Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Yet Another Silly Test

Test Results: "
"

Random Acts of Kindness; and Random Acts of Blogging

On Tuesday, we once again felt the touch of hands helping to pull us back from the edge a little more.

We are grateful to those who have been stepping in to help, unasked and unexpected. Thank you. You are making an enormous difference in our life right now.

As to my blogging, I should have thought ahead to this and given a little more warning, but here it is now, anyhow. Gryphon has taken a few days off from work this week. We can't afford to go anywhere, but we are hoping to spend time doing things together that we normally don't have a chance to do. So my blogging may be a little spotty between now and next Tuesday.

I'll post when it fits the flow of our days, or if something really noteworthy happens. But I may not post every day the way I try to.

Thanks again for reading!


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Repost: A Most Fitting Closure to the Saga...

This entry was originally posted to my only blog at the time, Folkcat's Fiber Crafts. Since it's not fiber content, and more suited for this location, I've chosen to re-post it at this time. I'll go back to original content tomorrow, I promise!

Last Friday, the 10th of June, I finally had my opportunity to see Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith on the big screen. As luck would have it, I was able to do so in a fashion that uniquely celebrated the completion of the story cycle that George Lucas began back in 1977.

When Star Wars came out, I was just about to graduate high school. I was an instant fan the first time I saw the movie. During its original release, I saw it a total of ten times. I faithfully attended each of the subsequent movies when they came out, even being the first person in line in Syracuse, NY to see Return of the Jedi.

This past Friday, I looked at the sign outside the movie theatre next door and was thrilled to see that Dennis (owner of the theater) had booked Star Wars E3. I hadn't been to see it yet, and this was so convenient. Plus, I had heard rumors about the Wilton Town Hall Theatre and the original Star Wars that I hoped to confirm...

I bought my ticket early, and I didn't even have to pry the information out of Dennis. He told me the story about what happened back in 1977, about how, contrary to any evidence you will find elsewhere on the web and in Star Wars trivia, the world premiere of the original Star Wars took place at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre on May 17th, 1977, in the tiny town of Wilton, New Hampshire.

Go anywhere else, ask the most devoted and knowledgable Star Wars fan, and you'll be told that the first movie premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on May 25th, 1977. Why the discrepancy?

As Dennis told it to me, one of the producers of the film had children who attended a notable boarding school here in Wilton. He really,
really wanted his kids to be the first to see the movie. So a special day of showings of Star Wars was arranged as a fundraising event for the school.

It's that simple. Since this wasn't an official, for profit showing, and wasn't an event that got national attention at all (after all, Star Wars at the time of release was predicted to be a B-movie dud with no box office power and no lasting value), in all official records the first showing that counts was at Grauman's.

But I know different, and now you do, too. And what I consider more special, I got to see the movie that brought the story full circle in the place where it really all began.

How cool is that?

Monday, August 29, 2005

We Must Be Doing Something Right...

...because we keep getting reminded just how wonderful our friends are.

I won't go into details - that's not necessary. But I will say that, up until midday Sunday, we felt like we were hanging over the edge of a cliff by a tattered thread. Then another of our friends stepped up (a different one than brought us the garden bounty) and pulled us back.

We're still not completely out of the stressful and difficult situation, but at least now we feel like we're sitting on the edge of the cliff, not dangling precariously in space.

I don't think I want to say much more today. Except that Gryphon and I feel very, very blessed.

Thank you, friends. You know who you are.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Finding Findings, Processing Pickles, and My eBay debut

Today was a quiet day spent at home. Quiet, that is, if you assume that doing lots of stuff can still qualify as "quiet". So far, the day has been driven by activities that build on things that happened yesterday.

Gryphon knew bloody well that if I was going to turn yesterday's vast bounty of vegetables into pickles for him, he ought to help by cutting it all up into the sizes and shapes he thought pickles should be. That's only right, since he's the only one who'll be eating them.
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Gryphon in the Kitchen

Luckily, he is fond of the result when I cook, and he is willing to do what's needed to help me with the process. He even washes dishes and cleans the kitchen afterward.

Back off, ladies, he's mine!

I really enjoyed making beaded stitch markers for my knitting yesterday, and I was prompted to figure out what other findings I have left from the bead store to work with. That led to sorting out this box of goods into "keep it" and "sell it".
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Findings, Found

That's a queen-size bed, to give you some idea of the size of the piles. The stuff in the box is the "sell it" pile.

Which took me to a major step, something that we've been thinking of for a long time, and have never gotten around to.

I put up my first listing on eBay. Nothing fancy - just a set of 4 bags of safety pins. But it's left-over stock from the bead store that I really don't need a gazillion of.

What's most special about this is the simple fact that we've now gotten past the hump of getting started. I've been an eBay buyer for several years, but never started selling until now.

Now that I've seen how easy it is to start a listing, it will be easy for me to keep this going. We have a lot of surplus items that I can help us make some cash from this way.

And that's a good thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Thursday - I Have to Admit, it's Getting Better

Many thanks to the well-wishers I heard from after yesterday's post. By the end of the day, I was able to sleep all right, and today I'm no worse than on an average day. Which means I'm able to get on about my business and get things done.

