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the beat goes on

I need potato recipes, please. I have a small bag of yukon gold that will form the base of my next 5 dinners, but I have no idea what to do with them. (Two caveats: no cheese, please. And if the recipe includes the phrase "move the potatoes from the double boiler to the chafing dish," you've lost me. Twice.)

This past week's accomplishments include boiling perfect hardboiled eggs (go, me) and making an omelet without cheese. My definition of a plain omelet is an omelet with cheese. In fact, if I were on Family Feud and the question were "ingredients for an omelet," I would name cheese before eggs. This is a major cheese-free breakthrough.

You know what I'm going to miss about video tapes? Commercials. I'm going through a small pile of tapes that has been sitting on top of my VCR/DVD player stack for two years: one of them contains second-season Smallville episodes recorded from broadcast. The tape is destined for the trash, but just sitting through the commercials has teleported me back 8 years. Funny how a show's content doesn't seem to do that.

Thanks to your support during Monday's decluttering breakdown, I was able to dive into the two keeper boxes and discover that not all of the books were untouchable. I still have one keeper box left, and that's one more than I wanted, but work continues. I've come to realize that the decluttering just isn't going to happen in one big effort, even though I like the kind of results I see when I do a major cleaning over a weekend. I'm just too prone to stall out. However, rather than sweep these boxes back into the closet so I can reclaim my living room, I'm resigned to leaving them out while I clear drawers and cabinets in the hopes of finding more space for books in the process.

I'm also considering replacing the old TV in my bedroom with a small HDTV. I only moved the old TV in there because I had a redundant DVR, DVD player, and VCR after the great electronics purchase of 2008. It has no live signal and neither would a new TV, but I kind of like having a playback device. What I don't like is the SIZE of the old TV. It's easily 2 feet deep.
cancer and litter

Trash/Treasure

True to my word, last night I went over the video shelves and got rid of all the commercial titles that were available via Netflix streaming...except the X-Files. Which take up a whole shelf. GAH!

I also went over the stuff recorded off TV. I wasn't surprised by the quantity I tossed (about 40 tapes, I think), but by the number of tapes I kept because they included titles that weren't even listed on Netflix. Or Amazon. Oh, The Prince who was a Thief, how sad I would be never to see you again. I think. Since I haven't actually seen you for at least 10 years. And why has The High Road to China never been released on DVD? (Not that I would buy it. But I would totally rent or stream it.)

Also, I am adorable. When I was a teenager, I made a card catalog for my VHS tapes. Each 3x5 card has a number+letter code in the upper right corner and then lists the 2 or 3 movies on the tape. (Yep, these treasures are all recorded in EP. I always was stingy.) The cards came in very handy last night when choosing which tapes could be tossed, but that isn't what makes me adorable. What makes me adorable is the second set of cards, listing each title alphabetically + the code of the tape it could be found on. I had a cross-referenced card catalog for my videos. I think I'm a little bit in love with former me.

Lastly, it turns out that one of the books I'm getting rid of is a rare, out-of-print Nora Roberts novel that is so bad industry experts predict it will never be republished. Currently valued at more than $100. Because people collectors are insane, regardless of what they collect. There are currently 18 copies listed on Amazon, which seems like a bit of a glut, so I'm torn about whether to toss this on eBay at $75 and see what happens or to hold onto it and see if it becomes more scarce. The thing is, it's a bad book. Its only value is to ravening Nora Roberts fans, and how long can I count on there being ravening Nora Roberts fans?
cancer and litter

utter defeat

Not exactly the optimistic note I had hoped to strike for the second day of the new year. I am utterly defeated by my books and videos. There's just nothing left to throw away. Or, rather, the remaining books are either read regularly or read only occasionally but I want to know they're there, waiting for me. I have four shelves' worth of books on the freestanding bookcase I want to get rid of, and only one shelf of free space in the rest of my cases. Even if I were able to find enough space through more reorganization and double-shelving, I'm beyond maximum capacity. If I get rid of the freestanding shelf, I've got nowhere to put new books except the floor. I don't want the bookcase, but I don't want to lose the shelf space.

So that leaves me looking at videotapes. If I really care about these videos, shouldn't I replace them with DVDs? Lovely, thinpak DVDs? And if I don't value them enough to buy the DVDs, shouldn't I just throw them away? VHS is a crazy, awkward, outdated medium. When my VCRs die, I don't plan to buy another. (My secret fear is that I would still choose to keep the tapes in that situation!) And, no, I don't remember the last time I actually watched one of these tapes.

There's a thin line between collector and hoarder, and I'm not entirely certain I'm on the right side of the line. My one claim to sanity is that I won't box these things up and store them in the closet.
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Happy New Year!

And welcome to 2011: The Year of Recovery. (Hang in there. 2013 is going to be the year of living dangerously, so there's fun times ahead.)

Resolutions: Read more fiction and narrative non-fiction. Either max my retirement contributions or start an investment account outside my 403(b).
cancer and litter

I have a knick-knack problem

My holiday week has been characterized by small bursts of cleaning surrounded by huge pockets of lazing about. I've finally disposed of the old PC after ripping out the drive, which is destined for physical destruction. I vowed to be ruthless in cleaning out my college texts, which occupy 4 shelves in my living room. I...failed. I had no problem getting rid of literary theory, struggled over Norton readers (I love essays and short fiction) and won, then collapsed completely over poetry and drama. Not one play or book of poetry got tossed. I still have my Riverside Chaucer AND my Donaldson anthology of Chaucer's works. Because everyone needs two Chaucers. Why the heck am I keeping Milton? I HATE MILTON. But travelling from one end of the shelf to the next, I have a complete range of British poetry from Middle English through the early 20th century (Yeats), and somehow my identity is wrapped up in that. Don't ask me when I last picked up any of these books to read. That is irrelevant.

Beneath the card table that used to hold the PC (victory is mine!), there were two boxes that hadn't been unpacked since I moved into this apartment *mumble* years ago. (I mumble because I actually don't remember the year, not because it embarrasses me. More than 10, less than 20...though it's probable that I won't recognize when it slips into twenty. While the homeowners among us shudder delicately at the thought of all that wasted rent, I will return to my decluttering monologue.) One box was labelled "desk," the other "knick knacks." I breezed through the desk box, from which I recovered graph paper I will probably never use and a pencil sharpener I have no place for. I opened knick knacks and it was like opening a time capsule. There was a marble kaleidoscope (origins unknown) and the mugs I collected as souvenirs of the shows I had seen in London during my Junior summer and half a dozen pewter-and-crystal figurines of dragons and wizards and unicorns. It was like dropping through a hole in space/time and being 13 again. I had no idea what to do with these treasures, so I still have a box under the card table that used to hold the PC. It's labelled...desk. (The knick-knack box had been a little less pristine.)

media moment

Amazon had a Black Friday-Cyber Monday promotional offer of $3 credit at their mp3 store...which I should have mentioned earlier. My bad. But you're probably all set for music. Me, I still have more cassettes from the 80s than CDs, and almost all of my mp3s are ripped from my cd collection. So, given just enough credit to download 3 songs, I chose Parliament's Give Up the Funk, One Night in Bangkok from Chess, and Harry Nilsson's Blanket for a Sail.

Friends, I am eclectic.

In addition to playing lots 'n' lots of golf, I also spent Thanksgiving weekend catching up on Netflix business. I streamed some very bad movies (I can't actually tell you how Legion ends because I got bored in the middle and did dishes...a movie so dull it drove me to clean). I finally parted with the disc for How to Train Your Dragon (which I had been listening to daily at work for more than a month because it is awesome). And I forced myself to watch The Last Airbender. Now I love "Ember Island Players" even more because Avatar's DVD commentary specifically said the possibility of a movie influenced Sokka's line about the play's effects. I won't go into full review mode, but the live-action film just turned its back on both the humor and the sweetness in the cartoon (except for Uncle Iroh's spirituality, which receives greater emphasis in the movie...but he, too, has no funny in him). Why? How could someone who enjoyed the cartoon enough to want to make it a movie miss all the charm and decide to go for a war documentary?
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welcome to bramageddon

Gah! If I don't post NOW, I won't have a post for August and I'll have broken my New Year's resolution. So here are the bullet points:

* Year of Health: July - I actually managed to go to the Y every day until I had an accident at work and hurt my shoulder on Thursday the 22nd (ironically, just after posting my last entry). We were having an office cleanup day and I got all tangled in wires while I was vacuuming and fell. To make sure I didn't damage any electronic equipment, I literally flung myself into a cinderblock wall. Although I didn't dislocate the shoulder, I was whiny enough about the pain that my doctor gave me codeine-laced advil. Anyway, thus endeth the morning workouts.

* Year of Health: August was overshadowed by Cancer Scare 2010. When I was called back for additional scans at the end of July, I made the first appointment I could: the following Tuesday. When I showed up, it turns out that they hadn't recorded my appointment and couldn't take me...coudl I come back that afternoon? No, no, I couldn't. It was another two weeks before I could be rescanned, and fear and dread pretty much wiped out any YoH planning. (We're very excited about YoH: September, but we'll talk about that...um, tomorrow.)

* Budget - Without notice, my cable bill jumped by $20 this month. For a long time, I've been paying for more cable than I actually watch because I had a package deal that was no longer available and I didn't want to give up something I could never get back. I've now trimmed it down so I'm paying less than I was before the price hike, with considerable room to trim back even more when prices go up again. (Though I would miss BBC America if I had to cut the next tier of channels.)

* Bramageddon - this past weekend, I reclaimed my closet. Or, really, I reclaimed the door to my bedroom by moving the dress shirts which had migrated to the drying rack hanging from the door back to the closet where they belonged. To make room, of course, I had to tidy the closet first...I can't really say I cleaned it out, since only got rid of one jacket and one dress (does anyone want to explain to me why I kept a bridesmaid dress for 20 years?), but I also discovered a treasure trove of forgotten bras. That kind of confused me. Were they from another size me? Nope, my current size. Were they damaged? Nope. I don't know why they were exiled to the closet, but they have now been washed and restored to the herd.

Anyway, aside from the miraculous recovery of the prodigal brassieres, moving the shirts back the closet highlighted how resigned to clutter I have become. Without a curtain of shirts guarding the bedroom door, the whole area feels more open. My next plan is to tackle the kitchen, where dry and canned goods have taken up permanent residence atop the refrigerator and microwave.
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Rain, rain, llamas and rain

This past weekend, spacealien_vamp and I visited Mendocino. I've never been before, and I have to admit that I would never have proposed the location because, on the face of it, there's "nothing" to do there. There are wineries and galleries and vegetarian restaurants (and extreeeeeme vegetarian restaurants) and dogs and a profound love of California flora, but -- despite the B&B-based economy -- the whole area is the opposite of touristy. I plan to go again next spring, a bit later in the season. Or maybe for my birthday in October.

The drive up on Saturday got off to an auspicious start. Let's start with the parking ticket I got for stopping in a yellow zone in front of my office because I had neglected to print out a map before leaving work Thursday. And that map was soooo useful: about 45 minutes in, I realized that we were considerably closer to Sacramento than I thought we should be. I turned the car around while s_vamp punched our destination into my GPS device (and you were not using the GPS before because...? Oh, shuddup) and we quickly got back on track.

Whether you're on the right path or not, the first half of the drive is kind of blah (speeding along highway 101 at 50ish-60ish mph). Once you reach Highway 128, everything changes. I'm used to estimating arrival times based on an assumed 60 miles = 1 hour. On 128, you get to do this and this and this, while driving uphill or down at speeds approaching 35 miles per hour (assuming you're a mad daredevil who enjoys driving swishy). We drove through the Navarro River Redwoods, which are so dense that my car's automatic sensors were tricked into thinking it was night and switched on my interior lights (nature 1, automation 0). Then we hit the coastal highway, where -- well, let's put it this way. We could have taken the coastal highway the whole way, but you don't want to be in my passenger seat when there are coastal views. mangaroo + ocean surf = OTP.

After arriving, I was pretty wiped from the drive. We grabbed a bite for lunch, checked in at our B&B, and then took a slightly swampy walk down to the coast behind the inn to watch the waves assault the bluffs. Then I crashed. I blame the awesome blanket on my bed.

We started Sunday with a visit to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a walk through 47 acres of rhododendrons foliage to the coast. I never carry a camera, so I was *cough* hoping s_vamp would post an account so I could point you to her pictures of my favorite things about the garden: the gorgeous deer gates between the "cultivated" and "forest" gardens, the organic vegetable garden (where visitors are essentially invited to nibble on anything growing...as long as you know enough about plants to know what's poisonous. Rhubarb is poisonous), and the cliff house where you can be sheltered from the rain while you watch the waves. Because it was raining, we had the entire 47 acres to ourselves. Because it was raining, I was sopping wet by the time we left. My shoes, my jeans...oy.

After the gardens, we headed into Fort Bragg planning to have lunch at Living Light, an institution at the center of the raw food movement. I was really looking forward to this, especially after browsing the various recipes in the raw vegan "cook"books in the center's store. Unfortunately, the cafe only offered sammiches and smoothies, so we decided to grab lunch at Egghead's across the street. Then I dropped s_vamp off in downtown Mendocino -- fyi, downtown Mendocino is 4 square blocks of charm and real estate offices -- and went back to the hotel to rest my ankle and dry my jeans before dinner.

