Sunday, October 27, 2013

What I Did On My Autumn Vacation

My vacation was good--I actually lost track of time after a while--but I must admit I didn’t do everything I set out to do.

I got to Albuquerque on Saturday afternoon (10/5) and poked around Old Town, which was within walking distance of my motel. On Sunday (10/6), I got up at 5am and, with a mess of other attendees, bumped along in a school bus to the International Balloon Fiesta. We got there in time for the mass ascension (I missed the morning glow, which is when all the balloons on the ground light their fires, getting ready to go up). I don’t think I ever went to sleep at all the previous night, and my breakfast consisted of one granola bar and water, so I was running on adrenaline and one hugely overpriced Pepsi. I took a swarm of photos, the best of which I put up at Picasa (see below).
Vacation 2013
That was a lot of fun, seeing the balloons go up all around me. The place was covered with people, not a few in silly hats. And it was COLD! The brochure had advised Fiesta-goers to dress in layers, so I had on a T-shirt, long-sleeved workshirt, sweater, and windbreaker, plus hat, jeans, and big ol’ boots. Next time, I’ll bring food and a soda, too, because the vendors are out of their minds with the prices they charge (typical at fairs, etc.). I’ll also push my way as close to the balloons as I possibly can (me and 20,000 other people, no doubt!).

A nice Air Force man and his wife asked me to take their picture with balloons in the background (I guess my long lens and camera bag marked me as a “pro” in their eyes, ha ha). Later, a German fellow pointed out to me the balloons from Germany, including one advertising chocolate.

In the afternoon, I went to the Albuquerque BioPark, which encompasses a botanic garden, a very cool aquarium, a zoo, and Tingley Beach (fish, walk, hike, bike, or sail a model boat, says the info about Tingley). The garden part of the BioPark is divided into several different areas--e.g., a Spanish-Moorish garden, a butterfly garden, desert garden, etc. There’s also a little G-scale railroad garden, which was so fun! See my photos at Picasa. I didn’t see anywhere near all of it, and I definitely want to go back.

A family asked me to take their picture at the BioPark. It was my day to be a paparazzi.

I wore my hiking boots all over Old Town, the Balloon Fiesta grounds, and around the BioPark, and they were very comfortable (they oughta be, considering how much they cost).

By the end of Balloon-and-BioPark-Day, I was totally wrecked, but I got out my laptop to transfer my photos…and discovered that its trackpad had died. Off I went in search of a travel mouse. Rodent secured, transfer successful.

Ambien was my BFF that night, as it is every night when I travel (I couldn’t use it the first night because I would’ve overslept and missed the mass ascension). When I checked out the next morning, I was met in the manager’s office by a curious dachsund whose job it is to sniff everyone who comes in. Apparently, I passed muster.

On Monday (10/7), I drove to Taos for my second motel reservation (the rest of the week, I just winged it). I was still pretty tired from the day before, so I just drove around. Holy cats, there must be more artists per square foot in Taos than anywhere else in the country! Also a great many steep hills, but my little Prius had no trouble with them.

The next day (Tuesday, 10/8), I drove around “the Enchanted Circle”, a scenic, 83-mile route through mountains, valleys, and forests north and east and around back to Taos. I spent a lot of time "leaf-peeping", as well as drooling over mountains and picturing myself living there. Not necessarily Taos, or even northern New Mexico, just anywhere within sight of mountains. Pocatello, Idaho--wherever. I drove around quite a bit that day and landed at a LaQuinta in Santa Fe late that evening, where my laptop started acting weird, but I still managed to get my photos transferred.

Wednesday (10/9), I landed in Gallup, way on the west side of New Mexico. If the @#$%! Republicans hadn’t seen fit to shut the government down and then drag out the farce as long as possible, I would’ve turned south around Grants to Gila National Forest, but they did, so I studied the map and decided on Bluewater State Park for the next day instead.

