Friday, October 31, 2008

New Thing #294--Hang 'Em High

In honor of Halloween, today I learned how to tie a noose.

A noose, or hangman's knot, is a scary Halloween symbol. Since many horror movies have a shot of a gallows, or a body swinging from a tree, I thought it would be fun to master the knot. (Although I would never actually put a noose outside; I like to keep my decorations family-friendly.)

I found a length of rope in the basement and followed the steps:

  • Lay the rope in a big "U".
  • Bring the right end of the "U" down parallel to the original rope, forming a wide, sideways, "S". The lead on the left side should be long, so that it can be tied to something when the noose is completed.
  • Hold the bottom of the original "U" and wrap the right end of the rope around the loop several times, starting at the bottom near your hand. (According to popular belief, the hangman's noose must have 13 coils, but six to eight loops are adequate.)
  • Poke the end of the rope through the top of the loop left by the "S"
  • Pull the right hand side of the 'U' through the coil that you have just created, until it securely holds the end of the rope.

The knot was actually pretty simple to tie. When I was finished, I "hung" a plastic pink flamingo that usually peeks out from behind my computer monitor:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Thing #293--Remember To Use ALL Fingers When Waving At A Police Officer!

Although I don't have much opportunity to chat with the police officers for my city, I get the impression they do a good job. Their patrol cars drive through our neighborhood on a regular basis looking for problems, and they seem to corral speeders on a regular basis. The couple of times I've called the precinct I've been transferred to a helpful person.

I know, though, that the friendly officers are always on the job when they're in uniform. I try not to draw attention to myself, especially when I'm driving; I don't want to give them any reason to pull me over. However, as I was going to work today I saw a police car with a radar gun sitting on a side road not even trying to hide. I wondered what what would happen when I waved to a police officer who was on the job.

When I went by the patrol car I looked right at the officer and gave a huge wave. There was no way he could have missed it! I wasn't sure if he'd now spring into action and try to find a violation to stop me for. As I passed him, he had no expression on his face. Nothing happened!

If I can find the courage, I might perform this experiment again and see if I get the same or a different result next time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Thing #292--At The Sound Of The Bell

This morning I restrung a broken wind chime that had been hanging on my deck. The chime has a resin cardinal sitting on a resin branch with a metal bell hanging underneath the branch. The bell makes a beautiful sound when the wind blows, but the location must get too much wind, because I've had to put the whole thing back together more than once. Rather than hang it up in the same place again after today's repair, I decided to put it somewhere where more people could enjoy it, so today I hung a wind chime on a tree in a parking lot.

My inspiration for this Thing was the Website Learning To Love You More:
Learning to Love You More is comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. Participants accept an assignment, complete it by following the simple but specific instructions, send in the required report (photograph, text, video, etc), and see their work posted on-line.
The specific directions for my assignment were:
Make or buy or find a wind chime. Hang the wind chime on a tree branch in a median strip at a largish shopping center parking lot. Leave the wind chime there.
I took my newly-fixed chime and drove to a strip mall on Manchester Road. There were several trees to choose from, but I selected a crab apple tree that was at the far east edge of the parking lot. I picked a tree branch close to the bottom, so the chime would have room to move, and maneuvered the hang cord onto the branch until it wouldn't go any farther.

The wind chime blended in with the red crab apples, and was almost unnoticeable. I imagine if it's still there when the tree loses its leaves it will be more visible.

I didn't fulfill all the requirements of the assignment, which were to take a photo of the wind chime on the tree in the parking lot and make an audio recording of the wind chime. There was no noticeable breeze blowing, so my chime didn't make any noise. Nothing to record! However, I had fun doing the assignment whether or not I get "credit" for it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Thing #291--What A Rebel!

When I was out in the car today, I drove by a crew pouring a new section of concrete. I know that I shouldn't have, but today I succumbed to the temptation and drew in fresh cement.

The job was completed and the workmen were gone when I drove by again on my way home. The strip of wet cement was dark gray and pristine. I parked the car a little way down the street, got out and checked in both directions to make sure no one was watching. I grabbed a pencil out of the car and walked stealthily over to the new area.

I used the tip of the pencil to draw a small heart (about an inch tall) in the corner of the square. It was pretty inconspicuous unless you happened to be looking for it. After I finished, I was worried that someone would catch me and I quickly walked back to my car.

I'm looking forward to going back and seeing my creation next time I'm in the area.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Thing #290--The Fix

Each of the bedrooms in the front of my house have two windows. A while back I noticed that the blind on one of the windows wouldn't raise anymore. A closer look showed me what the problem was: the cord on the blind was broken at the top.

