amanda_lodden: (four)
Goodreads sent me a lovely little email saying "Congratulations, you read seven books this year!" and I said "What the hell? I read way more than seven books this year."

A little poking around revealed a few things:

1. I am absolutely terrible about putting books I've read into Goodreads.

2. I am not making up for it by posting reviews of books I've read here, or anywhere else.

3. I am much better at buying books than at reading them. As part of trying to clean things up on Goodreads, I went through my Kindle purchases, and realized that I have a LOT of catching up to do. Erm, oops.

However, I have ThingsThatMustBeDoneBeforeTheEndOfTheYear (tm) and I'm a little over-scheduled this week, so I really can't afford the time it would take to sit down and figure out everything I've read. What I got, in the hour that I gave myself, in no particular order:

* Wicked Appetite and Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

* Tapped Out by Natalie M. Roberts

* A Tangled Web by Mercedes Lackey

* Chuck Cave and the Vanishing Vixen by C.C. Blake

* The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

* Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter by A. E. Moorat

* The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson (which actually did get a review, so go me!)

* First Truth by Dawn Cook (and I read all four books in this series, so I assume that fact that the first one is in 2013's list means that all four of them should be)

* Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

* Party Crashers By Stephanie Bond

* New Amsterdam and Garrett Investigates by Elizabeth Bear

* Wine in my Sippy Cup by Deborah Dove

* Ever After and Into the Woods by Kim Harrison

* Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

* Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed

* The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

* A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

* The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

* The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

With any luck, having the list will prompt me to post reviews of these someday. Or at least help me remember to clean up the Goodreads list.
amanda_lodden: (four)
I have a rule of thumb: When there is a movie based on a book out or planned, I don't read the book first. I did for a while, until I realized how often I was complaining that a certain character didn't look the way I pictured them or a favorite scene had been cut. When you like a scene in a book and it gets cut out of the movie, you feel like you've been robbed. When you like a movie and then read the book and find extra scenes, it's bonus material.

So despite receiving The Hunger Games as a gift several years ago, I've let it sit on a shelf, unread. And honestly, while I liked the first movie, it didn't inspire me to rush to my bookshelf and devour the book. It was an okay story about love and survival within a really screwed-up society. The second movie was different for me-- a much deeper look at how the power structure works, and a story about challenging and changing the society. The ending was a kick in the gut, and fascinated me. When I debated about breaking my rule and reading the books because I didn't want to wait for the third movie to find out how it ends, my sister-in-law told me that the movies are "word-for-word" for the books, with no cut-out scenes, and that it would totally be safe to read them. Still on the fence about it, I picked up the first two and read them, because I've seen those movies now and there's no rule-breaking involved.

Despite this review being mostly-positive, I feel obliged to warn you: the writing is terrible. The author uses a lot of sentence fragments. The entire story is told from Katniss's point of view, so things that the movie shows from other points of view are told as exposition dumps when someone informs Katniss about them later. If I had read the book first, without the emotional connection to the story that the movies gave me, I might have given up in irritation partway through.

But the story... oh, the story. The story is marvelous. My sister-in-law is only partially correct-- very few things are cut, but there are so many more nuances that the book reveals that don't come through in the movie. It's easier to understand why the populace puts up with the system as it stands. There's more character to the districts, changing them from caricatures into real places that could exist. I can see the social injustice, the economic gulfs, and the pure gritty survival story embedded in the larger story... but I can also see the Capitol's side better, and their sense of entitlement makes more sense. There's a feeling of history, that not everything was laid out in stone at the end of the rebellion 74-75 years prior and that some of it grew organically as (misguided?) attempts to make things "better" while keeping things "fair". The love triangle is less set-in-stone and more fluid, and Katniss is much more of a broken 16-year-old than the almost-adult that she is in the movies.
amanda_lodden: (four)
I wanted to see this because it looked funny, but I expected it to be slightly dumb-- just a little bit of cheese, some silly, hopefully not too painful.

Result? Much, much better than expected. There's quite a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. There's a bit of cheese, but not as much as I expected. And despite having its share of pandering-to-the-lowbrow bits, those pieces are worked into the story coherently rather than just "here's something gross/sexy/stupid" so that it's not painful. Still, don't take your kids. This is a bad movie to take a child to. I'm somewhat of an expert on this.

The trailer (which you can view here) doesn't do it justice. The Fitzgeralds and their "I've never touched another woman before" scene in the trailer is.. well, it's not exactly taken out of context, but the full scene has a lot more to it, and I was surprised at how much communication and negotiation Mrs. Fitzgerald engaged in before touching Mrs. "Miller"-- something that's highlighted (highlit?) by the utter lack of communication between the males in the scene. Jennifer Aniston's striptease is just as hot as it looks in the trailer, but quite a bit more empowering. And yes (minor spoiler), it does save their lives, because the "cheap stripper" is far more resourceful than the trailer leads you to believe. Kenny's tarantula bite is awful and one of the things put in for cheap laughs (and also one of the reasons why you should not take kids), but it also sets off a major portion of the plot and ends up drawing you in to the heartwarming bits. Is "there's heartwarming bits" a spoiler? It shouldn't be, if you've seen roughly any movie ever. And best of all: the heartwarming bits aren't too cheesy and overdone. The ending is satisfying yet believable in that nobody walks away consequence-free or magically completely different in personality.

