Monday, September 27, 2010

Give Us Us C!

Tonight during bird/hammock time, I noticed blood on Kawi's wings. When a bird's feathers are first coming in, they grow out of long, straw-like shafts. If one of these shafts breaks, the shaft acts like a needle drawing blood out of the bird until there isn't any left. Even if you catch it early, the bird may never recover from the blood loss, so blood on a bird isn't something to take lightly.

Kawi and I took a trip to his pet store where the owner, Esther, greeted him and he jabbered sweetly to her about some secret those two hold. It always turns out so badly, and yet each time he still loves her again. I pointed out the spotting and worried I had cut his wings too close, something I have never done before. Kawi is one of those rare birds who can still fly with his wings trimmed, so you have to keep them extra trim.

At first she didn't find anything, but something was causing him pain, so she looked closer. Sure enough, he had a new feather coming in that was broken and bleeding. She suspected that Kawi had been biting at it. In moments she pulled the two inch shaft out, covered in blood, and poor Kawi was so traumatized that not even a visit to the other birds snapped him out of it. I kept Penelope in her cage the rest of the night so he could be post-surgery-bird without any worries.

Earlier he wandered through the house searching for C. He searched the rooms, the closets, the bathrooms...  C will be home tomorrow, and we will all be so glad to have him home again. See a video of Penelope clowning around on the hammock today. Maybe someday she'll learn some moves like these:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Do I Want to Say, What Do I Want to Say...

First of all, thank you to my kamikaze friend who canned eleven bottles of peaches for me AND topped it off with a peach cobbler, which we snarfed down so quickly that it didn't even get its picture taken. It was one of those days where we both worked all day and skipped lunch, and then had to eat in a rush before heading off to a leadership meeting. 

She even wrote cute and funny notes on the lids, which I happened to miss when she dropped them off. She EVEN canned the peaches without sugar just for me!  

Poor Kawi. He just keeps screaming for C. I feel kind of bad for him, but would feel much worse if I didn't have a migraine coming on. I finally couldn't stand it anymore and put a towel over his cage. He got the message and settled down. Now he's just making cute noises and being friendly instead of being psycho-obsessed with his missing Peep. Other times he can just be sweet and cute, like when he's tearing apart the silk plant you can see in the background:
(Isn't his little foot funny waving around like that?)

The worst part was when we were outside on the hammock. One of our neighbors' homes sits higher than ours and someone visited them who looked like C. He was, after all, wearing a shirt and tie and C often does, especially on Sundays. Kawi whistled and belted out his very best cat-calls that he reserves just for his most beloved C. I just watched with a sad heart, knowing that whomever that man was, he wasn't getting the message.

Penelope was busily engaged doing all kinds of gymnastics, climbing upside down, and swinging on the broken hammock strands. I wish I had my camera. She put on a real show. She ventured up into the apple branches, purring contentedly as she climbed higher and higher. When it came time to go inside, she put up a fight, deciding that she had located a much more suitable home among the apple leaves than her metal cage. At last we packed it back inside before the evening chill set in on two little birds who had played long and hard outside.

Last night I went to Relief Society Meeting. The prophet Thomas S. Monson spoke, along with the female presidents of the organization. President Monson gave a beautiful talk that was so kind, so sweet, and so... needed. He discussed the need to be less judgmental of each other, especially as women, and that we need to infuse Charity into every aspect of our lives. It was the only time that I have sensed that the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were being gently chastised. We need to be better overall, more gentle, more kind, more recognizant that each woman is doing her best. He gave some anecdotal stories, and loving, gentle counsel. If you are curious, here is a link to some of the highlights or you can watch the whole thing here.

On a similar note, if you want to hear what the prophet and twelve apostles and other leaders are teaching the world, we get to hear from them next weekend, starting on Saturday, ending on Sunday, for four two-hour blocks of time. I like to mention this because there are so many misconceptions about Mormons, so you can see for yourself if you'd like. One man on a plane this month told me some horrible, horrible things he has heard. I have such a hard time believing that people can think anything so terrible is true!

Anyway, if you want to, you can read what the prophet and twelve apostles are saying today, watch the conference through live streaming here next weekend, or you can visit the Mormon Messages channel on YouTube. There you have it, you have officially been invited.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Incandescent vs. Fluorescent

Something strange happened this evening. I popped the Dark Crystal into the DVD player and suddenly I found myself motivated to do strange things. You know the kind of things I am talking about, like tidying a junk drawer, or putting your shirts in color-coded order, or spraying all of the baseboards and windows to pronounce all co-habitating creepies and crawlies DOA as they move in for the winter.

