Time-travel is possible.

Listening to the iPod I haven't touched in almost a year is like opening a time capsule. I'm flooded with memories, sweet or bitter, all poignant, of that difficult time in my life. Energetically dancing alone in my old apartment, headphones in, vacuuming. Riding the train home from work, feeling wrenched away from love and support with every mile, and trying to steel myself for another evening at home in the minefield. On the treadmill after the night's latest round of explosions, longing to be anywhere but here. Ignoring the pain, I'd run until my lungs burned and my heart burst, imagining that if I could just run fast enough, I could finally break free. Before, when people would mention their divorce, I never knew whether to offer condolences or congratulations. Now I know the correct response is always "I'm so sorry".


Review of Northanger Abbey, Ch. 1

Catherine Morland is introduced as the heroine. It is made very clear that she is not at all a heroine. She is not particularly talented or especially bright, she's rather plain (verging on ugly?), and her family is perfectly boring. As a youngster, she shirks the feminine pursuits of childhood, which, as far as I can tell constitute playing with dolls, for running around outside getting dirty a lot.

At 15, she starts to clean up a bit and becomes slightly more interested in girly things, like fixing her hair and listening politely while other people play the piano. She takes up reading so she can learn witty or moralistic quotes to interject in conversation. Despite this mediocre effort from a likable but thoroughly mediocre girl, by the time she is 17 no one has fallen in love with her. In fact, it would seem no one has even taken more than a passing interest in her. (I can't imagine why.)

Fortunately for Catherine, Mr. Allen, the guy who owns most of the land around her village, has the gout and has to go to Bath. Mr. Allen's wife likes Catherine well enough and, since she's clearly not doing anything else pressing, asks her to come along. The parents agree, and Cathrine Morland sets off to Bath with the Allens.


Dice Bag Project

Inspired by the d12 and d20 bags at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories (thanks, Olivia!), I decided to try my hand at making dice bags that look like dice. Genius!

Unfortunately, I already have a totally awesome handmade dice bag I salvaged from an old dress. My husband is sentimentally attached to his made-in-China Jolly Roger bag (which now contains dice). My teenage cousin, who is of a suitably nerdy disposition, was coming up on a birthday, though. Target acquired. Originally I'd planned to make the d12 bag, but as my cousin is currently on a Warhammer kick, I decided to make a d6 bag instead. The fact that 6 sides is considerably less than 12 may have also factored into this decision.

I printed off the patterns from the Evil Mad Scientist website to use as a rough guide. I decided I wanted my d6 to be about 4 inches square (seems like a good size). I liked the numbers used in the d12 pattern, so I used Acrobat to enlarge and print them.

I wanted to retain the proportions of the numbers on an actual d6, so I measured. Turns out your average d6 is 1/2 inch tall, with 5/16 inch numbers. This means my numbers are 2.5 inches tall. Actually, due to the vagaries of Acrobat, they're a smidge over that, but I bet you wouldn't notice!

On to the fabric! I originally thought to use my cousin's Warhammer army's colors for the d6, but honestly, I didn't like the sound of his color scheme. After consulting with his mother, I decided to instead incorporate his favorite colors into the dice bag. I bought white felt for the numbers, black canvas for the exterior of the bag (since the Mad Scientist bag is made of canvas, it seemed like a safe bet), and a totally awesome blue and silver brocade fabric for the lining.

The instructions provided on the aforementioned website gave fabric amounts in square feet. As you may know, fabric can't usually be purchased in square feet. It comes on bolts. I bought 1 foot of the felt, and 2 feet of the canvas and lining fabrics. I also bought 2 feet of an iron on panel stiffener to give the sides of my d6 shape - I used Peltex 71F Single-sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer at the fabric-shop lady's recommendation. It looks like really stiff felt. I also got a 14 inch zipper, in black.

To start with, I made two templates. One is the 4-in square panel stiffener template. The other is the dual-purpose outer/liner template. It's 5 in. square (includes a 1/2 in. seam allowance), with the corners snipped off.

Using the templates I made, I cut out my numbers and canvas outer pieces. Then, I used Stitch Witchery to fuse the numbers onto the canvas.