I didn't really want to buy a new blind for several reasons. First of all, it would need to be be a pair of blinds, because it wouldn't look right to have one new and one old one in the same room. At some point I'll have to re-do all the window coverings, but I don't want it to be right now. Second, in my experience the new blind wouldn't fit in the old brackets, so my simple activity would turn into a big project. And most importantly, I also wanted to see if I could fix the old one. Today I restrung a broken window blind.

I've shortened blinds before, and replaced broken slats, but I've never tackled a job this complex. I found a Website that gave me easy-to-follow directions for restringing. Basically, there are two pieces of cord, one on each side of the blind. The left-hand piece goes through the slats, over the top to a pulley, through the pulley, and hangs loose to make one half of the lift cord. The right-hand side goes through the slats, through the pulley and hangs down to make the other side of the lift cord.

I went to the fabric store to buy what I needed for the job. The new cord was cheap; it cost a little bit more than three dollars. Once I started the task, it went quickly. I pulled out the old cord and started weaving the new through the slats. The hardest part was threading the end through the little holes on top of the blind, but after I wrapped it with scotch tape to make it stiffer, it went right through.

I also did some maintenance while things was disassembled. The blind was too long for the window, so I took the opportunity to shorten it. I even replaced a couple of broken slats as I went along, using the ones I removed from the bottom.

When I finished, I stood back to admire my work. It's not often I get the satisfaction of fixing something that's broken.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Thing #289--Full Circle

Tonight Tony and I were taking a walk in the neighborhood. I needed to burn off some energy and get some exercise to counteract a weekend full of fried food. Even though Tony was moving at a brisk pace, he wasn't going fast enough for me. I didn't want to walk so fast that I got ahead of him, so I decided to run circles around a slow-moving walking partner.

I did a couple of circles to the left, then turned the other direction and went a few times to the right. Something like this guy (Although I politely stayed out of Tony's path as he was walking...):

I came home exhausted. My plan certainly worked!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Thing #288--Lawn Mowing 201

I was mowing the grass this afternoon, and noticing how much it had grown in the past week. I enjoy this job because it's satisfying to see the obvious difference between the cut and the uncut grass. I use the mowing time to let my mind relax and wander.

Today I started thinking about the elaborate patterns they make in the grass in major league baseball stadiums. I decided to create a minor-league version of my own; today I mowed a design in the grass.

I opted to create the letter G (for my last name). I turned the mower off, moved to a sunny part of the back yard, and turned it back on. I carefully reproduced the circular part of the letter (making two passes with the mower so it would be twice as thick), then turned it off, moved into position and cut the straight part of the letter. When I was done, I turned off the mower and went up on the deck to admire my work from above.

I called Tony outside to admire with me. Our conversation went something like this:

ME--"Can you see the design I just mowed?"

TONY--(obviously stalling for time) "Hmm...is it a circle?"


TONY--"A face? An oval?"

ME--"It's a letter."

TONY--"O? Q? C?"

ME--"Nope, Nope, Nope. It's a G."

TONY--Oh yeah. I see it now. Good job!" (He high-tails it back inside before I can ask him any more questions.)

The design was meant to be temporary, so after Tony went back inside I finished cutting the grass, mowing right over my work. My masterpiece disappeared as quickly as it was created.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Thing #287--Welcome To The Club

I read about NaBloPoMo a couple of days ago on Fluid Pudding. The idea is to write a blog post every day for the entire month of November. Since I'm already posting every day, I thought it might be nice to get a little extra acknowledgment for my work, so today I signed up for NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. As their Website says:
National Blog Posting Month is the epicenter of daily blogging! People who want to set the habit of blogging by doing it every day for a month, including weekends, can come here for moral support, inspiration, and the camaraderie that only marathon blogging can provide.
Joining was easy. After I joined I set up my profile, and added myself to the Blogroll. According to my member number, there are more than 7,000 other members. I'm part of a pretty large group!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Thing #286--So, What's It Like?

This may be the weirdest Thing I've done this year. Today I tasted cat food.

Why? I'm not sure. A couple of weeks ago I watched an episode of Ace of Cakes where Duff and Ben egged each other on to eat a Milk Bone. They decided it didn't taste too bad. Cat food is almost like a dog biscuit, right?

When I was pouring out food for the cats tonight, I decided to pick up a kibble and take a whiff of it; there was no discernible smell. When I felt it, it was a bit oily and had a rough texture. I raised it to my mouth and took a small nibble, to see what it was like. It was good, in a weird sort of way...a bit bland, but savory, with a crunchy texture. One taste was enough, though. I put the rest of the piece in the bowl for the cat to eat.

