Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I made sure to ask about one particular kind of cookie that we've gotten from Relli's before when we've picked up assorted cookies. Everyone has gone crazy over them -- they're meringue-like and they have hazelnuts in them. They look a little odd-shaped, like they're just kind of dropped in little balls of dough onto the cookie sheet and they end up in whatever random form they bake into. But who the heck cares what they look like when they taste out-of-this-world?
When I described them to the man behind the counter, he knew exactly what I meant. They're called "Brutti e Buoni" -- "Ugly and Good". LOL. Now if that's not the perfect description of what these cookies are, nothing is. If you live near an Italian bakery that makes these cookies, make sure to order some. If not, I've googled them for you and found a bunch of recipes. You can thank me later. :)
Don't miss out! Head over to http://amazon.com/xo today and make a difference!
But all this transpired only days before my knee surgery, so I had other things on my mind and forgot to look for the ID card to arrive in the mail. Shoot, I was on percocet for those first few weeks following the surgery. I could barely stay awake or *spell* "ID", never mind remember that I was waiting to receive anything in the mail.
Well, the inevitable happened. I was at the bank today and when I presented my license, they asked me if I had a more current form of ID. Um, did have a *what*?
I looked at the driver's license and realized, "Son of a blankety-blank, those pinheads at PennDOT never sent my freaking PhotoID! No wonder this needs to be renewed!"
:headdesk: :headdesk: :headdesk:
Thank God I almost never drive anymore. I'd have been on the wrong side of the law without even realizing it.
We printed the "lost/never received Photo ID" form from online, and I'll fill it out. Then we'll take it to a notary, and head up to the Driver's License Center to get the temp ID.
Gosh darn pain in the caboose PennDOT, though. I wouldn't have to jump through these extra hoops if they'd sent the freaking form. Thank goodness I at least have a current passport to serve as ID until the driver's license stuff is straightened out.
Oops! Pay stub used as bank robbery note
Man initially gets away with $400 but leaves his name, addressupdated 10:14 p.m. ET, Mon., Dec. 29, 2008
CHICAGO - The robber's threatening note made a Chicago bank job easy to solve: The FBI says the suspect wrote it on his pay stub. An FBI affidavit said the man walked into a Fifth Third Bank on Friday and handed a teller a note that read "Be Quick Be Quit (sic). Give your cash or I'll shoot."
The robber got about $400 but left half of his note. Investigators found the other half outside the bank's front doors. Authorities say that part of the man's October pay stub had his name and address.
The suspect was arrested at his Cary home. A judge ordered him held without bond Monday. If convicted of bank robbery, he faces 20 years in prison.
To borrow a phrase I saw someone else use recently, "I guess this guy won't miss any Mensa meetings while he's in jail".
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I'm posting again to renew the request for thoughts and prayers, for her and for all who love her. The ventilator has been removed, and her doctor has described her as being in multiple organ failure, with only the heart currently still working. But eventually, that will also fail. Her husband has cited her wishes and given the DNR order (do not resuscitate) in the event that her heart fails. He and her mother are staying at the hospital round-the-clock.
A dear friend of hers has taken over posting to her Caring Bridge diary, as of a few weeks ago, because she has been too ill to do so for a while now. I get an email every time the diary updates. I fear what I'll see every time I click the link, but I do anyway.
The diary doesn't only have medical updates -- it has information about the patient in their Real Life, the one that they were leading before illness reared its head. Do please click this link to see the good person who is likely to make Heaven a better place before long. The world will soon shrink a bit at the departure of a good human being.
But whether you click the link or not, trust me when I say that she and her family deserve every prayer and postitive thought that can possibly be sent their way right now. And accept my thanks in advance for sending them some of each.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I haven't got the energy to expound at length on the subject on two separate blogs, and I know that not everyone who reads this blog reads my Phantoms blog as well. So, for those who are interested in exploring the topic further, please visit this link and read the post on my Phantoms blog.
And that's all I have to say about THAT, since it's Christmas Eve and I want to enjoy my holiday.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I saw a refurbished, starter Digital SLR camera on woot.com last week. (Starter = "it was a relatively inexpensive SLR when it was a new model, and that was a while ago".) As a refurb, it was in the price range of a high-end point and shoot camera.
I have been drooling over the prospect of having an SLR camera for years. I was even saving for one for a while, but then I opted to spend that on a game-worn hockey jersey. I've certainly never regretted the decision, but the "Gabey wants an SLR camera" fund never really got back off the ground.
It's just as well, as digital photography came on the scene a few years after that, and I greatly prefer that to constantly having to invest in buying film and having it processed.
To make a long story less long, I figured that if I waited long enough, affordable digital SLRs would hit the market. I hadn't quite figured on waiting TEN YEARS for that to happen, but hey. Good things come to those who wait. And wait, and wait. ;)
So I sprang for the refurb camera on woot, and then picked up a couple of lenses for it. (God bless online price-comparison and product-review sites.) Santa had FedEx deliver them yesterday (camera) and today (lenses). So now I'm Good to Go.
