What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

I didn’t do much over the Christmas break… which was the whole point, really.  I managed to finish reading six books, but didn’t manage to post about any of them on my book blog.  I watched some ER, some Angel, some Bones, some Law & Order: CI, as well as a few movies.  I got the new Blu-ray player hooked up, but had to run a cable from the player to the router because the wireless bridge didn’t work consistently.  The cable snaking across two rooms is pretty annoying, but I can watch my Netflix Play Now movies on the TV.  That’s a good thing because the recliner is more comfortable than my desk chair.

I made my Secret Family Recipe sloppy joes (vegetarian style) for Christmas dinner and the whole family went out to dinner to a new-ish local restaurant with the Spousal Unit’s stepmom a few days after Christmas.  Jolly good fun!

I mentioned the books I read, but I should point out I’m a complete book nerd.  I printed out labels for about 250 books, attached them to the spines of the appropriate books, and shelved said books in Dewey Decimal order.  (I picked Dewey over Library of Congress numbering because my first job was in a library, and we didn’t have any of that crazy LoC stuff at the time.  It’s nostalgia, pure and simple.)  I have another bookcase full of books that I need to put in my most excellent Collectorz book database so I can label them, too.  I do so love being a complete geek.

I had a couple of other things on my To Do list, but… meh.  Whatever.  I relaxed a lot.  And that was the whole point.

Dear Google

Thank you for offering to translate websites for me.  But you might want to know that your Toolbar has gone insane.  It keeps offering to translate pages for me that are already in English… not in the French or Swedish or Spanish or German the Toolbar thinks they are.

I hope Toolbar feels better soon!

Here Is What Christmastime Means To Me

I should just start singing now, right?  “Silver bells, silvers bells!  It’s Christmastime in the city.”

I like Christmas songs… almost all of them.  I don’t necessarily like all the people out there who try to sing Christmas songs, though.  (I’m talking to you, Mariah Carey.  Some of us practice long and hard to hit and hold the notes that are actually written on our sheet music, and then you just go out there and make millions of dollars not getting anywhere close to the notes written.  I don’t like you, girlfriend.)

When I’m driving around in the car, any Christmas song is good enough for singing (except if that Carey woman is singing… that’s just plain annoying).  But when I’m singing with my peeps from Capital Pride Singers, there are a few sacred songs that are just so beautiful for a full chorus that I’d sing them every year.  (My fellow singers, however, do not generally agree with me.  And I can’t blame them.  Singing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough drove me insane after the tenth time I sang it with the Artemis Singers.)  But Festival Sanctus and Angel’s Carol are so outstandingly beautiful that they’re almost breathtaking (which is not a good idea when you’re trying sing, by the way).

Two other songs I absolutely adore — as solos — are O Holy Night and Silent Night.  I’m especially fond of “my” version of Silent Night, wherein I sing the first verse in Irish Gaelic, the second verse in German and the third verse in English.  O Holy Night was my audition song when I auditioned for the Denver Women Chorus.  I’m thinking of learning the Irish Gaelic words for next year’s Christmas show with CPS.

Christmastime isn’t the happiest time of year for me.  Singing has always been something that lifts my spirits.  So what Christmastime means to me is a chance to sing a whole lot of songs that I know really well and it’s a chance to learn some new ones.  When I’m singing, I’m breathing deeply… and when I’m breathing deeply, I’m not falling into that dark pit of depression.  And for just a few weeks, I’ll even put up with singing along with Mariah Carey.  (But girlfriend, you are so out of here on New Years.  The radio it going off, and I’ll be back to my CDs.  That don’t involve your warbling.)


The hardest thing about being a vegan is pizza.  I love pizza.  I have always loved pizza.  Pizza is food of the gods.  A plain cheese pizza is good enough for me, but if you want to throw some green peppers or onions or black olives or pineapple (or all of them) on there, I’m ok with that, too.

Living in New York, I’ve had the opportunity to experience “New York style” pizza.  Not bad.  In this area, Paesan’s has the best pizza.  Their sauce is tasty, the cheese is plentiful, and the requisite fold-over is not hard to attain.  Oh, how I miss eating it!

Before living in New York, I lived in Colorado where they have “Colorado style” mountain pies at Beau Jo’s.  The crust is a treat…  drizzled with the accompanying honey, it makes a fine dessert to any of their many ingredient combinations.  If you are ever out that way, do check it out!  It’s definitely worth a visit.  And I really miss it.

However, I grew up in Chicago, which has the best pizza in the known universe at Giordano’s.  The pie is wonderfully thick, the crust is light and flakey and buttery, the sauce is outstanding, the filling ingredients plentiful and the cheese a delight.  I miss Giordano’s pizza most of all.  If there is any pizza that could lure me away from this vegan diet, it would be Giordano’s pizza.

Nowadays, I make my own pizza at home using Berkshire Mountain Bakery‘s spelt pizza crust and Soya Kaas mozzarella-style soy cheese (both available at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, by the way).  It’s pretty good pizza, if I do say so myself… but it’s not Giordano’s or Beau Jo’s or Paesan’s.

