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Lanesboro, sink, oven-fire

Going to MN to attend the wedding of two lesbians from Taiwan was indeed good for the soul, and much appreciated in these dark times.
The wedding was tiny - just my brother and his wife and the happy couple, and two of us as witnesses.  Then chocolate cake.

We stayed at the Stone Mill B&B in Lanesboro - very pleasant.  We did a lot of walking around town - brother's condo is at the top of a steep hill; the walking felt wonderful after so much sitting at a desk lately.  Beautiful scenery in Lanesboro, and a small fabric shop, and art shops.

At one stop, I found what is apparently the sink I've been waiting for, from Joel Sampson.  A pottery sink, based on a lotus leaf.  The next inside-house project is a complete gut-and-remodel of the guest bath.  I basically knew what I wanted to do, and had intended to use an ok sink from Menards...but this is way cooler and not much more expensive.  And it's crystallized some design details for me.  I'm still comfortable with doing all the work myself - will be the largest project I've taken on, but I'm barely moving the plumbing, probably not moving any electrical, and not cutting into anything structural.  I'm looking forward to the project.

The drive back was pleasant and scenic.  Dinner with Z - vegetable fajitas.

Then, back to the salt mines.  As of Friday, I'd already logged 68 hours of overtime for the year (even with taking 2 days of vacation).  Somewhere in there I managed to fit in a gripe session with boss...which didn't help much.  I think things will taper off a bit, for me at least...not necessarily for the rest of the team.  But they could easily flare up again, due to all the neglected things that, even with overtime, haven't been addressed and are going to need attention soon.  It is so very inefficient to have multiple people going to so many meetings...I attended 20 meetings last week - which really puts a damper on getting any actual work done (especially when I can't rid myself of the "hold music" earworm).  The mental whiplash of trying to switch back and forth between completely disjoint projects/topics isn't helping either.

Somewhere in there, I finally joined twitter.  More as a consumer than a producer, currently:  to follow some news, and news-related people.

And I got in a little yardwork time over the weekend.  Clearing brush from the site of one spring project - partly in the hope of reducing the tick population in that area.

The first round of "soil sprouts" turned out well - just as idiot-proof as advertised.  I will grow more; a dead-easy source of truly fresh greens in Wisconsin in the winter is much appreciated.

While baking brownies last week, I heard a noise from the kitchen - like a junebug caught in a window, if the junebug were six feet tall.  I turned around, to see the inside of my oven glowing like the gates of hell.  I had simultaneous thoughts of "shit! my house!  where are the cats?!" and "COOL!!".  I turned off the oven.  Then, feeling less trusting of it than I had, I unplugged it.  Pretty sure the heating element shorted out and all I need to do is replace it.  But that thing is old and filthy and has never run true to temp (and the fault isn't linear, so baking gets very tricky).  This seems like a good excuse to get a new one.  Maybe also a shiny new fridge, we'll see.

(The brownies survived the fire.  Cherry-pecan.)

the day after

Friday, Z came over.  We thought an appropriately disturbing film to watch on inauguration day would be The Birth of a Nation (the 1914 film, not the 2016 one).  Got about 15 minutes in...nope.  Switched to fluffy tv.
And we vented, and talked about how to approach the coming years; I appreciated that, as some of my friends aren't ready to face things yet, and I'm trying to respect that.  For my part...I am a non-joiner, so I must find other ways to try to help make things better.  To "maintian the individual within the herd", as it says on the spirit guide my friends once helped pick out for me.

Saturday, K brought Pho King for lunch, then we headed over to Madison.  We arrived as the marches were starting to break up; being downtown Madison, the post-march vibe lasted all night.  We went to Chazen and saw (among other things) Beth Cavener's "L’Amante" - pic below.  Then we took Karen to see the John Muir desk.  Then we walked and walked...went to a fantastic art supplies store, and A Room of One's Own bookstore.   Then dinner at Kabul.  I had vegetarian ashak (scallion-filled dumplings with beans and yogurt sauce), topped with bamya (okra with spices).  I never knew scallions could taste that good.

At the bookstore, I got Taste of Persia, The Complete Persepolis, and Born a Crime.
Also on the current reading list are Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening and The Bio-Integrated Farm.