The LaQuinta in Gallup (yep, I decided I really like that chain, despite the cost) happened to have Ethernet, but almost as soon as I logged on, posted briefly on Facebook, and plugged the camera’s SmartMedia card into the laptop, the damn cheap Toshiba decided to lock up completely. So that day’s photos sat in the can, so to speak, and I spent way too much vacation time farting around trying to make the laptop work.

The next day (Thursday, 10/10), it was raining (which was nice) and I was tired (not so nice), so I decided to cut a day off my trip and head home. I stopped in Clovis (at another LaQuinta), really not too far from home. But if I’d continued on to Lubbock that night, I would have been pulling in at 9pm and it would’ve been midnight before I unpacked my crap, got a shower, got the cats settled down again, and hit the hay. So I just decided to take it easy. Rolled into Lubbock around 2pm Friday (10/11), I think, pretty much dead, and that gave me the weekend to “recover” from my vacation.

So when did I do all that hiking I said I was going for? Well, it was mostly in Albuquerque during the first two days, when I was reacquainted with the fact that I am 52 years old, overweight, and flabby, with dodgy knees. Still, I should’ve cut the driving and gotten out on my feet more. I’m still a little mad at myself for not doing that. I feel like I wasted too much of my vacation time sightseeing. Yeah, it’s silly--I was supposed to be R-and-R'ing, after all, not punching a time clock--but there you are, that’s how I feel.

Anyway, it was totally worthwhile to get away by myself. I need to do that more often, especially now that I’m cooped up in a cubicle at work.

Speaking of work, the week after my return held quite a shocker--a long-time coworker, on whom I was depending to take the brunt of training our two newbies--suddenly quit in a storm of tears, and we’re still not sure why. It caught us all totally off-guard, including the n00bs…who were hired to take some of the stress off of her! I’ve spent the last week and a half helping my boss and coworkers figure out how to redistribute her workload, training n00bs, and trying to get a little of my own work done. My productivity last week was in the toilet because every time the n00bs interrupted me with questions, I lost my train of thought and had to backtrack to remember what I was doing. Oh, well, it’s temporary…and, on the upside, the n00bs are smart, experienced, and catching on fast, so we shouldn’t be hurting for too long. I have to be socially “on” almost constantly, though, which is very tiring for me.

So I’m not entirely back in the exhausted hole I was in before vacation, but I’m still looking to the next little getaway…which will come after I lay my hands on a decent laptop.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Vacation's all I ever wanted..."

Well, I've got all my gear & I'm heading out on vacation tomorrow. I'll be bopping around New Mexico the whole week, away from cellphones (although I'm taking mine for emergencies), email, computer games, and various other electronic whatnot. I'm taking my camera and laptop, but only for picture-taking-&-processing purposes. I've told the folks at work that I shall be incommunicado the whole week. I hope to have many sessions of turning my brain off completely, cuz it's been a long 4-5 years at work.

I'm really going to miss the kitties, though!

Had to change my plans slightly when the government, in the House Repugs' infinite wisdom (NOT), shut down. All national parks, monuments, and (probably) wildlife refuges are closed, but I put together a long list of state parks, etc., so I'm good.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"What? I'm relaxin' here!"

This is the cats' new favorite hangout, under the purple fountain grass by the front porch.

Sammi saw Minnie in "her" spot and was livid.

And just to prove that I have been out & about with my camera (even though I've been a slovenly wretch at blogging), here are a couple of my buds at Prairie Dog Town last weekend, just hangin' out by the burrow. I took this with a newly-arrived 55-300mm telephoto lens. I had gone shooting at PDT before with the telephoto converter which came with my camera stuff, but the results were really bad, so I popped for the real thing. This is why I bought the camera in the first place. :) I'd also like a real wide-angle lens for landscapes, rather than a let's-pretend-it's-a-wide-angle converter, but that'll have to wait. Critters and purty flowers come first.

