Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Morning's Meditation

The background noise in my life has risen to deafening heights over the last few months. It's been such a slow progression, I didn't consciously notice, but over the last two weeks I couldn't ignore it anymore. Family, stepdaughters, school, work and other forces added to the general din until I could barely think.

I have no school classes on Wednesdays, so decided to treat myself to some yoga. A year or so ago I was going to yoga two or three times a week, but it eventually caused me pain in my hips so I quit. (I'm an all-or-nothing kinda gal; the thought of simply scaling back didn't occur to me at the time.) This morning, though, it seemed the right thing to do, and truth be told, the studio had beckoned me for some time.

It wasn't the right thing to do; it was the perfect thing to do. I turned off the smartphone that had only added to my interior noise, slipped off my shoes, unrolled my mat, and spent some precious time just being in my body. Stretching. Breathing. Being. During the final meditation, the savasana, I silently cried, so delighted to have connected with my self and my soul in such a vital manner. I felt washed clean and ready for the day.

I can see a great deal of yoga in my future as I seek balance and peace in the eye of the hurricane.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Looking Ahead

The end of my second work-term is coming up very quickly. It's funny how the first term seemed like it was a year long, 'cause I was kinda bored and frankly under-utilized. This second term I had a super-cool development project to work on that immersed me completely every day... it seems like I've only been there a couple of weeks but sure enough, they were both four-month terms. I leave my current employer with regret, but enough seeds have been planted that I can reasonably hope to find employment there again after graduation.

My semester this fall looks pretty dreamy... I don't have classes on Mondays or Wednesdays, I only have classes Tues and Fri morning and Thurs afternoon. Although on paper that time looks "free" I know I'll be working my tail off: this is our project semester and it might get very hairy. However, I've been hand-picked as a member of a coding "dream team", so that might soften the blow a little... having skilled coders at your side is always a plus for the project.

Aside from the project course, I have Data Communications and Networking, C++ and Advanced Database Topics. I ordered my textbooks already and can't wait to dive in. Is it wrong to love school this much?

It is my intent to take a couple of months off after grad, particularly if I nail down a job early. I'd love to take a month and rent an apartment in some warm (Mediterranean?) country, and soak in the local ambiance, eat myself silly and bask in the non-freezing weather. I'm undecided as to where I might travel, and I throw this out to my wise readers. Where might be a great place to bide a month in the middle of the brutal Canadian winter? Does anyone know anyone who has a cheap apartment/timeshare/condo somewhere warm and not American?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today, In the Garden

Dinner on the patio was perfect this evening; the weather complied beautifully and I had a wonderfully mindless book to indulge in while I ate. The breeze was gentle, yet the movement of a single hair on my arm made me look down.

There, perched on legs seemingly finer than my hair, was a tiny baby spider. All gawky, spindled legs and hardly any body to speak of, he flew in on the breeze and landed on my arm. Curious, I watched as he did a cursory exploration of the moonscape of my arm. After seconds, it stood still and raised his tiny body away from his legs and into the wind. Although I couldn't see the silk, he was exuding his next parachute. Sure enough, soon he achieved lift and rose from my arm.

The gently breeze caught the silk thrown to it and lifted the little spider above the fence in seconds. I watched him until he was invisible to me.

That tiny little spider, who had a body about as long as the points of three pins lined up and a brain correspondingly small, had landed in an environment that was hostile to its growth. It sussed that out in 10 seconds flat, and literally threw his body to the wind and God, trusting that a softer, more hospitable landing lay somewhere within his reach.