{TANGENT: But did you know??? I just found out because I was hunting for a link to Dark Crystal, and there it was! The information that thrilled me! The Jim Henson Company has announced even more magic: a sequel to be released 2011! END TANGENT}

At any rate, as I listened to Skeksis battling it out for the throne, I noticed that two of our Reveal bulbs had burned out in the ceiling fan. You may be aware that Congress has passed a bill that will phase out incandescents starting in 2012 in favor of more efficient lighting solutions. A few months ago while looking for ways to spend money at Costco, I discovered a great deal on Fluorescent bulbs that were supposed to be the equivalent of Reveal bulbs, and thought I might as well give this change a shot earlier than later. 

Last week C asked me where he could find a light bulb. This was our first fluorescent in the house. He was attempting to install it in the above light fixture. The only problem is that fluorescents are too long for some of these bowl-fixtures. 

Today when I installed two fluorescents with incandescents, I discovered yet another dilemma. I will let you see if you can guess what the problem here is. Case study, CSI, detective-like: 

The other problem I discovered was this: we will lose any aesthetics with our light fixtures. Just tell me how pretty this will look with a fluorescent twisty bulb inside:

Aaand that's all folks! Unless of course you want to see how I barricaded my door with canned food for the Boy Scout food drive. What a great time of year for the drive! I can go through and calculate what food we need to rotate before early next year! Is that selfish? I think it's just practical.

And finally, Penelope's picture of the week:
No, really, she climbed up like that! Have a great Saturday! And C, your toothbrush MISSES YOU!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Episodic Epiphany

One of the changes I recently made in my life was to stop letting life run me. In the process I came to a few interesting realizations.

1. The world won't fall apart if I don't get "it" done today. There are very rare "its" in which the world will fall apart, and 99.999% of them are only in the movies, therefore, I can stop living my life like I am in a Speed movie.

2. I am not any more successful at work giving 200% than if I didn't. I just burn myself out and turn myself into a workhorse.

3. There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing that don't involve a computer, and I have been ignoring some of those since school, work, church, and recreation have kept me on my computer a lot lately.

4. It's okay to fail. Sometimes just telling yourself it's okay to fail will actually help you to succeed.

5. I am done giving my very best time and energy to my job. My best belongs to the love of my life, my eternity, my C. I am never going to get anything that really matters from letting a job dominate my life.

6. I like programming. I really do, but I don't want to do that for a job, at least right now. Maybe later, or maybe something related, but I do want to build amazing things with words, whether in code or in any other written language.

7. I like exercising. My body thanks me when I exercise, and I am just cheating myself when I say I don't have enough time for it!

8. I need to be a better cheerleader for C. Even though he is my Man of Steel, he has his Kryptonite moments, too.

9. Sometimes I am human. It feels weird when it happens, but sometimes it does happen.

10. For every experience life offers us, there is a myriad of emotional options to choose from, and we don't have to take the default ones.

11. Once I stopped letting life live me, I started enjoying it again.

The conformity cog in my brain suggested I stop at ten, but then, you wouldn't have 11, now would you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Whiner Moment

You know my phrase, God Loves Everybody but the Whiners, but today I take exception. First let me say that I had a banner day at work of checking things off of my Conference To-do list, and offloading a whole lot of work onto others because delegation is the formula for sanity. That's why women get to have children, and just like children, it's always easier to do the job yourself at work, but then you have a melt-down and wonder why you are burnt-out all of the time. Delegation, it's the only way to fly.

C is gearing up for his annual moto trip. How cute is it that he visits his grandparents every year? He even gets to ride moto with his mom! True story! She's a very active and wonderful lady.

Back to the whining, where was I? Tonight we had a lovely little dinner at our favorite little grill. Good food, not greasy, just yummy is all. We then watched Inception which was a really interesting movie. I liked the layered mental engagement, but as we left C said, "Anyone with suicidal tendencies should NOT watch that movie."

