30 April 2007

Things to do in Denver (when you're *not* dead)

Just a quick note - I'll be in Denver for just a couple days in mid-May, arriving on a Sunday afternoon and departing Tuesday afternoon. I'm staying at the Hotel Teatro and should be settled in by about 4 Sunday afternoon. I'm looking for something to do Sunday evening - a good place to eat, a knitting shop that will be open, a must-see museum/attraction/play, a quiet spot to sit and have a cuppa and dessert, whatever - preferably within walking or easy public transit distance from the hotel. There's also the possibility (assuming the hotel will let me stash my bags there after check-out) that I'll have three or so hours Tuesday afternoon before I have to leave for the airport, so ideas for that time slot are also welcome.

And while I'm at it, I'll be in Kansas City in early June and Long Beach, CA in mid-July, so suggestions for not-to-be-missed places for those are welcome, too. The stay in Kansas City is several days and will include several free evenings, so multiple options there are especially welcome.

29 April 2007

Not so much..

Hrm. The plants are all in pots, but the front yard still needs to be cleared. It appears that we either need to wait until next weekend when dad gets here with the truck to get a powered sod cutter, or rent a non-powered one - which I'm told is a lot more work; my dad actually said that he'd opt to dig it by hand instead of use a non-powered sod cutter - sometime this week. We don't want to just rototill the sod into the dirt because the "lawn" is actually mostly weeds and we don't want to give them a head start to disrupt the new plants. Cutting out the sod won't completely eliminate the weeds, but it will at least make it less likely that they'll come through right away (and yes, we're putting down some gardening fabric to block them further as well).

Also, just because I'm not sure I've clarified, we're clearing the sod out because we're just replanting the front yard; the raised beds are actually in the side yard where we took out all the bushes last year. We have been warned not to try to plant in the soil where the bushes were because those type of bushes apparently turn the soil very acidic. So the solution is to build the raised beds, which will allow us to plant over that spot and give me room for a veggie garden.

On that subject, the rock plan for the beds just isn't going to work. It's (a) a bit pricey, and (b) too much work. Essentially, we'd be getting four loads of different materials and paying for delivery for that would be exorbitant; the alternative is to pick it up ourselves, which would require no less than 8 round trips in my dad's pick up. Since the suppliers is about 20 miles from our house, that's.. well.. more than I'm willing to pay and/or drive.

So, Plan B will be to put the sod we cut from the front yard (great suggestion, Cathy!) into the bottom of the beds to take up some space and feed the worms and then fill the rest with a mixture of black dirt, compost and sand. The supplier we've found will mix the black dirt & compost for us and deliver it - we'll be getting 6 yards total (and can I tell you how long it took me to figure out just exactly how much a "yard" is?) - and then we'll mix in some bags of sand here to "taste". Since we'll be finishing building the rest of the beds next Saturday or Sunday, I'm planning to have the dirt delivered Monday or Tuesday. Of course, at the moment the long term forecast shows rain next Saturday through Tuesday, so that plan might change..

Which really, would be okay as long as we can control when the delivery of dirt comes, because we also need to finish the bathroom floor. I started laying tile this weekend and have about half of it finished. I need to pick up more tile cement stuff tomorrow so we can lay the remaining two full-tile rows this week. Dad will help cut the tiles around the door and along the one wall that needs 3/4 tiles, which is also where we'll need to cut tiles to go around the toilet. Once the floor is in, we'll move the vanity out of the dining room (finally!) and install it, and put the toilet back (I can't wait.. I've so missed having a toilet upstairs in the middle of the night). We'll still need to do the trim around the room - which will likely mean we'll have to disconnect the sink to pull the vanity back out - but we're pr'bly going to wait on that for now because we haven't decided what kind of trim we want in there yet.

In other news (back to gardening), our neighbor from across the street came over to pick up some raspberry bushes this afternoon. We still have a fair number of them, but I'd say she took about half of what was out there, which is sort of nice. I'm re-thinking the plan of keeping any - they're just a bit too much maintenance for something we don't really use. In any case, the rest will get dug up the end of next week for delivery to folks up in the Cities who want them and/or transplant to the back of the fence. Then we'll RoundUp over that spot to try to kill any remaining raspberries and re-seed the spot with grass in a couple weeks.