Because I like to over-engineer things, I also sewed the numbers on, and later in the project, I was very glad I did.

Next, I fused the panel stiffeners to the back of the canvas outer panels. At this point, the outer panels are complete and I'm ready to start assembling things!

I wanted to add a fabric loop to the d6, something small and unobtrusive but sturdy and large enough to accommodate a carabiner. I just eyeballed this. I cut out a piece of black canvas that was several inches long and about 2 1/2 inches wide, and sewed it into a tube. Then, I struggled to turn the darn thing inside out for about half an hour, gave up, asked Max for help, and went downstairs to vacuum away my frustrations. About 20 minutes later, he'd managed to force the tube inside out. This was the most frustrating part of the whole project!!! Once the tube was sorted, it was a simple matter to attach it in between two of my panels (the 6 and the 3) and trim off the excess.

The next big thing is to put the zipper in, but to do that, I need my liner pieces. I'd been putting off cutting them out because I noticed my brocade fabric has a tendency to fray at the slightest provocation:

To combat this, I fused thin pieces of Stitch Witchery to the edges on the underside of the liner pieces.

I'm not sure how much of an effect this had, but my liner didn't whittle away into oblivion, so I'm happy with the results.

Next, I sewed three of my number panels together, end to end. These will form the sides of my box:

Then, I sewed three liner pieces together, like so:

At this point, it helps to do some conceptualizing. Imagine the d6 like a box, with the 6 as the lid. The 6 (lid) and the 3 (back) are already sewn together, with the loop in between them. This part will be the hinge. The other three sides of the 6 will be attached to a zipper, which will connect it to the rest of the sides of the box (in this case, panels 2, 4, and 5). The 1 is the box bottom. Also, there is the liner to consider. And of course, we want all the nasty seams on the inside so the finished product looks all spiffy, and not like some crazy cat lady cobbled it together while watching daytime television!

Now that the general idea's been worked out, it's time for the zipper. First, I attached one side of the zipper the side panels. Basically, I made a sandwich of the liner panels, the zipper, and the outer panels, in that order. It is important to note that the zipper should be UNZIPPED and the teeth should be pointing IN, towards the fabric. In other words, when I lined up the pieces to pin them together, the edge of the zipper I was touching was OUTSIDE edge. And of course, the liner and outer pieces should be right side in.

Then, it's a simple matter of sewing a straight line down the side of the three panels. I tried to sew right along the white fabric stiffener pieces, and just to the selvage side of the teeth of the zipper.

It's a good idea right now to check and make sure the zipper moves freely. Mine did. On to the next bit, attaching the zipper to the lid.

The outer lid pieces are already sewn together (6 and 3), so I sewed two liner pieces together and made the zipper sandwich, like before. This is where it gets tricky, though. This time, the zipper is not going in a straight line. I have to sew the zipper along three sides of the 6 panel. The important thing to remember here is that if the 2, 4, and 5 panels attached to the zipper are facing up, the zipper sandwich should be arranged so that the UNDERSIDES of the 6 and 3 panels are also facing up. You can kind of see this in the picture.

If you get this wrong, when you're finished the liner piece will be on the outside of the box lid, and the 6 panel will be on the inside - not good. Ask me how I know...

When sewing the zipper to the lid, it's important not to sew over the zipper teeth. Again, I wanted to sew just to the selvage side of the teeth. It's bulky in there, and those corners are pretty tight, so I had to [constantly remind myself to] work slowly and carefully! When I was done, I removed the pins and turned the lid right-side out:

Now, I have something that looks like this:

And if I zip it together, it looks almost like a d6!

But it wasn't there yet. I decided to sew the bottom onto the side pieces first, and then sew up remaining side seams, which will attach the body of the box (panels 2, 4, and 5) to the back and lid (panels 3 and 6). I started with the liner. First the bottom:

And then the sides:

Looking good!