I recommend it.
amanda_lodden: (four)
CJ and I spent the last week at Amber Central (John does not game, despite my attempts to get him to try it) in Minneapolis. Amber Central is the youngest of the Amber Cons, and also the smallest and therefore the most intimate. In many ways I like it best, because the small size means I get to know most of the people better, but of course it needs to grow in order to thrive. (Which means you, yes you, should go to it-- assuming that you like roleplaying games, and that you like your roleplaying to be story-based rather than hack-and-slash. Knowledge of Zelazny's Amber universe is said to be helpful, but I've managed to keep avoiding it for years now and have done just fine.)

Last spring at Ambercon US, one of the folks local to Central remarked about how she'd someday like to take the train out to Portland for Ambercon Northwest, picking up other Amber people on the way and turning the trip into a giant pre-con con. So while we were planning travel, CJ and I looked into taking the train to Minneapolis, just to see what it would be like and whether we could tolerate it for a longer trip.

Short answer: oh dear God no. No, no, no, no, no, nononononoNO. )
amanda_lodden: (four)
I am simultaneously geeked and overwhelmed by the plans for the party tomorrow. The 8-year-old in me is squealing "It's gonna be so cool!" and the adult in me is whining about aching backs and feet and how much I totally don't want to put together the last few things.

If the kids don't get a huge kick out of all of this, I will be sorely disappointed. Hell, if the adults don't get a huge kick out of it, I will be sorely disappointed, because some of it is So. Very. Awesome.
amanda_lodden: (four)
Actual phone conversation this morning:

Caller: Hi, I'm [X] with Home Depot delivery. I'm just letting you know that we're about 15 minutes away with your cabinets.

Me: Funny, I thought this conversation would be more like "Hi, I'm calling to schedule a delivery time."

So, yeah. HD skipped over the part where they figure out what a good time for me would be, and went straight to the "put the cabinets on a truck and send 'em out" phase. Luckily we were home, because if they'd called 5 minutes later we would have already left. Instead, we were late for our 1pm plans, and my garage is full of cabinets.
amanda_lodden: (four)
I ordered new cabinets. You may have heard the squeal of delight-- I've been wanting to redo the kitchen since we moved in 15 years ago.

The guy at Home Depot (Dave) was nice. Once I'd finally decided what I actually wanted, it was fairly easy to get them ordered, though the design phase was slightly frustrating-- mostly because I actually took courses in architectural drafting (a million years ago, admittedly), and could make some logical leaps faster than Dave could. My initial math was wrong, and I had to change two 36" cabinets to two 30" cabinets, and it took a few minutes to explain to Dave why 36" + 36" + 36" wasn't going to work in a 96" space. He would have gotten there himself eventually if I had just shut up, but "just shut up" is not my default setting.

Home Depot had some excellent specials running, netting me 10% off of the cabinets and 20% off of the countertop (or vice versa, I can't recall). They also have a "2 years at 0%" promotion going for financing, provided the total is over $2400. My total is over $2400-- it's $2700 for the cabinets and countertops plus $950 for installation. Dave rang up just the cabinets and countertops, saying that when it was time for installation they'd back out the charge and re-run it with the install fee. (I asked, because I'd like to get the $950 into the 24-months-at-0% thing as well.)

Fast forward about a week and a half, to when Jeff at Home Depot calls me to tell me that my cabinets are in, and when would I like them delivered? I stammer something along the lines of "uh, I assumed you'd bring them when you installed them." Jeff knows nothing about installation. Jeff's systems don't indicate that the cabinets are being installed. Well of course not, because Dave did something unusual and weird with the charges. We flounder for two days until Dave comes back in, and then Dave says something like "Huh, I don't know why they didn't send someone out to do the second measurement." (Dude, really? No one sent out an installer because no one but you and I realize that there's any damned installation to be done because you have some weird phobia of ringing up the install fees.) But we get it sorted out, and my request for a second measurement so that we can proceed to installation gets sent out to the company that actually does that, which is a partner of Home Depot.

The company that actually sends someone out to measure doesn't have anyone available that week (it was, admittedly, a Thursday when Dave put the request in, and I didn't get a call to set up an appointment time until Friday), and the only day that they can come out that I plan to be home is Thursday-- which works out to "today".

The gentleman who came out was very nice, and very professional, and told me that:

1) Anything that they touch, they will bring up to code, because they pull permits. That means that if I have them do any plumbing (including removing the sink so that they can remove the old sink-base cabinet and put in the new one), all of my kitchen plumbing will be brought up to code-- at my cost, obviously. I am actually okay with this.

2) The company that makes the countertops will install them-- so when this company comes to install my cabinets, they will pull out the old ones and take them away (yay!), put the new ones in, and then the other company will have to be called to come out and deal with the countertops. Which means a minimum of one day of no counters, and probably more (because you know that if this company needs its own measurements, the countertop company will need them too). I am... a lot less okay with this, but it wouldn't be the first time that we've had to work around a household construction project. (Though not having to have our lives disrupted for weeks on end is part of why I was excited about having Home Depot do the install-- they've got a lot of incentive to be in and out in one day.)

3) This company will not re-install anything old. Like my sink. Or my only-a-year-and-a-half-old faucet that I really really love. I will need to purchase a new sink and a new faucet. This is where I said "Uh, I'm not sure I want you guys to do the install, because I really love that faucet."

4) Installation, with the upgrade-to-code items that they know about by looking, will be $6000. It's not included, and the $950 is to install the countertop, not the cabinets.