Today saw Gryphon and I dealing, once again, with our tight budget. This being August, it's time to renew the registration on my car. Fortunately, we knew this was coming and plugged the numbers into Quicken weeks ago.

So we had the money allotted for it. The bad news, however, is that it left us no wiggle room this week. We have no option to put off registering the car, because we really do need to have it on the road, and the month is running out. And the few other bills we're paying this week - well, the vendors have been kind enough to allow us a few delays already, and we don't feel we can push that kindness any further.

That leaves us with $20 for groceries this week. Yeah. We've already spent just over half of it today, for such luxuries as bread. Milk. You know, non-essentials like that. We are so reckless with our money.

The very good news is, we have friends, and they spontaneously do things to help because they know the situation we're in. Yesterday, one of these friends asked when we'd be home today, because she'd been helping a neighbor with his garden after he'd injured himself. She came away from it with more produce than she could hope to use - but she thought of me and Gryphon.

Here's the bounty that wonderful friend brought by.
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Garden Bounty, Generous Heart

It warms my heart that she thought of us, and this will be a big help - especially this week. It takes a lot of pressure off of the pocketbook for keeping us fed.

I'll probably write about what I do with all this over at Folkcat in the Kitchen, sometime in the next couple days. Meanwhile, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that we have some very, very good friends.

It helps - a lot - to know that.

Now that the car is registered, we have to get it inspected by the tenth of next month. Keep your fingers crossed that it passes!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Itchy and Twitchy - Early Warning System at Full Alert

I'm having one of "those" days.

I get infrequent and unusual migraines. Infrequent because it may be many months between bouts.

Unusual because I almost never get the headache that most people assume is a migraine. Sometimes, yes, but what I usually experience is a combination of other neurological symptoms. The aura (that glowing streak of light that comes into the visual field of a migraine sufferer), distortion of my vision, nausea, sometimes a tingling sensation across my face or arms. Sensitivity to light, too, and I'll usually feel extremely tired and weak for a day.

Over the years this has been happening, Gryphon and I have noticed that the migraines will often be foreshadowed one to three days in advance. I experience a day when I'm extra twitchy, extra sensitive to noise, light, drafts - any extraneous and uncontrollable sensory input.

I'm having one of "those" days. I felt fine when I woke up, but within an hour, I was more sensitive to noise levels than I can remember ever being. Even the sound of toilet paper scrolling off the roll bothered me like fingernails on a chalkboard.

The best thing I can do is try to limit and control the input, and just be as comfortable as I can until it passes. I'm trying not to anticipate the migraine itself - given the intensity of today's sensitivity, I'm concerned that it's going to be a doozy.

Send good, calming thoughts my way today, okay? Thank you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Where I Find the Time

I've had a comment that it seems like I plan to do a lot of blogging. I suppose it may be hard for a lot of you to imagine trying to keep four blogs updated daily, with others as subject matter comes up.

Let me explain a bit about my life. I'm a 45-year old woman, married to a 55-year old man. We will have been married 13 years next February, which should give you a clue that we found each other and got started on this fairly late. I was 32, and he was 42.

Our family is just Gryphon and me. We thought we wanted kids for a long time, then while we were waiting for that to happen, we got our other interests and activities together and started leading a pretty busy, full life. About the time that we figured out that it wouldn't be fair for us to have kids (because they would completely change our lives and we'd have to give up most of the things we enjoyed so much), we also learned that it probably wasn't physically possible for us to have kids. I have had serious endometriosis and ovarian cysts that required major surgery, and while I still have one ovary left, it's not a completely normal one, anyhow.

So it's just the two of us, living in a fairly small (2-bedroom) apartment. Gryphon has a regular job, but I don't work outside the home. I have asthma and am sensitive to various things like perfume and smoke. We tried to have me working temp jobs years ago, but it turned out that I could never tell if I was going to have to work all day next to someone who either smoked on their breaks, and therefore always reeked of it, or used perfumed products heavily. The last temp job I went on, I left at lunch break and couldn't go back because the woman I was working side-by-side with all morning stank to high heaven of some sort of product. I was coughing all morning, and came close to having an all-out asthma attack.

Needless to say, the temp agencies never called me again after I had to explain why I was leaving that job. Gryphon and I decided that, though it would be tough financially, the risk to my health was turning out to be too great. I know that smoking laws have tightened up in the meantime, but smokers don't understand just how long they still smell of the poison after they take that quick toke break outside. So even laws that strictly forbid smoking in the workplace don't help me.

It's been over 11 years since we made the decision that I would stay home. In that time, I've been responsible for the cooking, the household planning, the grocery shopping. I can't say I'm quite a Donna Reed, but we did have one classic moment when Gryphon walked in the door from work just as I rose from the oven and turned to him with a fresh, hot apple pie in my hands. It would have been straight out of an episode of Donna's show, if it weren't for the fact that I was barefoot, wearing stretch pants and a t-shirt instead of high heels, pearls, and a full-skirted dress.

