Saturday, August 30, 2008

Computers and headaches

I found out last year that the thankfully rare, but severe headaches I tend to get are - in fact - migraines. For the past few weeks, I've had one trying to come on and it finally got me on Thursday.

The strangest thing about mine is that if I'm really still and quiet - it doesn't hurt. But I see loud noises (and my definition of loud becomes over-sensitive). My sleep is riddled with strange dreams that don't make sense - or at least, that make less sense than the typical nonsense I dream about.

Part of me thinks I might get these in August as some kind of residual "back-to-school" stress. Having been a student and teacher for several years, I used to get stressed towards the end of August. The dreams lead me to think there is a little bit to this.

In one of them, I was waiting in line to register for a dorm ... but they had you standing on such a narrow ledge that you were constantly falling backwards (if you fell off, you had to start at the back of the line again). My arms were full of books and things, so it was pretty difficult to hold on, and the staff weren't exactly being friendly and cooperative.

Another dream had something to do with my computer acting up. If you ask me, a computer is generally a headache as it is. I've been hearing bad things about the latest "security update" from Microsoft, so when it popped up on my computer I told it to wait. I went to back everything up, only to discover that the thing I've been backing them up to is now too small. So the "essential" update I've lived without for several years will have to wait.

When those "Hi, I'm a Mac" - "And I'm a PC" commercials first came out, I didn't like them. I didn't care for the "young hip" guy, and didn't like the portrayal of the PC. Perhaps I was taking it a bit personally.

But lately - they've started making sense. Especially the one where PC is sitting on a throne, and Mac has a helper to help you move your files to your new Mac computer. The last year or so, I've always said next time I need a computer - I'm walking into the Apple store and telling them they have 15 minutes to teach me to use the thing (with its backwards window closing button things) and I'll abandon Microsoft.

Send some prayers to the Gulf Coast this weekend - Gustav sounds like it is going to be bad. I know the coast is more prepared this time, but it is still devastating - especially with it bearing down on areas that are still trying to recover from Katrina almost exactly 3 years ago.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Redneck/Ghetto Food Dehydrator

So tonight after church I decided to embark on a crazy experiment.

This experiment was sparked by yet another experiment which is still underway, which was sparked on a flight.

If you've ever been on a plane, you've seen a copy of the Sky Mall magazine. I'm not sure if it is the proliferation of the internet or my age that has taken away some of its novelty, but it takes a little more to surprise or intrigue me in there these days (though the prices sure do send my eyebrows skyward).

Being an apartment dweller, the most recent thing to pique my interest was the hanging garden. It's basically a plastic stand you put potting soil (not included) in the top of and sand (also not included) in the bottom of that allows you to grow hanging tomatoes with herbs nestled on top.

I really liked the idea of that, but I did not like the $70 price tag. I did a little research, and found that the same effect could be had (in a much more attractive way) by creating a hanging garden out of a regular plastic planting pot. My dad helped me drill a hole in the bottom, which we covered with weed-stop fabric, and make holes for hanging. We filled it with dirt, and planted a roma tomato peeking out the fabric on the bottom, and herbs (oregano and basil) on the top. It is growing like crazy! I don't have any tomatoes yet, but perhaps I wasn't too late to catch the fall tomato season.

Well, I got to thinking - what am I going to do with all these herbs? I have a mint that is going crazy in a pot on my patio as well. A coworker suggested making my own food dehydrator (as I'm a rather frugal person and thought buying a dehydrator was not only expensive, but would take up room).

At first I thought this sounded like it wouldn't work - but as a mentioned it around different people - it turns out a lot have had it work, or have heard of it working. In fact, someone at church tonight said that the method was featured on "Good Eats" by Alton Brown, and I absolutely love that show (come on, it's cooking meets science class! what more could I want?).