And that made me say "Oh hell no." We called Chris to get him to quote it, and he figures it will cost half that-- we don't NEED to bring the electrical up to code, since we're not touching it, and that was a big part of the code-violation parts. It does mean that the old cabinets won't get hauled away, but I can work with that-- there's a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lapeer (and I thought there was one in Pontiac, but Google says no) that would love to have them, I'm sure-- they're in good condition, they just don't work that well in our kitchen.

So, I called Home Depot back and said "I'd like to arrange to have my cabinets delivered, please." They said "We'll leave a note for Jeff to call you." Then this afternoon, they called back to say "The toekick you ordered [as an add-on, after today's measuring guy noted that my order did not include any toe kicks or back veneers for the island-- and he was the one who submitted the add-on, so I know that they have received the second set of measurements now] is in." I said "Can you deliver it when you deliver my cabinets?" and she seemed a little bit surprised to find out that I have cabinets, so... that's a bit frustrating, too. But she's also leaving a note for Jeff, so I assume that by the time he gets in he'll have about fifteen notes asking him to call me. She's also putting a note in this file to stop asking for John, because I find it wildly frustrating that even though I ordered the cabinets, everything is in his name (except the credit card, which I had to apply for to get the 0% deal). I'm pretty sure it's just that his name was already in the system under our phone number from a previous project, but it is still annoying as hell. We'll see how the "note in the file" thing goes.

So, I'll have Chris next week, and hopefully I'll have cabinets next week as well. No idea when the countertops will appear, but we're not making a lot of structural changes to the countertop layout so if I have to have the old one laid on top of the new cabinets for a little while, it's an option. I hope. Or maybe I'll have plywood "countertops" for a week or two.

To be clear: I'm not blaming Home Depot as a whole-- everyone has been very nice and very helpful when I say "but you're missing a vital piece of information" and very willing to work to make it right. Dave, however-- I would very much like to wring his neck. Actually, I would very much like to sit him down and explain to him that he does not work in a vacuum, and eschewing the standard system in favor of his own process means that no one else has any fucking clue what's going on and can't do their part of the job in a timely manner. And THEN I'd like to wring his neck.
amanda_lodden: (four)
Once again, we're hosting Easter. Once again, you're invited.

Look, you know how this works by now, right? If you've got other plans, we're not offended. If you don't know until the last minute whether you have plans, we're not asking for RSVPs. There will be food and friendship, and anything beyond that will be determined by the attendees.

By this point, the disclaimers are pretty standard:
* This is low pressure. If you've got other plans, we're not offended if you turn us down.
* This is casual.
* Despite the Easter theme, all religions are welcome and accommodated.
* We'll provide the main dish (ham!) and several sides. Bringing something would be appreciated.
* To deal with the disparity between the last two statements: if you're Jewish or Muslim, let me know you're coming so I can make sure that there's a non-pork main dish for you. Or, don't RSVP but bring a dish yourself.
* The pool and hot tub will be NOT be open, because it's still bloody well cold out there.
* Yes, you can bring other people. The more the merrier!
* If you show up before 2pm, you will be put to work cleaning.
* If you stay later than our bedtimes, we'll ask you to turn the lights off when you leave.
* We have 3 cats. Bring your allergy medications if you need them.
amanda_lodden: (in love)
It's seventy-something degrees here in San Antonio, much more pleasant than yesterday's eighty-two degrees. We had to turn the air conditioning on in the car instead of driving with the windows down, people! I got a little bit of a sunburn, nothing serious. I know you pity me. You should. Pardon me while I duck this incoming rock aimed at my head.

I've just finished the book that I grabbed for the flight here. While a part of me would have very much liked to plunk myself down in a corner and just read for hours and hours until I finished the book, politeness required me to have interesting and entertaining conversations with our hosts, sometimes until the wee hours of the night, developing a much deeper friendship with fabulous people. It's awful, I know. Please, your sympathy embarrasses me. Why, there's another rock. How very curious.

The book in question is one that I would like to give 6 stars to on a 5-star scale. Slightly more intense than I was expecting when I grabbed it, and of a subject matter too coarse for me to refer to it as "delightful", but quite a good read. Of course, that means I will feel obliged to review it, after I have finished turning it over in my head. Alas, my work is never done. Goodness, are we having a rock storm?
amanda_lodden: (four)
First, I would like to say that I have awesome and caring friends.

Second, I would like to point out that some of you have more anger/fear issues with medical professionals than I do, and you might want to talk to someone about that.

Because [B] asked me to make note of certain things, including pain levels when I woke up this morning, I ended up keeping a short journal for yesterday and this morning which I printed out and took with me. I arrived early while [B] was still working with another patient. Normally, I would just catch his attention long enough to let him know I was there and then start in on a warm-up and my exercises until he was ready for me. Today I located my chart and put the printed-out journal on top of it, and then took a seat in the waiting area. (In addition to the increased back and hip pain from yesterday's experiment, I had stumbled a little on the stairs on my way out to PT today and my ankle was bugging me-- nothing serious, but enough that I wasn't willing to climb onto the elliptical and piss it off further.) My appointment went something like this:

[B]: "You wrote a journal? That's awesome!"

Me: "Eeehhh, you might want to read it before you declare it awesome."

{Note: This is exactly what I handed him, except that names have been redacted to protect the innocent and terribly guilty alike. Numbers are from 1 to 10 on the pain scale, and yes I do routinely use halves when judging pain.}

10:50am - left [Physical Therapy Location]. Told [B] I'd keep track of when/whether I did the exercises, and what effect they had.

