Falls, many of the steep areas had either stone stairs or stairlike areas with wood beams in the trail.  Even though I climb a lot of stairs in my treks to, from and around the chem department, there were parts where I was out of breath.  However, it was worth it.  The Gorge Trail is the more scenic of the two, and follows the creek.  There are many waterfalls.  At the southern end, the area beneath the waterfall has been converted into a swimming hole.  There are lifeguards, a diving board, showers, picnic areas, etc. When I was a little kid, I dreamed of places like this, but they're hard to find in California.
As you walk north along the Gorge Trail, there are lots of other waterfalls and pools.  It's pretty easy to climb down into most of the pools, so there were people swimming and relaxing.  At the first area, there is what my brother would call a "butt slide" where people were sliding down.  I didn't have my bathing suit on, and my Tevas were in the car, but it looked very fun.




As I continued walking up the trail, I passed more pools and waterfalls.  Some of the pools were totally deserted and looked like a great place to swim or relax.  I also saw what I thought were wild roses, but they were actually some very big raspberries with pink flowers. 
Unfortunately, they weren't ripe yet.  It still seems strange to me that it's mid-July and the berries aren't ready yet.
Towards the end of the Gorge Trail, Lucifer Falls drops 115 feet.  There is a stone stair trail next to it.  There wasn't a this much  water today, but it must be really dramatic after it rains.  (My picture came out badly, so I got one off the internet)  At the northern part, there is another picnic area, as well as an old mill.  There was also a soda machine, so I drank a can of diet coke and relaxed for a while before heading back.  The Rim trail was not quite as scenic, but  was quite nice and shady. 
At the end I went to my car, changed into my Tevas, and walked over to the swimming hole.  I wasn't dressed for swimming but it felt really good to sit and dangle my feet in the water.
Next time I'll bring a picnic lunch, a swim suit, and go hang out by one of the quieter pools, and then I'll come back and swim in the main pool.  That diving board is calling my name.

*  All the parks I've been to have a Gorge Trail and a Rim Trail.  Inevitable, the Gorge Trail is more scenic.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Rug

Yesterday I bought a hand woven Afghan rug from a French woman who is moving back to France with her family. It was obvious she was very attached to it.  She said that if the airlines let people bring more bags she'd take it with her.  It's an interesting rug  Because it's handwoven, the edges aren't completely straight, but it has a lot of character.  I put it in my kitchen.  It looked very nice there and I was pleased with my find.
Today she emailed me to see if the rug worked out ok for me and offered to take it back if it didn't.  She said she was sad to have let it go and kind of wanted it as a souvenir of her time in Ithaca.  Now, I liked it a lot but I know that it sucks to move 3000 miles, and there are a lot of emotional ups and downs, and getting sentimental about weird things, etc.  I also know that on top of dealing with the move she has a one year old and a three year old.  It helps a lot to have little acts of kindness during those stressful times. So I told her that it looked very nice in my house and I liked it but that I could return it to her if she wanted.  She was very relieved and grateful.  I'm dropping it off on my way to work tomorrow.
It's sort of a shame, though - I was already starting to get rather attached to it myself.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sold my soul to the devil