How can a tiny baby spider already know what we humans spend our whole lives trying to understand?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Systems Check

Sitting here in a coffee-shop, ripping out a couple of inches of crap-tastic sock (too tight across the arch) and not enjoying the process. Jaywalker pattern, should be easy but I have flubbed it up enough for three socks worth of knitting. So I thought I'd try mobile blogging, and get some swype practice while at it. Much quicker with swype than with piddly hunt and peck touch keyboard...this is the future of input, my friend. Dance class in an hour, just waiting for hubby to appear and make my heart race as always. :)

(tried to add an image but go figure, my Google phone wants me to use Picasa and I'm a Flickr kind of gal.There's probably a work-around but I can't be bothered at the moment...will upload at home.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

From the Society Desk

In an unexpected move, Ms. Geek Muffin of Ottawa, ON, formerly of Vancouver, BC, married Nexus One in a secret ceremony this week. It was known that she currently was engaged in a relationship with Nokia barphone, but close friends and family knew that she secretly lusted for the sleek Motorola Milestone. Interestingly, Nexus is the faster, more full-featured big brother of Milestone. Says one source in the family, "I guess it makes sense. When she decided to throw away her 7-year relationship with Nokia, she decided to go big or go home."

In mourning about the shocking decision are Ms. Muffin's MP3 player, camera and travel alarm clock, to say nothing of Nokia, saying "She doesn't need us anymore, now that she has Nexus." The laptop is taking it slightly better as his position in her life is assured, but acknowledges that plans for a GPS in her life are now highly unlikely.

Ms. Geek Muffin is unavailable for comment at this time, as she is busy compulsively clicking on the courier website, tracking the location of Nexus, who is expected to arrive early this week from his home at Google Headquarters.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dress Up

If you know me well at all, you'll know that I have a thing with clothes. I have a saying, "Every day is a dress-up day" and I live by it. I am notoriously over-dressed for every occasion, rarely ever in pants, and never wear the same outfit twice in a month. My closet is enormous, a walk-in of epic proportion; big enough to be a bedroom in a smaller house. The size of that closet was a major selling point of this home.

I don't actually spend a lot of money annually on clothes, though; perhaps $300 a year on average. That's because I indulge my guilty pleasure through frequent crawls in Value Village. Two or three times a year I go, spend perhaps $80 or $100 and walk away with several new outfits and separates. I love second-hand clothing; it's cheap and you never really know what you'll come away with.

My big find this time was a spectacular dress. It reminds me of something Audrey Hepburn might wear in Breakfast at Tiffany's, or a little bit of Jackie O... check this out.




There's not a single crystal missing on the collar and sleeve edging, it fits like a glove and was painstakingly made by hand by someone. All I need are long royal blue gloves and a little hat to perfect this dress... and an invitation to high tea somewhere for the opportunity to wear it. :)

All that for $14. Can't beat that!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stash Enhancement

It was time to bring my sewing machine in for annual maintenance, and fortunately, my girlfriend Lisa's was due, too. We made a date to drive to the Pfaff dealer in Arnprior on Saturday to drop them off. Sure, there's a Pfaff dealer in Ottawa, but I wasn't impressed last time I took my machine there for maintenance and now prefer to go elsewhere. Besides, my sister-in-law's mother works at the quilt shop in Arnprior... that doesn't entitle me to discounts, sadly, but the company is good.

I have a load of fat quarters in stash and was determined to walk out empty-handed, and it almost worked. Then, I saw the bolt of fabric that was made with me in mind, and the next thing you know I was juggling co-ordinates and trying to figure out exactly what to do with the beautiful stuff. Here's what I added to stash that day, despite my best intentions:


That center green one is the one that I lost my composure over. It's orange and green and leafy and so very me.





See? I was doomed. Now to find a project to showcase it in.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday Outing in the Park

A couple of years ago I made a promise to myself to get out more and explore. Ottawa and area is huge and diverse and I've only seen the smallest fraction of what it has to offer. Strangely, though, the Plan Fairy didn't come and hand me a schedule of events, so I never did do much. After some time spent thinking this over, I began to realize that if anything was to happen, I needed to make it happen. Accordingly, I informed my husband that we were going to go hiking in Gatineau Park on the weekend. (Four years in the NCR and I've never been there. That's flippin' shameful.)