10:50 - 11:15am - drove to [work location]. My hip hurt like hell (5, which is higher than it's been in years). Decided to keep track of more than just exercises, because damn. Someone remind me to punch [B] for doing this to me.

11:15am - Getting out of the car marked the first time I can remember my hip hurting LESS when standing than when sitting. Not because standing was any better than normal (3), but because sitting in the car had been so painful.

11:30am - The new sitting position is awkward with the desk, but it does drastically reduce hip pain (2). Also took 4 ibuprofen.

1:45pm - I was doing mostly okay (2) until getting up for lunch. Sitting at the restaurant, my lower back hurt more (3) than my hip (2ish). After walking back and sitting at my desk, my back is a little better and my hip is pissed off. Toe touches did not help. There's no good place to do the lay-on-my-back thing here. Going home now.

2:30pm - [B] deserves more than just a punch. Driving is more pain than I've had in a long time (5). The stairs were not as bad as I'd feared. but still not fun to get up them (4). Took two acetominophen as well. Would take more if I could, but I'm already at the max doses for both drugs. I'm afraid to lay on my back with no one else home, because I'm not confident I could get up afterward. I had really hoped that the initial pain was just from new movements and would fade by now.

Somewhere in the middle of reading this, [B] looked up at me, then moved to the other side of the table, putting himself out of punching range.

5:30pm - sitting with minimal movement for 3 hours leads to stiffness, and I should know better. It also leads to a reduction of pain, though (2 low back, 3 hip, and I need a better stool for the house). Toe touches helped with the stiffness but didn't change the pain. Laying on my back helped my hip slightly (2.5 hip) but made my lower back spasm and ache (4 back); it got better when I stopped trying to put my feet up and just put them flat on the ground (2.5 hip, 2.5 back).

6:30pm - Still achy. Took 4 more ibuprofen.

7:30 - 9:00pm - Soaked in a warm bath with epson salts. (1.5 hip, 2.5 back) May not have to maim [B] after all.

9:00pm - midnight - made the boy rub my back while we were watching TV, then read in bed. Effects of the bath wore off a little by the end. (2 hip, 2.5 lower back)

9:00am - Woke up. (2.5 hip, 3 lower back) Sleeping on my right side for some of the night did not result in intense pain. Back to mostly "normal" before we started really doing any therapy.

9:15am - Scratch that "normal" comment. Going downstairs for breakfast wasn't too bad, but the 5 minutes of walking around gathering things was painful by the end. (2 hip as it seems to have loosened up a little, 4.5 lower back).

[B]: "Sooo, we're just going to take that therapy model from yesterday and throw it out the window, and go back to what was working."

Me: "Good plan. Though in fairness, the 'sitting with your feet up and your back in flexion' thing did help, and we could keep that."

So my fears regarding therapy were unfounded, though my fears regarding "less than an hour can still undo all of my progress" are still apparently valid-- we did go back to IT Band work, and things are better, but there's still more pain and tightness than I had two days ago before we tried the new bits. That officially makes yesterday a setback. However, now that I've acknowledged the emotional backlash that came along with the setback, I can also acknowledge that it's the risk you take when you experiment. And I don't want to stop the controlled experiments, because that's how we found the IT Band problem in the first place.
amanda_lodden: (four)
Let's pretend I wrote a journal entry yesterday about how my physical therapy was going. (I've been meaning to.) It would go something like this:

I started physical therapy for my back again at the beginning of the year, at my request. It helped my back a great deal a couple years ago, but the pain never completely went away and instead settled into a lowish-level of chronic pain, and I'd really like to have it go completely away.

I'm going to the same place, because I really liked the therapists there, even the ones that I never actually worked with but were just "around" at the times I was there. There was really only one person that I didn't like, a brash young guy who may or may not have been interning there (I was never all that clear) who pushed too hard even when I said "No, that movement hurts" to the point that he made me cry. So I called up and made an appointment and told them that I'd worked with [K] a couple of years ago. We worked out a time, and as we were finishing up, the receptionist said "Okay, that's 12:30 with [B] on Monday. See you then!" and I said "Sounds good!" and hung up and said "Wait, which one is [B]?" and started wracking my brain, going through each of the therapists I could remember, and then said "Oh, crap, I think [guy who made me cry] is [B]."

I debated about what to do about it for the entire weekend prior to my appointment, and ultimately decided to give it a try anyway. Maybe [B] was a different person entirely. Maybe [B] was the same guy but had gotten better-- he did look pretty aghast at making me cry back then, so maybe I had been an object lesson in listening to patient feedback. Also, in the intervening years I have gotten better about communicating clearly, and I've got a better handle on what movements I can and can't do, so even if [B] was the same guy and hadn't gotten better, *I* had gotten better. I was there entirely at my own option; if I didn't like how it was going, I had options for demanding a different therapist or a different location, so there was no point in punishing a therapist for being an asshole without giving him a chance to actually be an asshole first. (As a side note: that's actually a pretty good rule of thumb no matter what the situation -- if you're going to punish someone for being an ass, make sure you've given them the chance to actually be an ass first.)

I went. And [B] turned out to be the guy who had made me cry last time. And I sucked it up and treated him as though he were a brand new person I'd never met and gave him a chance, and he turned out to be absolutely fantastic-- better than [K], and [K] had been really good. In part BECAUSE of his "Let's try this and see whether it makes a difference" attitude that led to him insisting I do the move that made me cry the first time, he found a tight muscle in my hip (my IT Band) that was contributing to a lot of my pain, and I feel better than I have in years-- and that muscle is in my hip, where I've been saying for quite some time that something is wrong, and kept being told that it was referred pain and the real problem was in my lower back. So in addition to providing some serious pain relief, this new "work on the IT Band" regimen has come with a heaping side order of vindication as well.