So tonight I got the box fan, air filters, and bungie cords. I found a big box fan for 12.97 at Home Depot. The filters were 56 cents each, I used 20x20x1 size. I later found that Alton suggested cellulose if possible, rather than fiberglass. Makes sense - but I don't think the ones I got will stick to the food (plus, the other styles were rather expensive).

I used four plastic cups that were the same size that I happened to have around and laid the fan on its back on top of them. To test this method, I sliced up strawberries and bananas. I laid on filter on top of the fan, and spread out the fruit (leaving the middle, where that center, solid part of the fan is empty in case air flow isn't as good there). I topped it off with a fruitless filter, and strapped them down with the bungie cord.

The fan is currently humming away behind me on the highest setting, and the air is filled with the scent of strawberries and bananas (not bad!).

I figure if it doesn't work - I'll have a back-up fan (I sleep with a fan on) and a couple of sticky filters. I'm not sure how long it will take, but I'll be sure to make a post after I check them in the morning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Runaway truck!

Sometimes, you're minding your own business and witness something strange.

Without going into too much detail about my work ... my department basically has two facilities which are about a quarter mile or so apart. I'll call them building A and building B. Today my day started, as it typically does, at building A. After lunch, several of us walked to building B (the parking lot there is usually full). So - at the end of the day my car is still at building A. I had to walk back.

Now, the building A facility abuts a warehouse. To walk back to my car, I walk next to a fenced in delivery area of said warehouse. Imagine a small road between two chain-link fences - one containing a warehouse loading area, the other - blocking a sharp, 10 foot drop into a creek.

As I walked by the warehouse, squinting in the sun, I heard someone shouting "WHOA WHOA WHOA STOP!" I look up as boxes start tumbling between a truck and the loading dock it was backed up to. At first, I can't tell why there is a space for the boxes to fall into ... then I realize - the truck is slowly starting to roll forward.

The ground is slightly sloped toward the creek. One of the workers jumps from the dock, and attempts to open the cab of the truck.

It's locked.

Now I'm thinking it may be a while before I get home - picturing the truck barreling through both fences and into the creek. In my mind the fence is dragged across the only entry and exit into the lot where I am parked, not to mention the tow truck or other equipment that will have to come try to pull it out.

Back to the rolling truck "It's locked!" shouts the worker. "You idiot!" shouts a second worker "Stand in front of it!" I'm thinking this is a bad idea, and I'm right. He pushes against the front of the truck and doesn't even slow it down.

A third worker, seems to have his thinking cap on. He picks up a box of paper and starts running. Now, he doesn't look like someone who runs very often, and that box has to be heavy - but he's giving it all he's got. The helpful second worker - who to this point has done nothing but shout from the dock, hops down and is yelling "Hurry!"

I'm starting to worry he isn't going to make it - but finally the worker carrying the box is even with the rear wheel, and impressively throws it - managing to shove the box in front of the wheel without ever putting himself in the line of danger.

The box explodes loudly, but the reams of paper stack against one another and with a clanging the truck comes to a stop.

When I left ten or fifteen minutes later, they were back to business as usual - loading the dropped boxes into the truck. Kinda makes one wonder if this has happened before?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Unbelievably shallow

All week, I've been hearing about the movie "Tropic Thunder." Well, basically all I knew at first is that it is an R-rated comedy by Ben Stiller. Frankly - that's enough to stop me from having any desire to see it. Granted, Ben Stiller has some funny movies - while I wouldn't say I "like" Zoolander - I have to admit it made me laugh. Night at the Museum was terrific! But the last Stiller "comedy" I saw - Heartbreak Kid - had no redeeming qualities. It wasn't funny at all - it just made me and the people I saw it with uncomfortable.

This week, what I've been hearing is protest from groups such as Friends of the Special Olympics for the movie's use of the word retard. Frankly - I'll admit that we called each other that plenty of times and meant nothing in relation to people who truly had special needs. And while I understand these groups asking people not to go see the movie - it is, in fact, a movie. When I have a problem with a movie, I don't go see it, but I don't necessarily try to prevent others from seeing it.