My stepdaughters were with us that weekend, and they were less than impressed when my husband shared my big plans with them. Nonplussed, I went to the store the evening before and bought the makings of deli bun-wiches and a box of Pop-Tarts. (I love 'em but I only eat one every half a year or so on Special Occasions. Everyone in the house loves them, too, and was completely freaked out that I love them too and bought them. Also surprising is the fact that all four of us adore strawberry... I think this is the only thing that all four of us agree on.) We made our sandwiches after breakfast on Sunday, packed a couple of backpacks with munchies and thermoses of hot tea, and set out for our big adventure.

The park wasn't as green as I thought it might be, and was a little disappointed at first, but careful attention revealed signs of spring everywhere.










We also had the pleasure of watching a lovely red-headed woodpecker rat-a-tat-tat on a tree for a spell...

We were searching for the Waterfall Trail, but due in part to The World's Worst Trail Map (that we actually paid $5 for at the visitor's center) and the complete lack of signage in the area we were at, we didn't find a waterfall at all. However, we did run across the ruins in the Mackenzie King estate... which were really just as picturesque.







We walked for hours, poked around the woods, admired flowers and kidded around. We sat on a toppled birch tree and ate when we were hungry, enjoying our lunch and its treats, and the hot tea warmed our cold fingers. We got lost a little, thanks again to the utterly useless map, but found our way to the car eventually, tired, wind-burnt and happy. The girls talked eagerly of future trips camping and canoeing, and my husband and I smiled at each other, remembering the surly attitude with which they greeted our trip. The day was a total success.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

First In, Last Out

I took my last picture of poppies on 4 Dec. The next day a killing frost took them out.



This morning, I took these photos:



Within the week, I will again have poppies in my garden. Rebirth!

Have a fabulous long weekend.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Liquid Gold

One of my husband's elder brothers owns several hundred acres of bush west of the city. Three of the brothers, my husband included, use this property communally; they go out there and do man things together, bonding over the smell of woodsmoke, man-sweat, and DEET.

That property gives us many things. The three, hunters all, go up in November to hunt deer, so our freezer is invariably full of venison. I'm iffy on the idea of eating Bambi, but free meat is free meat, so I've found recipes that let me (and my step-daughters) pretend that Bambi is actually Bessie.

In an effort to attract more deer to the property, the brother who owns it plants turnips, beets and other deer favourites. Sometimes in the fall, these veggies find their way into our house and grace our table, sometimes even beside a deer, er, cow, that they were intended to lure.

My favourite gift of that land comes in this time of year: maple syrup. In pictures:

The sap was flowing so quickly that after the tree was drilled, its side was soon soaked.

A fantastic shot by my husband, capturing a single sap droplet falling. I confess to drinking straight from the bucket... the sap is cold and refreshing, and only very slightly sweet.

After only two hours, there was a good 2" of sap collected.

There's a collection of older metal pails as well as the newer plastic ones. All in all, they have about 80 trees tapped; not enough for commercial purposes but enough to keep most of the family in syrup for the entire year.

The trees aren't on lines, so collection is manual. The snow was still deep so it was good wet fun slogging up to the buckets and back.

The wood-fired boiler, hard at work. Man, is it hot in that hut.

Knitting while waiting for the day's boil to complete...

Enjoying an unseasonably warm winter day and a campfire.

Another awesome shot by my husband.

The finished product... many liters of sap later. It is sooo good!

Ooops! Boiled too far... a tasty mistake.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Can Pick Your Friends, But...

DH and I don't fight often, but when we do, ten chances to one, it's about his daughters. Last night in the heat of an exchange, he said something to me that really stunned me. He said, in frustration, "You treat your friends better than you treat your family" (by family, meaning his daughters.)

Um. Well, yeah. Of course I do. My friends are my friends precisely because we're compatible. I like and respect my friends, otherwise they wouldn't be my friends.