Yes, it's true.  I lasted approximately one month without Costco before breaking down and joining Sam's Club.  You have to understand I'm a dyed in the wool, Walmart-disliking liberal who's lived the majority of my life in extremely liberal areas (SF Bay Area, Boston, Chapel Hill, and now Ithaca)  It's not cool to shop at Walmart or Sam's Club, when you can get the same stuff for similar prices at places where they pay much better wages, like Costco, Target, or Trader Joe's.  Sadly, I'm in a new town and need to fill up my larder/supply the house/get all those things that they only seem to sell at warehouse stores.  I resisted for a while, until it became clear that I was starting to eat like a grad student again and spending way too much to do so. It didn't help that my metabolism has sped up and I am hungry all the time.
Don't get me wrong.  Wegman's is great and prices on some stuff (milk, ice cream, junk food, soda, beer, and blueberries) are better than I'd get in CA.  The produce is reasonably priced, although sometimes it's pretty picked over by the time I get there.  And the bulk candy bins are to die for.  But Wegman's does cater to people who want pre-prepared foods, either of the cheap grad student variety (massive subs!  microwave burritos! peirogies!) or the more upscale varieties (rotisserie chickens!  $6 meat and two sides dinners! premarinated grill ready pieces of meat! Asian and Indian food bars!) This was fine when I didn't have a fridge, but it gets old quickly.   For instance, I found a whole row of frozen chicken in various forms (nuggets in various shapes, pregrilled chicken breasts with different marinades, etc) but no plain uncooked frozen chicken breasts.*  Cheese costs more than twice what it did at Costco/Trader Joe's.  Clearly it was time to sell my soul and get my warehouse shopping fix at Sam's Club.  
Oh, what a fix it was!  It was well worth the $40 membership fee, 1 hour drive, and the world's ugliest picture.  I should've done it a few weeks ago before I started trying to stock my house.  I won't bore you with the details, but I am now amply supplied with cottage cheese, cat supplies, vanilla, chicken sausage, 100 calorie ice cream bars, frozen chicken breasts, and more.
I tried to learn from the no-shopping experiment and not buy the stuff that I use rarely, like pancake mix or marinara sauce.  I'm not going to go there that often, but at least now I can go stock up when I need to.
It's not really about the frozen chicken breast, or even the big tubs of cottage cheese.  It's about having some continuity with my old routine back in CA.  I didn't even realize this when I first posted this.  But then I remembered that when I first moved to Boston, I used to really like going to the mall because it reminded me of CA.  I wasn't unhappy there, and was settling in very well,  but going to the mall was kind of soothing.  Now that I'm n old biddy, I haven't had any mall cravings yet, but the warehouse store fulfills the same role. 

*I don't know if this is an Ithaca thing, I only found a few freezer-burned bags at the other grocery store too.  So I did the obvious and bought a bulk pack of the fresh ones and froze them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unpacking my baggage

I finally got my stuff yesterday.  I was starting to feel lost without it.  So much for being a minimalist.  The cats missed it too.  They were restless and whiny, and really wanted to go out since they were bored in the house.  I felt a little better once I borrowed an air mattress and got internet access from my neighbors, but I still felt discombobulated.
The movers showed up around  7 PM.  They were unloading until almost 11.  They were Russian, and looked like brothers.  One was cute and flirty.  He did the heavy lifting, but the other, skinnier one seemed to do a lot more work overall.  They certainly bickered like brothers. It's good I don't understand Russian.  Anyway, when they were done I went upstairs with the intention of making my bed.  I lay down for a few minutes, and it felt so good to be in my own bed I fell asleep instantly. 
The last week has been a whirlwind.  I've been leaving the house at 8 and coming home at 8 or later.  It's not all work. One night I got home around 9 and went out to get the mail.  My neighbors were drinking in the street, so I went to go talk to them.  One of them offered the use of his air mattress, and went up to his house to go get it while I hung out with the people across the street. The power went off, so we continued to drink and talk until midnight.  Tonight there was a block party.  They are a very friendly bunch.
I started unpacking today.  I made pretty good headway.  So far, the only thing that broke/leaked was something I packed myself, and it got thrown in at the last minute with less care than usual.  Everything that the movers packed survived fine, including my vase collection.   
Since I've been busy, I haven't thought about T as much as usual.  This is a good thing.  I wonder how much faster I would've gotten over him if the shit hadn't gone down at work.  Having had too much free time certainly didn't help, either. He was lurking on IM, but since I was busy and I need to set a good example for the grad students, I didn't IM him.  For some reason, I thought of him a lot as I was unpacking my kitchen, since that was a brainless enough activity that I could let my mind wander.  It's been so nice not to be brooding about T, so my mood was largely "F*&# T!  I should just ignore him when he IM's or calls and just phase him out of my life"  So of course he called.  I was upstairs and didn't hear the phone.  I got the message later. I went to the block party and didn't call him back.  Perhaps I'll call him tomorrow, perhaps I won't. A whole year has passed since things went bad.  I am 3000 miles away, both figuratively and literally.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pussy Wagon: Recap