And on a related note, it is now T-minus 27 days until Walkabout!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Saturday's expedition

I went on a shooting expedition Saturday (picture-shooting, that is), and this was my first stop: a rock waterfall at the Buddy Holly Recreation Area. It meanders down several levels on both sides of a street. I used the "show water flowing" setting in the first two shots, then dropped it for the others so I could see the difference. In the last waterfall photo, you can see that I don't quite know what I'm doing yet--all those spots & flares. But, hey, that's why they call it learning. :)

I stopped in some other places, too--a little man-made lake behind an apartment complex where ducks & geese were hanging out, a fancy Baptist church, and Lubbock's very own Prairie Dog Town, but I'll put those pix up later. I've spent too much time fooling around in software today; need some non-digital time (well, sorta) before going back to the cube tomorrow.

The last pic is by way of a signature--yes, that's Yours Truly. Yes, that's a cowboy hat. Well, it is Texas....

Howdy, neighbor! Come again!
P.S. - I haven't owned a cowboy hat since I was a wee little kid. I think it was red with white stitching around the brim, but I could be making that up. This one is straw, no fancy stitching, although I did add a red & black "stampede string" to keep it on my head in strong winds, of which we have a gracious plenty hereabouts.

P.P.S. - I had a big floppy garden hat already, but Sister A. said it looked dorky and insisted I get a proper cowboy hat instead.

P.P.P.S. - She hates the stampede string. Again, dorky. I don't give a rat--it works for me.

P.P.P.P.S. - Sister A. has a lot of preferences, requirements, opinions, assertions, dislikes, etc., all of which fall out of her mouth without filtration through "the better angels" of her nature. We've butted heads on that score several times recently. So far, nobody's been murdered.

P.P.P.P.P.S. - So far.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Playing with the new camera

These are some of the first pix out of my new-to-me Nikon D3100. It almost looks like I know what I'm doing, doesn't it? (Click to biggify.)

Some of the flowers on the Dallas Red crepe myrtles in our backyard.

Close-ups of the Black Diamond crepe myrtles in our front yard.

And of course, we have cats (only two out of three--I'll get Sammi next time).


I think I'm gonna like this toy!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Can I do this thing? I mean, without throwing up or stroking out?

Monday, July 15, 2013

It helps to have a goal

Taking a brief break in the workday to say that my attitude is looking up a little. I now have A Goal, to wit: a driving vacation in New Mexico, all to myself, during the first full week of October. I've already scheduled it with my boss.

I didn't know it when I picked that week, but it happens to be the week of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which I've been wanting to see for years! So I'm going to start off there and do balloony things for a day. Already got my tickets for the Balloon Fiesta itself and the Park-&-Ride bus to get there and back to my motel. And the motel's reserved, too. I'm really looking forward to it!

I hope to take lots of balloony and other pix during my vacation, to which end I decided it was time to graduate from my boring little point-&-shoot camera to an entry-level DSLR (digital single-lens reflex)--a real camera, something that would give me more creative control. After some research, I decided on a reconditioned Nikon D3100 that I found on eBay. The auction included a whole package of stuff: the camera body itself (of course), three lenses, lens hood, filters, cleaning stuff, good quality bag, a taller tripod than the one I already had, battery charger, memory card...just swarms of stuff, some of which I haven't even identified yet.

As usual when I set about learning something new, I got a book on the subject. I'm currently reading through a fat book on DSLR photography, fiddling with the camera as I learn.

Another thing I'm doing to prepare for my driving/shutterbug vacation is walk. Get Off Your Asterisk And Walk. I don't want to die of a heart attack while climbing around hills and poking through woods in search of photographic opportunities--that would definitely ruin my whole week. So I have to get into better shape. Hence, walking around the 'hood on the weekends (just Sunday so far--we always seem to be busy on Saturdays) and a renewed attack on the three stories of my office building each weekday.

And I've all but given up soda--anything containing high-fructose corn syrup, really.

Exercise is not my favorite thing, but as I said, I now have A Goal--a good and legitimate reason for doing it. If I exercise, I can take off on driving/shutterbug trips like this and be reasonably sure I'll live through it.

Anyway, back to work.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rant mode on

OK, so I've been in my cubicle for two months now. Time for a progress report. I sent the following (mostly verbatim) email to my boss this morning. I know he can’t do anything about the cubicle situation right now (we're hoping for more offices in a year or two), but I just needed to register my complaint, if only to have it on record.

