Monday, August 27, 2007

The toaster oven stopped working on Friday, a real shame in the season of tomato sandwiches, and I haven't had a chance to fuss with it and see if I can get it going again. I considered asking my father to help, but knew how the conversation would go-
J: What's wrong with it?
S: The "on" indicator flickers on intermittently, but nothing happens.
J: Does the oven setting work, or is it just the toast setting that's a problem?
S: Well, the toast setting has been broken for a couple of years now. We just turn it to 400 and set the kitchen timer for three minutes so we don't forget about it.
J: How old is this thing?
S: Hmm, well, I think you and Mom gave it to me for Christmas freshman year, so 14-ish years?
J: Buying any parts would cost more than replacing it.
S: Yeah, I was thinking of asking for broken toaster ovens on Freecycle.
J: (incredulous stare)
S: Hmm, I guess maybe asking for a working one might make more sense.

more sleep

Per request- I tried the stay-up-'til-3 plan on Saturday night, but unfortunately it didn't enable me to sleep until 7- A needed help at 5, so that was it for me. I've tried Ambien before, and it effectively puts me to sleep when that's the problem, but it only works for two hours. (When I tried taking it after waking at 4, I felt dazed all morning; not sure if it was related to the drug or not, but I don't want to take anything when I'm the only adult in the house anyway.) Changes in diet, exercise, and evening routines seem to make no difference.

Meal plan site, that includes recipes, photos, and a shopping list for a week's worth of dinners. I've seen these before, but this is the first I've come across that is fairly whole-foods focused. Problem- they're in Australia, so seasonal foods are reversed. When they have six months worth of archives, it'll be better.

Friday, August 24, 2007

no sleep-

After seven years of child-induced sleep interruptions, I should finally be well-rested. Over the summer, A started sleeping pretty consistently between midnight and 7 a.m. (She's in bed from 9 p.m. 'til 8 a.m.-ish.) She fusses a lot at night, but puts herself back to sleep fairly quickly and quietly, so that's only a real problem when we have to share a room with her or when Dan is away and I feel the need to have the monitor on at night because of my poor hearing.

But my insomnia, which has been a significant issue ever since C was born and I spent every night unable to sleep in anticipation of him waking up every 30-45 minutes, is worse than ever. I now can not sleep more than four hours a night. Since we usually go to bed around midnight, and I was waking up around 4, I was thinking it was largely caused by the sun rising/ birds/ etc. But with Dan gone, I've been better able to get to sleep early, but that's just meant that I wake up earlier.

So I've been up since 3 a.m. and am completely exhausted. (Maybe I'd be better off staying up 'til 2 or so; then at least I'd sleep 'til 6.) I won't be able to get the kids to bed until 8:30 at the earliest; by 5 I am going to be less than pleasant for them to be around. And since I need to eliminate A's naps immediately now in anticipation of preschool, I can expect to lose even the four hours I can usually count on- that kind of change in routine historically ruins her regular sleep patterns, and if I'm woken up, it's unlikely I'll be able to fall asleep again for the rest of the night.

When Dan's home, I can usually catch a ten-minute catnap at some point, which helps a lot. But that ain't happening this week....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The head of the Montessori school down the road just called to let us know that A has a space there for the fall! We were so far down on the waiting list that we figured we had no chance, but I made Dan call last week and it paid off. It's for the afternoon session, which isn't so good- A is still napping, plus we know several people with kids in the morning program- but given our current lack of child care, we're thrilled to have ANYTHING. Now I just need to somehow, in the next three weeks, convince A that she wants to go to school and that she is ready to give up naps.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dan is leaving at 4 a.m. for a 10-day trip to Washington. It's necessary for work- it's the annual staff retreat, and Dan has a lot of people to meet with in the office for the week prior to the retreat. But I am sooo jealous of all the off-hours he will have to himself, re-integrating himself into the community that we left behind, staying up late with old friends, enjoying parties without any dependents to worry about. I've had one night away from A since she was born; before A, I don't think I'd ever left C for more than two nights. (I even brought the boys along when I went on long business trips.) The luxury of having over a week of not having to think about whether anyone other than myself might need to eat seems unimaginable.