The pussy posse and I survived the cross country road trip in the pussy wagon.  The cats and my mom held up better than I did, but then again, I was driving.  I was pretty brain dead at the end of each day and didn't have time to collect my thoughts, so I didn't blog nearly as much as I expected.
Anyway, the cats did much better than I expected. I drugged them on the first day but didn't do so for the rest of the trip.  Luna was a trooper.  During the drive, she'd come out of her box to use the litter box or look around, but didn't meow too much or get in my way.   Rugrat was not happy on the first day.  She complained a lot, tried to climb on me, etc, etc, as we went over the Sierras. We stopped for lunch and when we returned to the car, Rugrat had clmbed into Luna's cat carrier with Luna.  After that, she was mostly fine, except for one time. They adapted surprisingly well to being in motel rooms, but seemed to like some rooms better than others. Fortunately, they like the current one pretty well, and are more relaxed after not having to be on the road today.















I was mostly fine with my mom during the trip. She helped a lot with the cats, keeping me from getting lost in my thoughts, and with providing support duties for me (handing me food and drinks, changing CD's, etc).  My patience levels dropped towards the end of the trip, especially when I was tired or hungry. Days 4 and 6 were the worst.  I won't bore you with the details - you know she's high maintenance and you know I get cranky when I drive a lot and when I don't pay attention to my blood sugar levels. She can certainly push my buttons, though.   Anyway, she definitely distracted me from being depressed about leaving CA and moping about T, even if crankiness just replaced sadness.
The one thing I did wonder about, as she drove me crazy, was how much I have the same behaviors. I know I do on occasion.  I guess many women have a fear or turning into their mothers, and I am no exception.  I wondered if I annoyed T on car trips the same way that my mom was annoying me.  I didn't brood on it too long, since he is a shithead anyway, and if he stayed with me as long as he did it couldn't have been that extreme.  But it did make me aware of those behaviors.
As I'm writing this, I'm listening to my iPod.  My mom's watching TV and has no clue that I can't hear her when she talks to me.  Sigh.
I did the walk through today and close on the house tomorrow.  I won't have internet access at first, and it's the opening weekend of the World Cup so I may not post very much.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pussy Wagon: 12 hours until departure

The movers came today.  It took them about 3 1/2 hours to pack everything. This was longer that I expected.  I worked in the yard while they packed.  They went through 30 rolls of tape and 5 rolls of saran wrap.  All I could hear was the sound of tape being wrapped around stuff.
My house is mostly empty now.  It echoes a lot more than the last few times it was empty, since I no longer have carpet or linoleum.  The cats are a bit weirded out by it. They both didn't come in until 4 hours after the movers left.  Now Rugrat is wandering around the house like a lost soul and is complaining. I'm not surprised - she does this any time there's change.  Luna is hanging out outside pretending not to care.  I feel sort of bad that this is her last day in the yard.  I know she's very attached to it. 
At the moment, I'm just tired.  The last few days have been a whirlwind.  I've been mostly in a good mood, since I've enjoyed seeing my friends at the various goodbye functions.  Ever so often, random moments of sadness or crankiness sneak in.  I suspect that I'll be sad once I slow down. It's been such a crappy year that I am probably number than I'd be if I were just moving but didn't have all the other emotional baggage. Yes, the pussy wagon is packed full up with baggage, both figuratively and literally.
I should clean but I am too tired.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Pussy Wagon: An introduction

Yes, it's true.  I'm taking a cross country road trip in the Pussy Wagon.  Unlike the infamous Pussy Wagons from the "Kill Bill" movies, or the Lady Gaga video, my pussy wagon will contain actual cats, as well as my mom and myself. 
The pussy wagon departs in less than 3 days.  I will document its progress here.