Aaaaaaand then there was today. [B] took a class on low-back pain this weekend, and he was eager to apply the new teachings to my back. He asked if I was willing to do a little evaluation worksheet with him, and I said yes. This was my first mistake, because while it started off pretty innocuous, midway through it I complained "you said eval, not torture." The movements and positions pissed off both my hip and my lower back, and I've been popping pain pills like I did when I first hurt my back.

Of course, this new class of [B]'s taught that pain in the hips and legs of a back patient is still centered in the back and should be treated by treating the lower back, so the things that help my hip feel better didn't happen today either. And despite [B]'s promise that we would still work on the IT Band as well but he just didn't have time to do both today... I have this crushing fear that we'll revert back to the "standard" back treatment that left me with the low level of pain that Just. Would. Not. Go. Away.

Today has been a lot of crying, partly from the increased pain but mostly from the emotional baggage that comes from realizing that all of the progress I've made can be undone in one fell swoop, and at the behest of an expert who supposedly knows what they are doing (*). Then there's the fear I mentioned earlier, not just of having to put up with a therapy regimen that doesn't help as much as I know it could, but also of having to fight tooth and nail to have someone LISTEN to me about what hurts and what just isn't right. It's so very, very frustrating to KNOW that something is wrong and have doctors and nurses and therapists and other people who don't live in your body tell you that it's something else, and then have all the treatments for that something else still leave you feeling that the thing you've been saying is wrong is still wrong.

(*) I am not intending that in any sort of sarcastic tone. [B]'s earlier efforts resulted in such a tremendous leap forward that I will not deny his expertise, though at the moment I am seriously doubting the credentials of whoever taught his damned class this weekend.
amanda_lodden: (four)
This book was in one of the "these eBooks are free, today only!" emails that I get, and I picked it up on a lark, not realizing that it was solidly Young Adult. I tend to avoid YA novels these days unless they're specifically recommended by people whose taste I trust-- there are so very many that are just 200 pages of angsty drama.

I'm really glad I did. This book is solidly written, well-paced, and full of teenagers who are believable. There's the requisite angst and drama, but it's heavily peppered with humor and self-realization and it just works. I laughed, I cried-- and it's a rare author who can make me care so deeply for a character that I shed actual tears for them. It's an even rarer author that can create a book I enjoy tremendously AND want to share with my nieces so badly that I'm seriously considering buying the 12-year-old a Kindle just so that I can buy her this book to put on it.

Incidentally, the "get this eBook free!" ploy worked, because after finishing this book, I immediately went and bought the author's other works, and I'm looking forward to curling up with each of them.
amanda_lodden: (four)
I decided to take a nice soak in the bathtub this afternoon to try and loosen up some tight muscles and clear out my sinuses. While I was relaxing and reading, I suddenly smelled something acrid and foul, and looked down to find a cat on the floor next to the tub, trying to bury its fresh pee. Not only did my cat pee on my bathroom floor, he did it RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

For bonus points: finding pee in that spot has been an ongoing problem recently, but we've been unable to figure out exactly which cat it was. John insisted that it couldn't possibly be his sweet darling Sisko, because Sisko is a little angel and wouldn't do something like that. Do I even need to tell you which cat is was that peed in front of me? Of course not, because you've already correctly guessed it was Sisko.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Today has been the Day of False Starts, also known as an Oh, Crap, Well, Fine day.

I was going to run some laundry.

Oh, crap, John threw his clothes in the washer already.

Well, fine. Wait for his to finish, throw his in the dryer.

Oh, crap, with all his laundry I'll be missing a laundry basket for my clothes when they're done. (I try to abide by a house rule of "don't start a load you can't finish up", because otherwise someone else always comes along needing to do their laundry too, and my clean clothes end up god-only-knows-where.)

Well, fine. I'll fold some laundry and free up a laundry basket.

Oh, crap, the puffy comforter needs to be put away.

Oh, crap, the blanket chest where the puffy comforter belongs is covered in stuff.

Well, fine. I'll put away the stuff on the blanket chest.

My desktop computer needs to be reloaded after a hard drive failure. I have a plan for what I'd like to do to make this easier next time. (Everything of consequence is backed up, but restoring is still a pain.) I opened the case and replaced the hard drive, so all that's left is to install the new OS from the CD.

Oh, crap, the installation CD won't boot.

Well, fine. I'll re-download the OS and burn a new CD.

Oh, crap, the download failed and I didn't notice for hours.

Oh, crap, I can't find the blank CDs.

And so on and so on and so on for each and every thing I tried to do.

The label maker that I made John bring home from the office? Ran out of tape before I was halfway through the list.

The Netflixes that need to be returned? I found one of them, and have no idea where the other is.

The cushioned vinyl "rug" that I want to put in the kitchen so that the one in front of the sink and the one in front of the stove are the same color? One of the cats puked on it.

The recycling that needs to be taken to the recycling center? Can't do it tomorrow morning after all, because John needs the big car, and it won't fit in the smaller one... so it will have to stay piled up until Monday, because the center isn't opened Thursday or Friday.