27 April 2007

Not quite what I expected..

My much anticipated package from Spring Hill Nursery was waiting for me last night when we got home. It was.. small. smaller than I thought it should be with several live plants inside, including one that was destined to be a bush.. It was, I'd say, about 12"x24"x6". Hrm.

And it was very light. Hrm, again.

Now, before we go any farther, let me reiterate that this is the first time I've *ever* ordered anything alive to be delivered, so this whole process has been somewhat of a mystery. For instance, it took the plants *a week* to arrive, which had me in fits because I was positive that they'd be dead by the time they arrived.

Most of my fears were unwarranted, as it turns out. The plants arrived, as near as I can tell, alive:

The first photo on the left is the Weigela. Let's pause for a moment and remember that the picture in the catalog looks like.. well.. a full grown, rather large, bush. so I was .. surprised to find such a tiny little sprig in the tiny little container marked "weigela".

But at least it was in a container! As I was unpacking, it was easy to identify the phlox (the photo on the right), and the weigela. The evergreen vinca, the foxglove, and the sea holly, however, were *sealed* in plastic bags. Yes, there was also a bit of dirt in there with them, but they were *sealed* plastic bags. Um.. huh?

So I panicked. And I called My Garden Gurus(tm). And they assured me that while also thought the bags were a little odd (they asked if I'd ordered "bare root" plants.. I told them I had no idea), that they were sure the plants would be okay. They suggested that it might be a wee bit too early to plant them outside still, but that I could tuck everything away into pots with some potting soil for now and it would all be okay.

Which I did (except for the foxglove which is still in it's wee little bag because I ran out of potting soil and need to get more today), and I watered everything and left it inside on the kitchen table to get used to.. well.. light again. Tomorrow I'll put them outside in the shade on the porch to start acclimating them to outdoors, and maybe Sunday or Monday, they'll actually get a little bit of real, direct sunlight.

In the meantime, I need to get the yard where they're supposed to go prepared. Which means I need to rent a sod cutter and cut the sod out this weekend and then till up the dirt underneath it. Then I need to lay down the garden cloth (any suggestions for what to do about the areas where we're planning to plant annuals? do I just leave the garden cloth off those parts, or will we cut it out later?). We'll actually plant everything next weekend, but I'm hoping to get the prep work done this weekend. Then again, I'm also planning to tile the bathroom floor this weekend, so we'll see how much actually gets done!

23 April 2007

Light of day..

The paint's dry and it's daylight, so I was able to get some better shots of the paint in the bathroom:

But in much more exciting news.. It's HERE!

The box with my Breed Swap fleece and research arrived today! There are samples of 27 different types of fleece (apparently some were shipped to the coordinator, but never arrived) and research on 32 breeds of sheep. The fleece samples include an ounce of prepared fiber, a clean lock, and about a yard of 2-ply yarn. The research was all bound up in a 3-ring binder in plastic page protectors. On the right hand page of each is an attached plastic envelope for the lock and yarn samples (I already have mine sorted and put in the book .. yes, I'm a geek, I know) and room for our own notes as we spin each of the 1-ounce samples. The coordinator did a really excellent job in compiling all our research and formatting the books; I'm sure she had a fair amount of editing to do since I know that the research I sent her was originally much longer than what she was able to include (see above re: geek)! I'm really excited to really get to know each of these fleeces, it was about all I could do not to end each of the sentences above with an exclamation point!

Oh, and Cathy (sorry, I don't have a link or an email so I'm answering here!) asked why we were putting rock and sand in the bottom of the garden boxes. I'm doing it because it was recommended by my Expert Gardening Consultant(tm) (aka, good friend who used to do landscaping professionally). The beds are about 16 inches deep and we were discussing getting in a load of dirt to fill them when EGC mentioned that if I wanted them to really last and have really good drainage, I could do layers like that. Apparently, the rock helps the drainage and the sand keeps the good soil from working out as fast. Since I am sort of stuck on the idea that if you're going to do something, it's worth it to pay a little extra to make sure it will last, so I'm going to call some landscaping places to price options. If it's not something like twice as expensive to do the layers, we'll do that.