Although I haven't worked at a formal job (which I consider to be one where someone else hires me and pays me money to do what they need done*), we do consider my constant crafting - and even my blogging - to be my work. I'm an artist in search of a message, I guess, exploring my creative possibilities. Since writing is one of my media - and communicating about your craft is an essential part of building yourself as a working artist - it is reasonable to consider these blogs to be among my workday tasks.

It doesn't hurt that I enjoy writing them, too. And we know that, somehow, someway, there is potential here for my blogs to be a medium through which my craft is aided in earning money. We may not know what the overall plan is here, but we do have a sense that letting me craft and blog every day is a significant component of it.

So, yes, it may seem like I'm making a big commitment in time and effort to these blogs. And for most people, that would interfere too much with the other parts of their lives - like outside jobs, raising children, and so much more. But I have no outside job. I have no children to take care of. We don't even have pets, as much as we'd love to have a cat - the apartment we can afford doesn't allow them. It's just Gryphon and me, and we collaborate on the running of the household because we like it that way and it spreads the load.

My blogging isn't quite my life. But my life is such that I can make blogging a significant part of it, because I enjoy it.

*Yes, I did own and operate a bead store for the better part of three years, and that was a job. And I came in contact with customers who wore perfume, or who smelled of smoke. But the contact was always limited in scope, and very irregular in occurrence. The job was of my own creation, and I wasn't having to answer to someone else's demands - only my own. That made it very different than if I was forced to work with a smoker side-by-side for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, because my boss said that was my job.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Blog (or 9), A Plan, No Canals; and, Minor Blog Condensation

No, I don't mean water misting up the screen!

First things first. I've been recently thinking really hard about how to make the maximum use of these blogs I have. (See the list at the side of the screen under the heading "Recently Updated Blogs" for links to all of the public ones.)

Many bloggers make a point of blogging daily Monday to Friday, but taking the weekends off. This is sounding like a good idea to me. I have the greatest time available to focus on writing entries on the weekdays anyhow, with Gryphon off at work.

I've determined that there are four blogs I can guarantee to update daily on a M-F schedule; the one you're reading now; Confessions of a Chantraphile; Folkcat's Craft Library; and Folkcat's Fiber Crafts. And I'm going to tempt the fates by promising you that now - that, barring the unforeseen (and I am touching wood as I type this), those four blogs will have something new each day of the standard work week.

I won't rule out that I may post on the weekends as well, especially if something noteworthy happens. But that will be bonus content.

Two of my other blogs are for very specific subjects, and I want to keep them separate for ease of access for followers of those subjects. Those are Folkcat & Gryphon's Geocaching Adventures, and The Milford Memory Box. These will be posted to as events occur, which may be irregular. I hope it will be at least weekly, however.

Folkcat In The Kitchen, my cooking and food memoir blog, will not likely be posted to daily. It's probably reasonable to expect between 2 and 4 posts a week, depending on how active my cooking is.

Folkcat's Fotos is the one remaining blog to consider, and consider it I have. I originally created it when I felt that some foto-blogging entries were over-running my general blog; now I'm thinking it would be best folded back into Life & Times instead of standing on its own. I expect within the week to have re-posted all the entries from "Fotos" to here. I will not mark them as re-posts the way I did the entries I moved over to Folkcat in the Kitchen, though - rather, I will leave them with their current time-stamps, and simply meld them into the "Life" archives in their alloted places.

I feel like I'm starting to get a grip on how to manage it all, and I hope this will help me do a better job of providing you something interesting to read on a more regular basis. If you have any suggestions to offer, or tips based on your own experience, please feel free to share them in comments.

Thank you for listening once again.

Folkcat

P.S. - Things are still rough, but I'm feeling better about it all. Gryphon's finally finished fixing the brake lines on his truck, and they're working! You can read about it at his blog, Gryphon in the Wild. He's writing a multi-chapter telling of the saga.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Lest You Get the Wrong Idea...

...I think I need to point out that I'm aware that Gryphon and I are quite well off compared to so many, many people in the world. We have a roof over our heads; we have transportation; and however disappointing the quality and the flavors may be, we do have food to eat.

My moaning and complaining is no indication of a lack of gratitude for what we have. It has more to do with the significant change in the status quo, and the inevitable creaking, groaning, and fear of cracking from stress, that goes with that transition. And I appreciate that I have sympathetic ears here who will listen.

Heart Sick and Hating It

It's been around a month now since we went into emergency mode on the budget. Every time we look over the list of bills for the week and try to figure out who we can pay, who will have to wait, and how little we have left for groceries, I spend a day or two in a grand funk, wishing it were better and not knowing how I'm going to hang on until it is.

I have faith that it will be, someday. And in the meantime, Gryphon is the strength that helps me make it through the difficult days. Thing is, for now at least, I have to live so many days every week with the feeling I call "heart sick".

I'm sure most people have felt it, even if they never gave it a name. I'd describe it as the sensation that there's a black hole situated somewhere in the middle of your chest. You can feel it sucking all your energy, trying to pull all the life out of you into its gut, trying to drag you down into a tight little ball curled up around its black mass.