Give Me a Call!

And by “give me a call” I mean “really… don’t bother.”

I hate talking on the phone.  There are maybe two exceptions to this hard and fast rule, but as the saying goes, the exceptions prove the rule.  I tell everyone the best way to contact me is via email.  A lot of people ignore my request and call anyway.  People I’ve never heard of try to call me.  And — get this — expect me to call them back!  So I’m thinking about changing the message on the voice mail again:

Hello there.  Stating the obvious, but you’ve reached voice mail.  Silly person.  If you’re looking for Offspring, ring her cell.  If you’re looking for Spousal Unit, log into World of Warcraft.  If you’re calling for Aerten… why?  If you know me, you know I want you to email me.  If you don’t know me, now you know I want you to email me.  I know you think you want to talk to me, but it’s really more efficient for you to email me.  I’ll actually get an email much sooner than I’ll get any voice mail message you leave, because I generally forget to check for messages for weeks at a time.  Oh, and stop calling for Laura Smith.  She doesn’t live here, and to my knowledge never has.

It’s just a thought.  But it’s getting more and more appealing.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

NaBloPoMo Day 30

I’ve got a lot of blogs and websites and web comics in my RSS feed.  And for this last day of NaBloPoMo, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

In the Art category, two of my favorite blogs are dot art and The Art of Madelaine.  Dotartdude creates fabulously colorful square abstract paintings with dots.  I know that sounds kind of odd, but I just love his art!  Madelaine paints the most wonderfully delicate watercolors of birds (and I don’t even like birds!) and fantastic other stuff, too.

There are three comics that make my week: xkcd, Girl Genius and Jesus and Mo.  xkcd is, as the site proclaims, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.”  Every once in a while, the math ones have me scratching my head, but mostly I get it.  I love being a geek.  Girl Genius is a steampunk comic.  Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of steampunk.  In fact, the only reason I started reading it is because I’d met Phil Foglio a time or two at science fiction conventions a long, long time ago and have always liked his art.  Now, I’m hooked on the story he and Kaja have created!  Jesus and Mo is a tongue-in-cheek look at how organized religion can be just a little bit silly sometimes.  I have a crush on Barmaid.

And how about some of the people I follow?  They’re interesting, educational, entertaining and/or hysterically funny.  Sometimes all at once!  There’s John Scalzi at Whatever, Wil Wheaton at WWdN: In Exile, TJ at Temerity Jane, and Jim at Stonekettle Station.  Scalzi is a Famous Author.  He writes some science fiction stuff as if he’s channeling Robert A. Heinlein (only better) and then he writes science fiction stuff that is really, really funny.  Read his books, read his blog… you will like it.  Wil… yes, it is the same Wil Wheaton of Wesley Crusher infamy… but don’t judge him by that!  He’s a smart guy who is also very funny.  Listen to his podcasts!  Watch him in The Big Bang Theory (the Evil Wil Wheaton is outstanding!) and The Guild.  TJ is a real person kind of like me only way different who manages to say something just about every day to make me think, or make me laugh, or at the very least make me comment!  Jim lives in a place I wouldn’t live if you paid me millions of dollars. (I have nothing against Alaska except the weather… but, oh!  What weather!)  He’s intelligent, has strong opinions (which often make me stop and read his posts several times and just think about what he says) and is an artist!  He makes the most wonderful wooden birdhouses on his lathe.  I know they’re wonderful because I have one in my house.  (Why would I share a piece of art like that with birds??)

I have dozens more in my RSS feed.  These are just the shiny tip of the iceberg.  And they’re not the ones that will sink your ship if you wander too close in the dark.  No, for that, there is Basement Cat.

The End Is Near

NaBloPoMo Day 29

So, it’s the penultimate day of National Blog Posting Month.  I really didn’t think I’d be able to post every single freakin’ day for a whole month.  I’m pretty sure I deserve a prize or something.

Will I continue to post here every day once December rolls around?  Um, well… maybe not.  Probably not.  Will I post more often than I did before NaBloPoMo happened?  Yeah, that could happen.  Though I do feel like I’m talking to myself.  But that’s ok… I talk to myself out here in 3D Land, too.  Especially when I’m at work, programming the silly computers.  They seem to like it.

(I really like the stories I make up sometimes.  Especially the ones about computers and printers actually caring about what I do around them.  Maybe I’ll tell you some day about how I deal with recalcitrant printers.)

Spam Comments Can Be Funny

NaBloPoMo Day 27

I don’t get many spam comments compared to other blogs, simply because I don’t have the traffic that other blogs do.  Most of the spam is pretty boring stuff.  But every once it a while, there will be one that makes me wonder what drugs the commenter was taking, or one that makes me snicker a bit.

For example, the other day a spammer asked, “What about the illegal [aliens] that make money here?”