You know how after the ads and just before the movie starts there is a defined pause and everything is silent? Well, C is famous for taking the mic on those occasions, and it's always awesome. His timing is impeccable. Once after a Harry Potter preview, he groaned out load and said, "They made ANOTHER one?" That got some pretty good laughs. Well today, after the Facebook movie preview, he paused just long enough and then said loud enough for everyone to hear, "What's Facebook?" I think almost everyone started laughing.

The movie started and I kicked my bare foot up on C's lap. "Rub this foot, please." It was SO SORE! He is such a good hubby that after giving me a funny look, he really did! No really, this is the whiner moment. Every joint in my body hurts, from toe to neck (since we don't have joints in our heads). My elbows and wrists and feet and toes and finger joints and shoulders and did I mention feet? and hips, and EVERYTHING! ARGH! I don't know if it's due to my funky night chills sickness or not, but enough already. I am on a Rx strength anti-inflammatory, so I don't want to think about what it would feel like if I wasn't.

And there it is. Thanks for playing.

Take-off and Tantrum

Penelope cuddling with C (above) and playing in my hair (below).

It was a gusty day. I should have known better, but after prying the feathereds off of their beloved hammock, I walked over to claim my lone Braeburn apple off of my youngest apple tree. Penelope spooked Kawi, and Kawi leaped from my shoulder, but instead of hitting the ground, was swept upward by a tiny zephyr.

The real object is to keep your eye on the bird to find him once he lands. Fortunately it wasn't too far away, and I snatched him out of the neighbor's rose bush while he nibbled angrily at my hand for daring to touch him without his consent. I walked into the kitchen and snipped off his grown-out lift feathers without the normal formalities of covering his head so that he wouldn't see it coming. He screamed as if I was killing him. I then stopped by the pharmacy, so I took both birds with me.

While waiting in line, Kawi informed me how angry he was at me. As the girl rang me up for my Rx, Kawi  angrily rapped on my shoulder with his want-to-bite-you face.
"They are so good to sit there like that. Are their wings clipped?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. I just clipped this one's wings, and he's still a little upset at me."

 Kawi then let out a string of profanities that only five-month old Penelope understood.

"Oh, he really is mad! How funny!" the cashier said.

Kawi is a total ham, so I said, "He probably just needs a good distraction. Kawi, show us your wings!"

He suddenly forgot to be mad at me and showed off his wings with every ounce of flair he had in his saucy little self, delighting the cashier, and himself with all of the attention.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Few Words for the Birds

If you happen to be among those who have noticed my absence, my condolences for having survived my temporary posting famine. Since we last chatted, followed by some froth over DC, I believe it was? much has taken place. C completed his final classes and has a paper left to write. He also received his first appointed position. By appointed, this means that he did not apply for the job. Someone chose him as the best man for the job, and I am inclined to agree. We have made a few interesting purchases lately, but one must wonder if discussing purchases may be perceived as vain or bragging. Let it suffice to say that this technology junkie is currently not fiending for any specific item.

We received a new member of the family. It happened something like this:

I drove to the farthest reaches of the universe to find an electronics store that had a very specific item in stock, and as I drove through the parking lot I heard a tiny voice calling me from an enormous pet Walmart. Of course, we both know that pet Walmarts are readily stocked with only four types of critters: fish, reptiles, rodents, and birds. I saw her sitting against the back of the glass window, a few of the bars unprotected by plexiglass. I immediately knew that a forest of tiny fingers had been her daily scenery, while bigger hands tapped and palmed the glass, driving her into a world of unrequited hermitude. Her only Conure-counterpart was so aggressive and loud that he didn't stand a chance, but this tiny one...

"We haven't really been able to get her out of the cage." She said while thrashing and struggling for several minutes, and finally prying her feet off of the bars. The moment she landed in the palm of my hand I knew we had an understanding, and she was the sweetest thing in the world. By the time I walked into the electronics store she had cuddled up under my pony tail and didn't move a muscle. She cooed pleasantly, quite content with her people-catch. All the way home she cooed and cuddled. You don't know what it's like to have an angel on your shoulder until you experience a sweet little bird rubbing its face up and down along your cheek, adoring you. I only hope she stays this way, because she is ten times messier than Kawi, grumpy as he might be.

In other news, I finished a class, and am currently only enrolled in ONE CLASS!!! This is miraculous. My year of madness has taken its toll on me. I am grateful for all I am learning, but I decided that it's about time for a break from school. It has been a heavy year. If it were one of those reading and writing and analyzing classes, I could absolutely soar through a degree like that, but programming is another creature entirely.