Old Biddy Movie Review: Sex and the City 2

Tonight Judy and I went to go see Sex and the City 2.  When we got to the theater, the digital sign above the door had a limited number of letters, so it just read "Sex and T" If there ever was a time that a camera phone would be useful, this was it. Unfortunately, I still have my cheap-ass phone and Judy's camera doesn't work, so we were shit out of luck and you'll just have to take my work for it. Nonetheless, we got a good laugh out of it.
Anyway, it's simple.  What I like about the show is the friendship between the four women and the humor.  Sure, the clothes, the shoes and the men are nice eye candy too, not necessarily in that order.  The first movie was pretty dark and it was lacking in humor, even though the other elements were there.  The new movie is completely over the top and completely politically incorrect, but the humor returned, so I enjoyed it.  That ends the movie review portion of this blog post.
And now for the sappy sentimental portion of the blog..  To paraphrase one of the SATC ladies, "Men come and go, but friends are forever".  I feel the same way about you guys.  Thank you all for your friendship throughout the years. It's meant the world to me.

*And yes, if we're playing the "Which Sex and the City character are you?" game, I'm a total Miranda.  You knew that already, of course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm a free bitch, baby!

My emotions have been all over the map lately.  I know this is mainly due to the stress of my upcoming move, but of course it manifested as moping about T.  Today I had one of those moments that smacked me in the face and made me get my head out of my ass.
















It's just in time, too, since I'm having dinner with T tomorrow night.  I'm planning on being calm, cool, collected, and fabulous.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A bit too close to the truth

This is me, being unemployed

Point Reyes Dayhike

I went to Point Reyes today.  If you haven't been there, you should go.  It's one of my favorite places, even though I don't go there often and have only explored a small fraction of it.
I walked to Arch Rock.  If you're only going to do one hike there, this is the one you should do. It's about 4 miles each way.  The trail is wide and smooth, and meanders through a ferny forest next to a creek. 


About halfway there, the trail passes through a meadow.  The trail ends by a craggy cliff that juts out into the ocean.  Arch Rock itself is next to the cliff.  You can see it if you scramble down to the beach, which I've never done sue to my bad knees.  After I got home, I realized that if I had continued about a mile north, I could have taken a real trail down to Arch Rock Beach.  Oh well.  But really, it's about sitting on the rock, relaxing, and looking at the ocean.  If you bring lunch, that's even better.  I had a homemade almond croissant, some beef jerky, trail mix, and celery.  (Yes, my fridge is pretty bare, but it all tasted great even if it was a mismatched assortment.)
It's kind of weird to think that I won't see Point Reyes again for a while.  I have this response to a lot of things these days. I can't think about it too much, or I get sad, even though I know there will be tons of good places to go hiking once I get to Ithaca.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

packing up the really valuable stuff

That's right, I packed up my perfumes and a lot of the bath stuff/toiletries today.  Any remaining illusions of being a minimalist were summarily banished.  Heaven forbid I throw away any of my half full bottles of bubble bath or perfumes!  Oh no, the horrors!  Leave a whole set of dishes for my dad - no problem!  Give away clothes and shoes - no worries, dude.
It's crazy, but there is some reason to it.  I'm not going to rush out and replace those dishes, and those clothes are out of style and/or don't fit, but I sure would replace those bath products in no time flat.
I have started interspersing my packing days with day trips.  It's too boring otherwise, and I waste a lot of time goofing off on the internet.  I went to Monterey yesterday and walked along the ocean for about five hours.  It was very, very nice.  I saw a lot of seals and sea lions.  It was about 65F and there was a little bit of wind, so it was good walking weather.  The iceplant was in full bloom.  It doesn't have much of a scent, but when whole embankments of it are covered in flowers, it does give off a slightly almond-like odor. 
It was the first time I've been to Monterey since T broke up with me.  I avoided it for a while, because of all the memories, as well as the possibility that I might run into him down there.  Anyway, it was ok.  There were some memories, of course, but I walked the sadness into submission and felt much better.