It takes all you can muster to fight doing exactly that. While I'm fighting the urge to go fetal, I find myself on the verge of weeping. At these times I'm fragile, not as able to handle additional stresses as usual. Going to the store and finding out that they raised the price of the salad I need by 80 cents since last week can be enough to make me tremble and burst into tears - if I have to do it alone.

To a degree, it actually helps that we're reduced to one car at the moment. Gryphon will be working on his truck's brake lines again this weekend, and may get them fixed this time, but in the meantime, we only have my trusty Neon. So we have to do the grocery shopping together before he goes to work. That means that, when I'm faced with brutal realities of our budget and the cost of living while in public, I have his strength to help keep the ball moving, help us make the right choices and get out of the store without my either breaking down into tears right there, or going ballistic on rude supermarket staff, idiot customers, or clueless baggers who were never taught to bag properly.

This all really sucks. Big, rotten, smelly eggs it sucks. Part of the problem is, there's no one I can really blame in all this. Gryphon's current job just doesn't pay him enough money for us to live on, and we're struggling with even the most basic of expenses. It's not like we live an extravagant lifestyle. We don't go out much, since he works in the evenings. Our hobbies are mostly inexpensive things that require little or no money. The Internet and our computers are a major source of activity and information, and Internet Service is considered a utility these days, so it's not like we spend above and beyond expected norms for that.

It's not having options that is hurting more than anything. I wrote not long ago about the difference between "have to's" and "got to's". In summary, a good day for a kid could be described as "I got to go to the store with Grandma, and I got to push the cart." With a little attitude change, the same day can be turned bad - "I had to go to the store with Grandma, and I had to push the cart."

Sometimes the presence or absence of have to's is based on flipping your attitude. But sometimes, those have to's are forced on you by circumstances. Currently, we have to buy day-old bread and vegetables from the distressed rack in the supermarket because that's what we can afford. We have to do without being able to eat even a cheap meal at Wendy's because there isn't any money left in the budget for eating out after buying medicine and cut-rate produce. I have to find ways to work with the craft materials I have on hand, forcing alterations in my desired designs, rather than being able to use even a modest budget for purchasing materials that would let me create to my vision unaltered.

We did not choose to make these decisions. They were forced on us by circumstances. That makes them harder to swallow. It would be a totally different matter if we had made these choices because we wanted to live as frugally as possible. We could still, then, have chosen to be frugal in other ways, but get bread that we liked the taste of, rather than bread that we can afford and that gets us by until the next week. It would be a conscious choice, not one forced by circumstances.

I'm feeling very much a victim of circumstances for now. I realize that, if I can manage to swallow the hurt and work through it, and if we can live within the circumstances we're forced into, eventually we'll be in a better space with more options.

For now, though, it's very hard. I'm sure I can do it, because I've got Gryphon by my side.

But sometimes, there's just no helping the fact that it hurts.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs

Nine blogs. Why? I've explained it before, or tried to. Sometimes, though, when I look at the list of recent posts and realize that I've ignored a blog for a few days, I wonder if the way I'm doing it is really supportable.

The main blog I have an issue with is this one. And I think it's more a matter of, well, this is a more personal blog than the others. My bead, fiber craft, and cooking blogs all have a specific subject I can talk about and not really feel like I'm talking about myself. Geocaching and the Memory Box both have specific subjects as well. The Craft Library is the most impersonal of the lot - it's literally a catalog of my crafting books, nothing more.

Here, though, in Life and Times of a Winged Cat, I am the subject. I am the viewpoint character who's telling you what I think about the world as I see it. Here I'm supposed to be telling you about the encounter with the rude smoker at the door of a supermarket; the disappointment of too many bills in the mail; the surprise of an unexpected gift.

And I'm managing to do that, to a degree. But it still takes a rising out of myself that I haven't mastered to feel comfortable doing it. This may be linked to the fact that I've never been able to get into journaling in any form - pen and paper, electronic, anything. I have trouble stepping outside of myself and examining who I am, what I do, and how I react to the world.

I know it would be a good thing for me to be able to do this. So I'm going to try. My attempts may seem awkward at times, but I'll keep making them.

I know I'm a good story teller, or at least that's what I've been told. Here's hoping I can be a good subject of my own stories. My promise to myself, right now, is that I'll try to make one post in this blog each week that is honest, real, and maybe makes me a little uncomfortable to share. Without being stupidly revealing of anything that an identity thief can use, of course.

I hope you'll come along with the ride. It may be bumpy at first, but it probably won't be dull.

I hope.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Invasion of the 20-foot Baby; or, If It's This Easy, What are the Idiots in Congress Actually Doing?

You might want to bookmark this blog entry. It's one of the rare times you'll ever see me speak on a political topic!

Gryphon and I went out for a nice ice cream on Sunday. It was uneventful enough - I had banana fudge, he had the flavor of the month, whoopie pie, both were good - and I got some nice pictures. Then we came back home to Wilton, and found this sight waiting to greet us.
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It's a big boy...girl...uh, baby!