...well, it looks good from that angle, anyway. What I have now is a complete liner box with an incomplete exterior:

Time to sew this one up! Just like with the liner, I sewed the bottom on first. In this pic, the box is on it's lid, and you can see insides of the box exterior. The bottom (panel 1) is at the far right, the back (panel 3) is in the foreground, and the other three panels are the sides (panels 2,4, and 5):

Sewing in 3D is hard.

Just like with the liner, I sewed the bottom onto the side pieces first.

Now all that's left is to sew the back and lid to the body of the box, by joining panels 3 & 5, 3 & 1, and 3 & 2.

Sides 3 & 5 and 3 & 1 are sewn together normally, but then I had to turn the box right-side out to sew 3 & 2 together. Skipping this step and sewing all the sides together while inside-out will result in a fabric balloon with all the numbered faces of the exterior panels on the INSIDE. Ask me how I know...

So, I turned the box right-side out through the hole created by the unsewn seam between panels 3 & 2. This was tricky because of the panel stiffener, and with all the turning inside-out and back again I'd been doing, I was VERY glad I took the time to actually sew the numbers onto the panels in the first place.

Once the box was right side out, I pulled the lining out through the lid, so it'd be safely out of the way. Then, I just folded the selvage edges down on each other, so all the ragged bits were on the inside, and sewed along the very edge of the outside of the box, like a French seam. I touched up the top of the seam near the zipper by hand.

And voila! It's a D6 of Dice Holding!!!


Really Long Post

I woke up this morning and couldn't even remember the last time I'd blogged. It seemed like, for a while, I wasn't blogging because there wasn't anything to blog about. Then, seemingly overnight, I wasn't blogging because there was too much. I decided to stop whining and start writing.

I noticed from the last post that there's been a request for pics of the home-grown produce project. I am planning to post pictures of our 6-foot tomato plants once their fruit actually ripens - right now, it's just lots of tiny green tomatoes!

Okay, so, starting with events more-or-less in order:

At the end of August, Max's grandmother, Joyce Wyver Hollands, passed away. She was an absolute delight and her loss is terrible. I flew out to meet Max after she passed (which brought up some strange issues with my in-laws that I'm sure will come up again, so I'll discuss them later), and things went surprisingly smoothly. Everyone pretty much held it together, and it was actually more pleasant and less somber than I had anticipated. As a plus, I got to meet some relatives for the first time, Max's unlce John (Sue's brother) and Jonathan Berry, Max's cousin from England. Both were great - witty and articulate (if a bit reserved, in uncle John's case), getting to know them was really the highlight of the trip. Jonathan is widely known as the extrovert in Max's family, and he lived up to his title. That man has been everywhere, seen everything, and really needs to write a book about it. It was like talking with James Bond.

There was no funeral or memorial service or anything, which I found a bit odd, but we did have a large family dinner in her honor, which was very nice (and delicious as always). Grandma Hollands always hated being fussed over, so I'm sure this was more her style, anyway.

A few weeks later, we went to the Addison Oktoberfest and had a good time, as usual. Our strange friend John Safranek entered (and won!) the German Idol yodeling contest hands down. I guess if you're gonna have a bizarre, uncool hobby, your only path to redemption is being very good at it.

The next weekend, we had our 1-year anniversary. We had dinner at Blue Fish on Greenville. It's a pretty nice sushi restaurant, however, it wasn't terribly romantic. I kept an eye on the first presidential debate on a TV over Max's shoulder during dinner. The ingredients were top-notch, but the chefs weren't as skilled as we had expected - the cuts weren't as clean as they should have been, and the presentation was just okay. The crab claw appetizer I had was spectacular, though, and we had a sake sampler of imported stuff that's not widely availabe here. Every sake in the sampler was one I'd never tried before, which was very cool. And of course, they were all spectacular.