Saturday LOLcat

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cranky Old Biddy, Packing Edition

I'm cranky.  This may have something to do with the fact that I had lots of beer and fried food last night and didn't sleep well, but the sheer amount of junk I have isn't helping.  90% of it is kitchen or decorative stuff my mom gives me, that seems sort of nice so I take it, and then I stick it in a cabinet somewhere and forget about it. I am going to miss living here and being in the same city as my mom, but I am NOT going to miss all the garage sale stuff she foists on me.  Between having a bigger place and not having a continual influx of crap, it's going to be a lot easier to keep my place clean.

Anyway, here's the packing report.
1 (S) box of CD's + DVD's.
1 (S) box of books.
1 (M) box of sweatshirts and clothes
1 (L) box of candles and decorative shit from the living room

Lots of stuff discarded or bagged up for Goodwill

I am taking consolation in the fact that even though I have a lot of crap, I have a lot less crap than T, who is also moving now.  Granted, he only has to do a local move, but he hasn't moved or done a substantial culling in 18 years.  I am glad I don't have to help or listen to him complain about that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

escape from "shoulda, coulda, woulda" land

Last night I went to dinner with some people from my former company.  One of the people there, Z., is a chemical engineer.  In fact, he's a very good chemical engineer.  His last day is in a few weeks.  After that he'll move to Sacramento to start a new job.
His story is not that unusual except in the context of the strange microcosm that is my former company.  He has a wife and a kid, with another kid on the way. He needs a job.  He interviewed on the East Coast and Midwest, as well as in Sacramento.  The job in Sacramento made the most sense.
It was a strange relief to meet someone else who will be relocating, instead of just getting a job at a company with ties to my former company.  The vast majority of the chemists and chemical engineers have done just that and are staying local.  Even the ones who are still unemployed are pretty dead set on staying in the area.
Outside of this microcosm, though, the job market is pretty brutal. 

packing scorecard, day 2

Packed up
so far
9 boxes of books
2 plastic toter containers of camping/sports stuff
1 box (med.) of shoes
down comforter shoved into empty nightstand cabinet which previously contained my Playgirl stash + sex books/toys

for Goodwill
1 large shopping bag of shoes
2 large shopping bags of books

for food drive
2 plastic grocery bags of canned goods

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

you know you're on the internet too much if...

you're surfing the LOLcat page while your cats are glaring at you waiting to be fed, and you think "Wouldn't it be funny if there were a LOLcat picture about that," and then you see one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bad news for the biddy family

My brother got laid off on Friday.  So now both of us siblings are unemployed at the same time.  He's a programmer, so layoffs are par for the course for him.  Nonetheless, it still sucks.
He said he could tell something was up at work.  I know he seemed stressed and was having trouble sleeping when I visited him a week ago.
He hasn't told our parents yet.  Not like I should talk - I waited two months to tell my mom.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Uh gee thanks, I guess....

Every year the county department the county department of agriculture puts some insect/fruit fly traps in my orange and lemon trees.  If I'm not there when they put them up or take them down, they leave a note.  Anyway, they took them down today and left me a note. It was preprinted, but the inspector had signed her name and written, "Nice Flies!"
Uh gee thanks, I guess.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blogging from the airport, Phoenix edition/Salsa festival