22 April 2007

What a difference a coat of paint makes!

Mom and dad came to visit this weekend and, as is usually the case when there are projects to be worked on, we .. well, worked on projects! Namely, we got the bathroom walls sanded, did the last coat of drywall mud, sanded again, and painted; brought some yard debris to the green dump; and did some gardening prep.

Here are some in progress shots of the bathroom.. first (because really, the sanding and drywall mud is sort of.. boring.. unlike.. watching.. paint.. dry..) the primer:

Dad predicted, and was correct, that once we got the walls all one color the room would look markedly improved; it also looked a good deal larger. Next, the first coat of the lavender paint (I don't remember the exact name), which is still a bit wet in these pictures:

Just a little bit ago, we finished the second coat (and therefore also still a bit wet):

I noticed the pictures sort of washed out the lavender, so I tried to get a shot that would show it a bit better. Not sure if it worked, though.. For what it's worth, if you click through to Photobucket for any of the pictures, the color of my default Photobucket pages is about the right color.

In addition to running some yard debris to the green dump, we brought the debris from the demolition of the bathroom to the dump, which meant we got our sitting area on the front porch back:

The wooden boxes on the front of the porch contain some of the composted soil we got from the green dump and some morning glory seeds. I also started some peppers - jalapeno's, Anaheim's, and a rainbow mix - but they're not terribly exciting yet. What is exciting is that we built the first of what will eventually be four 8'x8' raised garden beds:

When dad comes back in early May, we'll finish building the rest of the garden beds and fill them (at the moment the plan is to get a delivery from a landscaping supply place and do a layer of river rock, a layer of sand, a layer of composted soil, and a layer of black dirt mixed with peet) and plant the front yard (right in front of the porch; the plants for that should arrive this week). In the meantime, next weekend we'll be tiling the bathroom floor.

And since you asked.. um.. no.. I haven't really been knitting much lately. *shrug*

18 April 2007

My head is full to bursting..

I have so much to say right now.. I hope I can do even half of it justice.

First, I received the following via email today:

DEAR /t,

Thank you again for shopping at Spring Hill Nursery. The items listed below have been shipped and are on their way to you.

SHIPMENT SUMMARY--------------------------------------------------
Ship Date: 04/18/2007
Items Shipped:

Qty Item Item
Shipped Number Description
------- ------- ------------------------------
Whee! And sh!t! at the same time. I'm not ready to plant the front yard yet! It *SNOWED* last week?! HOW can I possibly be ready to dig my fingers into that (cold! wet!) dirt and trust that it will nurture tender young roots?! (Fortunately, I have a gardening consultant who is much more reliable than Francisco who told me that I just needed to keep the little plants' dirt moist and cover them at night if I'm going to leave them outside until I'm ready to plant them in a week or so. Whew!)

Second, which chronologically should have been first, I finished reading Leaving Atlanta last night. It is a wonderfully written, very engaging and true-to-life telling of a terrible time narrated through the voices of 5th-graders. It left me wanting to know more about that time in our country's history, wanting to know why this was the first I'd heard of a series of African American child kidnappings and murders that occured during my lifetime (1979-1981). It left me.. conflicted. Not because of any lack of attention paid to the events portrayed between it's covers, but because it ended before the end.

I think..?

It didn't finish the story - we don't know what happened to any of the major characters (save one), we don't know whether they ever caught the person(s?) responsible for the kidnappings and murders.. the story simply ends. In the middle. Of their lives, and their (broader) deaths.

And I've chewed over why this bugs me in the back of my head all day. I really can't say that I think it's any failing on the part of the author, nor of her skill in crafting a story - in fact I found the story gripping and engaging and had to force myself to put it down to go to sleep several times. Rather I think it's an internal compulsion within myself to have things end.. neatly. Which is in stark contrast to.. well, reality. Things *don't* end neatly. (The obvious example is the 33 lives abruptly ended amidst terror and panic and confusion on Monday.) Ends are rarely tied up in a neat little package (except, of course, in knitting.. which leads me to wonder about why it is a craft that tends to bring me such comfort, but that's for another time). There is rarely (never?) An Answer(tm).