After my tasting adventure, I checked out the list of ingredients on the side of the food bag. They sounded pretty normal: chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, wheat flour, animal fat, whole grain corn, fish meal, soy protein isolate, caramel color, salt, and a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals. Nothing too exotic.

After dinner, one of the cats came and sat next to me. He seemed especially friendly; either he wanted a lap to sit on or figured we shared a special bond...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Thing #285--The End Of An Era

I've been affiliated with my tutoring center for four years, first as an employee and then on my own. Recently there have been several signs that perhaps it was time to move on professionally. Today I made the decision to close my business.

It was a big decision. I truly enjoy what I'm doing, and I think I'm good at it. However, at this point I only have a few students, and they're getting close to finishing the requirements for a high school diploma. Although there are a few who left temporarily and may be returning, I decided it would be a better to help them independently rather than continue things as they are now.

After a few days of mulling over my options, I drafted a letter and asked a couple of trusted people to read it. I incorporated their suggestions into a final draft, but didn't print it. Yesterday I made my decision, but I slept on it one more night to be absolutely sure.

Once I was satisfied with my decision I wanted to let several people know personally, rather than by mail. I made a list of people to call and started dialing. I talked to a couple, and left voice mails at the other numbers with a generic "please call me" message. Once the first call was made, there was no turning back! After I went through the list of phone numbers, I printed copies of the letter and put them in envelopes, addressed and stamped the envelopes, and put them in the mailbox.

Although my decision is made, I can't just end things and walk away. An end of the year closing date seemed logical, but it may stretch into the new year before things are all wrapped up. After that I'll have to figure out what I want to do!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Thing #284--Inside Voice, Please

I'm a very live-and-let-live, non-confrontational type of person, especially when it comes to minor affairs. Life's too short to get bent out of shape for things that aren't important. That's why it was so completely out of character today when I told a stranger to be quiet during an exercise class.

The gym I go to has a room for group classes that's pretty industrial looking, and another room for Yoga and Pilates classes that has much more ambiance. The problem is, though, in the morning the attendance for the Pilates classes exceeds the capacity of the room, so the entire class moves down the hall to the group exercise room. The instructor does her best to create a serene atmosphere by turning down the lights and playing music conducive to setting a mood.

There's one class attendee, however, "Princess", who does her best to ruin the mood. She lets loose with loud grunts and howls when things are difficult, and will sometimes sing along with the music. After "Princess'" outbursts, the instructor will make comments about keeping quiet, but they're always addressed to the general population in the room. "Princess" never seems to think the comments are being addressed to her.

Today, however, I'd had enough. The first time "Princess" grunted, I jokingly shushed her. She also laughed, but stopped her noises for a while. About ten minutes later she started again; I looked over at her and hissed, "Princess, stop it". I was afraid she'd have a comeback for me, but she just looked surprised.

It was too dark in the room to be sure, but I sensed the people around me were happy I'd spoken up.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Thing #283--Up On The Roof

Last week I washed the windows on the main floor of the house. They hadn't been done in quite a while, and were really dirty. The results were so satisfying that I decided to tackle the windows on the second floor this morning. That's how I ended up having a conversation while standing on the roof of my porch today.

Our house is a typical two-story, but since it has a walkout basement, the back windows are in effect the third floor. In the front of the house there's a porch that runs the length of the house; it's easy to take the screens off the bedroom windows and climb out to stand on the porch roof. The roof has a slope, but as long as you pay attention to what you're doing it's ok.

I was on the roof washing one of the windows when I heard a noise on the sidewalk below me. A young man was dropping off a flyer promoting a candidate that's running for office. I said hello from my perch; he seemed surprised to see me, but we exchanged pleasantries before he launched into his "elevator speech" about the candidate. When he was finished, he indicated he would leave literature at the front door. I told him I'd take a look at it later, thanked him, and went back to cleaning.

I finished the job, climbed in the window, and said a silent hurray that my roof-walking days were over for a while.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Thing #282--Dribble Or Drip?

Jackson Pollock was a painter who was part of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He is noted for, among other things, creating paintings by dripping paint onto a canvas laid on the floor. Today I created a work in the style of Jackson Pollock.

I'm not very artistic, but with some help from The Internet I was able to create this picture at the Website Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas. The process was very easy and very addicting. There were absolutely NO directions given for the site, but I quickly learned the simple procedures:
  • Move the mouse slowly to leave large drops of color

  • Quick mouse movement will splatter or leave thin lines

  • Left click mouse to change color

  • Refresh button on browser to get a new screen

  • CtrlT to "sign" picture
I didn't try it, but I suppose just like any Web page, you could create a hard copy by right-clicking on your creation and selecting Print. I experimented with using mine for my desktop wallpaper; it was waaay too busy!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Thing #281--Swab The Deck

My kitchen is just the right size when the whole family is here for dinner, but way too big when it comes time to clean the floor. It takes at least a half hour to do a credible job. When we got the vinyl replaced several years ago, I washed it religiously a couple of times a week. Soon the frequency decreased to once a week, and then less even less often.