Monday, August 20, 2007

new office

My workspace has been upgraded from a large-but-noisy cubicle shared with the photocopier and FAX machine to an office to be shared with one other person. This is good in that I have more privacy (my office-mate hasn't even moved in yet) and can avoid both the constant hum of the printer and the constant chattering of the admin, but bad in that I'm further from my boss (normally considered a good thing, I know, but she tries to avoid thinking about my project as much as possible, and my distance makes it harder to casually hound her). I'm glad that I started out where I was, because its central location meant that I got to know more of the staff, but my new space is much more conducive to work.

Plus, I'm on the third floor now instead of the first, which means that I am no longer subject to the first-floor toilets. In their eagerness to prevent clogs and unsanitary conditions, they automatically flush alarmingly quickly, providing little time to toss in the toilet paper. Upstairs, we're trusted with sensor-free toilets. So I can tell it's a promotion.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This implies that everything won't be kittens and rainbows when the kids are older. What gives?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I had to drive to Tupper Lake for a work meeting last week (the logic in making a seven-hour round trip for a 90-minute meeting escapes me, but I digress), and it gave me a chance to check out the new Wild Center there. To my surprise, it was just as nice as the promotional literature made it sound: the exhibits were beautiful, well-maintained, and incidentally educational; there were user-driven materials ranging from scat identification kits to puppets; the self-guided trails around the building had interesting information; and the building and grounds were architecturally appropriate and attractive, with significant attention to detail. Now if only it weren’t in Tupper Lake (which was an even more aggravating drive than it would normally be, since the town seems to have chosen to rip up ALL of its pavement this summer), it’d be a great place to visit again.
I picked up C from Nana and Ye-ye while I was there. I’d arranged a book on tape for us to listen to for the car ride home, but he opted instead for the Hardy Boys, making it a quiet trip for me. Will A someday become as low-maintenance in the car? Or at least reasonable?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Octavia Butler's last novel, Fledgling, was decidedly unimpressive. Years ago, I read The Parable of the Sower and its sequel, and while I didn't exactly like them- something about her writing style makes me uncomfortable, which I suspect is intentional on her part, though I can't pinpoint how she does it- they had really interesting themes which made them more than worthwhile. Fledgling provides the same discomfort (both stylistically and thematically) but without the difficult social revelations to justify it.

It's a vampire story, with a creative take on modern-day vampires and vampire mythology. The first chapter is phenomenal- describing an amnesiac's confused return to the world, and leaving us guessing as to just what kind of creature she is- but after that, things go downhill. The rest of her re-adjustment to life is not believable, and the amnesia itself is a fairly implausible device. Certain details seem designed to push readers' boundaries, but do so either without real purpose (such as the fact that the main character is a sexually active 53-year-old, but in the body of a 10-year-old girl) or ineffectively (like the decidedly nontraditional vampire household compositions, but non-monogamy just isn't all that shocking to me).

I felt like the other Butler books I read had messages they were attempting to impart, and did so effectively (and even though I somewhat disagreed with the conclusions, Sower in particular was certainly thought-provoking). Fledgling seemed to be laying the morals on thick, but in the end I never figured out what it was trying to say.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More evidence that I'm right about the increased misery of flying. Honestly, the last few times we've flown have been miserable, and I hope to avoid it whenever possible- which means our next trip to visit friends in Florida will have to wait until A is old enough to handle a looooong car ride, and it's unlikely I'll ever make it back to Washington State again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A few months ago, I wrote about women's choices not to negotiate salaries as a significant contributing factor to the wage gap. Turns out most of us have good reason not to:

The traditional explanation for the gender differences that Babcock found is that men are simply more aggressive than women, perhaps because of a combination of genetics and upbringing. The solution to gender disparities, this school of thought suggests, is to train women to be more assertive and to ask for more. However, a new set of experiments by Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles, who studies the psychology of organizations at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, offers an entirely different explanation.