When I get really proficient with this equipment, I'll consider starting the "Gabey wants the pro-quality lenses" fund. But just one of those pro lenses costs more than I spent on the camera plus the two lenses combined, so THAT investment will have to wait a good long while. Mind you, a pro photographer can and should make that investment (along with a pro-level digital SLR, which costs at least ten times what my camera cost me). Someone who's just graduating from a point-and-shoot "prosumer" camera to an SLR, on the other hand, should be just fine with the sort of lenses I got.
So... don't be surprised at the sight of me getting acquainted with the New Toys in the immediate future. My favorite images might well make an appearance on this blog.
Monday, December 22, 2008
But by gosh, I saw the email when it arrived minutes later and said that my item was delivered.
What'd we do before the internet?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It's fascinating to see.
So is the chain link fence next to our church, where every single millimeter of every chain link has ITS own ice coating. Again, I don't currently own camera equipment that would do justice to the image. If I did, the photos would be in my blog right now, and they'd be enthralling.
But since I haven't got the pictures, I'll make do with the proverbial "thousand words" (give or take a few hundred). It was amazing to see, and would've been even MORE eye-catching had the sun been out to illuminate the perfectly clear ice coating on every solid surface. I remember very well that on the day after the first ice storm I ever saw in my life, I was on my way to the emergency room (grrrrrr) and even though I was in excruciating pain from the knee injury, I *still* noticed how beautiful the trees were with the sun glistening through their coating of ice.
The sun's not glistening through anything around here today, but the sight of everything looking like it's coated in glass is still fascinating.
But now that I'm home from Mass, I'm going to be appreciating Mother Nature from INSIDE THE HOUSE for the rest of the day. Or at least until the fascinating glass-like coating on everything has melted.
If you have to go out and walk or drive on this, folks, be extra careful. Take it from one who knows.
Friday, December 19, 2008
So of course, after running errands, I came home to find the ENTIRE BLOCK filled with cars from what's most likely a funeral luncheon. I live near a restaurant/caterer that has a miniscule parking lot, so when they have a large event, the overflow of cars parks along our street. (It's among the reasons why our street has a two-hour parking limit for cars that lack a resident's permit sticker in the window.) So I wound up parking on the far end of the block, in the median strip where parking is permitted, and walking back home in the teeming rain. I sure wish that restaurant/caterer had a large enough parking lot to handle their customer base.
I can't carp too vigorously about the funeral luncheon, though. I'd rather remind myself to be grateful that I'm not among the mourners. At this time of year in 1995, December 17 to be exact, our dear friend Joan passed away. So I can empathize with the people at the luncheon who've lost a loved one right before Christmas. I don't envy them. I've had 13 years to adjust to the loss, and this time of year is still accompanied by a certain amount of pain. I feel for the people who've had only a tiny fraction of that amount of time to acclimate to their bereavement.
Anyway, I'm going to attempt to take a nap now, and I've put a high-priority note on my cell phone to remind me where I parked the car. I'm half out-of-it at the moment, and I don't want to have an absent-minded "Where the bleep is my car?!" moment when it's time to head out to the Phantoms game later this evening.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I finally remembered to ask about the pics that were taken during the surgery, which are in my chart. Yeowza. No wonder the darn knee hurts. Even my entirely untrained eye can pick out the places where there's cartilage that's frayed or worn away -- it's that obvious. I won't go into more detail than that, because I'd be heading into "involuntary cringing and being grossed out" territory.
No darn wonder I was so sore after the surgery, too -- that little camera had to go looking around in a whole bunch of places inside the knee, plus the doc did his best to smooth out areas that needed it. Evidently, there was no shortage of areas that could've used some attention. All that looking around and the subsequent repair work must have sent a whole lot of the surfaces in there into "inflamed and sore" mode for a while.
Dang. Well, you know my motto: DON'T FALL. Darn force of gravity. ;)
In other news, on Saturday, Mark and I went out with my parents to celebrate my mom's birthday. We went to a restaurant that we haven't been to in a while, The Pub in south NJ. Great food, great salad bar -- I highly recommend it. :)
While we were there, we were seated next to a HUGE table that was obviously set up for a very large group of people. I wondered what family or company was going to be having their annual holiday get-together there.
Turns out it was both, in a lot of ways. When they arrived and their leader gave the blessing, it was obvious that this was a large group of firefighters. God bless them.
On the way out, I felt compelled to stop by their table to thank them for their service and wish them all the best. I approached the person who said the blessing -- as he was at the head of the table, I figured he was the most senior member of the group. He thanked me for the well-wishes and said that they were the Camden City Fire Department. He also noticed, and got a kick out of, my baseball-bat cane. :) He held it up to show the rest of them, and said, "This has a dual purpose -- she speaks softly AND carries a big stick!" :D
Anyway, God bless those firefighters, and all other first responders, and may God keep them safe and sound. I can't say enough good things about them and what they do to help people in times of crisis.