This echoed itself in my world rather strongly today. I'm on a team of faculty, staff, and students working to complete an 18-month process of inquiry and examination into the equity of outcomes for students of color at my university. We are working on completing the draft of the fifth (and next to last) piece of what will become our final report - the only remaining piece is the conclusion - and today we had a spirited and useful discussion centering on two sources of data that appear to present conflicting evidence. Both sources are based on relatively small samples of students - and therefore neither can be considered conclusive or definitive. There is, objectively, no reason to favor one source over the other. But subjectively, one source seems to fly in the face of the personal experiences of several members of the team. We, as a team, are struggling to present these data in a way that won't muddy the already cloudy water surrounding "diversity" on our campus. We all want there to be a single, definitive story, An Answer(tm) that announces itself loud and clear in bright shining neon, a solution that is based on solid fact, not interpretation or reconciliation of conflicting data sources. A solution that fits with our experiences and that tells the story we think is Real(tm).

As a statistician and a social scientist, I know that such clarity never exists in the study of human society. I *know* that there is never a single story, that there is at most a common thread woven into a myriad of individual tapestries. We each bring to common experiences our own set of lenses and filters that shape our perceptions and remembrances of them. Just as the three narrators in Leaving Atlanta brought their own life's knowledge to the common experience of what is now referred to as "the Atlanta child murders".

I believe that any good book will not just tell a story, but leave the reader with something to mentally chew on. Tayari Jones has achieved that end in Leaving Atlanta, at least for me, but I doubt it's the meal she expected to be leaving her readers with. I haven't explored all the courses or sampled the myriad flavors, but I expect that this will be a meal I'll not soon forget, even if I find it difficult to digest initially.

17 April 2007

A day in the life..

I sat down at my desk for the first time today at noon. Jiggling my mouse didn't wake up the system because, well, it hadn't been turned on yet. It was a little odd.

This morning I woke up and got ready for my day. Ten minutes before our usual Tuesday departure time, my husband informed me we were driving in separately today, which made me suddenly ten minutes late. I scrambled to get everything in my gym bag - including a pair of black pants and a black top because I have a Samulnori performance tonight and need to wear concert attire - grabbed a frozen entree for lunch and rushed out the door, almost forgetting to lock it on my way out.

Our car has been in the shop the past several days while they fixed a more or less minor electrical problem (covered by the warranty). However in fixing the electrical problem, they apparently managed to reset the car's clock, which meant that as I was not-speeding-but-going-as-fast-as-allowed-otherwise my way into campus, I had no idea what time it really was. When you're trying to make up a ten minute loss, that's kind of important.

I didn't really want to listen to NPR this morning. I didn't want to have to process how my minor inconvenience interrupting my morning trip to campus was still within the realm of normal, whereas for thousands of students, faculty, staff, parents, friends, community members, and loved ones in and around the Virginia Tech campus, normalcy had simply ceased. I didn't want to think about the as-yet-unknown names and faces of those whose lives were senselessly and prematurely ended for as-yet-unknown reasons. I didn't want to wonder what such a tragedy might be like on my campus, or to think about the terror of enduring such a nightmare.

But without a functioning clock in the car, the best I could do was tune in and hope to let it fade into the background.

I made it to my spin class with mere seconds to spare - long enough to grab a sweat towel and adjust my bike - and tried to race harder and faster, to leave behind the uncertainty, the unanswered questions, the fears and most of all the grief. The irony of a spin class is that even when you're sprinting, your wheels just sit there and spin.

I was late to a meeting of administrators and just missed our new Chancellor address concerns about the security of our own campus and the need for us to revisit our emergency plan in light of yesterday's events. Discussions about upcoming projects - a major enrollment growth plan, the implementation of PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to begin over the summer, the administrative transition as our Provost leaves for another position - quickly moved in, prodding us all into our own present, our own routines, our own familiar.

A quick cup of coffee with a colleague and then a jaunt with my drum over to the fine arts building for dress rehearsal, where I didn't stop to realize that the 20 students in the recital hall would only have been 2/3rds of those lost.