Needless to say, the floor no longer looks pristine. In addition to the normal wear-and-tear, there's dirt embedded in the texture of the vinyl. Although I've tried several different types of cleansers, mopping no longer gets all the dirt up. In an effort to try to improve the way my floor looked today I got down and scrubbed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

Actually, I only scrubbed part of the floor. Sad to say, even though I used a lot of elbow grease and tried a scrub brush, a dish scrubby, and a toothbrush, nothing I used made a whole lot of difference. I gave up and went back to using the mop to do a once-over to get the big dirt off the floor.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Thing #280--Legendary

I've driven through that city of Alton Illinois many times, but for some reason I've never stopped there. Today Tony and I visited the city of Alton and had lunch at Fast Eddies Bon Air.

Alton is only about 45 minutes away from my house...a quick drive up Highway 270, then north on 367 over the Clark Bridge. Our first stop there was the visitor's center, where we got maps and brochures. We spent about an hour and a half shopping in the downtown area; there are a lot of antique stores and several boutiques. When our stomachs told us it was time to eat, we got back in the car and drove to our lunch destination.

Fast Eddie's Bon Air has been around as long as I can remember, but I didn't know anything about it except its reputation for cheap food and a fun atmosphere. I found out that the Bon Air was opened in 1921 by Anheuser Busch. About ten years later, Busch had to sell the tavern because the laws changed to prohibit breweries from owning drinking establishments. There have been several owners since then, the latest of which is Eddie Sholar (AKA Fast Eddie).

Fast Eddie has increased the size of the place, started having music every weekend, and has food that's still sold at the same price it was nineteen years ago (99¢ for a half-pound hamburger, bratwurst, or basket of fries, peel and eat shrimp for 29¢ each, and beef kabobs, pork kabobs, and chick-on-a-stick for slightly higher prices). There are a couple of restrictions -- no one under 21 can enter the building, everyone must purchase at least one drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and no food can be taken from the building.

When we walked in, I realized that Fast Eddie's Bon Air was a dive, but in a good sense. The bar was right in the front of the building, the inside was dark, and the canned music was loud. I saw a couple of biker-types sitting at the bar, some college-aged kids at a table next to them, and some senior citizens waiting for their food.

We ordered our food and found a table in the outside beer garden, so we could enjoy the beautiful weather. Our waitress came quickly to take our drink orders, then I went and got some popcorn to munch on while we waited for the food. After about 20 minutes they called our order number. The food lived up to its billing. The hamburger was tasty and the huge order of fries could have easily fed two people.

After we finished lunch, we drove around the area looking for fall color, but we realized it was a bit too early for that. We stopped at Pere Marquette State Park and hiked a couple of the trails, then headed down the Great River Road to Alton, and back over the bridge towards home.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Thing #279--Mixed Ticket

The 2008 General Election is only a few weeks away; I get to help decide who will run our country and state for the next four years.

I've watched the presidential (and the vice-presidential) debates. I've been reading the newspaper, the Internet, and magazines to gather information, and listening to a variety of radio programs to learn about the national, state, and local candidates. Despite all my research, I'm still not sure who I'm voting for in some races. Today I researched third-party and independent candidates that are running for office.

There was a sample ballot in a community newspaper that came in the mail yesterday. In addition to the Presidential race, our U.S. Representative seat is up for grabs, as well as all the state-wide offices. We'll also be electing a state Representative and Senator. Many of the major races have at least three candidates--Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian. The Constitution party and one Independent candidate are on the presidential ballot in Missouri; the State Treasurer and Attorney General races are the only state-wide elections that have candidates from just the two mainstream parties.

As I did my research, I tried to read a variety of Websites. This article from Wikipedia had a good comparison of politics and ideologies of each of the parties. I also went to each party's official Website to read about their platforms, then to the candidate's sites to learn about each of them.

After all my analysis, I concluded that there is no PERFECT candidate. However, I can go to the polls knowing that I've chosen the candidate that's best for me. Now that I've finished researching the candidates, I still have to learn about the numerous other measures that will be on the ballot!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Thing #278--The Rub

Manchester, the city where I live, has quite a history. The explorers Marquette and Joliet first came through what’s now Manchester in 1673. By the early 1800s Manchester was a one-day stagecoach ride from St. Louis along the Overland Trail, and a small rural community (of mainly German settlers) had developed.