Well, let me go on record as saying there is absolutely no one making any money here on my blog.  Certainly there are no illegal aliens making money on my blog.  There aren’t even any legal aliens making money here on my blog.  (And think about it… why would beings from other planets care about Earth money anyway?)  There are no legal or illegal non-aliens making money, either.  I hope that sets everyone’s mind at ease.

Stuff I Don’t Want to Do

NaBloPoMo Day 25

As a homeowner, I have the opportunity to do many things I have no real interesting in doing.

  • I could paint the inside or the outside of my house.  Some people think that I would enjoy doing this, because painting large expanses of walls and ceilings is just like painting on canvas or paper.  Except that it isn’t at all the same, because large expanses of walls and doors are generally painted a single (often boring) color and when I paint on canvas I use many interesting colors.  So, yeah.  Not even close to being the same.  Therefore, I go hire somebody to do the boring bits on walls and ceilings.
  • I could replace carpeting and tile, or refinish the hardwood floors.  I watched my father refinish some of floors in the house I grew up in.  There’s no way I’m getting involved in that mess.  I’ve laid my share of tiles, and feel like I’ve had enough fun with that medium.  And I hurt just thinking about wrestling with carpeting.  Again, I’ll just hire somebody to do all of this.  Except for the floor refinishing… I’m not living with that mess, and the floors can stay the way they are.  Or I’ll hire somebody to carpet over them.
  • I could fix all the quirky little electrical problems one finds in a house that’s over a century old.  These are simple things like replacing light fixtures and outlets and light switches.  But I’ve always hated dealing with electricty.  Sure, I know how to do all that stuff.  Doesn’t mean I want to do all that stuff.  Again… give someone else a job!
  • I could deal with the annoying plumbing problems that sneak into a house of this age.  Oddly, I’m more likely to actually tackle a plumbing problem than any other.  I’ve fixed leaky pipes and replaced a few toilets in my day.  Sadly, it isn’t a lack of interest or desire that has me hiring these jobs out.  It’s the increasing amount of pain in my person causing a decrease in the strength needed to wrestle with tight fittings.
  • I could mow the lawn, clear the weeds and trim the bushes outside.  I actually get my Spousal Unit to mow the lawn on a somewhat regular basis, but the rest of it just doesn’t get done.  I’m thinking, come spring, I’ll hire someone to take care of that, too.

Huh.  I’d probably be just as happy as an apartment-dweller… except for the probability of noisy neighbors.

I Love to Read

NaBloPoMo Day 22

I really like words.  When I was a kid, I used to read the dictionary.  Yes, yes… I was a complete dork by age 10.  (And, um, I still enjoy reading the dictionary.)  Loving words and loving to read are all tied up together.

I remember that there were always books to read in our house growing up.  Not quite as many as I have in my house now, but still quite a lot compared to most people I knew.  Both my parents love mysteries… Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series seemed to be most popular.  My dad was also a big fan of Louis L’Amour, while my mother enjoyed historical novels (she spent close to a year reading everything she could about Henry VIII and his wives… fact and fiction).  So the fact that I always have something around me to read is not at all strange.  To me.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I’d read all the books in our small school library at least once.  By the time I was in sixth grade, I’d finished all the books in the children’s department of the nearby public library.  (Oh, and that was quite a feat!  Except for the main library downtown, Hild Regional Branch was the largest library in the city of Chicago.  I even read all the “boys” books… the Hardy Boys and Chip Hilton and quite a few others.)  I was already reading at the college level by this time (yes, yes… total nerd), and my folks didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t read books from the adult department.  The librarians had other ideas, though.  You couldn’t check out a book from the adult section on a “youth” card… and you couldn’t get a “young adult” card until you were 14.  Now, just because my parents were completely supportive of their children reading everything they could get their hands on did not mean they wanted to schlep to the library every week.

I vividly remember the day my dad walked me over to the library and marched right up to the front desk, demanding to speak to the person in charge.  Mrs. Bare was in charge that day (I’ll never forget that woman… I worked for her right there in that same library several years later), and my dad insisted that she give me a “young adult” card.  Mrs. Bare explained the rules; dad just gave her that glare that he did oh so well.  Mrs. Bare (gods love her) just stared back.  Finally, dad gave her one of his rare smiles and explained that I’d already read all the books in the children’s department, that I was entirely too smart for my own good, that I read all the same books he and my mom read, and that he trusted that I wouldn’t bring home anything inappropriate.  Mrs. Bare (bless her heart) smiled, too, and said that maybe — just this once — she could bend the rules.  After all, 12 was pretty close to 14.

When I retold her that story when I was working for her, Mrs. Bare didn’t really recall it.  But I do.  And I always will.  Why?  Because that was one of the only times I knew my dad was proud of me.

My parents gave me a gift that’s still with me: the love of words, the love of reading, the love of books.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  (And I seem to have passed on the love of reading to my darling Offspring.  Go me!)

Ah, if only I could remember to update my book blog to tell people about all the great (and not-so-great) books I read.  Maybe next year for NaBloPoMo…

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