Then, we stayed at the Renaissance hotel in Dallas, where we stayed for our wedding night. Initially, I was disappointed in the room. It was a small, generic hotel room with a spectacular veiw of the back parking lot - less than inspiring. So I mentioned it to the concierge to see if they could move us to a room on the other side of the building. Unfortunately, nothing was available, so... he upgraded us to a suite!!! It was WONDERFUL! The rooms were huge, the view was fantastic, and we had a great time. We also ordered cake from Romano's, the bakery that supplied our wedding cake. It was supposed to be white chocolate (our wedding cake flavor), but we somehow ended up with an amaretto-flavored cake. I was literally voicing my disappointment over the mix-up to Max in between large mouthfuls of cake when I realized, "Hey, this is really delicious!". I still thought about mentioning it to Romano's, but by the end of the weekend, the cake was more than half gone and I didn't really see the point in bringing it up. What would I say? "You messed up and gave me the wrong cake - it was still really good and I ate it... Thanks!"??? In the end, I just let it go.

The next day after breakfast in the hotel (which ended up being free, for reasons we still don't understand), we went to the 6th Floor Museum, since Max had never been. It was probably not the best choice for a wedding anniversary - presidential assassination being such a somber subject and all - but we had a really good time and I learned a lot, despite the fact that I've been to that museum countless times for school field trips. I guess you pay more attention to something when you're not FORCED to go. Also, it's kind of a mature topic, and I'm not sure how my teachers expected middle school students to "get it". What I "got" out of it on field trips was that I didn't have to go to math or P.E.; I imagine my colleagues were operating on similar levels. Anyway, the museum was great. If you go, skip the 7th floor. It was LAME. It's a whole bunch of terrible home videos from the day of the assassination with commentary like "Mr. Jones was out of town that day. It's too bad Mrs. Jones didn't know how to work the video camera, or we might've gotten some really amazing footage..." I kid you not. After the museum, we went to the Ginger Man, a pub in Uptown, had a nice time, and made our way back home feeling like we'd been on vacation, even though we'd barely left our zip code. It was really fantastic, actually.

The NEXT weekend, John (of yodeling-contest fame) and his wife Lauren invited us to go to the Richardson symphony with them - John won the tickets in the yodeling contest. (What are they trying to say with that, really? "Good job, now go listen to some real music, ya freak!"?!?) It was all German composers, and it was excellent. We heard Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (what a mouthful!), which was "meh", Franz Schubert's Symphony #1 in D major, which was very good, and Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto #2 in B flat Major, which was OMGWTFAWESOME. Really, it was a magnificent piece of music, and if you ever have the opportunity to see it performed, GO. Just go. Even if you don't understand music and aren't a symphony fan, some things are just awesome. Like socks and hot dogs.

Then, just after the symphony, I really hurt myself at martial arts. Turns out those wrist-breaking techniques we've been learning might actually work! After putting off going to the doctor for a few days, I finally decided it wasn't worth it to keep toughing things out, so I went in and got an X-ray of my left wrist. I really lucked out. Turns out it's not broken, but I do have "severe soft tissue damage" - as in, after a week, the internal swelling is still so bad, it's evident on the X-ray. So, that explained a few things for me. The strange part is that there has been no visible swelling, no bruising, just pain and crunchiness. But it should heal in 3-4 weeks, and in the meantime, I've got a hot new accessory - yep, nothing says "trendsetter" like a wrist brace.

Friday, the last weekend of the State Fair, we finally went. It was okay. We got there too late at night, I think. We walked around a bit, and watched the light show, which was really disappointing. They were really pumping the light show "sensory extravaganza" this year, a "multi-media spectacular" or something like that... When people go to a light show, they want to see fireworks. It's simple, really. Lots of explosions + music = cool. The State Fair's "extravaganza" did in fact have some fireworks, and even some (admittedly cool) flame-fountain thingies. But the bulk of the program was like watching TV. They had a large screen thing up, and they projected various videos onto it. There was at least one kinda trippy video, a very psychedelic, smoke-out-in-the-theater kind of affair, followed by an overly sentimental montage of Texas stuff set to loud country music. In between these things, they'd kind of intersperse a few fireworks and gouts from the flame fountains, but in a lame, "we're-too-cheap-to-do-too-many-pyrotechnics" kind of way. Then, and this is where we left, they showed another video, of cartoon chickens riding a train. Accompanied by a SONG about chickens ridin'/drivin' said train. It reminded me overwhelmingly of the "Hamster Dance" song, which is never a good thing. Even worse, by comparison, the hamster song is cuter, catchier, and makes more sense.