There are several area churches that trace their roots back to those days. Manchester Methodist Church dates to 1826, St. Joseph Catholic Church started as a mission in 1851 and built their first church in 1865, and St. John United Church of Christ was formed in 1860. Each has its own cemetery dating back to the beginning of the church. I find old cemeteries and tombstones fascinating, and have wandered through them on several occasions. However today for the first time I took newsprint and charcoal with me and did a tombstone rubbing.

Although all of the cemeteries are convent to me, St. John's is closest to where I work, so I decided to go there. The cemetery is divided into several sections. The oldest is at the bottom of a steep hill, a second section is halfway up the hill, and the newest section is at the top of the hill, closest to the parking lot. I started at the top, and picked a tombstone that had been placed within the last couple of years. I set a piece of paper over the top and started rubbing. Much to my surprise, I wasn't able to get a clean copy, probably because the new engraving was thinner and more precise.

I moved down to the second section and picked a tombstone for a woman who had died in the mid-1950s. Again, I placed my paper and began rubbing. This one worked well; I was able to clearly read the name on my copy and see the details of the decorations in the corners.

I walked down to the oldest section, but just to take a look at the graves there. Although some tombstones had fallen over and some had crumbled so much they were hard to read, I found several from the 1890s. I stopped for a moment of respect, then gathered my supplies and went back to the modern world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Thing #277--Project Propel

A couple of weeks ago one of my students was playing with a water bottle. I watched him twist the empty water bottle (with the cap on), then loosen the cap so it shot across the room. Although he did it when he was supposed to be working I had to come down hard on him, but I was secretly fascinated. Today I tried it myself and I shot the lid off a water bottle.

There was a half-empty bottle of water that had been sitting on a shelf in the basement for quite some time; I decided to have a little fun with it before it got recycled. I didn't want to waste the extra water, so I dumped it onto one of the plants on the deck, then put the lid back on the bottle. I started pinching the area right under the label, then twisted it tightly. This was harder than it looked. I had a hard time getting my hands around the bottle and keeping it twisted. (The cap shoots off because of the air pressure you create by twisting the bottom of the bottle. The more you pinch, the harder and farther the cap will shoot.)

This is a great explanation of the process:

I sat in a chair on the front porch and pointed the bottle towards the yard. The cap was supposed to fly off with a lot of pressure, so I didn't want it to hit anything; I could see how the cap could cause some serious injury when it flew. Unfortunately, my cap didn't fly too far, probably because I wasn't able to twist it as tightly as it should have been. It crossed the sidewalk and ended up on the grass. I got the tape measure for an official measurement-- it was about eight feet away.

Since you can only use a bottle once, when I was done I put it in the recycling bin. However, I may have to try again next time I have an empty bottle of soda or water.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Thing #276--Quickie

My Things are a combination of my ideas and activities that other people have suggested. I'm not sure who to attribute today's Thing to; I tried to take a three-minute shower.

It usually takes me between seven and ten minutes to finish up in the shower, depending on if I have to shampoo my hair or not. I linger longer in the winter because the hot water feels good and I know it's going to be cold when I get out. Sometimes I let the water run while I clean the grout between the tiles, so I'm in there for a very long time.

It takes about a minute for the water to heat up in my shower; I decided not to count that time in my budget. When the water was hot, I looked at the clock to see what time it was, got in the shower, and closed the door. My hair wasn't dirty, so I just got it wet while I soaped up with shower gel. After my body was rinsed, I turned the water off immediately. I didn't linger at all.

I grabbed my towel and quickly dried off. When I was finished, I exited the shower, put my glasses on, and checked the clock. It was four minutes and ten seconds since I had entered the shower. Deducting the time I spent drying, I believe I reached my goal!

I don't know if I'm ready to completely give up my leisurely shower, though.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Thing #275--Off The Leash

Today was another beautiful, above-average temperature day in our area. I was taking a walk this afternoon when I saw something lying on the sidewalk. I walked past it, but then I stopped, backed up, and took a better look. It was a piece of cotton webbing about six feet long, dirty, and with frayed ends. It looked like it could have been a dog leash (but without the metal end and hand strap). I decided to carry it with me on the way home; today I played with a length of webbing while walking down the street.