Just so ya know, I build distance-learning courses for a living. We're an accredited K-12 school within the university. Also, the Big Dog requested that we all start dressing more professionally (instead of in jeans), since we're right on campus now.

[begin rant]

Since I have so little desktop space to lay out my work in progress, I brought a small (1’ x 2’) rolling cart from home (which I bought for the same purpose when a crazy-but-thankfully-gone-now boss stuck me in a little office with a small desk in the old building). Why do I need more desktop space? Because the raw materials for elementary courses are not all digital; they include a large binder full of worksheets, etc., plus 5-7 textbooks, all of which I need to consult while proofing/formatting the course. All three shelves of the rolling cart are now covered with elementary course books, which I have to rotate as I work on various parts of the courses.

I store the cart against the wall (under the window) when I leave for the day and roll it up against my left-hand cubicle wall when I’m working. I have to move it again if I want to get out of my cube. It’s like one of those tile games where you can only move one tile at a time to solve the puzzle. But I am sincerely trying to make this cubicle work.

Yesterday, I had my first meeting with an elementary course author in my cubicle. It was an exercise in farce. I had no place for her to sit while we discussed the problems that needed fixing in her course, so she sat on my mini-fridge. I had the binder set on top of another course’s binder on my rolling cart and the textbook for her course on my desk on top of materials for the other course. She needed a red pen to mark where to insert something in a lesson. Since my pencil drawer was blocked by the rolling cart, I moved it back, got the pen out, moved the cart up to the cube wall again.

So the author’s working while sitting on my fridge, with the binder on the cart and, when she needed it, the textbook in her lap, trying to look in four places at once while we figure things out. Everything started to slide so I reached to stop it and knocked my Dr.Pepper over, spilling some into my keyboard (not too bad, but I did blurt “Sh!t” in front of a nice old lady I’d never met before).

The author had to have space to lay out the binder in order to draw graphs for some missing answers, so we were lucky that the student assistants are already gone for the semester and the cube on the other side of mine was available. I guess if I’d had my wits about me, I could’ve met with her there. If it were the middle of a semester and the student was at that desk, though, we would’ve been outta luck. I felt so embarrassed about the situation--it was hardly what you would term “professional”.

The author got the answers written up, answered my other questions, I apologized for the mess and thanked her for coming in to help out.

I felt like a little match girl. Worse, a little match girl who’s forced to live in a matchbox.

Dressing in a professional manner doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if you look like one of the Three Stooges while you’re working.

[end rant]

Nothing can be done, but my boss replied, "Well said. I couldn't agree more. If there was anything I could do, I would."  So at least I got sympathy.

*le sigh*

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Catching up and moving out

Work has been kinda nuts the past two months with several get-it-done-yesterday-or-people-will-die projects, changing Production procedures, and the stress of the impending move from our current built-for-us building to one of the oldest (and rattiest) buildings on campus (which one of our instructors called "the dungeon"). OK, it's really not that bad, particularly the first floor which has been remodeled and cleaned up a bit. We're still going to be crammed in there, and I'm still going to be in a long room full of cubicles with 11 other people, but....Well, it is what it is, and we'll just deal with it. It sucks. But I emptied the last of my personal chit outta my nice office at the nice building Friday, so that's that.

I report for a weird first day at the "new" building Monday. The movers are starting at 7a.m. and I expect it'll take them all morning to load the first batch (including my stuff), so I might have a chair and computer after lunch. Ditto all my workmates. I'll probably run around plugging everybody in, then get set up in my own little cube. Not sure what I'll do with myself all morning--maybe check out what's changed in the surrounding area since I worked in the building 20 yards away from our "new" digs, pick up my keys if they're ready, and get in the way of movers and construction guys, no doubt.

Even our Big Dog is hoping this will last only a year or two. We're going to be so crowded, it's ridiculous.