My friend Christi braved the "chicken fried bacon", and I had a pina colada that was disturbingly like Capri Sun for adults. Also, it was way too sweet. We had a decent time, and it's always good to hang out with friends, but honestly, I'd have rather spent the $40 (yeah, we got out cheap!) at the Saucer or something. And despite sticking to tried and true Fair "safe food" - nachos, a funnel cake, and my pre-packaged alcohol-in-a-bag, I got SOOOO SICK later that night. I woke up at 3AM and it was an emergency. After a very intense half an hour of everyone's favorite combo of vomiting + diarrhea (always a party!), I must have gotten the offending item (and everything else I'd eaten in the past week) out of my system. It was pretty rough, though.

Finally! Today I have a job interview at 1.30. Back when we went to the symphony, Lauren, who is the director of HR for the city of Frisco, mentioned she has a contract position open for an HR specialist. It's part-time, but it pays really decently and it'd be great experience for me. They're having a hard time filling it, apparently, because most people who are qualified for it aren't interested in contract work - they want a regular full-time job with benefits. Heck, so do I, but it seems I need more job experience before I'm qualified for full-time work, despite my extensive education. *shrug* Anyway, I passed my resume on to Lauren and she put the nod in for me on this interview, so I really hope I do well.

That's it for now, hopefully the next update won't be another 3 months out!



So, here they are, our little jungle in the window. Or, technically, I guess it's a little farm, since everything is edible and there aren't any large, dangerous snakes or anything. And a distinct lack of monkeys.

We actually started getting some sprouts (from the lettuce) a mere 3 days after planting! These guys have all been out and growing for a while now, I just hadn't gotten around to taking a picture and blogging about it until this morning.

We also have a window box with lettuce in it in the study, and I think Max planted some other seeds we ordered yesterday. I've been keeping meticulous notes as promised, I just haven't had a chance to figure out exactly what Max did yesterday. We're a little concerned that the plants aren't getting enough sun, even in the windows. Our apartment is pretty strange in that it's completely on the oblique - I think it technically faces north-east. As a result, sun never shines directly into the windows, which is great for energy savings, but not so great for plants. So we take the seedlings outside for "walkies" every couple of days, for a few hours, just to make sure they're getting enough. Soon we'll move them all outside, and we won't have to worry about it as much.

A note if you ever try to do this yourself - two, or possibly three seeds at most per cup will be fine. Even if said seeds are extremely tiny and you are extremely skeptical. I have a veritable FOREST of lettuce and carrots that I have to keep pinching off because I thought, "Meh, they're so small! I'm not counting out 2 or 3 seeds at a time - I'll just plant a pinch of 'em in there..."

On the plus side, the lettuce sprouts I pinch off actually smell and taste like lettuce! That probably shouldn't be surprising, but I'm still grappling with my amazement that this experiment is actually working. Seeds make plants! Who knew?!?



We're currently caught up in a project that involves trying to grow our own food in our apartment. Lots of factors played into this, most notably curiosity and the rising cost of produce. While at first blush it might seem that in no way can a person grow enough produce to save actual money on groceries, upon closer examination, it's really quite possible. For example, if a little bag of cherry tomatoes (which we buy almost every week) costs $4 or $5, and a bag of potting soil and seeds cost $7, then if I get 2 little bags worth of cherry tomatoes out of the plants I grow from seed, those plants have paid for themselves AND saved me money.

Yes, the plants require some care, and they don't spit out tomatoes immediately. But the potential for payoff is there. Also, homegrown tomatoes are almost always better than store-bought ones, and they have the distinct advantage of being virtually guaranteed not to give me salmonella, e coli, hepatitis, or some kind of toxic pesticide poisoning.

As you can see from our ghetto setup, we're doing this on the cheap. No Martha Stewart Living gold-leaf planters, here. I can invest in making this hobby pretty after I figure out how to make it work.