And to be quite honest - I have a problem with some of the words that have been in the news lately as being "offensive." Why is it that we cry out when a word indicating race or intelligence is used in movies, yet words demeaning women are used in most movies, and no one finds any fault in it? Perhaps it is because I'm more personally offended by such words that they get my dander up. But again, this is the United States of America. If someone wants to make or watch a movie full of such derogatory statements, no one is making me go watch it. I guess it is just the fact that it is supposed to be "funny" that really irks me.

To do a little more research, I looked up Tropic Thunder on a Christian website that reviews movies. It really sounds no worse than most of the other recent comedies, and in fact they applaud the fact that it makes fun of Hollywood. So I suppose I'll save my verdict on if I'll ever see this one until someone I know sees it. I'm guessing the fact that I haven't even seen Batman yet - which I want to see - means the likelihood of my ever watching this one pretty low.

While I'm ranting, I have to give my two cents about eHarmony. Some of you probably know I've been on there for a while now. I've been on a few dates, had a good time, but nothing came of it. Which is perfectly fine! However, I am feeling rather done with the whole online dating thing. About half of the people they match me with aren't really members of eHarmony, therefore cannot communicate. Of those left, about half close the match because they are already pursuing another relationship. Why on earth they have an active eHarmony account in that case I do not know - you can easily turn the matching off if you meet someone.

Which leaves the few whose profiles I bother to read. A lot of them seem fed up with the female of our species altogether and are rather self deprecating - not someone ready for a relationship at all. Some of them list "a woman to love" or "the one" as something they can't live without - so I'm afraid they are a little too desperate for the relationship and that who it is with may not be important until they realize it is the wrong one.

The few left with a little confidence, well, I'm not sure how I "match them on 29 levels of compatibility." As well intentioned as the creator of the site may have been, I'm starting to think that his books and the eHarmony system may be a big sell. Of those left, they are either looking for a woman to serve with them, willing to drop everything. Noble intentions - but from my standpoint - I'm almost 30 and I've worked very hard to be where I am. I'm definitely not starting a relationship knowing that if we get married, this guy is going to expect me to just drop it all. If I end up in a relationship and God indicates that's what I'm to do, that is a different story.

And that leaves the incredibly shallow guys. They either say they are Christian, but then nothing in their profile indicates that (especially the fact that some of them mention physical affection being necessary to them - maybe I'm reading too much into that, but that seems inappropriate). Some of them go on and on about serving God, etc ... but in the section that asks what is important to them in another person - well. I don't want to take a direct quote, but I think I saw the shallowest one today.

He said the most important thing he is looking for in woman is that she is attractive. And that he prefers girls (GIRLS, ha) taller than himself (he's 6'). He even mentions this again in his "additional information he wants you to know" section - that he loves girls of "above average height and beauty." He likes for a girl who can get dressed up in heels but who also loves her favorite blue-jeans. Gag me with a fork.

If that one didn't set off all the alarms and red lights and flags ... then my knower is broken.

On a happier note, since my decision to let my eHarmony account expire, I feel a certain freedom. See, I kept saying I was leaving all this dating stuff up to God. Then one morning, in a voice - but not in a voice (if you know what I mean?) God basically said that I say I'm letting go - but that I'm still not trusting Him. And He is so very right. God can work around the fact that I don't meet a lot of date-able single men. And He doesn't need a website to do it.

There's a certain freedom in truly letting go and leaving the really important things up to God. And I know He'll do a better job than I could ever imagine doing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Case of the Mondays

Yesterday was Monday - and boy was it ever! I don't usually feel the blahs on a Monday, but I guess something about too many people in two small of a space at the beginning of the week in the dog days of summer brought them on.

Sometimes a culmination of weird events, tense coworkers, and female hormones can just ruin what started out as a great morning. I added 5 seconds of time spent running to each running section of my morning "run/walk," I didn't leave my coffee sitting on the counter, and my apartment was sparkling clean from a nice scrub over the weekend. As a matter of fact, other than a disposal scare - the weekend was great.