This inflatable critter is about 20 feet tall, and was part of a demonstration set up by a group called True Majority. Their entire point is that they've thought of a simple, easy to understand way to demonstrate certain points about the United States Federal Budget, especially that part apportioned to the Pentagon. With stacks of giant, fake Oreo cookies, each representing $10 billion dollars, the speaker demonstrates how a simple re-apportionment of a tiny fraction of the Pentagon budget could solve an awful lot of problems with schools, health care, and unemployment.
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Oreos = Money

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am the most a-political person there is. I grew up with a father who's heavily involved in the Republican party in Syracuse, and as a child, I was dragged around door-to-door and made to ring bells and hand out flyers. I was painfully shy, and this was like torture to me.

Add that I grew up meeting politicians, and I don't think that helped at all. I got to know that they are generally, mostly, nice people. But that I couldn't see any reason to prefer one over another.

People who get involved in political causes are doing a lot of good for the world, and fixing a lot of wrongs. I'm not saying that politics isn't worth time and effort. I just have trouble feeling like it's right for me.

I know, I know - a bunch of you right now are muttering to yourselves, "It's people like you that are what's wrong with the system!" Well, you're entitled to your opinion.

Please understand, though, that I am painfully aware of the limited capability of the human being to do things well. I do my crafts well. I cook well. I write well. I do an awful lot of things quite well, and I enjoy them.

I could get involved in politics. But I think I have assessed my ability to cope with politics carefully. I don't think I could do politics half-assed. I don't think I could ever just fit it into a couple odd moments here and there. I would probably take up leadership on some campaign and make it a major effort, which would push a lot of other things I do into limbo.

I am fairly sure that, as a political person, I would be intensely unhappy. Politics is a game* that never ends. Either you don't get the changes you want, or you only get a partial change, or you get the change, but immediately identify another issue to take its place. There are no finished projects in politics.

I can't deal with that. I suspect I would become insanely driven trying to make a finished project happen. And I would take extreme issue with anyone who couldn't see the logic of my position.

I would probably have a heart attack or stroke in very short time.

In short, politics is a valid matter for people to get involved with, and they can make massive changes in the world that make it a better place. But I think I'm a personality type who couldn't handle it well. I couldn't control it so it wasn't my whole life, and I couldn't get into it without taking it all very, very, personally.

My hats are off to those of you who can do it. It's not an easy job. It must be a lot like raising kids, something Gryphon and I have also decided we could probably never do (aside from the fact that physical reality makes that something that's not going to happen.) Even when they grow up, the job's never really done, is it?

All that being said, if it's all right with you, I'll leave the politics to those who do it well, and I'll stick to what I know. Crafting.

Now, why that long digression? Well, because as an apolitical person, I sometimes have a bad reaction to receiving a political lecture. But this time, it was all so simple and clear, and it made extreme sense. And it was delivered without a hint of malice** in the entire speech.

At the end of the speech, people who signed up for the website, http://www.showmethemoney.net , were given a pen. But not just any pen. Apparently, this pen was featured on C-Span or something when someone testified on the Senate floor. This pen has a window-shade like component that can be pulled out to display a bar graph of the Federal Budget. It's rather cool.

I didn't sign up that day, but when the speaker saw I was planning to blog about this, he gave me a pen anyhow. You can buy them, too, especially if you want to hand them out and spread the word. And I haven't ruled out that I might still sign up for True Majority - they actually seem to be a level of political involvement - and a positive attitude - that I can deal with.

http://shop.store.yahoo.com/truemajority/truempen.html

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Cool Trick Pentagon Budget Pen

*(It is not my intention to trivialize it by using the word "game". Rather, I use the term as an indicator of the type of strategic maneuvering that is involved.)

**(Malice may be one of the big reasons I can't get into politics. I can't stand spending my days with people who are only talking about what's wrong with the world, and I think sometimes that's the only mode that politically-involved people are able to use. I'm not saying be all Mary Sunshine and everything, but there's almost always a positive way to spin your story that will sit better with people, and not contribute to the vast pools of negative emotion poisoning the world.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A Quiz for Potter Geeks











GRYFFINDOR!

You scored 28% Slytherin, 20% Ravenclaw, 72% Gryffindor, and 20% Hufflepuff!

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart.




Gryffindors are known for their courage, audacity, and devotion to what is good and honest.
















My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 64% on Slytherin
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 5% on Ravenclaw
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 94% on Gryffindor
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Hufflepuff




Link: The Sorting Hat Test written by leeannslytherin on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On Holiday from Blogging; and, Evil, Time-sucking Games

I'm taking a break from blogging today, especially after yesterday's marathon session in which I blogged to all nine of my blogs.

Of course, I feel this is significant enough that I have to blog about it.

Am I a sick kitty, or what?

Of course, if I'm not blogging, reading, knitting, or beading, I'm almost certainly reading blogs. Which is how I found the subject of part two of this entry.

Don't ask me how I found this blog to begin with - it was almost certainly a link off of yet another blog I read. But I was intrigued by this post where the writer describes a Japanese logic puzzle game I hadn't heard of yet, Sudoku. (From the sound of things, some of you in larger cities may have heard of this already, as it seems to be published in many newspapers.) I followed her links to this online version of the game, and tried it out.