And now, in my office for the first time today, the enormity is starting to permeate. Our offices are quiet, but still our routines continue, as they must, both for society's continued functioning as for our own well-being.

It's times like these when my athiesm becomes most pronounced. I would love to have a pat but heartfelt response - something like "God(dess) be with them" or "My prayers are for them" - but they don't fit for me and I dislike using such phrases without meaning. I can't possibly imagine what yesterday, today, or the coming tomorrows were and will be like for those in and around Virginia Tech, but I do sincerely hope they find comfort in each other and/or their faith as they mourn and grieve and, eventually, begin to heal.

11 April 2007

April showers..


10 April 2007

Almost Random Wednesday

In no particular order..

I finished Ghost Map tonight. I have to say that the historical bits were getting a little tiring toward the end, but he caught my interest and attention again in the last two chapters. Quite a bit to think about with on that front, especially in terms of the environmental impact of cities per capita. It brought me back around to thinking about trying to pick up an undergrad course in Epidemiology so that I can go back at some point for a Masters in Public Health.

It caught my attention as I started Leaving Atlanta that the Acknowledgements in Ghost Map are at the end, but in Leaving Atlanta they're at the beginning. I may be a bit off in this, but I usually read the author's acknowledgements which is why I noticed this. The names aren't ever anyone I know, but I feel somehow that reading them is important. I guess it's somehow related to the idea that we all, no matter what endeavors we undertake, owe acknowledgement for love and laughter and support and assistance to those around us but it seems we rarely remember how important all of it is until we get to the end of something.. or.. well, maybe the beginning of something.

Today was Bad Politics(tm) day at work. Nothing that I was directly involved with, but it seemed that lots of folks around me were caught up in some sort of bad juju. Here's hoping that tomorrow will be better.

I've started working on the Blue Willow Cardigan again and have (finally) divided for the front and back. This means that for the first time since I started knitting this one, I was able to stretch it all out and realize just how long the rows for that first 12 inches were:

It's too long for a single picture and I wasn't feeling quite motivated enough to try to figure out how to graft the two pictures together. *shrug* The ruler is there for scale, but also in a (mostly vain) attempt to unroll the bottom edge. Here's a slightly more detailed shot of just the back:

This is also the first opportunity I've had to more or less wrap the body around me to see if it's going to fit - I've been plagued with sweaters that end up .. off. The raglan I made a couple years ago has sleeves just a touch too short; Rogue is slightly too small; and my Fair Isle 101 is slightly too loose, especially around the neck, etc. This one will have a 3 inch Fair Isle border added all around the front edge and the bottom, and I think that once that's in place, this one will fit well enough. I may not be able to button it, but in truth I so rarely button cardigans that I doubt it will matter.

I'm in meetings at work for the next three days pretty much solid. Tomorrow I have some reprieve in the late afternoon, but Thursday and Friday are booked straight through with back-to-back demos of several of the PeopleSoft functional unit components for their student information system. I'm .. cautiously optimistic at the moment that the living hell we'll endure over the next 2-ish years during conversion and initial implementation will be worth it in the end. At least, I am most of the time.

We have not done any additional work in the upstairs bathroom. I alternate between feeling guilty about this and knowing that our lives our busy and the bathroom can wait. I feel quite a bit more guilty about the dust, which just accentuates the fact that I haven't vacuumed in.. longer than I care to admit. Maybe tomorrow.

09 April 2007

It's almost summer..

.. and that means it's almost time for sitting on the front porch in the late evening with a good book. And, let me tell you, this year, I have quite the line up and I can't wait!

At the moment, I'm getting to the tail end of Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson. It's an interesting little reconstruction of the 1856 cholera epidemic in London's Soho neighborhood, centering specifically on the pump at Broad Street. Johnson follows two "amateur" public health detectives - John Snow, London's premiere anesthesiologist, and Reverand Henry Whitehead - as they work under the haze of the miasmatist theory (which states that disease is spread through noxious air, in a nutshell) to pioneer the theory that cholera is actually waterborne. The book contains a hefty collection of footnotes, but they're not marked in the text, so I haven't been keeping up on them to know what is actual fact or based on the writings of those mentioned and what is conjecture. All the same, it's enough of a "story", instead of a pure factual account of the events, that's mostly held my interest. It also likely helps that I have an inclination toward public health and the findings of Snow & Whitehead (and a fair number of their contemporaries, like the guy whose name I can't recall at the moment who engineered London's sewers so they wouldn't dump raw sewage into the Thames) were more or less the first real push toward modern public health.