Sunday afternoon I decided to boil some eggs for lunch. After peeling the shell off, I was shoving them into the disposal in order to grind them into oblivion - and my dad always said the shells help clean the blades. As I retracted my hand through the disgusting rubber collar in the drain (you know what I'm talking about) my Aggie ring slipped right off my finger. Now, in some ways this isn't a horrible thing. Like my pants, my rings are getting looser lately - I'm losing weight - great! My precious Aggie ring lying in the disposal, not great!

Wincing, I put my hand back in to feel among the shell and blades for my ring. Even though I live alone, and have never once heard my disposal suddenly start up on its own in the middle of the night - something about having my hand down in there makes me feel panicked. Nevermind that I had been listening to classical music on the radio while cooking, and at this moment a rather allegro piece had started - it's one of those I'm sure you'd recognize, but which I do not know the name of.

The song only ratchets my feeling of urgency up a notch as my fingers probe between blades. When I finally feel the ring, my heart is thudding as if I've just narrowly escape a brush with death! Visions like a horror film have been flashing through my head ... a dark night, a young woman making a snack, and the lights flashing as she lets loose a blood curdling scream - her hand trapped in the disposal. Though I've actually never heard of anyone's hand getting chewed up in a disposal ...

So I'll attribute that weird thing to part of Monday being so Monday. The second weird thing? Spontaneously exploding veggies at lunch. Probably the most unexpected thing I've ever had happen involving food. I had microwaved some formerly frozen mixed vegetables in a Pyrex container - I do it on an almost daily basis. Returning to my desk, I set the bowl down and put the lid loosely on top to wait for it to cool.

A few minutes later, BAM! And not a dash of Essence BAM ... but BAM, hot steam and a couple of snap peas smack my wrist.

My only theory is that as the dish cooled, the lid was sucking down onto the top. It finally sunk far enough that the lip started to roll over, and much like those plastic disks you play with as a kid (you flip them over, they pop up off the table a moment later?) ... it flipped. The lid is a bit concave in shape, where it used to be flat ... so that's what I'm basing this theory on.

The suddenness and strange hilarity of it seemed to break the Monday curse though, and I made it through the day with only one weird teary-eyed moment.

Thank goodness its Tuesday!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lessons from nature

I know we feel closer to God in different ways at different stages of life, but for me - nature has always been where I see, hear, and feel God the most. Jesus Himself uses nature as analogous to our faith and actions in many of His teachings.

In nature I don't find anything artificial or with its own agenda regarding my soul. And there I can truly "be still" and listen to God. Regarding the wonders of His creation are a form of very private worship for me very different, but not replacing, the acts of worship such as singing and serving.

Today - nature has taught me a couple of lessons. The first being about good soil. In the gospel, Jesus teaches about the different types of soil - an analogy for our acceptance of His word, and what we do with it upon hearing. In those with souls like rocks the Word cannot take root, in some souls it springs up quickly - like a fad - and fades because it has no strong roots. Sometimes the world chokes out the growth - the weeds have been allowed to take over.

This brings me to my little lesson today - when I picture weeds choking out a plant, I picture something tall like a goldenrod towering over a bean plant, stealing its sunlight. But that is so obvious - what about the more subtle "weeds?"

I have an ivy I keep in my kitchen. It came from cuttings that my mother gave me. I was very proud of the way it took root and has been growing. Little did I know that the soil was breeding an infestation of what are known as fungus gnats. Their larvae are tiny, the eggs microscopic, the adults are small and plentiful. And annoying! I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out where they were coming from. Taking out the garbage before it was full didn't help. Cleaning the drains in the kitchen didn't help. Then I realized that they seemed most concentrated around my plant.