Their study, which was coauthored by Carnegie Mellon researcher Lei Lai, found that men and women get very different responses when they initiate negotiations. Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, this study found that women's reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more -- the perception was that women who asked for more were "less nice".
"What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not," Bowles said. "They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not."

I didn't negotiate my current job's salary- I was actually planning on making a point of doing so, just because of my interest in the topic, but the initial offer was higher than I was expecting and I grabbed it before they could change their minds.

Miracles of Photoshop

More comments here

Running to work, my brother suggests? Not going to happen. I was consistently running two miles every second day. Then it got hotter and I could no longer run at midday while A napped. I attempted to go early in the morning, but my body rebelled with dizziness and nausea, reagardless of whether or not I'd eaten. So the only option left was after 8 p.m., when it was cooler and the kids were getting to bed.

I stuck with that for a while, but after I started working, my at-home time obviously became much more limited. The thought of exercising during the ONLY time all day that I have to myself (and the only uninterrupted time I have with Dan) was decidedly unappealing. Even after I cut back to only running twice a week, it became a chore to be avoided, and I'm very good at avoiding chores. (The house has also been trashed since I started work, too- but that's another story.)

So I've decided to stop pretending that it's going to happen with any reasonable frequency, and have committed to running two miles once a week. That's manageable enough that I don't find reasons to avoid it, and it makes it easier to choose random days/ times that make sense (I went yesterday morning, for example, when we had unusually cool weather and Dan watched the kids). While this isn't going to increase my fitness level at all, I'm hoping it'll at least help maintain a reasonable aerobic capacity.

I do walk at least one and usually more like three miles a day, just through dog walks and trips around town and to and from the bus, so at least I don't feel as sedentary as I was last winter when A rebelled against leaving the house. And if I ever get my university ID card, I'll be able to use their gym facilities. They are decidedly inconvenient (I work at a different campus), but it's potentially a viable option for the winter- I might be able to add an extra couple hours to my work schedule to take the bus to and from there during lunch.

But running the five miles to work would be decidedly inefficient, given the potential time-consuming trip to the emergency room after my collapse in Washington Park.

Friday, August 03, 2007

My five-mile commute to work is frustratingly difficult to accomplish. I've minimized the need for it as much as possible by scheduling myself to work only three days a week, but it's still hard to cobble together a good plan.

I feel pretty good about driving in on Fridays- I work and shop at the nearby food co-op on the way home, so it's not really adding to the amount of driving we would do normally. (I don't LIKE the drive- due to nonexistent city planning, it takes 15-20 minutes through stop-and-go traffic to get here, but it's acceptable.) But I don't want to drive on Mondays and Wednesdays because (a) it seems like such an ecological waste; (b) I like to leave the car for Dan and the kids to use; and (c) I've already had one side-view mirror smashed from city parking, and don't want to increase the odds of more vandalism.

So I started taking the bus. It picks me up about a quarter mile from my house, and drops me off about a half mile from work. Factoring in wait and walking times, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get to work. I can't read on the bus because I get nauseous. And on the way home, the bus route does some funny circumnavigations so it drops me off three quarters of a mile from home, which sucks in the heat or rain. A coworker/ neighbor has been driving me in most mornings, which makes a huge difference, but I'm still stuck on the bus to get home.

Obvious solution: biking. A five-mile bike ride should be easily do-able. Problem: I'm terrified. I experimented with biking to the co-op ONCE last summer, and ended up turning around at the Albany city line. Through Delmar, it's reasonable (though inconvenient, and technically illegal) to ride on the near-empty sidewalks, and not terribly hazardous to ride on the road (despite the 40 mph speed limit and tiny shoulder). In Albany, though, it's rude to ride on the sidewalks (people actually walk on them) and I'm squeezed between parked cars and moving cars, which (a) reduces my visibility and (b) prevents me from veering off the road if necessary. I know a lot of people who bike in Albany regularly. While most of them do so without incident, at least a fifth have been hit- usually with only minor injury, but that's still really scary. (And there has been at least one well-publicized death this summer.)

So for now I'm sticking with the mooching rides/ bus combo, but I'm still looking for something better....

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hooper Mine