I'm at the Phoenix airport now.  Yes, I do spend a lot of time at airports nowadays.  I did the math and realized that in the 3 months that I've been unemployed, I've been out of town for approximately 1/3 of the time.  This will be the last trip that requires flying for a while.
I visited my brother.  We went to the salsa festival on Saturday and Sedona yesterday.  He got hit with a last minute deadline atwork, so we didn't go to Flagstaff on Saturday like we had planned.  Oh well.  Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of Phoenix, but Sedona was very nice, with high desert . I'll blog more about it later, when I've uploaded the pics from my camera.
Spring and fall are festival season in the Phoenix area.  This weekend it was the salsa festival.  (I'd post a link but it seems to not be working at the moment)  It raised money for the hemophilia society.  It cost $10 to enter and then it was all the salsa and chips you could eat. There were at least 100 types. You could 'vote' for your favorite by contributing money for the fan favorite competition.  There were also judges who tested everything.
It's kind of hard to judge that much salsa.  Some tasted better than others.  I would've liked to have had more salsa verde, but I only found one type. My taste buds are still sort of fried, and I had some sort of weird allergic reaction yesterday, where I broke out in hives and one side of my throat swelled up back to normal.  My throat is back to normal but I've still got hives I have no clue what that was about.
Anyway, there was a type called 'Colon Blow'  There was a lot of toilet humor associated with that, of course.  They had a toilet that they'd filled up with dry ice, so it did look like it was going to blow. They also festooned the porta-potties with signs that said stuff like "She tried colon blow', etc  I was amused.  I tried Colon Blow.  It didn't taste hot at first, but then you got hit with habeneros.  My brother and his friend managed to find the salsa that beat Colon Blow on the Scofield hotness scale, but you had to know to ask for it.  They were both in pain for about 15 minutes and it did induce a colon blow/ring of fire the next morning.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday LOLcat

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blogging from the airport, SJC again

I'm back at the airport.  This time I'm at the San Jose airport sitting in the comfy Southwest section.  There's free wifi and comfy chairs with power and USB charger outlets.  I'm sitting here blogging and people watching
I'm visiting my brother in Phoenix this weekend.  We're going to hit the salsa festival tomorrow and then go to Sedona on Sunday.  I'll take lots of pictures and post them here and/or in Facebook.
The water got turned back on at the monster house yesterday, so the inspector was able to finish the inspection.  Everything was fine.  I sent in the mortgage application today, so now things are officially out of the waiting period phase.  Reality is starting to hit.
This was a weird short week, sandwiched between trips. I was sick, it was raining, I didn't get much done, and yet I didn't have much fun.  I had a couple of movers come by and give me quotes, I tried to find a better rate for my mortgage, I ran errands, I worked out, I had dinner with my parents, and I went to an alumni get-together with Mitra.  That was about it.  Next week I'm going to make a point to get out and do some interesting stuff.  I am glad to be going out of town this weekend.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

20 Year College Reunion

My 20-year college reunion for fancy big-name University  is coming up.  I probably won't go, since I'll be living in Ithaca at the time.  As usual, they put out requests for us to send in a page with updates, pictures etc.  Like the dreaded Christmas card bragging letters of yesteryear, these usually end up full of people's successes in life (jobs, marriage, kids, promotions, more kids, etc) rather than failures or hardships.  For past reunions, I didn't bother to send one in.  As you might expect,  I'm even more curmudgeonly this time than in the past. 
Here's what it should say...
"Old biddy has had a crappy year.  Her long-time boyfriend broke up with her last summer, and just as she was starting to get over that, she got a layoff notice at work.  She is currently collecting unemployment and getting ready to move across the country for a new job.  Her hobbies include surfing the internet, blogging, playing Bejeweled Blitz, cooking and eating up the contents of her freezer, cupboards, and liquor cabinet,  being a crazy cat lady, and brooding about her evil ex.  She is looking forward to watching the World Cup this summer and meeting hot guys in Ithaca and being a cougar"
Well, that's a bit extreme, of course.  At first I used the excuse that I didn't officially know where I'd end up. But they extended the deadline and kept bugging me to send one in, and gave the option of just a short update rather than the one page.  I thought about the fact that if people only sent in the bragging letters it makes everyone else even less likely to send stuff in. In a class of 1500 people, there's got to be more than one person who's had a crappy year.  Many people have undoubtedly had a much worse year than me.  Eventually, I sent in a short description about how I had a good run at my former company (IPO, 45 patents, etc) but they reorganized and I got laid off, that I have accepted a job at Cornell, and am getting ready to relocate.  I listed my official hobbies (hiking, gardening, cooking, soccer) and said I was sad to leave the Bay Area but was looking forward to having a bigger house and exploring upstate New York.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monster House: Scary old witchy cat lady edition

