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random musings of a crazy cat lady

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.
-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.