I was dead meat. Instantly hooked. A weak, pathetic fish flopping on the line. The game board is a 9x9 grid, sub-divided into 9 smaller 3x3 grids. There is only one rule - Fill in all blank cells making sure that each row, column and 3 by 3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. Depending on the difficulty level of the puzzle, you are given more or fewer filled in numbers to start from.

The original poster had mentioned a Palm OS version, but I have an older Palm Vx, so I didn't follow her link. Instead, I googled the game myself. And found multitudes of pages about the game in various forms, from online to paper-and-pencil. Online aids to help solve. Pages where people discuss solutions and strategies. Online versions of the game, Windows versions, versions for every handheld you can imagine. Web sites for Japanese Puzzle Book publishers. (In English, but the books are in Japanese!)

I sifted through the information, partly with the aid of the Wikipedia entry. Eventually, I came up with this freeware version for Windows 9x, 2000, & XP. I've tried it on both my laptop (a Dell Inspiron 4150) and my desktop (a Dell Dimension 8200) with great success.

I am still evaluating the versions for the Palm Vx. The first one I tried out crashed every time I tried to access one of its functions, so I've ruled it out. I'll report here when I decide if any of them work on my admittedly out-of-date PDA.

Meanwhile, proceed to the other Sudoku links at your own risk. I take no responsibility for addiction, time lost, and other hazards!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why I Have So Many Blogs; also, The Demise of the Birthday Cake; and Brake Lines

Gryphon and I ate the last of the Cookie Monster Birthday Cake today. I guess that means this year's celebration of my birthday is officially over. That's okay - it was a good one over all, if not extravagant. I had fun, I got cake, and I got a nice birthday present.

One of the main forces in our life since Saturday has been the saga of Gryphon's brake lines. His old truck (a 90-something Dodge Dakota) had developed leaks in the brake lines. We can't afford to have a shop do the work, but Gryphon got lots of good information from the folks at the local VIP Auto Parts store, and he's a handy guy. It turns out that the parts don't cost much, and it's just a labor-intensive job.

One of the oddities of this is that I've had to help him a lot with it. Once the brake line is installed, someone has to sit in the cab, pumping the pedal occasionally, while the other lies below monitoring the movement of the air out of the line. Apparently, one of the likely consequences of replacing one brake line is that, with a solid section in place, you now discover new leaks in previously un-leaky parts of the system. And that's exactly what happened today. We only had to pump a couple of times on the brake pedal to realize that a new old section of line at the front of the truck was now leaking, and will need replacing.

Sounds like that's this weekend's job.

About the Folkcat Blogiverse

You may have noticed that there's a box on the side of this blog that shows a list of "Recently Updated Blogs". You may have wondered why there are 8 (yes, eight) blogs on that list. Actually, I have 9 blogs - there's a private one that isn't on that public list. This begs the question, though - Who could ever need so many blogs?

I started, as I imagine every blogger does, with only one. It was for my bead store, and I posted news about the bead store.

Mere weeks later, we had to decide to close the bead store. I converted the blog to a personal one, and began posting about my crafts. The blog at this time was called "Folkcat Art", which is the name I create art under.

Then, I started to post about more subjects than just crafts. In fact, other subjects threatened to take over. I had found that blogging came easily to me, and I had lots to say, every day.

Rather than provide my readers with a full novella to read every day in one place, I decided to open a new blog, one that would take the "daily life" postings and keep them from obscuring the craft posts. Life & Times of a Winged Cat was born.

I became more involved with online crafters. I joined a textile arts group at Yahoo. I got more involved in my beading again. The "Folkcat Art" blog became Folkcat's Fiber Crafts, and I created another new blog for the beadwork, Confessions of a Chantraphile. Blog count: 3.

I started taking more pictures for my blogs, and lots of them didn't necessarily illustrate any posts I wanted to make. But they were still good enough I wanted to share them. New blog - Folkcat's Fotos! Blog count: 4.

Gryphon and I became active in Geocaching, and I wound up talking about it a lot. Rather than dominate "Life & Times", I created Folkcat & Gryphon's Geocaching Adventures. Blog count: 5.

I discovered that many of my posts to "Life & Times" were starting to be extensive discussions of things I had cooked, complete with recipes. By the time I posted all about the food, I had taken so much space that talking about life in general would be too much. The answer was obvious - I needed a cooking blog. Thus, Folkcat in the Kitchen. Blog Count: 6

I have a craft circle that meets weekly at my house, and I decided a blog would be a great way to share what happened each week, and to post news for the members about whether we were meeting or not. This is a private blog, so I won't tell you how to find it, but it brought the Blog Count to: 7.

I realized that one of my great dreams, cataloging my library of craft books, could be managed in a useful way by entering each book's information as a blog post. This could also be interesting to other people, because I would be reviewing each book. Folkcat's Craft Library. Blog Count: 8.