Next week I'm escaping work (and missing at least six meetings, including an "all hands") to go to MN:  eldest brother's daughter (by adoption/patronage/friendship) and her girlfriend are visiting from Japan and they're getting married.  I hope the weather cooperates so I can go; scheduling winter travel is always tricky.

fortress of squalitude

There has been yelling and crying at work (so far, just yelling from me).  The re-org could only even marginally work if we added people...but after the re-org the managers got the word that none of the promised people would be added.  Then one teammate left - a very reasonable response, since they had re-orged away all of his most interesting work and effectively demoted him, even though he's one of the best people on the team.
Bosses were caught off-guard by the lack of people and don't know how to re-re-org.  And newBoss and idiotBoss are way not on the same page about where to go.  The result being that we're all frustrated and overworked and almost completely without direction.  I did have a good talk with newBoss, and wrote up some stuff for him that might help a tiny bit, and reiterated that if they don't get their shit&message together immediately, they will lose more people.
The main project I'm on is mostly not falling apart now.  But I just picked up two more projects that seem determined to ruin themselves - I have nothing like enough attention to give them.  In my current position, I'm not supposed to have any projects past some initial triage/guidance but...re-org/headcount.
I got a promotion out of the deal...but the new job title didn't have any of the right permissions in the system - I'm still trying to reconstruct the access that I had before.

Well anyway, Friday was vacation.  Today was holiday.  Tomorrow is my work-from-home day.  I've holed up and haven't left my property since I got home Thursday night.  I'm exhibiting the signs of a significant drop in stress levels.  (I now officially have no family obligations for the holidays...I'd prefer it if Mom were still around, and I'd prefer it if more of the family talked to each other.  But they still talk to me at least.  And I'm fine with a semblance of holiday observance no longer being required of me.)

Housecleaning, poring over seed catalogs, posting seed reviews, sleeping....
Made experimental...let's call it a vegetarian gumbo lasagna.  And experimental cranberry cherry walnut pie with sort of a fruitcake topping.
Both turned out shockingly well.
jtj608 came over and we watched the Doctor Who Christmas special.
I finally ordered K's belated birthday gift - and a couple things for myself.
Tonight, more seed orders.  Or maybe I'll work on C's birthday gift, or that pocket-ful skirt I keep meaning to make out of the old cargo pants.
Or, maybe I'll play games on my phone and take another nap.  8am meeting tomorrow, and a 2-hour meeting for one of the new doomed projects.

Grateful that I'm not in North Dakota, with the blizzard and ice and wind.  We have some serious wind here, but it was 43 degrees today.
Yesterday I hear a birdsong that I associate with impending spring - which freaked me out a bit.

Manabu Ikeda

Last week we made it to Chazen, to see Manabu Ikeda's work - "Rebirth" - before it went to Japan.
It was like pulling teeth to get out of work early, but well worth it.  Pictures and videos of the art/artist here and here.
He spent three years on it.

An earlier work - "Meltdown" - is also at Chazen.

The earthquake/tsunami/meltdown is still heartwrenching to think about.

I could have stared at Ikeda's work for hours or days.
Chazen has some nice stuff...wandered about a bit.  I should get to UW more.

After, we stopped at Browzer's bookstore - I got there 10 minutes before close.

There was a game that night, so the wait at Dotty's was over an hour.
So we went to Porta Bella for dinner instead.  We all had chocolate tartufo for dessert.

the last 6 weeks or so

I (voted first then) drank bourbon for 6 hours, but still survived the election.  I was one of the weird ones who wasn't entirely surprised by the outcome.  Deeply, deeply disappointed, but not surprised.  I've decided the best response is to try to be a better, kinder person.  I'm not sure I've made much progress yet.

A friend once said "a perceived injustice is still an injustice".  There are people who perceive themselves as being disadvantaged and ignored - and voted accordingly.  Berating them does nothing but add to the discord.  But I'm not sure yet how best to defuse/redirect/repair.  I took vacation the entire week of the election - it's a mixed group of voters, and some are quite vocal, and I wasn't ready yet.

The current big project at work is...too many kinds of messed up to enumerate.  The way things work (for all projects, not just this one) is that the consulting company writes our design, and we hope we are able to correct it before we are expected to implement it.
Meanwhile, our teams had an internal re-org, to try to do something that isn't going to work with the available headcount.  And even if we did have enough people, half the team gets the short end of the stick.  We've already lost one teammate who had all the work he loved best ripped away from him.  For my part - what I do isn't changing much, except there is somehow now even more of it.  Oh, and I got a promotion...and some automated system somewhere disabled all my permissions because of it.