The smallest action in programming has so many details, and yet there is something beautiful about it. It reminds me of some magnificent craftsmanship. I look at a fine watch, and the craftsmanship and detail involved in creating that item, and then look at a beautiful line of code in the same way. I think, wow! How did they fit so many actions into that tiny line of text? I am in awe at well-executed code. It is the difference between a finger painting and a Monet, but then, I feel the same way when I see a user-interface that is pristine and elicits no cognitive friction from its users (translation: I love to see software that doesn't make people feel dumb and is easy to use!)

Well, there is much more to share, but let it suffice to say that with four hours of sleep last night, I will sleep undisturbed tonight. Photos and videos will have to wait, since my eyelids won't hold up much longer, but check back for the cute video of Penelope massaging her own head with her foot.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chicken Run

Last night we ran to Walmart to purchase an SD card for my camera. I was just finalizing the sale in the electronics section located at the back corner of the store, when a voice came over the intercom,

"Right now in the deli we are offering roasted chickens for HALF-OFF! You'd better hurry, because there are only ELEVEN left!"

C blasted out of the electronics department like a bullet out of a gun, running as if his life depended on it. The  clerk looked up with a perplexed face. "I guess he REALLY wanted some chicken!!!"

I, knowing him a little better than that, just started laughing. C is more than happy to be the crazy man running through Walmart to fight for a roasted chicken just for a few laughs.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Days are Numbered

I sit in the hammock, listening to Kawi whistle Addams Family whilst admiring his image in my shiny computer lid.

Eight strands on the hammock have broken. The Lazuli Buntings used to swing on the frayed ends for entertainment, but now they just sway in the wind, framed by the gaping hole they left behind. If I had a wooden leg, this would be rather convenient so that I could stick my leg straight out in the middle of the hammock. Sometimes I can get my pillow to span the space if I sit with my head on that end.

I attempt to spend time every day in the hammock so Kawi can feel like a real little bird in the open air. The cold days are coming where he will watch the winter birds from the window and wonder why we can't join them. The worst part is when I walk down the stairs toward my office and he ruffles his tail in excitement because he thinks we are heading out the back door. It's the one place he seems completely at peace, and so we'll lick the plate to gather the last few morsels of these tepid days.
This weekend I spent hours trying to get a program to run. It is frustrating not having someone to ask a simple question when I am unsure what the problem is. My professor took three days to respond to my question, and today I finally learned what went wrong: This line:
temp = buildList;

should have looked like this:
temp = buildList();

That was all. A simple mistake, and hours of anxiety and feeling like I must be a terrible programmer, all for an empty parameter indicator. Argh. I don't feel like a crappy programmer anymore. I felt like someone who wrote a great program; so great that the one tiny error hid itself so well that I overlooked it again and again. The error it kicked out was that the pointer was wrong, so I went through every pointer with a fine toothed comb. I read pointers and watched tutorials to see if I missed anything, but couldn't find anything wrong or different...only to find out that it wasn't a pointer problem at all.

I know none of that makes sense, but I have enlisted my friend Bynki to help:

No? At least entertaining?

Enjoy the last scraps of your warm days, wherever you may be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Opus d'Élan Vital

Writing is my music, and my canvas whereon I capture the palette of my imagination. Life breathed into my tender nine-year-old mind when my pen conveyed me to a place where thoughts became words, and words became images. Writing has since been the phantom gatekeeper of my most magnificent reflections and most poignant introspections.

Photography is my magic. It captures moments of time that someday will transport me to the past and bring to mind all of the beauty I have experienced with those I love. Life is my toolbox. It is the surgeon's instrument with which I craft my future, and sculpt my eternity.

There are times in life where we have filled our days with meaningless acts and thoughts until we lose our own identity in bland, consuming emptiness. When at last we open our eyes to see a vast expanse of desert before us, those once meaningful things melt away in the hot sun of reality and our true self steps forward. Perhaps long forgotten, and long silenced, it straightens, the dust trickling off of its magnificent form. It breathes in the empty air, and when it exhales, life begins anew.

We realize that our greatest captor is the captive who also holds the keys to our freedom. Somewhere in the clouds of unhappy measure, we created a cage of expectations and fear of disappointments, thereby submitting to a massive granite yoke carved out by our own hands. We are free to place it on the ground and let another assume its load. The weight has hung so long upon our shoulders that our veins seem to have grown through it, feeding it whilst we starve, heaving it whilst we sink under its pressure.