The things I did:
  • Dragged it along the sidewalk and through the grass (which made me feel like I was five years old again)
  • Twirled it over my head (this was easier when I doubled the webbing)
  • Whipped it back and forth (also easier when it was doubled)
  • Folded it multiple times to make it very stiff and ran the ends across a fence as I walked by
  • Used it as a sling to pick a worm up off the sidewalk and deposit it in the grass
  • Stood still and twirled so it wrapped around my body. I only did this once; I almost tripped and fell on my face when my feet got tangled in the webbing!
It took me about 20 minutes to get home. The extra exertion of all these activities raised my heart rate, so my walk became more aerobic. I said hello to an acquaintance who was working in their yard; they wanted to know where my dog was if I was carrying a leash?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Thing #274--Forting

We had the couches cleaned yesterday. When the technicians were done, they leaned each couch's cushions against each other in a kind of tripod. The arrangement reminded me of a fort. I hadn't thought about fort-making for years. When the boys were young they would use every blanket in the house to make elaborate "habitats". In their honor today I made a fort under the coffee table in the family room.

My fort only took about 30 seconds to make, because I just threw an old tablecloth over the coffee table. It ended up being more like a one-person backpacking tent than a fort. I had to back in and slither out.

I started with my head and body inside my creation; it was quite cozy. The opaque tablecloth made the area dim but not dark. However, I wanted to read the newspaper and there wasn't enough light under the table, so I ended up sticking my head out. Tony was in the room flipping back and forth between two different football games (Texas vs Oklahoma and Illinois vs Minnesota), so I half-watched those too.

(In case you were wondering, the cushions aren't how the cleaners left them. I picked them up this morning to see how dry they were, and I obviously missed the seminar in cushion-arranging.)

We still have fans running to dry the couches out. The cats were fascinated by the way the cloth covering the coffee table flapped in the breeze. I thought maybe I'd have a visitor under the cover with me, but they weren't brave enough to come in.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Thing #273--No Applause, Just Throw Money

The charity fundraiser that I helped Tony with last weekend is divided into two parts (because of staffing issues) and continues this weekend. Tony is actually a store captain this weekend; one of his duties is collecting the donations at the end of each shift and turning them in to the chairman of the drive. He graciously allowed me to fulfill a long-standing desire when he let me to use his donations to throw a bunch of paper money in the air.

After several hours of the drive, the scrunched-up bills filled a plastic grocery bag a little less than halfway. Instead of smoothing the money out and stacking it in preparation for counting it, Tony dumped the money on the kitchen table where we admired it for a minute. I started by picking up two big handfuls or currency and throwing it straight towards the ceiling. It was beautiful to see it fluttering down to the floor. Tony did the same thing, then picked up a handful of bills and threw them AT me! Of course I had to reciprocate, and we had about thirty seconds of bedlam before we were done.

The money landed on the table, under the table, and covered a good portion of the floor. We each took a side of the room and started picking up the mess.

This was the most fun I've had all week!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Thing #272--Get The Lead Out

I'm not a big fan of the History Channel, but occasionally a show will catch my attention. That's what happened tonight when I watched a show that showcased the company my husband works for.

The show was Modern Marvels, and tonight's episode was entitled Lead. The summary of the show, according to the History Channel Website:
A versatile yet toxic metal, lead has served mankind for 6,000 years. Explore the vast mines where heavy machinery extracts and refines lead. Visit a car battery factory that makes a superior battery from pure lead. See how a team of experts safely remove harmful lead products from homes and businesses. How can a metal as dark as lead make lead crystal not only sparkle, but manage to stay transparent?
It was a very interesting hour that discussed lead from a historical standpoint and in the present day. Some of the program was was shot at the company's facilities, and described how the company mines, processes, and recycles lead. It also had segments on things I knew contained lead, like car batteries and lead crystal. However, they also talked about some lesser-known uses of lead, such as stained glass windows (lead strips hold each piece of glass in place) and pipe organs (lead helps give the pipes their unique tone).

Tony and I watched the show together. He pointed out the people and places he knew as the show went along.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Thing #271--Can You See Me?

I've needed glasses since second grade, when an eye exam revealed I couldn't even see the big E at the top of the vision chart. I switched to contact lenses as a teenager, and wore them for almost 30 years before they became too much of a hassle and I went back to glasses.

Most of the time the glasses aren't too inconvenient, and sometimes it's even an advantage to have them on all the time. Now that I need glasses for reading too, I never have to worry about misplacing the "readers", because I have lineless bifocals; reading glasses and distance glasses rolled into one.

However, the glasses can be a big problem at the gym. I sweat a lot whenever I'm doing any type of aerobic activity. I'm continually taking off my glasses to wipe the sweat off my face. Today I had a revelation and I took off my glasses while I was working out.

I was taking a cycling class, which is a roomful of people on stationary bikes riding along to music. The instructor tells everyone what to do--go faster, slow down, turn up the bike's resistance dial (to simulate riding up a hill), or decrease it to "race". I've been doing the class for about nine months; it was only today that I realized that I didn't have to see to do what the instructor was saying. I took my glasses off and laid them on a ledge behind me.