On the kitty front, our three seem to have settled into mutual tolerance. All of them will eat in pairs, as long as there's an empty food bowl between their two "working" bowls. Sammi (our oldest) and Annabelle (our young refugee) sometimes play chase with each other; and Sammi, after observing Annabelle playing with her pink shoelace, has rediscovered the Joy of String. Annabelle, who never went outside while she was with her previous person, has made a few brief forays into the outside world. The first two were basically a cautious sniff-sniff-OK-that's-enough-lemme-back-in, but yesterday, she discovered something in the grass or dirt or the neighbor's fence that sent her completely around the bend. She rolled & rubbed & slid all over the place--mostly in the dirt--clawing at the fence with her wee little hooks. Something sure got her high! She rolled around so much, her white coat was just covered with dirt...and it's still a bit on the tan side, even after we wiped off a layer or three. Finally, she entered the paranoid stage of intoxication and ran back into the house. What a nut!

Minnie still skirts around Sammi like she's afraid of her--what nonsense. And she hisses at Annabelle regularly. But I've seen her and Annabelle hide on either side of a wall and stage a whap-fest around the corner, so she ain't foolin' me. At some point, maybe those two will share a peace pipe and calm will reign in the house. Or not.

I bought some clay and tools awhile back, but haven't touched them yet. Just haven't been "up" for it--been kinda flat instead. Maybe after the move is over and things have calmed down at work.

What else has been happening? Oh, yes, Sister A. had an absolutely miserable winter having one fit of endolymphatic hydrops after another (it's like Meniere's disease, but on steroids). In Feb., we finally got an appointment with the doctor who treated her in the first place 12 years ago or thereabouts, and started treatments with ear drops that are intended to kill the labyrinth in her right ear (which is the trouble spot) and force her left ear to take over all balance duties, thus putting an end (we hope) to these bad vertigo spells. She had a hearing test recently, but hasn't made as much progress as we'd hoped, so we got another round of drops from the doc and are continuing treatment. And in the middle of treatment, her doctor had to retire suddenly (Parkinson's--yikes), so she's rather in limbo, because there's no other doctor in this town qualified to treat her. Yay, huh? All we can do is keep doing the drops and hope it works. If she needs surgery at some point in the future, it'll have to be out of town somewhere.

With the arrival of my tax refund this year, we had some work done on the house--little bits here and there, mostly, but we also moved a faucet in the backyard to a more accessible spot, swapped out four ceiling fans from our original round of remodeling that had proved to be a disappointment, and updated all the outlets to three-prongs (because this is, like, the 21st century & stuff). The bill came up well shy of our available funds, so we also had our favorite handyman fix the leaky patio cover and give it a better slope. It looks much better now, and next time it rains (if ever!), the water should run off properly.

And that's about all.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Big Boy

We never had any nibbles for Big Boy--seems like everyone already has a houseful--so we had the city Animal Services people pick him up today. The guy who picked him up swore up & down they'd try to find him a home, and we offered again to help pay for his neutering. Once he's cleaned up (Big Boy, not the Animal Services guy), he'll make someone a wonderful pet. Nothing else we can do except hope all goes well for him.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cat Needs Home!

This big, beautiful cat has been hanging around our house for a while now and really needs a home. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to adopt him, I can’t do it because Sister  A. has been sick a lot lately, and since I’m still working outside the home and she’s not, she already has the lion’s share of the work taking care of our three cats. So it's not fair to ask her to take on another cat. But it's breaking my heart to leave him outside with the weather so cold. If I had a big yard with a shed or old garage to set up a warm sleeping place and food...well, then I'd be feeding every stray and feral in the neighborhood again, and we just don't have the room or "facilities" for that.

We’ve been calling him Big Boy.  He’s an intact male who has definitely been with people before and desperately wants a home. He’s a creamy white Siamese-and-longhaired-something mix with light marmalade points, has light-blue eyes (crossed), a soft mew (although fairly chatty), and a very sweet disposition. I don’t know how old he is, but he’s got a full ruff, so he’s an adult, anyway.

He jumped up in my lap and started kneading while I was taking his picture. I've put up a flyer at work and told everyone that I will GLADLY pay to have him neutered if someone will please give this lovebug a forever home.

Isn't he just gorgeous??