Sometimes Missy tells her students stories about her family and friends.  She told them that I was buying a big house.  One of the kids asked if I'd be living in it by myself, and said that was sort of scary. I assumed he meant it was scary to live by yourself, but no, it was more along the lines of me scaring other people.  Yes, it's official, I am now a scary old crazy cat lady, and I haven't even gotten another cat yet. Just a crazy old witch and her cats living on the edge of the forest.. in a monster house with a jacuzzi tub.   From the neighbors' perspective, I'm sure that's still preferable to multiple foreclosure family (who apparently didn't fit in very well, according to Beth) or an empty house.
Houses are bigger and prices are lower out there, and incomes are still pretty high, so it's not uncommon for people without kids to buy large houses.  Beth pointed out some 2500 sq foot houses that she'd sold to single people, who then traded up for something bigger once they got married/had kids.  So me in the monster house is apparently not too unusual.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blogging from the airport, JFK edition complete with 80's music

I'm at the JFK airport now.  I've about halfway through a four hour layover.  I bought a paperback, ate lunch, and talked on the phone with Judy. She's also here at JFK, but she's at another terminal and one of us would have to go through security.  She got stuck in Europe due to the volcanic ash cloud.
Judy was amused when I told her about the monster house.  She did the same thing when she moved to Delaware.  Less than a year later she moved back to California.  Unfortunately, house prices went up a lot that year, and she was priced out of her old area.  Her experience is one reason I'm not selling my CA house.
I have a cold. I'm keeping myself well-drugged with Sudafed to get through the flights.
It's weird.  I've been so busy and preoccupied during this trip that I haven't been thinking abut T as much as usual.  That's a good thing, of course.  But when I do think about him, it hurts more.  I guess I'm just storing it up.
Finding a place to live wasn't the only reason for my visit.  My future boss and I were putting together an equipment proposal.  I think we made a strong case, but of course I am biased.  We sent it out this morning. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we get it. 
I had a strange realization as I was driving back to my motel last night.  I felt a little bit sad about leaving Ithaca.  I think that's a good sign. Not that I won't be sad to leave CA, of course, but I've never once had that 'OMG I don't want to live here!" feeling like I did about the other places I interviewed.
Time to go get coffee.  I'll blog more when I get back to California.

Blogging from the airport, Syracuse edition

I'm at the Syracuse airport now.  After getting the house stuff wrapped up on Friday, I worked on the proposal on Saturday and did touristy stuff yesterday.  It was nice to have some time to go explore.
Sunday started off cold and rainy. It was about 40F. I had brunch at a motel nearby.  The grad students had recommended it.  I could understand why - all you can eat for $6.95.  Then I drove up the east side of Cayuga Lake to Taughannock State Park.  The park abuts Cayuga Lake, and there is a nice picnic area and boat launch at the main entrance.  The main attraction is Taughanock Falls, however.  It's one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies, and is actually higher than Niagara Falls, although a lot less water falls through. Eons and eons ago, the waterfalf was right by the lake, but over time the rock got eroded so that now it's about 3/4 mile inland.
The trail stays open all year, so that's sort of unusual.  It's wide and flat.  If you want a better workout you can do the upper rim trail, but it was cold and I hadn't packed enough warm clothes, so I stuck with the easy walk.  The falls are pretty dramatic.  The amount of water varies greatly throughout the year.  After I finished my walk, I continued driving north towards the Cayuga Lakes Wine Trail.  There is a cluster of wineries in the area, as well as a place that makes hard cider. I'll come back sometime and try it.

