Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering the Challenger Disaster

photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
I was doing my spelling.

I remember that clearly to this day. I can even see the spelling workbook. Despite years of rearranging and sitting in all sorts of places, facing all different directions in that one-room school I attended,  I remember specifically where my desk was that day.  I remember that the phone rang out in the coat hall and the teacher went out to answer it. A moment later, she rushed back in, saying "The space shuttle blew up!" I don't think that really made much sense until she turned on the tv. We could only get one or two channels on the antenna (no cable service for a tiny school house miles from town) but it didn't matter. In those  days before CNN was ubiquitous, every channel had turned to coverage of the tragedy.

I don't remember crying at school. I mostly remember shock that morning. I know I cried later. I think it was a long time before I could think of that day without a tear.

Space flight seemed like such a "given" until then. It was something the adults had all figured out and it would only be easier by the time I was an adult, I thought. The Challenger explosion cast doubt on that for the first time for me.

I still hold my breath every time I hear "throttle up."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It’s Winter in Nebraska

Someone sent me this poem a long time ago. I googled the first few lines, without a state name, and apparently it's been used for pretty much every state that gets any snow. :) Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down the origin of the poem.

It’s Winter in Nebraska

Its winter in Nebraska,
And the gentle breezes blow.
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.
Oh, how I love Nebraska,
When the snow's up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Nebraska,
My ass is frozen to the ground.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Facebook Facepalm: I'm going to go cry into my huge pillow now

Update: Spammers have now jumped in, so it's gone from funny hoax to actual scam: WARNING: Don’t Click On ‘Facebook Will Shut Down’

The other night, I came across a link claiming that Facebook is closing down on March 15. Since it was in the Weekly World News, and since I'm such a big fan of So I Married An Axe Murderer, I couldn't resist posting the link along with a reference to the Weekly World News Garth Brooks Juice Diet.

If you're not familiar with the movie, here's a clip. The relevant bits are at 2:00 min. for the juice diet reference and at about 3:25 min. for the discussion of "The Paper."

My brother was the only one to reply to my Facebook post and he obviously got the joke. However, Tuesday I was horrified to hear on Net@Night (the link may not work until the episode is posted) that many people thought the story was true!

Huh? Who were these people? Maybe Charlie Mackenzie's parents aren't so unusual. Since I didn't see any of my friends post this on Facebook, I hope I can rest assured that they're all smarter than the average user. (Good for you, friends!)

However, if you know any of those gullible people, you can point them to this informative video which may make them feel a little better:

(via cnet)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Awesome use of Google Goggles

I'm awful at Sudoku (it's numbers! Gah!). In fact, Google Goggles might be the only way I ever solve one of those puzzles:

I had to try it to see if it works (it does!) but I had a little bit of a problem in the process:


Monday, January 10, 2011

Love in the Mist

by cocytus69
This photo was included in one of Flickr's Your Best Shot 2010 posts and I can't get over how gorgeous it is. There's a surprising amount of detail in the shot when you stop to look (and do you see the bright orange tree?)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Why I'm not a coder:

The last code I wrote from scratch was on a TRS80, I think, and I don't even remember what the program did, just that it was frustratingly unresponsive when I tried to present it as a school project.

via xkcd: Good Code

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Angry Birds...the BOARD GAME!

The Consumer Electronics Show is going on right now, and so far, I haven't seen or heard of any gadgets that really make me go "oooh, shiny!" However, I am excited about the Angry Birds board game - it's an analog take on a highly addictive video game. Here's a preview via CNET:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Doctor to marry his own daughter...sort of...

This news is awesome and geeky, but it kind of makes my head hurt.

photo via BBC America

Doctor to Marry His Own Daughter, Create Rift in Time and Space | GeekDad | "David Tennant is engaged to Georgia Moffett. Tennant very popularly played the 10th incarnation of The Doctor on BBC’s long-running Doctor Who. Moffett played his daughter (actually a quasi-clone based on his DNA) in one episode during his tenure. As if that wasn’t strange enough, Moffett is also the real-life daughter of Peter Davison, who played the 5th incarnation of The Doctor."

What is your desk like?

This is a great video about the connection people have to their desks. Whether messy or minimalist, everyone seems to need a desk, a small place that is theirs and only theirs.

(via Unpluggd)

Once upon a time, I thrived on a messy desk (or thought I did). Somewhere along the line, I evolved into someone who works best with a desk cleared of as much as possible.

I keep my desk pretty clear at work. Although a few sticky notes find their way to the bottom of my monitors, I try to keep those at a minimum. If I could clear the CPU, inbox and phone off, I would. I used to have the CPU on the floor, but it just wasn't practical there. The inbox could probably be eliminated since 90% of the time it holds my timesheet and nothing else. The phone, well, I'd love to get rid of it altogether (Hate phone calls! Love email, instant messaging and text messaging!) but that's not likely to happen since this is still the real world. I keep a sticky note pad, a small pile of scratch paper, and a pile of forms for taking payment information on my desktop since I often need to grab them in a hurry, otherwise they'd be in a drawer. In fact, even the drawers are mostly empty now.