I took in Z's cat - WoolyBear, the tortoiseshell manx that turned up in my yard.  Z needed to move the house rabbits back downstairs, and there just wasn't any way to keep predators and prey separated.  WoolyBear seemed a bit off; we initially thought it was bad teeth, but the eventual conclusion was intestinal cancer.  She was with me for only three weeks; she died Friday evening.  She was a real sweetie - purring and sleeping on my head every night until she was too weak to get to the bed.  Well, even after that, as she would gaze up pleadingly and I'd lift her up and she'd settle in.  Even in the final days she'd painstakingly, politely make her way to the closest litterbox, or as close as she could get - then need a nap before she could travel the six feet back to her fuzzy blanket on the floor.  I gave her pain meds and subcutaneous fluids and petting.  She went quietly at home, spared yet again still another trip to the vet.

I first saw her a year ago, sleeping in a pile of sun-dappled leaves along the edge of the white pines.  That's where and how I buried her.

I'm just now reading through my friends feed for the first time in over a month.  It seems there are plenty of troubles to go around.

But there's good stuff too.  A friend who's been in the hospital for various things most of the year is on track to go home soon.  Friends were over a couple weekends ago for gaming and it was very pleasant.  Z and K came over for a low-key Thanksgiving meal and socializing.  I finished my sword holder.  I've been reading more.


Fermentation Fest


Geez, not only have I not posted in months, it's been nearly as long since I checked my friends feed....

Saturday I did Last Harvest.  Because, you know, "winter is coming".  Some tiny ears of glass gem corn, a nice assortment of winter squash, a bunch of tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers...Thai basil.  One tiny Bateekh Samarra melon.

Sunday Z and I went to the last day of Fermentation Fest.  We drove around and stared at...seriously people, that's craft at best, not art.  But I did get samples of different sauerkrauts, spiced burdock tea, etc.  I got to make&take some fermented hot sauce in a mini-class (well, it needs to sit on my countertop for a few weeks now).  Beautiful scenery around Reedsburg, and a nice sunny day.  We stopped at a barn sale where I found a frog identification audio tape in a "free" box (although tempting, I did not take all the free falconry paraphernalia in the same box).  Z and I listened to the tape, learned a few things, and then sang Michigan J. Frog songs for the rest of the day.

I entered the apple pie contest.  I didn't win, but I had fun buying apples at my new favorite orchard (Lapacek's) and perfecting my recipe.  I got feedback from Peter Reinhart; main criticism was that it wasn't sweet enough.  Which I'm fine with; I find most apple pie to be cloyingly sweet.  I want to actually be able to taste the apples.  I'm very happy with the wheat crust I came up with (wheat flour, sorghum flour, wheat germ, and butter) -flaky and tender.  Per internet, I thin-sliced the apples to avoid a soggy bottom crust - and it worked!

I've dug up some pepper plants, to try "bonchi".  Could be cool.  And if not...well, the plants were going to die over winter anyway.

sword

I used to hang out with a group in Michigan, where - among other things - I studied western European swordsmanship.
The group had their issues, but a cautious person could learn a great deal there.  As with any martial art (at least for me), it's the love of the study that motivates me.  The weapon becomes an extension of one's arm; the motions become beautiful, you become calm and focused....
I fell out with my main link to the group (for reasons outside the group).  It was an ugly, devastating situation that threw me into a walking depression for years (I kept my job and paid my bills while I just...waited it out).

About five years ago, I went to the MN ren fest with my sister, my niece, and Mom.
I stopped at the Badger Blades booth, and became very enamored of a sword there.
But I couldn't justify spending $$$ on a sword that day.  Plus, I didn't feel ready yet - I hadn't yet recovered from Michigan.
After I left the booth, Mom said "you should buy it".  Which is not something I expected Mom to ever say about a sword.

A few weeks ago, I went back to the ren fest, to get...well not the same sword, but the same style (bastard sword).  It's a five-hour drive, but one does not buy a sword by mail.  I turned it into a long weekend; Z and I had a fine scenic drive along the Mississippi, I saw my sister and niece, and I saw eldest brother.  We were at the ren fest just long enough to get the sword, then went to the really big candy store, then to the very nice sushi restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.  The next day, we did the Minnesota zoo.  I got to see the Amur leopard.  I'm in two minds about zoos, but I like the way this one is organized.  Z was enamored of the prairie dogs.  On the drive back, we did a quick turn through Trempeleau NWR.

This is not a sword for show.  It is a tool.  Cutting trees, refrigerators, cars...is considered "normal use".
The sword oil has a touch of clove oil in it, and smells divine.