Up next will be either Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, or Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones, both of which were gifts from my dear friend Kim. She recently read both of them and they immediately caught my attention. Much to my surprise when I mentioned that I wanted to pick them up in conversation with her, she popped right over to Amazon and had them sent to me! The anticipation of both of them has almost been enough to make me be unfaithful to Ghost Map, but so far I'm holding out.

I also have a couple "young adult" books in the stack - Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce and Coraline (warning - Flash-heavy site) by Neil Gaiman. I read Trickster's Choice earlier this spring after picking up both books when our local Waldenbooks went out of business and while they're written a little simply for my usual taste, the plot is still very engaging and I enjoyed it. Coraline is has been on my nightstand for awhile, mostly because I'm curious about Neil Gaiman as a writer for children. I simply love his novels - American Gods especially - and the Sandman series of graphic novels, but both tend to be a little grittier than I think might be suitable for kids, so I'm curious to see how he tones it down without losing the intensity. I like to know what young adult literature is out there, both to know which authors are good authors for when we buy books for our niblings, but also to know what the niblings might be finding on their own.

The last two, at least so far, are a couple that have been around for a couple years and spent a fair amount of time in the spotlight - Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. While these both caught my attention at the time they were the latest hot read, neither of them captured it enough to make me run out and get them right then. But in talking to bibliophiles who've read them, I've gotten more intrigued about them, so they've been acquired (both through used book stores in paperback) and added to the stack on the night stand.

So.. any other suggestions? What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

07 April 2007

Saturday morning in the backyard..

We have a nesting pair of cardinals in our neighborhood that appear to come back each year (or at least, we have at least one pair every year, even if it's not the same ones). My mom suggested that we put out a tray feeder with safflower in it because, unlike black oil sunflower seeds, they won't try to seed in our lawn and the squirrels don't like it, but the birds do. Especially the cardinals (you'll have to click the pictures to make them big enough to really see - it's the male in both, and possibly a juvenile at that; in the first he's in the apple tree and in the second he's in the shadows on the ground).

And the doves.

The finches, on the other hand, at least the goldfinches, seem to prefer the shelled sunflower seeds in the upright feeder. The purple finches will eat either, though.

We've also had several dozen juncoes (I'm not sure if that's spelled properly) the last couple of weeks - little black and grey guys that will sometimes eat from the platform feeder, but more often pick stuff other birds have spilled on the ground.

04 April 2007

Wilcoxon has a hat..

Okay, so really it's the start of my next pair of socks - just a plain stockinette foot so far, but my first every toe up sock. I used the Magic Cast On, which took me a bit to wrap my head around, but now that I have it, I have it, you know? I looked for patterns to use for the foot and decided that cables would get lost in the color changes and lace would be too busy, so this pair will pr'bly just be straight stockinette with maybe a ribbed ankle. I've wanted to learn to do toe-up socks for awhile because I never seem to make the ankles long enough to wear comfortably under boots when I do them top down.

Unfortunately, now I need to go practice my drum for a while. We have a sort of big performance next week and it'll be my first time performing all four of our pieces. Two of them I'm really comfortable with, the third I'm mostly set for, but the fourth I manage to get lost in the middle of almost every time. :/

01 April 2007



This is the best shot I have of the stairs before we started doing any remodeling. This is actually from the day we closed on the house and I wasn't really focused on getting great shots of the stairs from the top, but you can at least sort of see what they had in for carpet on the stairs.


The left shot is the three steps from the landing to the upstairs hall; the middle is the main staircase from the top; the right is the main staircase from the bottom. Folks who make carpet runners for stairs are tricksy - see how the pattern lines up on each step? It's kind of neat, but totally unplanned on our part!

And this is what Jali thinks of all this remodeling nonsense: