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05/25/06 09:40 - 66ºF - ID#22002

one cleaning task complete

I've just completed one major spring cleaning task.
This is something that's taken me four years to do.

I paid off one of my student loans!!


Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing. I have one big sucka of a loan left, five digits, that's the bulk of my education expenses, and I've barely made a dent in that. But my final year of school, the financial aid office in their infinite wisdom decided that since my older sister had graduated, they would cut their aid to me.
Despite the fact that my younger sister had just started school.

So, with absolutely no notice or anything, they simply slashed my aid and sent us a bigger bill. It was only after several months of fruitless inquiry that they finally saw fit to explain this to us.
Worse, they'd cut my work-study funding, which was how i was able to have a job. My job of three years was over, because my wages were no longer subsidized.
They offered to give me work-study as a loan, which would mean that I was paid for the work I did in money they were loaning me. "Couldn't you just, you know, loan me the money and not make me work for it?" I asked. It seemed dumb for me to have to work to earn money I'd have to repay. "Sure," they said, and thus, The Smaller Student Loan was born.

It's at twice the interest of the big loan. I meant to just pay it off in one fell swoop. But I've never had the cash. Until today! Well, until last month. My tax refund just about covers it, so I was just waiting for the next statement to arrive. This loan is from some shady company that totally sold my information to credit card companies, and when I was unemployed and asked for a deferment they gave it to me but then turned my bill over to a collections agency anyway, so I hate them and am glad to be rid of them.

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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/24/06 12:28 - 62ºF - ID#22001

spring cleaning

I guess it's time for some spring cleaning. My folks are coming this weekend, although their response when I said that Z would entertain them for a few hours on Sunday since I couldn't get out of work was to say that they'd simply not come out until Sunday night. Which shaves a day and a half off their visit, and means there won't be any time really with all four of us together, and breaks my heart. I had so many things I wanted to do with all four of us, and now, Z will be at work the whole time we're here. "But we can have dinner together" is nice, but dinner is not the same as day trips and you know, Dad helping Z fix the goddamn snowblower already.

So that's what had me so sad the other day, and I'm still not quite back to normal. I think I'm having some sort of hormonal something, because I've been feeling unusually worthless of late-- you know how that happens sometimes? I tried to go clothes shopping and wound up sitting in the car crying because I was ugly and incompetent and fat and what-have-you. These things are always very annoying, and I cannot wait for them to be over. However, I can't feel better just by wishing, so I have to wait it out.

I did successfully buy one thing-- a Macbook for Z. (He's promised to pay me back.) It's cute and sexy and I want one. Problem is, I have two computers already. Neither one is perfect-- the laptop needs repairs and is underpowered and under-hard-drived, but I only bought it as a second computer anyway. The desktop is fine but it's a desktop and I can't take it with me everywhere I need a computer.

I really want to get rid of both of those and just get myself a nice new laptop already.
And it's got me thinking: I own too many things that I'm not quite satisfied with but don't quite dare throw out. All these clothes that don't quite suit me, but aren't worn out enough to discard. All these possessions that I don't really enjoy, but I can't justify replacing.

I'm thinking it's about time for me to just scrap everything I don't love. No more hanging on because it's the best I've got. I've been working extra hours lately, and have a bit of extra money. I should just bite the bullet and toss everything that doesn't satisfy me. If it's something I can't live without, I'll replace it with something, but it has to be something perfect. No more half-measures. If it isn't exactly what I need, I don't want it. My life is too cluttered with things I have because I couldn't find anything better, or because they're not broken enough yet to replace.


Does anyone need a used iMac or iBook G4? Do let me know: I'm willing to let either one go relatively cheap. :)

And if you have a thing for old t-shirts, do let me know.
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Permalink: spring_cleaning.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/22/06 11:22 - 44ºF - ID#22000

spirit

I am thoroughly sad this morning, to the point of being puffy-eyed and snotty-nosed. So attractive, and also, so mature. I am far too old to be this useless, but oh well.

So to distract myself I decided to crack open Photoshop. See, I read Astronomy Photo of the Day pretty much daily. (I have an RSS feed in my LJ friendslist, if you must know.)
Today's photo is of an astronaut doing some spacewalky thing.

I looked at it, and immediately thought of an improvement. So I got out Photoshop, and fixed it:



Click the link! Funny picture! Bonus points if you can see a small reference to current events!

I am so funny. I win at Photoshop.