As for family, the only member of my family I get to choose is my husband. Everyone else, from my brothers and sisters to aunts, step-daughters and in-laws, I inherit as part of the package deal. I don't subscribe to the notion that you have to like everyone in your family just because you have some genes or other tenuous connection in common. I believe that every individual needs to prove their worth... not necessarily their worth to me, but their worth as a person in general. They need to demonstrate traits that I find admirable before I like them; they need to do something worthy of my respect before I respect them. TANSTAAFL.

The fact that I hold each individual responsible for their own worth should be no surprise to my husband; for many years my adoptive brother and I have been distant; I disapproved of his lack of direction and purpose and his general fecklessness, though as of late we're getting a little closer as he matures and shows ambition and drive.

Likewise, my step-daughters have (thus far) failed to impress. There was a brief span where they seemed to shed the self-centeredness of childhood and a glimmer of the women they were to become gleamed through. I genuinely enjoyed their company for those few months, and looked forward to the relationship that I saw might be possible. However, then the hormonal tides began and it's been frankly awful since. They are sulky, deceptive, devious, conniving, thieving, vindictive, selfish, whiny, lazy and spoiled rotten... typical young teen girls. I see nothing worth liking or loving about them 90% of the time, and the 10% when they are sweet isn't enough to carry me through.

Perhaps it is asking too much to expect children of 13 and 14 years to be likable. I don't know. What I do know is that we're at a bit of an impasse; my husband expects that I love/like them just because we're "family" and I won't pretend to like them all the time in order to smooth things over.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take it Easy

In my first programming class, we had a prof who had been around the block a time or six. He was close to retirement; in fact, ours was the last class he taught. He had started his career as a procedural programmer, which I suppose is a redundant statement, considering that object-oriented (OO) programming wasn't the dominant programming methodology until the mid-1990's, and at a guess, I'd say this prof learned his coding skills in the 70's. Long story short, although he learned OO programming and taught it (some might say with varying success), he was still procedural at heart.

This was exemplified by his choice of development environment. He recommended that we do all of our coding in simple Notepad and execute at the command line. This made sense to us, as we had no other point of reference. This was ironic because our textbook came with a hefty book called "Eclipse Distilled" that looked so intimidating that neither us or the prof touched it (and that was just the condensed version of the book!).

A brief aside for anyone still reading that doesn't know what Eclipse is. It is to programming what MS Word is to word processing. Sure, you can type in text on a blank screen in a pinch. However, context-sensitive help, auto formatting, spell check, thesaurus and a hundred other tools make Word so much more powerful than Notepad. Same goes for programming. Eclipse is your Java on speed. It compiles, outputs, debugs, helps and offers an insane amount of power and control when coding.

It wasn't until towards the end of that first semester that some students explored Eclipse and extolled its virtues to the rest of us. I fought the steep learning curve to develop a deep fondness for Eclipse, and the more I learn about coding and Eclipse itself, the more helpful it is to me. I doubt I'll ever plumb its depths; the full documentation could be substituted for a boat anchor in a pinch.

I am not ashamed to say that I have been spoiled by the power. When given a project to complete at work, I held out until they installed Eclipse and the appropriate plug-in to allow me to use it to program in Perl. Though it is absolutely possible to program Perl in UNIX using vi and the command line... why would you want to? Why would you willingly deprive yourself of the power-tools and use a manual screwdriver and hammer?

Three things I've learned along the way: coders are lazy; laziness is a virtue, and it is the real mother of invention. To borrow an example from the O'Reilly "Learning Perl" book, the wheelbarrow was invented by someone who was too lazy to want to carry heavy loads. IDE's were invented by programmers who loath working in Notepad. Masochists need not apply.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On Risk and Consequence

Life entails a certain amount of risk. Getting up in the morning increases your chances of dying. Driving is a statistically dangerous activity. Choosing to submit yourself to the forces of gravity and physics while attached to or riding on bits of slippery fiberglass is dangerous. Whizzing around on bits of sharp metal on ice is dangerous. Inhaling a toxic cocktail of nicotine, additives and pollutants is dangerous. Eating food high in sodium and fat is dangerous. Drinking alcohol is dangerous.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are risks associated with every single minute of our lives, and with every choice we make. Ignorance of the risks is not acceptable grounds for whining about the consequences if and when they catch up with you. Similarly, feeling that you are invulnerable and above the consequences of your actions does not excuse you from paying the potential price.
Take as an example the young girl who died while skiing at Calabogie a couple of weeks ago. She lost control, hit a tree, and died. Outraged readers in the comments section cried "cut the trees down!" The reason she hit a tree (which are not generally known for hanging around in the middle of ski runs) was because she was going too fast for her abilities and therefore went where she wasn't supposed to.

Another more recent example was the young Georgian luge pilot who lost control and died the day before the Olympics started. The response was to pad the luge run support poles and decrease the length of the overall run. I don't think anyone who saw the video of his death harbours any illusions that hitting a pole, padded or not, at 120-160 kms/hour will result in anything but instant death.

Both of these incidents are sad, no doubt, but utterly preventable... no-one made the child go skiing; no-one made the young man choose luge. And at the end of the day, it wasn't the tree or the ski hill operators or the luge run that were to blame: it was human error and/or hubris.

Sports "accidents" are not what really gets my goat, though. Pursuing exhilaration and glory for sports may not always be the safest thing, but it's somewhat forgivable. No, it's the other idiots that really get me: smokers who get cancer and then whine about how they didn't know it was bad for them. Obese people who try to sue fast food companies for their own inability to make sound nutritional choices. People who sue when their coffee spills and burns them.

Know the risks. Make your choices and accept full personal responsibility for your own actions. If you die from smoking, it's not the government's fault for not making them illegal, it's because you were dumb enough to start in the first place, and sincerely believed that little fairy tale "it won't happen to me". Let me tell you now... you're nothing special. God or fate or destiny doesn't love you more than anyone else, and if you put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger, the odds are excellent that you'll end up just as dead as anyone else.

But go ahead and try it, anyhow. The world is a little too cramped as it stands, and you'll at least do us all the courtesy of removing your genes from the pool as you excuse yourself. One final favour? Kill yourself quickly with your vices so as to minimize the strain on our health care system. K, thanks, bye.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Co-op Purgatory

I've been with my Federal Government agency for just over three weeks now, and I have to confess that I am bored stiff.

I suppose I had a bit of an epiphany at some point in time, while I was staring at my monitor, waiting for something to happen. I want a job where the next move is obvious, where the work-flow is continual. Where I don't have to sit there staring at the monitor waiting for some event to bring purpose to my life. Where I don't have to meaninglessly occupy a chair for 8 hours if the job can only be done in 2.

Granted, I don't yet have the knowledge I need to be an effective member of the team. My boss has flatly told me that it's not my job to be efficient, it's my job to learn. It's an awkward position for a Type-A OCD gal like me... do or do not, there is no try. Not being able to give my full potential is galling to me. I know I'll get there, but oooooooh, the learning curve!

It doesn't help that my current reading material is "The Four Hour Work-Week" by Timothy Ferris. He's telling me to work smarter, not harder; that advice does me no good whatsoever in co-op purgatory. I must abide.

I know by the time these four months are done, I will be Queen of my little UNIX domain and I will know enough to be able to complete most, if not all, tasks with ease. It's just the learning curve that irks me. We wants it now!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Type of Reveal... Yours!

It's late in the day, but heck, it's still the 14th. Won't you play my silly game and drop me a quick hello when you read this post, whenever that may be?

graphic by Aimee

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Big Reveal

Back in October, a dear friend's illness was revealed. I'm never good with these situations... beyond support and well-wishes and prayers as applicable, there's not really much one can *do*, and that drives me wild. If you're in town, you can take her to medical appointments and make dinners... when you're an hour and a half away, not so much. I'm a do-er. I wanted to DO something.

So I did. When the going gets tough, the tough get knitting. Having been a part of two separate hug blanket projects, I knew what to do. I started trawling Velda's blog comments, emailing everyone I could find and asking them if they could knit or crochet or wanted to try to learn real quick. I got in touch with Tammy, who put me in touch with a pile of Velda's friends from the cross-stitch boards. Emails flowed in, and eventually, so did the funkiest, sparkliest collection of purple squares you've ever seen.

I knit like a fiend through November, as did my dear friend Lisa. She'd never met Velda, but any friend of mine was a friend of hers and she cranked out about 9 lovely crochet squares before I could turn around. I encouraged my youngest step-daughter, who was one of V's day-care kids, into practicing her knitting for her beloved friend, and another square (mostly!) was born. Another family friend and knitter saw my step-daughter's knitting, heard the explanation, and immediately hit the needles hard, adding two more lovely squares as a show of support and love for a woman she'd never met. That's what knitters do when there's nothing else we can do.

I sat on the floor of my sewing room and seamed all those pieces together during breaks in exam week. Somehow, through complete chance, I had enough squares to make a blanket the size I desired. Somehow, also through chance and love and fate, all the squares look like they were meant to be a part of this whole.

Finished Hug Blanket

It was Jan 2 by the time my husband and I could arrange to make our annual Xmas pilgrimage to go visit Velda and family.

Hubby's smirking. He knows what's coming...

This is the closest V got to crying over the gift... which was very surprising! :)

I know she's not admiring my shoddy seaming...

Now that's what a hug is all about.


All the women who schemed with me behind the scenes to make this happen... thank you so much. It would not have happened without you, and means infinitely more to both myself and Velda that you chose to be a part of this.

PS... isn't she gorgeous, Moon Boots and all?! :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Signs of Life!

It's a week into the New Year and this is my first post in quite some time, but I won't waste time with a summary of 2009. Or perhaps I will, but it will be short and sweet: study, homework, coding and exams, repeated endlessly in any order. I worked my tail off but it's been more than worth it; finding a career that I love this much is it's own reward. Apparently I'm good at it, too, at least academically. Despite the trials of the last semester, during which I had my doubts if I could make it through intact and sane, I pulled off a high A average and managed my third consecutive semester on the Dean's List. I dream now of graduating with honours...

2010 brings two co-op terms and my final semester of college in Sept. I'm in my first week of my first coop right now, in a slick, shiny, sexy Federal agency in the heart of downtown. (I am in no way being facetious when I say "sexy" and Federal gov't in the same sentence... this place is super-hip.) I have been hired in the capacity of a UNIX system administrator; something that no doubt would cause my UNIX prof to double over in glee... while I did very well in his class, I bitch and moaned continuously through it and failed to see how it was relevant to the Real World. It appears my education is about to begin.

One thing that delights me about the vocation I have chosen is how everything is interconnected. In school, the classes are distinct... Perl, UNIX, Java, SQL, System Design. They seemed in school like separate disciplines that really didn't have many connections. Here, I am learning that I was very wrong. Everything is connected. I may administer UNIX systems but I use PHP and Perl whilst doing so, and am supporting Java development and Oracle databases in the process. The system design principles underlay the continuous upgrades and migrations of the entire IT department. It's a thing of beauty and I expect to receive practical experience in so much more than just UNIX admin in my time here.

My only complaint at this point in time is time itself... from my relaxed student hours and a period of utter hedonism over the Xmas holidays, getting up at oh-dark-thirty is an extremely painful jolt to the system. I get home, have a quick nap and am still utterly exhausted and dream of bedtime. I expect I will acclimatize shortly but right now it's all exhaustion, all the time.