After doing some research - I found that they are generally harmless - but could be hurting the tender, new-growth roots of my plant. These verses about soil immediately popped into my mind. Like a warning, that just because we are "good soil" - in which God's Word has taken root and grown - subtle destruction can sneak into our lives and prevent further growth - prevent us from producing new seeds. Everything looks fine on the outside - perhaps we are not prone to drunkenness, gambling, stealing - more obvious sins (though these can be hidden as well). But our thought life - the things we think about other people, the things we choose to fill our minds with, jealousy, anger, hatred ... could be rotting us from within.

The plant is outside being treated with a combination fungicide/insecticide. If that doesn't work - I will have to throw it out and start over. Much like God teaches us about rebuking a brother or sister - if they do not change their ways, you must part with them. The infection can easily spread.

So what is the answer to preventing this? Well, nature showed me that too. I've been watching the "Planet Earth" series - it's simply amazing. Words can describe it, and I can't imagine what the real scenes must have looked like out from behind the lens.

The first thoughts they've provoked are those not-quite forgotten dreams of being a wildlife photographer - but also something deeper. Watching the struggles that the animals endure, the way they persevere ... God has given them the tools and the strength they need to overcome mountain passes over 5 miles high, to go for months without food while feeding and protecting their young from winter's cold, traveling hundreds of miles for food and water across parched desert with sand blowing around them.

If they want for nothing - I want for nothing to persevere and keep the health of my soul like that of the good and fertile soil - both the seen, and the unseen. God cares enough about nature to provide for the plants and animals - how much more must He care about me to send His son to die for me? It is not too much for me to handle with His help.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Yog, I'm gonna blog

So - as a writer-in-hiding, you'd think I would have had a blog long ago. But I'm a little wary of bandwagons - so I didn't. That said - so many of my friends share the awesome things about their lives via blogs. It beats email, because I don't send it to you - you come read it if you want. I may not have as much fun as kids and home-remodels to share - but sometimes putting together a sandwich becomes a story for me ;)

Actually - I intended to do this a while back, but then I got rid of my home internet connection. Kinda put a damper on that one.

Long story short - it is 9:30 pm, and though I plan to get up to run at 5 am - here I am.

That's right - I'm getting up to run. As a matter of fact, this will be my third week of doing so. I'm using the term "run" a bit loosely - it's more of a walk/run - but hey, it's a start. I've tried to become a "runner" many times in the past, but things like illness, the heat, lack of time, and pain got in the way.

5am takes care of the heat and most of the other excuses. I slip out of bed and into my clothes without really thinking about it, and next thing you know I'm outside in the quiet morning air. In all honesty - this has become one of my favorite times of day. It is quiet, it is still, and I feel like I'm the only soul in the world awake.

God seems much closer in the morning without all the distractions and noise. I don't wear headphones or anything. I just talk to and listen to God. Part of my route takes me to the top of a hill where I can look out over downtown Austin - the UT tower, the capital, Frost tower. It's amazing that such a decent sized city can seem so quiet and peaceful - but from far enough away at the right time of morning - she is. This view also reminds me to pray for our leaders. Sometimes the wind rushes over me and lifts my hair, and it feels like a hug from God. What better way to start the day?

To take care of the pain, I started seeing a chiropractor. It turns out, I got shooting pains in my leg when I ran in the past because I have sciatica ... a pinched nerve at the base of my spine. Getting that taken care of is doing wonders for me! It was a little rough at first - I had some soreness from the adjustments - but I started noticing little things like the fact that I now have more sensation through my feet and toes than I used to! I didn't even know I'd lost anything!

This past weekend our pastor spoke on self-control - on making our bodies slaves to us rather than the other way around. I knew running was good for my heart, but I never knew it would be so good for my soul. Amazingly enough - I'm already to the point that I say I wouldn't give it up for anything - I actually look forward to the days that I run!

So I'll close there for my first attempt. I have a fun day of taking apart and reassembling a shotgun tomorrow, so I probably should get some sleep.