There was progress, but only because I am really, really stubborn.
amanda_lodden: (manga with glasses)
Ambercon was, as usual, full of awesome. Gaming bits are below; I know not everyone cares, so I'll hit the non-gaming parts first:

We landed at nearly-midnight, so by the time we got our baggage and hauled it out to the parking garage, it was about 12:30am. We noted that both the front tires were soft, with the driver's side being worse than the passenger side, but we felt that it would be fine as long as we didn't do anything stupid-- we'd stop at the first service station to throw air in them, and check periodically on the way home, and we'd be fine.

By the time I got out of the parking garage, I was riding on the rim on the driver's side. I pulled over and tried to figure out the best plan, and decided that it would be 1000 times easier if I got past the cashiers, as there was a large open area off to the side before the garage traffic merged with the normal traffic. Sure, it was painted with lots of yellow stripes and "No Parking", but there was no traffic flow through it-- it was pretty much designed as an emergency area. Then I sat on hold with AAA for 10 minutes (ugh!) before they took my information and found a tow service to come put the spare on. We sat for nearly an hour. The tow truck showed up, took off the flat tire while CJ emptied the luggage out of the back so that we could access the spare tire, and as he was rolling it back towards the back of the car he asked "Wait, what was wrong with this tire again?" because it had poofed back up. He put air into it, then tried to make it leak again-- jumping up and down on it, etc. Did I mention it was 1:30am and f'ing cold outside? I understand the desire to fix it if possible, but I kinda just wanted to go home. He put the tire back on, went around to the passenger side to put air in that tire, and I said "Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I swear that [the driver's side] tire wasn't as soft when you put it back on as it is right now." So he took it back off and swapped it for the spare, which meant taking the luggage out of the car again, because CJ had started to put it back in when he thought we weren't going to need the spare.

We pulled into the driveway at 2:46am, and I flopped into my bed at 2:49am.

The next morning, I awoke to leaves that were still on my lawn despite the lawn guy being called to come give us a quote well before I left (he had intended to do it when he did a final cut on our lawn, and then it was wet and rainy and he didn't come do a final cut), bits for repairing the baseboard still in the garage (the heating guy who dropped them off will be out "probably this weekend" ... or so I've been told for the last four weekends), my desktop computer suffering from Blue Screen of Deaths every 5 minutes, no space in the barn that I was planning on putting the bikes in to get them out of the garage so we can park in it for the winter, and a generator being installed in such a way that we will no longer be able to safely park in a place we frequently park.

The good news is that I took my frustration out on my to-do list, and the pantry drawers that I've been trying to get done for months are now fully finished and I have started to put things in them. So apparently if I want to get anything DONE, the solution is to get me good and PISSED OFF.

As promised, the gaming bits:

Despite not being jet-lagged, I still fell asleep in the first slot, so there's a new rule of "Don't Let Amanda Sit On The Bed" for next year. I'd also like to try checking into the hotel the day before the con, because there's not enough time between when the hotel's check-in time begins and when the opening ceremonies begin, so I still felt rushed and NotReady(tm).

The three games I ran went amazingly well. The 1920s mystery game was better than it had any right to be, largely because I got the hell out of the players' way and let them play. The Winnie-the-Pooh/Torchwood crossover also went well, though not exactly as intended-- CJ and I figured that his Doctor Pooh game and my Hundred Aker Torchwood game would run independently for about an hour before combining. My players asked for something that I knew for certain was in the possession of the Doctor Pooh crowd (CJ and I had talked about where certain items would be), and because players are smart and figured out that a Doctor Pooh game and a Hundred Aker Torchwood game running in the same time slot and next-door to each other were intended to combine, they decided to just go knock on the door of the BEARDIS. So we combined a little early. Like after about 15 minutes. It worked. The Hogwarts Summer Camp game also went smoothly, but ended early. I don't think anyone was displeased by the game, just tired and not wanting to goof around with side stories.

CJ's Weird West game remains a favorite, and I was pleased that the returning sisters did not run roughshod over the new players-- not because we didn't TRY, but because they kept up with us. Two thumbs up to them for hitting the ground running. Best part of the game? One of the new players leaning over to me and quietly saying "Y'all are a HOOT to game with" when CJ's attention was on the other side of the room.

The long game was fun, and I enjoy the setting, but the GMs are utterly terrible at ending on time, and that does not mesh well with a highly-scheduled trip. I ended up walking out in the middle of the final scene, because we had plans for dinner. I don't really know what to do about this for future games with them-- it's an ongoing campaign, and I enjoy it, but the whole "runs way past its scheduled end-time" thing may well be a stopper for me.

The last game was a Firefly/Doctor Who crossover, and I am sad that the GM plans to NOT run a sequel next year, because it was entertaining. The Firefly crew took a slightly more pragmatic view for dealing with a menace than the Doctor usually does, and just shot the bastard in the head. This meant that the game ended early, because the GM had figured on an hour or so of negotiating first. But honestly, absolutely no one is broken-hearted when the last game of a con ends a little early, because by that time everyone is So. Very. Tired.