I'm currently a bit of a desk nomad at home. A few months ago, I cleaned out "the office slash guest room" to make it just a guest room, so the big desk has moved downstairs to the room I'm currently using as a sorting and staging area for "The Great Purge." At the moment, the room is still full of boxes from cleaning out closets, the garage, the guest room and LilGirl's room. Once I'm done purging all the stuff, I'll have the desk (under a big south-facing window!) to write at and a table at a right angle to that for sewing and other crafts. I promise pictures when it's ready. For now, I work at a little folding table in front of the couch (my big sound-cancelling headphones are a godsend), at the kitchen table, or at hubby's desk for a few things I can only do on his computer. This digital nomad-like existence is part of the reason I work so much in the cloud. I don't know where I'm going to land, but I still need to access all my stuff and get to work as quickly as possible. In a way, the internet (especially my Gmail) is my desk. In fact, I finished up this post at my daughter's basketball practice. I keep working toward the day I can "settle down" at a single desk at home.

What's your desk like? Messy? Clean? Somewhere in between (is there such a thing in anyone's head?)  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Monday, January 03, 2011

How to succeed? Get more sleep

My new year's resolution is to get more sleep. Coincidentally, this TED Talk by Arianna Huffington popped up in my Google Reader this morning. It's so nice when the universe seems to support your plans, even in a little way.

The pressure of thank you notes...relieved

Kate Spade Thank You Notes
By ralph and jenny

I'm horrible at writing Thank You notes. Okay, not horrible, but I usually wind them up in my head until I'm paralyzed. I feel horrible about not having written the note yet, but can't actually write it because it has to be just perfect, and then I feel even more horrible, and theresjusttoomuchpressure! "Mary, you're a writer, your note should be better than the average person's!" is what that evil voice in the back of my head says, and I've never been able to just tell it what BS that is.

What I need are some tips to guide me and mostly bring me down to earth so that I can actually just write the darn things, and whaddayaknow, I found some. John Kralik is the author of 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life, and he lists "10 Tips For Writing The Perfect Thank You Note" in a feature on his book at NPR: Perfect Thank You Notes: Heartfelt And Handwritten

The first eight points really got me to breathe again regarding thank you notes (sometimes I just need a guide for my thought process, and that's what these points are). The final two points really jumped out at me, though.

Point 9 is "Try writing a first draft, perhaps in a spreadsheet. Not only will you benefit from the second draft, but you will always have a list of the most generous people in your life, and the reasons why you should be thankful for them." As a self-proclaimed Queen of Spreadsheets, my ears (eyes?) perked up when I read this. Ooooh, an excuse for a spreadsheet! (A future post may be about facing my spreadsheet addiction...or not.) This would have the added benefit of reminding me that I can write thank you notes, because I have written them before, and here's a spreadsheet! 

Point 10 is "Write a lot of thank-you notes. You'll get better." A great point. Writing many notes will also wear down the pressure of making each note perfect. The note itself is the point, not the "deathless prose."

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Little things that improve my life

Often, it's accomplishing little things that make me feel the best about myself and my life. I came across this post at Real Simple yesterday and it's almost as if I wrote the list myself. These are things I aspire to, just as listed, but never do consistently. When I do them, life goes more smoothly and feels better. I've cut the list down to the basics; for details, see the original post. I'll keep working on these in 2011:
Clean Dishes
1. Nightly: change into pajamas an hour before going to bed. [This supports my main resolution of getting enough sleep]
2. Daily: put dirty dishes into the dishwasher immediately after a meal
3. Nightly: make and pack lunches for the next day while making dinner.
4. Daily: shred, recycle, and/or trash junk mail immediately upon entering the house.
5. Daily: hang up your coat immediately upon entering the house.
6. Every Sunday: Plan out meals for the week and create a grocery list. 

Hanging 2011 on one resolution

Sleeping Beauty - 2nd
Photo by Béni Rivière
Happy New Year!

I have one main resolution this year: Get enough sleep. 

Sleep deprivation affects your health, your weight, your looks and your happiness. I feel like all my other goals for 2011 hang on getting enough sleep.

Mainly, those goals are to continue the projects I focused on in 2010. Last New Year's Day, I cleaned out the garage so that we could finally get BOTH vehicles in out of the winter storms and that started a domino effect of cleaning out, purging and rearranging that is still going on. I've made a lot of progress (I keep having to remind myself of that) but I've still got a lot of work to do.

I've signed up for my writers group's Finish The Damn Book Challenge. That means my writing goal this year is to have a book ready to land on an agent's or editor's desk by the end of the year. I also have plans in the works for a second (focused, less personal) blog - more on that later.

I also want to be less of a grumpy unhealthy hermit. (We all want that, really)

I think the key to all of this is getting enough sleep.

Once upon a time, before I "grew up" I went to bed at 10pm pretty much no matter what. Short of a real emergency, if stuff wasn't done by 10, too bad. It didn't get done. (This is where my mother points out that I may have gone to bed at 10, but I often read until after midnight. Fine, if I'm awake enough to do it, but now I'm lucky to read two pages at night before my eyes droop shut). Too often these days, I stay up way too late just wasting time on trivial things that don't further any of my goals, simply because I'm desperately looking for "some relaxing time, dammit!" That time would be better spent getting some real sleep (or at least reading a book), so I can get some real things done the next day.

I also have an "anti-resolution" of sorts: I'm not going to plant a garden this year. It's one of those things I think I should enjoy, but I don't have the time and energy to commit to it. I get delusions of grandeur when planting every spring, which goes from "a couple tomato plants" to tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, celery, cucumbers, melons, and on and on. The first really hot week of summer sends me inside to hide and before I know it, the garden is over-run with weeds and I spend the rest of the summer in futile attempts to get ahead of the weedy onslaught. This doesn't really hang on the more sleep thing, but it will take away from the guilt of the "things not done" at the end of the day.