Finally, Gryphon and I expanded our geocaching by hiding a box ourselves. Since it's designed to collect pictures and memories from people who find it, we plan to post those items online for others to view. The natural format - a blog! Milford Memory Box, Blog Count: 9.

See, it happened as a logical response to my actual usage of my blogs. I suppose I'm unusual in this, but I'm posting regularly to all 9 blogs. At least once a week, and often twice or more. I guess I just have that much to say.

And with this post itself, I mark a minor milestone. This is the first day that I have posted to all 9 blogs in the same day!

You would think that I spend all my time blogging, in which case - how do I ever have time to do things to blog about? Well, I guess the writing comes naturally for me, and I've organized my blog handling to such a degree that it's a quick matter to knock off another post. It takes almost no time at all, and I'm off to my real-life activities again.

All I really know for sure about it all is this - I'm having fun. My journaling here is helping me to understand the things I enjoy doing more. And it's providing a focus that makes it easier to do non-blogging activities - giving me more to blog about.

Stay tuned - who knows what's next?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Zen Kitty's, Folkcat Birthdays, and Coooooookie!

I received the first of my items from my Cafe Press store the other day, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out. Here's the "Zen Kitty" t-shirt:
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Not a tent, just size 3x

It looks a little baggy because I've worn it already and it's waiting for the wash. I'm still getting used to the idea that I probably want to grab the camera as soon as any packages get opened!

Sunday was my birthday. As regular readers know, things have been very tight financially, but we managed to squeeze out a little from the budget so I could have some celebration. Within that limitation, Gryphon picked up this great top for me from The Purple Turtle, a clothing shop here in Wilton run by a friend. (She has an eBay store, too.)
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I love these things

We even managed to squeeze a cake into the grocery budget, even though it was a significant percentage of that spending this week. I actually figured out a little loophole: at Shaw's, the 2-layer, 7" birthday cakes are $9.99. But, you can get a single-layer, 7" cake for only $3.99. Well, it doesn't take Isaac Newton to do the math; buying 2 single-layer cakes comes out cheaper than buying 1 two-layer cake. Plus, the single-layers are just as heavily frosted as the doubles, so you actually get a higher ratio of frosting to cake. Sounds more festive to me!

We picked over the choices, and got a gold cake frosted with swirly mounds of white frosting all around the top, covered with confetti sprinkles. For our second choice, we went with a classic: COOOOOKIE Monster, with marble cake inside.

Two days later, here's what's left of the two cakes:
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Coookie looks confused, I think!

Poor Cookie, maybe we should have eaten the eyes first? I think they're accusing us of something!

Aside from cake and the top from Gryphon, I received a birthday check from my parents, too. I really didn't expect that after the way we had to tap them for money only a couple of weeks ago. They did, though, and I've spent it on some nice things for myself. But they're fiber things, and I'll be talking about them over in Folkcat's Fiber Crafts in the next day or two.

Friday, August 05, 2005

When Life Gives You a Unicorn, What Are You Supposed to Make of It?

We dropped into one of the artists' shops in the local Riverview Mill to say hello to a friend today. Gryphon and I were filling her in on the tumultuous nature of our life the past week. Suddenly, she walked into her office in the next room and came back to give me this brass unicorn.
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eQua sells all sorts of eclectic goods in her shop; knick-knacks, clothing, prints, vintage books - you name it. But she said that when she brought this unicorn in the previous day, for some reason, she just couldn't figure out a price for it. Then, as we were talking with her, she had an overwhelming feeling that it needed to be with me.

I took this in stride, actually - I've had many occasions where I felt something similar. Sometimes the recipient has been a complete stranger. It's just that suddenly, for some reason, I had a strong feeling that something I had belonged to them now.

What I'm struggling to understand is what the meaning of a unicorn would be in my life right now. You see, I actually find unicorns to be a very sad, even tragic, symbol of magic/innocence/fantasy/dreams lost. Unicorns are not happy things.

Look at the movie Legend, for instance: Evil tries to conquer Good, and the most significant manifestation is that the unicorns fall ill and are in danger of dying. Look at The Last Unicorn, about a unicorn who learns that she is supposed to be the last of her kind, and not wanting to believe it, goes on a journey to try to find other unicorns.

She never finds other unicorns. There aren't any but her.

I had a brief period in the 70's (I turned 10 in 1970) where I liked unicorns and rainbows and fairies. But then, everyone started liking unicorns and rainbows and fairies. They were all around you all the time, and lots of the representations were just plain bad. Unicorns lost their sense of the special for me at that time.

So what, now, does this brass unicorn mean? Is it telling me that the magic and dreams are over, and I'll never see them again? Is it telling me I've lost something I'll never get back? Or is it saying just the opposite - that I should know the magic is always there someplace?

I have to admit, this little piece of metal is actually scaring me today. But I'm trying to have faith in the abiding principle that "Life Works". eQua doesn't make mistakes when it comes to passing things along in this fashiion, any more than I do. So it's here for a reason.

I just have to wait for it to tell me what that is.