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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/20/06 11:25 - 53ºF - ID#21999

blues

I'm feeling eversoslightly blue tonight. I've just realized that the stupid damn novel I've spent like a year and a half working on wants to be a trilogy. And nobody but nobody sells a trilogy as her first novel. You just don't.
So I have to put it aside and work on something else. WHich is okay. I need something less ambitious anyway. I could never polish this one into publishable format, not as invested as I am in it-- I have known for a while that I'd have to work up something else.
But oh my God, why the hell does it have to be a trilogy? *weeps* It's like getting accidentally pregnant, deciding to roll with it, and then finding out it's goddamned triplets or something. Jesus. Give me a break here.

So anyhow. I'm changing my journal music and putting up a blues song, just for now. The Susan Tedeschi Band, from the album Better Days: "Hound Dog", most famously done by Elvis.
I was going to put another of her songs up on Gather but after three attempts I'm giving up-- every time, Gather would sit there turning over for a while and then give me the blank Upload screen again, with no number and no confirmation email, so I guess it's not taking new submissions! Oh well.



I have an etiquette question, or a fashion question, or something. (e:zobar) is in a wedding next month. It's an afternoon wedding, and then there's a fancy reception in the evening. (The reception's at 6:30, so, the dinner hour I suppose.)
What the hell do I wear?
And where in Buffalo do I find such a whatever to wear?
Do I need an evening gown?
Where does a girl go to find an evening gown in Buffalo?
Particularly if said girl is an awkward not-fat-not-skinny size? (I am a size 12/14 but have a 34F bust, which means NOTHING FITS and God preserve me from high-necked fashions.)

And do I need a different outfit for the wedding, since the wedding itself is not an evening affair? (One of Z's buddies got married last year or so and everyone showed up to the reception in a different gown than they'd worn to the church! My head about exploded. I didn't know such a thing was possible.)
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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/19/06 10:36 - 52ºF - ID#21998

holidays. bah.

The single number one issue I have that makes my job unendurable is that I will never ever ever have a holiday off. Any kind of holiday. If there is a day that other people want off, I will not have it off. Day off requests are granted by seniority. I do not have seniority.

My parents have a long weekend at Memorial Day and are coming out to visit me. They have not visited me since July last year. I have not seen them at all since February this year. Ours is a close family, but we never get to see one another. It is more than a little sad.

So my folks are making the 300 mile drive to come see me. I put in as soon as I knew this, and requested off that weekend.

I finally heard back yesterday. I can have the Saturday off, but not the Sunday. Someone more senior to me is also being denied that Sunday off, because we just don't have enough staff to cover it.

The scheduler knows that I rarely request days off and still more rarely actually get them, and so when I do, it's because I really need them. But still.

So. My parents will be here Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I will be at work on Sunday from 11:30 until, well, maybe 2pm if it's dead, maybe 8 pm if it's busy, and there isn't any way of knowing. It depends on the whim of a manager.

So where should I send my folks during that time? I thought of having (e:zobar) take them on some kind of day trip out of town, but then I thought: what if they let me go after just two hours? And I come home, and they're off somewhere, so I end up bumming around alone?

I thought of a few things-- Niagara Falls, the Zoo, a ballgame if there's one going on-- but I'm open to suggestions. (Last time my folks came to town they caught the Naval Museum downtown-- the big ships in the water, which was a big hit with my historian parents-- and the Albright-Knox, which was a hit with my former-museum-curator mother.)
Anyone else have suggestions? My folks like outdoorsy stuff, history stuff, Mom likes baseball, both like architecture and art. They've both been to Niagara Falls in their lives but I don't know how recently. They'll have a car, and (e:zobar) to be their guide. And I may want to join them in the middle, but may not.
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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/15/06 03:47 - 61ºF - ID#21997

less grumpy

Ahh. Brief nap, chill-out session, rereading a story I like, and I feel better. It's raining now, which makes me happy-- it's a soft rain, and I just planted a bunch of plants-- all my peppers are out now, and the few zinneas I got to sprout, and if it weren't raining I'd worry about them wilting. Especially a couple of the peppers-- I should have separated them. I put four seeds in each big container, and they've been in there twelve weeks now. Several of them, only one or two of the seeds sprouted, and those were fine, but in a couple of them, all four came up, and I should have separated the survivors. Today they were an indistinguishable tangle of roots, and a couple of the plants may not survive having been separated. The tomatoes fared better, but then, it took them a shorter time to get this tall. (I started the peppers a couple of weeks before the tomatoes.)

I have writing to do but I am very tired, for some reason, and feel quite daunted by the prospect of the task.

But. New journal music, slightly mournful but upbeat: Billy Bragg, "A New England".
I don't want to change the world
I'm not looking for a new England
I'm just looking for another girl

goes the chorus, and I kind of empathise. There are so many things I object to so strongly in what is going on in the world today, things that are being done in our names without the slightest respect for our wishes. But I can't make my brain operate on that scale. I can barely cope with the individual-scaled issues that confront me; how can I even begin to grapple with the humankind-scaled issues?

Not to be overly serious. My favorite line of the song is this one:
I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them, but they were only sattelites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?
I wish, I wish, I wish you cared.


If you want a copy yourself, (e:zobar) taught me to use Gather this morning.
I love Billy Bragg's aesthetic. This is one of his solo songs, just him and an electric guitar. I was going to upload one of the ones he did with Wilco, but this one was easier to get. (The other one was in AAC format.) And this one's more apt to my mood.

Ah, yes. The number.
Gather #: 0720492001147722419
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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/15/06 11:43 - 62ºF - ID#21996

Growl

I have been waiting for two weeks now to get my next restaurant review set up. At this point, I have to do it today. It's due tomorrow.

Apparently the person at the restaurant who would approve such a thing is on an indefinite vacation. These people are so disinterested in whether they get a review that they've just kept putting us off until: you guessed it. I can't write a review this week.

Which means that a) the paper has a blank space, b) I'm off my schedule and now no longer will be published in the same issues as Z's biweekly column, and c) I'm sitting around on my ass having blocked out the time to go to the damn place today and now have a space of my own to fill.

Am I really feeling like writing them a good review?

"N, while a great place to eat, are inconsiderate and disinterested fucks who don't care about publicity and can't take care of a simple business matter in a reasonable fashion."

Rrgh. I know I'll get over it, and write a positive review, because I have no choice really, but come the fuck on. Free publicity isn't even worth being courteous and professional about?

It makes me wish I had even the slightest say in where I get to review.
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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/14/06 11:15 - 58ºF - ID#21995

photos

I'm blogging the trip to the Finger Lakes on Livejournal but only briefly (mostly, as is my specialty, I'm rambling about other things)-- (e:zobar) wrote about it thoroughly enough here. (e:zobar,50)
But I'm posting the photos here, because I am determined to learn how to do so. Here we go!

Crap, 100k limit? That's tiny! Well, I'll try again.
Captions below images.

image
Bully Hill vineyards, with Z in foreground, a bit windswept.
image
A decorative railing at Bully Hill, made of railroad ties and other metal.
image
The entrance to Watkins Glen's hike of the waterfalls.
image
Inside the Glen, a view of the walkway along the waterfalls.
image
Along the glen, a staircase on the trail, leading back down to the glen.
image
At the suspension bridge over the glen, Z helpfully alters the sign.
image
I took this picture for my baby sister, who is fascinated by mosses. (She is studying natural resources but really wants to specialize in plants, specifically mosses. I am not making this up.)
image
A red eft. My friend Abbie and I used to hunt these all summer, and she kept some in a terrarium. They are cute and very dumb.
image
A view along the glen.
image
The trail crosses under the cascade here. It freaked me right out.
image
Scenery, from the moving car: I think this is Keuka Lake. It's goddamned gorgeous.

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05/10/06 11:53 - 73ºF - ID#21994

busy

I just spent like $140 on food, but that's good, as I hadn't been grocery shopping in ages and now I'm caught up. Wegman's, Spar's, and Jim's mean that now I have Everything.

So by the way, I'm this food columnist, right? Right. Ostensibly. I gotta harass the editor to, you know, set up my next review so I have something to write about, and I've been trying to set this up for almost two weeks now, so, I'm getting a little tired of that, but someday it will fall into place. Right? Pff. Anyhow.

I want to do more than restaurant reviews. I want to write about all the great food Buffalo has. I was discussing this with the Spar's girl (whose name I am sorry to say I don't know)-- I said, there should be a Sausage Festival or something, and y'all should go head to head to demonstrate whose are best. She agreed, and rattled off without pausing about six places that always said they had the best Italian sausages.