Dinner! spacealien_vamp made reservations at The Ravens, a mostly vegan, mostly organic restaurant that allows you to bring your dog to dinner. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was relaxing, the view was gorgeous, and the dessert menu was dangerous. Oh, look, s_vamp: those were pumpkin seeds on my salad. After dinner, I got to pet Minky, one of the inn's attack kitties, while s_vamp picked up a copy of The Ravens' cookbook (which she read from on the drive home. Plants are people, too, you know).

Monday we breakfasted at the B&B and drove home...in the rain. Two days of vacation, two and a half days' worth of rain! My GPS maps are a bit screwy...twice it directed me off the highway to drive through towns (Cloverdale, a quaint Sonoma community, and then SAN FRANCISCO, a significantly less quaint traffic magnet) only to loop back onto the same highway.

Oh, and llamas. And the Golden Gate (I don't care how yokelish I sound: I LOVE driving across the Golden Gate. It's a freakin' icon).
cancer and litter

this could have been an email

sara_tanaquil, have you moved to YNAB 3? They're trying to sell me on the upgrade, and they're doing a very poor job of it (dudes, tell me why it's better), so I thought I would ask if you had tried it.

Also...you haven't posted since February. And/or you're posting under seekrit lock (HEY!). And/or you've moved to dreamwidth (DOUBLE HEY!).

[Insert endless dithering over "do I install on my bootcamp partition or use YNAB 3 in OSX?" here. <- Let's face it, when these are your problems, life is pretty good.]

* * *
ETA: So I've downloaded the 7-day trial of YNAB3 (seven days? I could swear I had 30-60 days when I downloaded the trial for my current version) and here is my opinion.

The Excellent:
* Installed on my laptop (yay!) and converted the old budget file perfectly (double yay!).
* Accounts are now displayed in a side panel, so you can see account totals and budget lines at the same time. (Useful for people like me with account-centric budget items.)
* Unbudgeted and overbudgeted funds now carry forward. And they should (this has always been a weakness in the old system), but it also introduces an opportunity for flexibility that I'm not 100% comfortable with. If you gave me $100 right now, 1) I would be very pleased and say "thank you," and 2) I would immediately have to account for it in my budget. With this new version, I could just float it forward until the month I actually spend it. For people with their buffer already in place, keeping funds in the "available to budget" line is more like having a slush fund.

The Tragic:
* I've lost some screen space; consequently, I can't see my entire budget in one (vertical) glance. Most of it can probably be attributed to different screen size/resolution, but some of it was lost to excess header.
* Initial loading time for each tab (accounts/budget/reports) seems longer.

The Meh:
* Requires Adobe AIR to run. Just one more program with possible conflicts and/or vulnerabilities to worry about.
* Can't select a different color scheme...really? Did I take the hot tub time machine back to 2004?
* The new reports are very spiffy (they're what inspired me to download the trial), but they don't work well with my current master categories. When I organized my budget, I was more concerned with schedules and accounts than types of spending. (Is it monthly or annual or occasional? Is it sourced from cash or checking?) But since the reports compare only master categories at a glance...well, duh, monthly expenses are consistently higher than annual and occasional spending peaks occasionally. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now tell me if I'm spending more on groceries or my student loan.

this is where the subject goes

I'm just going to link spacealien_vamp's entry on our trip down to Monterey and Pacific Grove this weekend. The only details I have to add are:
* there were doggies on the whale-watching boat (three seadogs!)
* next time I go, I am bringing a pair of junky shoes I am willing to walk on the beach in
* the pet shop we passed had free-range kitties inside. I don't know if they were the owner's personal pets or if they were all for sale, but they were equal parts funny and sad.
* I want to spend the night at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I wonder if people without kids are allowed to participate in the sleepovers.
* If I can't stay over at the Aquarium, then I would definitely go back to the Centrella Inn. I was very impressed by their thoughtful hospitality.
* I'm looking forward to the vomit-free April trip to [insert s_vamp's destination here]

Entering this weekend's expenses in both Quicken and YNAB is the first time I've ever found doing double-entry truly tedious. When it comes time to visit Japan, I'm going to need to choose between my love of detail and my inherent laziness. And speaking of money...my tax refund was deposited this weekend, except it was $125 less than I was expecting. Very unsettling. I've reviewed my form 3 times and don't see where I could have committed an error, but I'm sure the IRS will be happy to tell me when I call.