After driving for a while, I turned around and headed back towards Ithaca.  I stopped off at Eastern Mountain Sports and bought a T-shirt and some long underwear (it was on sale).  I drove past my future house, just because it makes me happy to do that, and then I headed over to Cornell and walked around the campus and the surrounding areas for a while.  Then I drove over to to the Cornell Botanical Gardens. It's free and is open all year round.  I liked the herb garden.  All the plants are marked and are divided by category, e.g. herbs that the indians used, herbs for cooking, herbs for tea, herbs for dying fabric, etc..  I liked that everything was labelled, because I'm always looking at plants and wondering what they are. Most of the plants were still dormant, but I'm sure it will be really nice in a month or two.
There were also other sorts of themed gardens and wooded areas, but there was construction going on and I didn't see everything.  I couldn't find the poisonous plant garden, but I guess they would keep that sort of hidden away. 
The plane is about to board, so I'll blog more from the next airport.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday LOLcat

Friday, April 16, 2010

Monster House: Foreclosure story

My real estate agent, Beth, sold the monster house to the first owners.  She knew the gossip behind the foreclosure.  It's a classic case of greed and poor planning on the part of the first owners and stupidity on the part of the banks.  The dude had already been foreclosed on twice in other states. He moved to Ithaca and tried to get financing from a local bank to buy brand new monster house with 5% down payment.  They turned him down.  He went through an internet bank, who then sold his mortgage to the same bank that turned him down.  D'ohhh!  They moved into the house, his wife had twins, he lost his job, and then lost the house.  Somewhere along the line they filled up the house with a ton of fancy stuff, as evidenced by the pictures.
I'm sympathetic about him losing his job, but the rest is so out of whack that I don't even need to snark

Monster House: Intro

Short version: I'm in Ithaca now.  I put down an offer on a house. It was accepted.  This is what it looks like. The end. 
Long Version: I did everything I said I wouldn't do, except for one thing.  Buy a foreclosure house-check.  Buy something a little bit further out instead of something close to campus- check.  Buy a big house - check. Buy a newish house - check.  Buy a house that my real estate agent was listing - check.  Buy a house up on a hill so I will have to clear snow off my driveway -well, that one wasn't on my list but I added it for good measure.  Go outside my price range - well, that was actually the one thing I didn't do, but that part comes later in the story..
I'll spare you all of the play by play on the houses I didn't like, which were many.  Big ones, small ones, new ones, old ones.  The ones with a nice yard looked weird inside, and the cute older homes backed up to a really busy road or were in poor condition. The purple house next to campus was just weird.  The other purple house had floors that sagged badly and, I kid you not, a bathroom that was 6 inches higher than the rest of the hall.(There was a step). Clearly, my price range was a bit too low to get me something with more pluses than minuses near campus.  There were two that I did like - a cute remodeled house near campus, and the monster house.  The cute remodeled older house had only two problems - the bathtub sucked, and it was already in contract, which means a 3 day free for all where competing offers can still be presented.  The monster house had problems, but they were all related to my preconceived notions of what I wanted, rather than the house itself.  The house itself is great.  I have this image of myself as preferring small, older houses in convenient locations, because that's what I had in CA.  But I have a not-so-secret fondness for modern luxuries such as fancy kitchens and bathrooms. After I looked at the house the first time, I spent a sleepless night fretting about what to do.  I looked at it again the next day, along with a lot of other houses.  I still liked it the best.  The real estate agent had called the bank and they told her they would give a fast response to any offer.  I put in an offer that was $35k lower than the asking price, and $10k lower than one the bank turned down a few months ago. They accepted it within a few hours.  I can't believe it.  I'm not sure, but my real estate agent may've twisted a few arms on my behalf, and, of course on her own behalf. The inspection was today.  The city had turned off the water, but the bank thought it was on, so the inspector couldn't check that today.  He'll do it next week.  He found a few really minor things but nothing big.
So anyway, I'm getting a house on a hill that backs up onto a forest.  How f^%$ng cool is that?!?!