What we are is free; as free as our choices allow us to be. Our minds know no bounds. There is no moment when our hearts are unable to feel more, nor occasion when the mind is completely full, and yet not every morsel of knowledge is equally weighed. There is no brick of wisdom so broad, so immense, that we cannot consume it one grain at a time, despite the fact that so many minds are rather fed upon the spun sugar of petty platitudes. Minute by minute, hour by hour, we consume and are never full, while wisdom and truth wait patiently in the wings for a time when our minds are unclouded long enough to see them there.

The mouths of the mind are the eyes and the ears, opening the windows of the soul to the outside world. Through them we gather the soup in which our hearts simmer, the marinade that flavors our marrow, and the fragrance of our thoughts. We are the magnum opus of paragraph, millieu, and picture, pieced together over a lifetime, our souls consuming the very things that they would become.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I believe that there is a point where we look backward to find that there are pieces of our lives we wish we could recreate somehow, and after we have mourned the loss of what might have been, we must find the courage to move forward and redefine our course. Sometimes that requires looking into the mirror of piercing truth to perform the necessary surgical soul-searching, and then biting through the pain of reconstruction to become what you are truly meant to be.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Washington, DC Sights

DC happened a little unexpectedly this last week, and yet, here we are. First let me say that the record-breaking heat combined with the 85% humidity has been stifling. My creative juices have been boiled in my head until they refuse to flow at all, and the only things flowing are the rivulets down my back. Still, I managed some pretty spectacular shots on an evening outing. 
The first thing I saw, of course, was the Metro, where I had to decide what a short trip meant in order to purchase a pass. I also managed to break countless "rules" like eating on the Metro. It wasn't until much later that I figured out why the young man next to me raised his eyebrows when I pulled out my Trio bar for a bite. The "horizontal elevators" were rather long. The shot below is about half-way down.
Nobody talks. They just sit and play with their iPhones, or stare off in the distance, so it wasn't hard to take this shot. Nobody noticed...
The National Archives was first on my list. I located a Civil War soldier in C's ancestry.
We took the Metro under the Potomac to Arlington, but all we saw was a breeding pool for mosquitoes, and learned not to visit without Deet. Apparently they escort you out at 7:00 PM, which is when we arrived. I tried to convince C to stand in front of this monument since he is both steadfast and loyal, but he refused. I decided that all of that humidity and heat sure doesn't seem to add to cheer and merriment.   
The following evening we did get to see the Obama children sweep past in the secret service motorcade while I poked my camera through the fence to catch the above shot of the White House. Darn distracting White House. C was able to visit with a group that had cleared him ahead of time. My unexpected visit didn't allow for the required 30 day advance background check. 
On to the National Monuments, the light was fading in the sky, so my job as a photographer became a bit more difficult. The lighting in the above pond turned out rather nice though, and we did see - dum-ta-da-da!!! Fireflies!!! 
This shot of the Lincoln Memorial was one of my favorites. I finally was able to take one that didn't just have duck-bottom in it since it seemed to be the ideal feeding time. Of course, the one below turned out rather nice with the twilight back-lighting.
Do you know what it takes to get still images with a 5 MP digital hand-held with no tripod? The night shots were next to miraculous, but what you don't see here are the twenty other shots of each monument that turned out blurry. This far-distant Washington Memorial was one of the most difficult, taken at the Lincoln Memorial while lying on the marble floor in my white capris, trying to relax enough to keep it steady while the shutter stayed open for several seconds. I showed it to a woman who had tried the same shot for several minutes and finally gave up. I knew it was decent when she said, "D***! You're good!" I must also give recognition to C who sat on a very hot spotlight to help me get this shot. I always did think he was pretty hot stuff!!!
The Lincoln Memorial really is a work of art. White marble is extremely difficult to work with, since it is so soft. I am always so in awe when a sculptor executes a work like this with such precision.
The Vietnam memorial was powerful and touching, considering so many were identifying old friends and family members, even at the late hour we were there. They searched with the light of tiny flashlights, took rubbings of the names, and took photos with their hands resting over the names of loved ones.
The above shot shows the marbling in the Washington Memorial. Apparently the lower part was built prior to the Civil War, and finished after. It's apparent where the break is in the building. 

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