Getting the sword is symbolic for me, because it means I am finally Ready, to learn the new form of all the parts of my life that halted years ago.



I have plumbed

Kitchen faucet finally replaced; undersink RO system finally installed.
Which isn't all that big a deal, but as is often the case with plumbing repairs, the tricky bit is the prep.
One drain was leaking, so I had to fix that first - definitely the easy part of the process.

Next step was to install the missing undersink shutoff valves, so I didn't have to go downstairs and shut off water to the entire house every time I wanted to do anything.  Since one's hands are supposed to be relatively clean when installing a filtration system, it seemed a good idea to be able to wash them somewhere in the house.

For some reason, the baseplate on the old faucet was all but welded in place (partially by time and hard water deposits, but the overzealous previous owner definitely helped).  I had to cut a bolt in 4 places with the dremel before it could be pried off.

Most sinks have 2, 3 or 4 holes.  Mine had 4.5 - apparently the previous owner had drilled a special tiny hole for the old filtration spigot.  After some pondering, I offset my new faucet on the double sink, in the leftmost hole, with the handle attached on the left (and the intake hoses switched, so cold is still foward and hot is still back).  Center hole got a hole cover, next hole is where I put the spigot - also left-handed handle, so as to not be crowded up against the dishwasher thingy,  Ex spigot-hole got another hole cover.  After using this setup for a week, i"m pretty happy with it.  New faucet is one of those tall sprayer-in-faucet models - it easily reaches both sinks, and accommodates every stockpot.

The instructions for the RO system looked reasonable, but the steps were in a very unfortunate order.  Step 1 should not be "drill a hole in the drain pipe", because if you do that and later find some reason that you must stop...you can't turn the water on until you repalce the pipe.  Based on evidence, step 1 should be "identify what pieces you need from the hardware store to install this other piece in your cold water line".  It should have been very standard, since it was to go in between the new shutoff valve I'd just installed and the new faucet line.  It wasn't.

Step 9 references "step 6"...which is actually step 7.  One of the first steps is to install the tank so as to block all subsequent steps.  And so forth.

Thankfully, the undersink area had a lot of room.  Still awkward of course (bruises and a twinge-y back when I was done), but I can't complain.  Except that there weren't any solid bits of wood within reach, for installing the set of filters.  For solidity and access, I installed them on the cabinet door.  Which is great...except that Z tells me that cutting the one piece of wood I did cut is against code.  Well, I'll shore it up just in case it does serve some purpose.

RO system is to be sanitized with 3ml of bleach at end.  It assumes regular-strength bleach, but most store-bought bleach these days is "concentrated", so either you do the math or you do a second round of flushing to get rid of the bleachy taste.

Final indignity:  while inspecting the RO setup, I snapped off the tiny protuding bit on the RO filter.  $60 down the drain, and yet again still another trip to the hardware store.

good food days

Garden is currently producing beans, cukes, bitter melon, sanditas, tomatoes, chiles, tomatillos, okra, and ground cherries.
Also Chinese cutting celery, parsley, basil, fennel, fenugreek, nasturtiums, and papalo.  I have most of the team at work hooked on sanditas.

Potatoes and shallots need to be harvested.

Some very promising winter squash sizing up.  Glass gem corn...well,we'll see if it sizes up before winter, and avoids raccoons.

As usual, I only have about 5 carrots.  And I can't grow a zucchini to save my life.  it's embarrassing to buy zucchini at farmer's market - luckily, I can often find abandoned overflow zucchini in the breakroom.  I can also live happily without any zucchini.

If I wanted to do a market stand, most of what I'd be selling is very different from the other offerings.  I don't even see all that many multicolored cherry tomato mixed boxes - just a ton of sungolds, at least for now.

I'll have elderberries if I can beat the wildlife to them. Wild-ish plums soon.

Pepicha was a no-go:  I can't recognize it well enough to avoid pulling it as a grassy weed.  Not a problem; papalo is all the cilantro-like herb I will ever need, and then some.

The "blue cream berries" tomatoes are pretty, but are prone to cracking.  And not as tasty as I'd hoped.
The "chestnut chocolate" tomatoes have an adorable red star at the top, where the skin is shaded by the...sepals?  And they're tasty.  A keeper.
The "sunrise bumblebee" tomatoes are super pretty, but...none of the bumblebee line seems all that tasty to me.

The next "moon maid" bitter melon that ripens, I'm leaving it on the vine for mature seed; I can't seem to find the seed anymore.  This year's plants are from three-year-old seed, but I'm pretty much out.