It was very surreal. Without my glasses I can see shapes but not much else. The spinning room is part of the larger gym complex in a strip mall, but it has a big window that looks out over Manchester Road. I like to use a bike that affords a view out the window, but I today I couldn't see anything with the glasses off.

When the class started, the music was pumping, and the instructor was shouting out commands. After about 10 minutes, the sweat started pouring off my face; it was even dripping off the tip of my nose. However, it was very easy to use my sleeve or my towel to wipe the sweat off, because there were no glasses in the way.

At the end of the class I put my glasses back on and everything came back into focus. As I left the building, I realized that this Thing was a winner; I'm DEFINITELY doing it again!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Thing #270--Appreciation

I've referred to the wikiHow site several times over the course of this project. When I was completing yesterday's Thing, I noticed for the first time that the authors of the article were listed at the bottom. There were four authors listed--Sondra C, Anonymous, Rob S, and Chris Hadley. Right above their names were several options, one of which was to thank them for their work. Today I sent a message and thanked the authors of a wikiHow article.

According to the "thank you" page..."Countless editors volunteer their time to create this free how-to manual, so your positive feedback is greatly appreciated!" It went on to say that the area was only for positive remarks; any questions or constructive criticism should be sent elsewhere, so the article could be improved.

The note I composed will be sent to each of the authors on their 'kudos' page, and they will each receive my message of thanks. From now on I'll try to acknowledge the authors of any of the articles I use.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Thing #269--Make Your Own

I was browsing through the entries on wikiHow this morning and saw a whole category, Pop Up Cards, that I'd not noticed before. I was in a crafty mood, so today I made a pop up card using the Robert Sabuda Method.

I was not familiar with Robert Sabuda, but a little research enlightened me. He is a
children's book author, illustrator and pop-up book maker. According to his bibliography, he's produced almost two dozen "engineered" books.

wikiHow had more than a dozen choices for pop up cards; many of them were holiday-themed. I chose the Frankenstein card, because Halloween is coming up in a couple of weeks. The card was easy to make. There were two pages that needed to be printed. (The directions suggested a heavy paper like cardstock). The next step was to cut everything out, score the fold lines, and do all the folding. After gluing all the pieces together, the card was done. The directions suggested coloring it, but I actually liked it in black and white.

I may be making several of these cards to send out to friends.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

New Thing #268--A Good Deed

Tony belongs to a fraternal organization that's having their annual charity fundraiser this weekend. I was helping out by doing a shift at one of the local grocery stores this afternoon; this involved standing in the lobby near the entrance to the store, collecting anything that people cared to give, and offering them a piece of candy in return.

A woman came into the store, got into one of the electric grocery carts, and left to do her shopping. When she came out with her grocery bags in the basket of the cart, we had a short conversation as she was "parking" the cart next to where I was standing. She left with another person, but ten minutes later she was back. I jokingly asked her if she'd forgotten to buy something. She looked upset and said she'd lost her bracelet somewhere while she was shopping. Today I helped a stranger look for a missing piece of jewelry.

Unfortunately, the bracelet wasn't anywhere around the cart she'd used. Because she couldn't bend over well, I stooped down to look under the wheels of the cart, and checked the seat and footrests. Nothing. She went to the Service Center to see if someone had found it and turned it in, but she was pessimistic about the prospects, saying "I'm sure someone's taken it and it's long gone." I tried to cheer her up by telling her that I would certainly turn it in if I found it.

A couple of minutes later she came out empty-handed. I hope the store took her name and number in case the bracelet is turned in later.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New Thing #267--A Liking For Liver

We feed our cats, Jackson and Pepper, a quality dry cat food. Every morning their "serving" for the day gets measured out and put in a small container. We can't leave food out for them to nosh on whenever they feel like it; they get their "meals" several times a day in different parts of the house, because years ago Jackson was eating all the food and getting fat, while Pepper was looking gaunt.

Recently both cats have been indicating by their actions that they're not satisfied with the amount of food they're getting (even though the amount is exactly what the bag says they should be getting for their weight), so I decided to do some investigating to see if there was something else that would work better. After my research was over I went to the store, bought several varieties of food, and hosted a cat food tasting party for my pets.

I got food that was recommended by this site. The information seemed unbiased and up-to-date. When it was time to eat, the cats started doing their "Feed Me" dance. I put a portion of each food on two plates, and put the plates on the island in the kitchen. That's not where the cats eat, but I wanted to see if they liked what I was serving! However, neither of them would jump up. They must have thought I was going to give them medicine or cut their nails or something equally horrible, so I set the plates on the floor close to each other.