I skipped the traditional "extra slot" of going to the soaking pool, because it was cold and rainy and I hate being in a warm pool with cold air on my head and shoulders. Instead, the force of nature that is Chloe pulled me into the beginning of a game of Monster Hearts (which I watched rather than played, because I realized early on that I would have to go to bed before it ended and I didn't want to pull a character out of the story midway through) with some amazingly cool people, most of whom were new to me. Monster Hearts is... interesting. CJ owns it, so I'm going to have to get him to run a session or two somewhere. Hopefully at a faster pace than the Paranoia game I've been trying to get him to run for a couple of years now.
amanda_lodden: (manga with glasses)
Despite starting off a little rocky, the see-people-and-be-a-little-bit-tourist portion of this trip has been lovely. I had originally done the time-zone math wrong* on when we would be arriving in Seattle, and chose who we were staying with when based on the idea that the first night we would be useless little globs of traveller goo. Then I was embarrassed when I realized we were supposed to land 3 hours earlier than we did. So the screw-up and rebooking meant that we actually landed right around the time I mistakenly thought we would be landing from the original flight.

* Or rather, twice. I changed the PST number to EST time when putting it into my calendar, and then I looked at the number in the calendar and said "Well, if we're getting in at X PST, it'll be X+3 EST..."

Nights 1 and 2 were spent with Dave & Mary, who were lovely hosts who put up with cranky little globs of traveller goo. They introduced me to Keurig machines (which have little pods for tea and hot chocolate, too! I'd not given Keurig's a thought because I don't like coffee, but... tea! hot chocolate!) and the first of many item-lusts. Mary also served a wonderful dinner of homemade pastrami and smoked turkey, introducing item-lust for a smoker as well. Dave and Mary have a lovely view of Cottage Lake from the back of their house, and CJ and I were desperately in need of lovely views, so rather than run off and be touristy we sat and watched ducks, and it was good.

Night 3 was spent with Dante & Louise, who were also lovely hosts. For lunch, they took us to Pike Place, where we wandered and ate a bit of this and a bit of that, which is my favorite way to eat in new places. At least once, I uttered the words "I don't know what a [food item] is, but I'd split one with anyone who wanted to." I can't for the life of me remember the name of the thing, but it was a spinach and feta pie in phyllo dough from the place that has the Turkish delights (which I also got to try) and it was yummy. Dinner was teppenyaki with Julianne (who I have only met via webcam until now) and Chris.

Dante & Louise are gamers, and I meant to take a picture of Dante's board game collection to taunt Jim with, but I forgot-- perhaps Dante will be kind enough to take one and send it to me. I got to play Merchant of Venus, which is a new-to-me game, and enjoyed it tremendously-- not enough to qualify as item-lust, but it'll probably make its way to the house in the not-distant future. Dante also let me play with his Surface (which sparked item-lust number three), and I got to sleep in a Tempurpedic bed for the first time ever, which I've wanted to do for some time (The try-me-out thing at local stores is nice, but it doesn't really tell you what the bed is like three hours into your sleep, which is generally about when I start to have problems). Now I need to drag John off to somewhere that he can try a Tempurpedic bed, to satisfy item-lust #4. (Since John resists West-Coast trips, if anyone local has a Tempurpedic and is willing to let John have a sleep-over, please let me know.)

Lunch with Dawn & Jeremy in downtown Seattle (my advice: don't drive there. Parking's a bitch.), and then it was off on a three-hour tour... uh, I mean, drive to Portland to spend nights 4 and 5 with Jess & Pat. John will be pleased to learn that the only item-lust Jess & Pat sparked is for a computer-driven entertainment system, which he's already slowly working on... and for a dog, because theirs is freaking adorable. We watched some of the election coverage and then headed off to bed. Wednesday, CJ and I headed to Powell's while Jess & Pat worked.

I am, perhaps, a little broken: despite a deep and abiding love of books, Powell's was not that impressive to me. I'm given to understand that in the past they dealt quite a bit more with used books than new, and that may have made it better. As it was, it was just a really large bookstore. And while I like bookstores, they all have the same drawbacks: anything that could possibly be filed in multiple areas has to be put in one and not the others (Kim Harrison's urban-fantasy Hallows series showed up in Horror rather than Fantasy), and no matter how many books you stock, you can't guarantee that you'll stock all of them within a given series (especially if you still want to do silly things like pay your rent and pay your employees and maybe make a small profit at the end of the month). Browsing is... eh, okay, but if I'm going to browse randomly then I'm probably going to go to Amazon where I can read reviews as well, because it's too difficult to tell from a cover blurb whether a book is decent or craptastic. But when I looked for more books in series that I'd already started, I tended to find books missing... like the Charlaine Harris mystery series that I read the first book of and wanted to try the second one. Powell's had the first, the third, and the fourth books in the series. Despite this, I still walked out with about 10 books... but I felt like I could've bought quite a bit more if only they had had what I wanted, or in the format that I wanted (I would have picked up the Kim Harrison book of Hallows-based short stories, except that they only had it in hardcover, and I hate hardcovers.)

Then it was off to the airport to pick up some Ambercon folks, off to the pre-Ambercon dinner (which wasn't bad, though I made poor choices and then spent the second-half of the dinner wishing I had gotten the chicken instead), and back to the airport because I am a sucke... really nice person. (I volunteered, and the travel co-ordinator made it crystal clear that 'No' was a perfectly valid answer. I just hate to leave people to pay $20 for a cab when the cost to go get them is $2 in gas.)

The Nissan Altima that I got from Enterprise is a weird little car. I understand that several companies are moving towards the keys with RFIDs and a push-button starter, but I still don't like the freaky little buggers. Cars should start by turning the key. (Yes, I know that sounds like a cranky old geezer. Git offa mah lawn!) It's also not built for people built like me-- to comfortably reach the pedals, my stomach is pushed up against the steering wheel. It's not bad enough for me to have swung by SEATAC's rental car place and demanded a new car (which Enterprise has been awesome about getting for me in the past), but it's enough to put the Altima on my list of "don't get this kind of car again ever."