The anellino bean experiment was educational.  The green, yellow, and speckled ones all start producing at different times, so if I wanted a multicolored harvest I should have adjusted the planting accordingly.  Which I knew, but I was lazy.  The vines are taller than anything else in the garden but don't seem all that productive, at least not yet.  Kinda hard to locate the beans too (which could be influencing my impression that they're not productive).  After all that, not any tastier than other beans anyway.  So, rattlesnake pole beans will continue to be the main crop, with a side of long beans.  And maybe some wax beans for an early harvest; they were Mom's favorite.

ticks and things

Keeping up with the garden, more or less.  So, since I'm not floundering, I'm considering expanding the garden.  Yep.
Drip irrigation was all set up a few weeks ago, and delivering water and nutrients.  Peas mostly done, beans starting to come in.  Tomatoes, peppers, cukes, bitter melon, potatoes, etc., all look good.  Basils are slow (not surprising, and not a problem).  Glass Gem corn looks good, but we'll see what happens when the raccoons notice.  Hope to pull peas today and re-plant with a few more of those fancy Indian carrots from Baker Creek.

Z volunteers at the Aldo Leopold shack.  I brought a picnic Saturday, and got to see the inside of the shack.  Then got water at the spigot in Rock Springs, then off to Flower Factory to meet up with K.  K's new knee is filling her with joy and energy, so she bought new plants for the front yard.  Then we had a pleasant dinner at Curry in the Box.

Picnic included mulberries and black caps from the yard, one ground cherry, salads made from a combination of yard and farmer's markets (one basil-and-garlic themed, one sort of a roasted veg slaw, where I should have stuck with just the panch puran seasoning and left out the caraway - live and learn).  And some landjaeger and happy hippo candy from the cheese chalet.

Yesterday, yardwork.  Much hacking away of underbrush.  One deer tick (and a few very thorough checks for others).

Today...there will be a brief yardwork.  Mainly getting chores done and girding loins for what will be a laden week.  Workwise, early meeting tomorrow, all-day meetings the next two days (at least one involving a drive to Chicago), for a project I'm not supposed to be on, to cover tasks that are way outside my listed role.

Also tomorrow, a pee&bleed to test my kidneys before I will entertain the idea of using contrast for Friday's MRI.  Although the incidence of issues from MRI contrast is very low, it is not a lottery ticket you want to win.  Kinda irked with regular doc that he didn't even bother to check the guidelines for MRI contrast and kidneys before ordering contrast.  Pretty sure he didn't check a year ago either (when my kidneys were much worse - but for other reasons I didn't get the MRI...in part because the system sort of punishes people who try to follow up on cost by cancelling their appointment...need to submit a "comment" for that).  Anyway, for this one, I made a bunch of calls and got the nephrologist to weigh in - hence the testing.

I continue to research and consider...and will probably need to make yet again still another call, to get clarification on whether or not an MRI without contrast has a decent chance of giving them useful info.  Or what alternatives exist.  Just because it's their default go-to doesn't mean it's what I personally would decide to do, or that they should feel justified in trying to talk me into it...which is how too many medical discussions feel.  "Protocol" is not an excuse for not using one's head.

Kinda sick of how a person has to be their own PM for all medical stuff.  I'm not perfect, but I'm marginally capable of doing that job...but what does a really sick person do?  Or a less-educated person, or one with fewer resources or a less flexible work schedule?  They are at the mercy of the system.  And its shortcomings are hidden by a lack of such issues being documented or even recognized.  On the one hand, I love all the things that modern medicine can do.  On the other hand...we could do SO much better.

Anyway, theoretically an MRI (my first) on Friday.  Then Picasso to vet on Saturday - standard checkup and vaccines.

Work-wise...they are changing our work-from-home deal.  Although no one has ever complained about the quality or quantity of our work, apparently senior managers don't like us taking Fridays for work-from-home.  Also, the one really big perk of working here - the free cell phone with mostly unlimited usage - continues to degrade.  Harder and harder to get a decent phone that doesn't cost full-price.  And now we hear that the plan is going to change to something with pretty major limitations.  Doesn't affect me as much, but will be a big hit for families.  So, the list of reasons for staying continues to dwindle.  We also had to fill out a thing saying whether we'd be willing to move to Chicago to keep our job.  But "don't read too much into that".  Idiot boss has apparently been told he could be a senior manager if he moved...oy.  In related news, I finally finished the resume re-write.