She then admitted that she sometimes does covert ops-- they'll send her down the street to Wegman's to look at what prices they have on various items, and she always has to put her ponytail over the Spar's logo on her shirt, and make sure she doesn't look suspicious, because apparently Wegman's is on the lookout for that sort of thing. So she can't write anything down. She also admitted that the "guys" had gone to check out Budwey's-- "They have a pretty good selection," she said, and then went on to caution me about the chicken sausages there. "Chicken sausages have to be precooked," she said, "or they go off right away." Budwey's has raw chicken sausages, which can be dangerous. Spar's offers two chicken sausages (hot and mild), pre-cooked, and they'll be bringing out a third (spinach and cheese) in response to demand. "These, you don't have to eat or freeze right away," she said. I asked why chicken was suddenly so popular, and she had an answer I hadn't expected: "Moslems," she said. "One of our employees is one, a Bosnian refugee." Apparently the Black Rock neighborhood they service is home to a large number of displaced persons from the former Yugoslavia, many of whom are Moslem. "They come here for our beef, and turkey," and she pointed out their cold cuts selection. The store's logo is a cheerful pig, and many of their sausages are the traditional pork, but they also carry a wide range of European grocery items, and she said that the Yugoslavians like those as well, "to make them feel like home."

I bought my usuals-- their spicy pepperettes [dried sausages, good for snacking], their landjager / jagerwurst "hunter sausages" [smoked, non-refrigerated, excellent for taking on trips], a dozen slices of their incredibly-good bacon, three of their German bratwurst with beer, and three of their chorizos. I admitted that I'd had a Budwey's chorizo last night. "It was okay," I said, "but yours are better. In fact, the best in Buffalo!"
She grinned, and pointed at the plaque. "I can't wait to show this to all our regulars," she said. Thursday and Friday are Spar's busiest days-- in the winter, those are the days to buy food there. I hadn't expected to get more than the dried sausages today, but she said during the "grillin' season" they tend to stock the store more often, because business volume goes up.

Spar's European Sausages, voted the Best in Buffalo, is located on Amherst St. right near the intersection with Grant
. It's right down the street from the Amherst St. Wegman's, and we've been going there for longer than we've lived in Buffalo. They also offer, on a limited basis, some really good German potato salad, and other rotating specialties. Nothing beats their sausages on the grill. And if you can't get there often, stock up-- their sausages freeze well, and you can just pull them out and throw them on the grill while it warms up to defrost them. The ultimate convenience dinner-- i don't get why people buy fast food.



In other news entirely, it looks like (e:zobar) and I will be at the Century again tonight to watch the Sabres game, because we don't have a TV and want to see the game. So if anybody is interested... the Century's right down on Pearl St., just off Chippewa.

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Location: Buffalo, NY


05/09/06 02:05 - 72ºF - ID#21993

Best of Buffalo

Two things in this post.

1) A question. Z and I have not had a day off together in many moons. We have not left Buffalo in as many moons. So this week, to celebrate (not happily) the end of my part-time schedule, I got (e:zobar) to take Friday off, so we can go somewhere Thurs. night and stay over and do something cool all day and then get me home in time for work Saturday morning (at 11 am).

So where should we go? Toronto? Stratford Festival? The Finger Lakes? Southern Ontario? Ohio? Pennsylvania? I'm looking for suggestions. It can't be anything that would require a lot of planning and reservations, because we're going there THIS Friday.


2) The Best of Buffalo party. How cool was that? It was free food, brought to you by the best restaurants in Buffalo.
It was free music, brought to you by the best jazz band and the best choir in Buffalo.
It was free etertainment, brought to you by one of the best djs in Buffalo (actually I'm not sure who he was; someone one of the video guys knew). I felt very chic because I owned at least two of the CDs he had in heavy rotation (Portishead's Dummy, which my new journal music is from, and Sublime's self-titled album), and he was scratching like a mofo-- he had a really neat rig but I won't go into the details here.
And they had the game on in the background, of course! Z and the video guys were in the back room, and they had the projector set up with a switcher-thing so that they could easily transfer among three different feeds at varying levels of transparency. The slide show displaying the results of the voting (in case you missed the announcements) had squares chroma-keyed into the background so that they could put live video feeds into those corners-- for a while they had the game going on in those corners, with the slides made slightly transparent over the top so that you could follow the action all the way across the screen.
But throughout the game they had the thing set up so that when it went to commercials, they'd put the slideshow or a live video feed on instead of the commercials.

Babik was playing during much of the game, and they get super-extra-awesome bonus points for being such good sports about it. They didn't care that everyone was watching the game-- they were watching it too! And after one of the goals they stopped, and the violinist played the "charge!" thing. How awesome is that?

The fact that the Sabres won only made it that much more awesome.
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mike said to mike
Well really I did not bury the hatched in my mind I guess because now 5 years later, I just saw him ...

mike said to mike
Well really I did not bury the hatched in my mind I guess because now 5 years later, I just saw him ...

mike said to mike
Well 14 years later I have more grays but still solidly more pepper than salt so that's good at leas...

mike said to mike
Well 14 years later I have more grays but still solidly more pepper than salt so that's good at leas...