Now it's breakfast and goofing off until it's time to check into the hotel and begin the gaming portion of our trip. Many thanks and much love to Dave, Mary, Dante, Louise, Jess, Patrick, Ray, and Autumn for their hospitality during our invasion. Scritches and treats to Niko, Ari, Mook, Ace, Blackjack, Joker, Newt, Wrong Way, and Anubis for comforting us as we missed our own kitties and for making sure we always had a ear to scratch. (I understand that Jess & Pat have a third kitty, but Geisha has not deigned to come and sniff us, so no scritches for her.)
amanda_lodden: (Default)
CJ and I are flying out to Seattle this weekend, to visit friends and sight-see a little before heading down to Portland for Ambercon Northwest. I dutifully went to bed early last night so that I could get up early this morning to get down to the airport in time for our flight.... which left yesterday morning. Somewhere in the planning phase, I screwed up, and put the wrong date into the calendar for our flight.

Exactly how this happened, I'm not entirely sure. I do have a chat log from talking to CJ about the flights as I made them, and in it I bitch about the available options for both Friday and Saturday. I also recall flipping back and forth checking flight options for both days, because as much as I did not like the Saturday choices, yesterday was my wedding anniversary, and I really didn't want to spend it away from John. My best guess is that once I settled on the Saturday flight, I hit "Back" in my browser a couple of times to get back to those flights, rather than starting a new search, and accidentally hit "Back" one too many times. (Or Southwest sets a cookie and remembered the old search terms. Or something.) And then I proceeded to ignore the date on every single communication from Southwest and stubbornly insisted that we were flying today.

On the plus side, Southwest was pretty awesome about rebooking us, and we will only be arriving 3.5 hours later than expected. Of course, it cost me $$$ to do this rebooking-- but the charge was equivalent to another discount-rate flight, rather than a last-minute flight. So it could have been much worse.

I also reserved the rental car for the correct day (presumably I did it while looking directly at the airline confirmation page), so I just got off the phone with Enterprise, re-reserving my car. Interestingly enough, despite upgrading the car size, the total reservation came up for $500 LESS than the prior reservation. This... makes no sense to me, but tells me that I should stop using Enterprise's online system to reserve cars, and should switch over to using their phone-in system. Still, I'm please to have a good chunk of the extra flight costs offset by a drastically reduced car rental.
amanda_lodden: (shopping is hard)
John wanted to go shopping, because his pants are all wearing out. I said, "Do you mind if we check the men's department at DepartmentStoreBrand, because I'd like to pick up a wallet or billfold, and MensStoreBrand isn't likely to have one for me."

Final total? 11 items for him (3 of which are pants; he also got a lot of shirts), 3 for me (one of which is the aforementioned billfold). Retail price would have been $572.46, but because John is a better discount shopper than most women I know, he paid $143.03... not including the $30 in "save X on your next visit" discounts. Overall, my discounts were 53%, paltry in comparison to his 70%.
amanda_lodden: (no place for truth on the internet)
me: WHY do I do these things to myself?

CJ: Because you're convinced that if you don't admit to limitations, they will melt away like morning mist under the sun.
amanda_lodden: (no place for truth on the internet)
I like a number of the stupid little Facebook games.  I do not like spamming my friends incessently.  So I have a second account, full of friends who play a lot of the stupid little Facebook games.  Of the 235 people on that account's list of friends, I know approximately three--  the rest come from app comments with "add this list of emails to your friends list so we can be neighbors in [game]!"

Also, because I like privacy kind of a lot, I made up details for that account.  It lives in another state, in a tiny little town that we once stole for a game setting.  The name I chose is somewhat unfortunate, in that it's not very common-- there's a lot to be said for hiding in a forest of John Smiths.

So you can imagine my surprise when I logged into that account in a fit of pique after trying to play a couple of games on my regular account using restricted-access lists... and found a post to my wall on September 1st wishing me "Best wishes for a quick recovery." Uh... okay, sure.  Was I sick in September?  I don't recall being sick in September, or August, and I've no idea how this random stranger would've known about it, but whatever.  It gets better, though: a completely different random stranger (who is not mutual friends with the well-wishing random stranger) commented with a very understandable "???".  My well-wisher replied "Emergency gallbladder surgery in Omaha today"

Uh... what?  That seems oddly specific.  Also, the tiny little town that my alternate identity lives in?  Not Omaha.  Google maps says it's 4 hours from Omaha, which seems like a very uncomfortable trip for someone needing emergency surgery.  Especially since the route passes directly through another major city that would likely have a major hospital.  It's also only 3 hours away from one of the most well-known hospitals in the country, although I admit that gallbladders are not their specialty.

This has left me all sorts of befuddled.  Did this well-wisher get me confused with someone else?  It seems unlikely, considering that to my knowledge, there isn't another person with the alternate identities' name out there (though if there is: I'm sorry that I stole your name.  Or you're welcome, because it gives you someone to hide behind.  Your choice.)  Did they just decide to post a random statement and see what happened?  Did they have a dream in which they learned that I was having emergency surgery, and woke up believing it?  I understand lying when there's something at stake, but I can't bring myself to assume that this person was lying over something so pointless.  Therefore, I must assume that they were genuinely concerned for my well-being... in an oddly-specific and very wrong manner.  Weird.


amanda_lodden: (Default)

January 2015

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