Update: In regards to yesterday's post, where I explained how upset I was because the budget is so bad this week, I had to decide not to get one of my prescriptions so that we'd have money to buy groceries. We had asked the doctor's office if they might have samples of the medicine in question, and they did not. But we got a phone call today from them - they had gone out of their way to contact the pharmaceutical representative for that medicine, and had him come in on a day he doesn't usually visit them, to bring in samples. So I've got a 12-day gap-filler for that prescription.

Heartfelt thanks to the staff at the Milford office of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Your kindness brought me much relief today.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cutting the Will out of the Hair; and, When Good People Have to Make Bad Choices

When Good People Have to Make Bad Choices

It's been a roller-coaster week here, emotionally. It began with the events I described in this post.

The silver lining I mentioned there is paying off. Gryphon and I have been working together to sort out our disastrous budget. With two brains in tandem, we're coming up with strategies to figure out who really has to be paid how much, and how can we maximize the recovery process.

The down side is, now that Gryphon has taken his head out of the budgetary sand and is including me in the process, I am fully aware on a regular basis of just how bad things have gotten. Last week, after making bill-paying decisions, we wound up with only $40 to buy groceries for two adults for a week. This week, we have about the same available for groceries - but only because we had to make the difficult decision that one of my prescription medicines won't get refilled this week.

It's not like we don't have health coverage. We do, through Gryphon's job. We have a prescription co-pay which ranges from $10 - $25, depending on whether the medicine is a generic or a brand-name. Problem is, with allergies, high blood pressure, and Type-II diabetes, I have about $140 worth of prescriptions every month. And about half of that came up for refill this week - three of them brand names at $25 each.

We were able to stave off part of the disaster by asking the doctor's office for samples. They came up with two of my meds for us, so we were able to put off $50 of that prescription bill to a future date. But they weren't able to help with the third brand name item.

So what does a person choose to do? The medicine in question is for nasal allergies, so it's not life-threatening. I've spent most of my life without it until a year or so ago. But it's a darn sight more comfortable when I'm taking it than not.

But, as I said, it's not life-threatening, and we were faced with this bad choice: get the prescription and have $15 left for groceries (and I have to get toilet paper this week, too!), or face some nasal discomfort this week, and have $40 for groceries.

We made the only choice that was reasonable, and put off the medicine. We're picking up my other, more important meds, but they're all generics and will be either $10 or less, and we'd budgeted for them separately from the $40.

Having to make this decision, though...I never in my life thought I'd see things this bad. I've been on an emotional roller-coaster all week, and today, the cars jumped the tracks and crashed on me. I've been depressed and dealing with small crying jags, in between watching dumb tv shows like a zombie and browsing blogs.

I'll get over it, eventually. I'll be okay. But I'm feeling pretty miserable right now.

Cutting the Will Out of the Hair

Will, in this case, being my husband, Gryphon. His "real" name is William; he's really called Bill, though. But Bill didn't work for the title, as you'll see...

I met Gryphon online in 1991, back in a day when most people didn't know there was such a thing as online. We were both participants in the GEnie online service. There was a large and active Society for Creative Anachronism topic area on GEnie, as part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Boards, and we were both SCA members.

I lived in Syracuse, NY; he lived in Merrimack, NH. Somehow, we connected through the pixels of text (remember, this was 1991, after all - a graphical Internet was years in the future). Long story short, we got married at an SCA event in Syracuse in February of 1993, and I moved to live with him in New Hampshire.
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An SCA Wedding -
his dress was fancier fabric than mine -
and his hair was longer!

In all the time I've known him, Gryphon has never cut his hair. He's always worn it in a ponytail at the back. Length hasn't been a problem, since it's just brittle and slow growing enough to stay about the same.
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Gryphon in 1999

It's gotten thinner with time, and grayer. And the top of the head is starting to grow through the hair.
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In 2005 -
But you'll never see the bald spot under the hat

Recently, our budget crunch has caused Gryphon to feel he has to prepare for the possibility of searching for a better job. And he decided he wanted to tidy up his appearance for the task. In the last couple of years, his hair has gotten thin enough that it's difficult to keep it gathered in a tail, even with the smallest of elastics.

So he asked me to help him with a drastic measure. See, I cut my own hair. Really, I do. I do a blunt cut, and I usually work blind, feeling with my fingers around my head as I trim away the excess. I only go to the mirror for the final inspection. I've gotten pretty good at getting things nice and even using only the sense of touch.

So Gryphon decided, if I could do that well with my hair when I can't even see what I'm doing. I could probably do a decent job on his.

We did it Wednesday. I sat him down on a chair in the kitchen, right under that big ceiling light, and I cut off the tail. Then I trimmed a nice, short, even length, and worked around the ears.
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Grabbing the tail of the tiger

We're both still adjusting to the new look. I'm pleased with it, though. I never cut anyone's hair but my own, and, while it's not perfect, it's not bad for a first effort. We expect we'll be trimming it a time or two before we're really satisfied with the results.

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Where the puzzle piece used to fit

And so, the Will has been cut out of the Hair, for the first time in his adult life. Big changes are happening, in so many ways. What will be next?

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Trimmed and de-fuzzed -
Gryphon stands ready for a new day