So, up there in the picture, we have 2 containers of tomato seeds (Supersweet 100 VF Hybrid, for those playing along at home), 1 container of spinach seeds (Teton Hybrid), 1 container of lettuce seeds (Grand Rapids), and 3 containers of carrots (Red-Cored Chantenay 7317B). They're all in Miracle Gro Cactus Palm & Citrus soil, because that's what I had. Incidentally, I think the carrots might do well in that soil, but it's anyone's guess, really. I'm taking very detailed notes of everything we do, so that we can approach this scientifically and try to get consistent results. Also, we plan to do more than one planting, so we can vary our methods and make comparisons, so that should be exciting.

One of the reasons we're doing this is: Have you ever noticed that pretty much ALL gardening books and advice is written by gardeners? This seems to make sense, but let me tell you why it doesn't, really.

Gardeners use their own lingo. They're so used to it, they don't even realize that other people don't know what they're talking about. What is the exact method for "cultivating"? As far as I can tell, it's stirring up dirt, but how much stirring? Also, did you know that plants can "bolt"? To non-gardeners, that sounds like your lettuce is suddenly running off at a high rate of speed, e.g. "They heard the sirens and bolted!".

Gardeners already know how to grow things. Frequently, the advice boils down to "Just put it in the soil!" "Water it when it needs watering!" and "Make sure it's getting the right amount of sun!". Obviously, these things are all important. But, people who can grow things seem to have a built-in knowledge of the particulars: What kind of soil? How deep? How much water/sun is enough? How much is too much? When pressed, these people can't tell you the precise answers to these questions. They say "Most plants will tell you when they need more (or less) water (or sun)." and "I just water it when I think about it until I think I've watered it enough." Gee, thanks. That's very informative.

I cannot tell you how many plants I have killed by over- or under-watering. Or giving them too much sun. Or not enough. Obviously, it's easy to tell when a plant is unhappy. But for non-gardeners, that's all you know, that you're doing SOMETHING wrong. Apparently plant people "just know" how to fix these things, and can't really put their knowledge in concrete terms that the rest of us can understand.

It's like, if I made this really great cake and you asked me for the recipe, and I said, "Put the ingredients in the bowl. Oh, what ingredients? You know, flour and sugar and eggs and stuff. Then mix it all together and bake it until it's done! Yummy!" Could you recreate my cake? I'm guessing no. That's why I'm taking all the notes. I may not have been born with a sense of how to grow things, but maybe I can develop it if I record my exact methods, the conditions, and the results. A pattern will emerge eventually, and I will recognize it and learn from it. And later, when you ask me how I grew such delicious tomatoes, I can whip out all of my exhaustive research and SHOW you!


The Last Post

Okay, my last post has some technical issues. The giant "FORBIDDEN" map, for one. I can't figure out how to fix it, but I assure you the map illustrates that my car was parked (for over a year) pretty much right around the corner from the place where it was stolen. Great work, Ft. Worth PD. Also, you may notice that there's some text at the bottom of the blog which imply the presence of pictures. For some reason, I couldn't get those to work, either. So, here they are, jammed up on the top of this blog, for posterity. The picture on the left was taken the day my car was stolen, and the one on the right is the day I got it back. I'm wearing the same shirt, and I thought that was really weird.

I don't know why I'm having so much trouble with the pictures, though, so maybe one of my helpful readers can throw me a bone, here. Usually, when I want to post a picture in the body of my text, as opposed to jammed up at the top like Blogger does it, I type in the HTML for it, you know, all that "" stuff that you can put HSPACE and ALIGN values into. Usually the quotes aren't there on the outside of the <>, but I think if I don't put them in for the purposes of illustration, it'll make the computer angry. Well, I did all that for the last entry, but for some reason my pictures still wouldn't post. It's funny, because I manage my pictures with Picasa, which is owned by Google, just like Blogger. So you would think it'd be pretty easy to get pictures from my Picasa web albums into my Blogger, but you'd be wrong.

Also, I couldn't fix the technical problems in my last post because when I went back to edit it, the text suddenly became invisible! I poked around on the help forums without much success before deciding to just hit the "Publish Post" button anyway and make amends later.

Anyway, sorry for the boring technical mumbo-jumbo, but if you happen to have solutions to one or more of these problems, please, PLEASE feel free to clue me in.