At first Jackson wouldn't even come near the plate, even though he's the one who's always looking for food. After I moved his plate around the corner, Jackson would "steal" a hunk of food, run away with it, and eat it by himself in the next room. After doing that a couple of times, he hunkered down over his plate and gobbled the food till it was gone; there was nothing finicky about his actions. He even licked his chops when he was finished.

Pepper started out enthusiastically, but after about a third of the food was gone he just started playing with it instead of eating it. After Jackson finished he came over and tried to eat some of Pepper's food. Some things never change! Although we shooed his brother away, Pepper lost interest in his food after that, so we picked the plate up. The party was over, and it was time to clean. As usual, the cats left that job up to us.

Unfortunately, the new food didn't fill the cats up any better than what they're used to, because they started asking for more food like clockwork at the usual time tonight. Back to the drawing board.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Thing #266--Pawn

I was in South St. Louis today, and had some time to kill before an appointment. It was another beautiful day, and I decided to pass the time by walking around the neighborhood. This area has a lot of small restaurants and shops, one of which caught my eye. Today I shopped in a pawn shop.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked up to the shop, which was in an old-fashioned storefront with a big glass display window. The front window had displays of diamond rings, gold earrings, and tools. When I went inside, I saw a little bit of everything--jewelry, electronics, cameras, musical instruments, video games and DVDs, tools, guns, and knives. There was a LOT of merchandise crammed into the small store!

The store clerk, an older man, greeted me when I came in, and asked if there was anything he could help me with. I told him I was just browsing, and said to let him know if he could help.

There was a glass-topped display case that stretched around all three sides of the store. Jewelry took up one complete side. It was arranged by category-rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces; within the categories the gold and silver pieces were grouped together. Some of the jewelry that was displayed was very reasonably priced, but I thought that some of it was overpriced. Everything looked like it could use a good cleaning.

The electronics section was small, and most of the models were not state-of-the art. All of the larger things (VCRs, DVD players, and computers) were sitting on top of the display case, but the more expensive things, like cameras and game systems, were inside the case. The small selection of DVDs were very cheap-two and three dollars each. The video games were all older titles.

Since I have no interest in musical instruments, tools, guns, or knives, I just glanced at those sections from across the room. However, there seemed to be a good selection of tool boxes and power tools. There were several guitars (both acoustic and electric) hanging on the wall.

After I'd seen everything I wanted to see, it was time to leave. The clerk thanked me as I left the store, and told me to come again.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Thing #265--Toilet Paper Origami

Most days, I'm the first person into work after the cleaning staff has been there. When I go into the bathrooms, the floors are clean, the sinks gleam, and the end of each roll of toilet paper is folded into a triangle, which always make me feel special. I wanted to spread the good karma, so today I folded the end of the toilet paper into a triangle at home and at work.

I started out by doing the rolls in the house. Although the basement bathroom generally doesn't get used any more, I did it anyway. Someone will eventually use it and feel first-classed.

The job only took a couple of minutes. I folded the last square on each roll on both diagonals to make a nice pointed triangle. I pressed the seams down so they wouldn't come undone, then made sure the end of the roll was positioned so the weight of the paper held the triangle in place.

As usual, the rolls in the bathrooms at work were already done. This special touch is a relatively recent occurrence; I think someone new is doing the cleaning. I'm glad the person takes such pride in their job.

As I was closing up at the end of the day, I re-folded the ends of the toilet paper so the people who are there tonight can appreciate it too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Thing #264--One That Calculates

I needed to update the balance on my checkbook; I've made several deposits and withdrawals since I'd calculated how much was in there. I could have gotten paper and pencil to do it the old-school way, or walked downstairs to get a calculator, but instead today I used the calculator on my cell phone.

Although I've recently learned how to use a couple of the extra functions on my cell, the calculator hasn't been one of them. I was pretty sure all phones had one, though. The first job was to find the application. Logically, I thought I knew where it would be (in Games and Apps), but once I got there it took some scrolling around to find it. Turns out the Calculator in in the Tools section, along with the Timer and Stopwatch.

When I opened the Calculator, I expected something that looked like my old trusty TI. Instead, the display was divided into several fields: there was a box at the top, an Answer section in the middle, and two rows of symbols close to the bottom. The first row contained * and . The second row included # + - * / % ( ). It looked very confusing, but actually wasn't. The number keys were used to enter the numbers (D'oh!); the star key entered a decimal point, and the pound key controlled the second row of symbols, which picked the operation-each press of the pound key moved the cursor across the list of symbols till you got to the right one.

Although I learned how to use the calculator pretty quickly, the complete process itself was time consuming. Including the learning period as part of the task, I could have calculated many more numbers in the same period with a real calculator.