Beyond that, there's not a whole lot going on these days. I have one more Christmas gift to purchase, and then I'll consider myself all done for the holiday season. Thank goodness for online shopping.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Now, JFM and I agree they need to repair the Dancing Waters fountains and restore those to the show, and they need to put John Facenda's voice back on the soundtrack while they're at it. Geesh, how hard could it be to digitize his voice saying "Macy's" instead of "Wanamaker's" at the very end of the narration? Or they could just record all the
But hey, we have the tree back. I was afraid that in a cost-cutting measure, Macy's was just SAYING that it was on hiatus for repairs for the past few years, and in reality we'd never see it again. One step at a time, one step at a time. We'll get the COMPLETE Light Show back yet, or die trying. It's a Philadelphia tradition, and this is the first indication I've seen that the NY-based megacorp Gets It, where other localities' traditions are concerned.
Anyway, God Bless the Internet once again. One google of " 'never ending love for you' lyrics", and what did I find? A site that not only has the lyrics to the song, but plays it for you.
What in heck did we do before the 'net?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Chester Community Charter School in Pennsylvania is deploying 1,400 XO laptops to students, marking the largest deployment of laptops from One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in the United States. The initial rollout will begin this week.
You can find the full article by clicking here.
Obviously, we can't invite 1400 kids plus parents to attend the Philly XO meetings at Cosi... it would be a record-breaking fire code violation to shoehorn that many people into that small of a space. But I wonder if the school would be open to exchanging ideas with Philly area users? I'd absolutely love to have a visit and see the XOs being used for exactly what they were designed to do: educating children.
Oh, and have I mentioned that there's still time to support OLPC via the Give One, Get One inititave? Check out Amazon.com/xo for details.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Digestive rebellion is the pits. The symptoms kicked in on Saturday, late afternoon. By Sunday AM, I took Imodium.
It wore off on Monday afternoon, at which time the trouble resumed. More Imodium ensued Monday evening.
It's wearing off again. The abdominal pain is coming back. I have a feeling that's not all that will be back when all is said and done.
:headdesk: :headdesk: :headdesk:
If the symptoms return, to the point where I feel as badly tonight as last night, the next step is a trip to the doctor for prescription-strength symptom abatement. The holidays are coming up; I can't afford to have this going on. I can't afford to make family members sick, either.
This is why we made a point of purchasing unbreakable ornaments for the tree: when the ornaments go on, the Resident Felines start thinking that it's a big green Cat Toy Display Rack. Though we try to keep the cats away from the tree, there'll still be the occasional ornament that we find on the floor, nowhere near the tree. Hmm. Must have been elves that put it there, since neither cat will own up to doing the deed. ;)
The tree will be trimmed soon, which is always the precursor to a few weeks of Meowmy and Paw's being on Ornament Watch Duty. Stay tuned. ;)
Monday, December 08, 2008
Of course not. Dang it. Finally gave in and medicated, and am waiting for the melatonin to kick in.
On the other hand, getting ONE night of decent sleep in a row was a start.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
We were able to demo the XOs for one attendee who was interested in our meeting after seeing it discussed on the forum. He hasn't got an XO yet, but is interested in them and in OLPC. He got to try his hand at using both versions of Sugar and watch the upgrade.
The user who upgraded his XO actually owns two of them: one from the first G1G1, and one from this year. His older XO was running the earlier version of Sugar, but his newer machine had the current Sugar on it. Now both machines have the new Sugar.
The machine we upgraded from a USB stick gave us a pleasant surprise and an unpleasant surprise. The pleasant surprise was that when we upgraded it from a USB stick, at the end of the upgrade, it had all the activities on it. That was unexpected! I downloaded the 8.2 upgrade from the OLPC wiki onto a clean USB stick, and I thought we would have to install the G1G1 Activity Pack separately from installing the upgrade. Apparently not, so that was nice.
The unpleasant surprise was the hardware issue that cropped up with the XO that was upgraded. Fortunately, the saga did have a happy ending. Right before the upgrade, we noticed that the XO's radio and wifi indicators were not lit. Somehow, the XO's radio decided to go on hiatus. We figured that the upgrade would rectify that, but surprise -- it didn't. Er, how what? Enter our attendee who uses his XO at work and in the field on a regular basis. He was able to go into Linux and enter various arcania to try and determine the source of the issue. Long story less long: multiple reboots didn't work, but taking the battery out and letting the machine sit for a while seemed to do the trick. Eventually. As mysteriously as the Radio Gremlins appeared, they went away and the wifi just started working again. Apparently, the old adage is true: any sufficiently advanced technology really IS indistinguishable from magic.
We did have one young'un on hand, which is good, since the XOs' creators did stipulate, "One Laptop Per CHILD", not "One Laptop Per ADULT". He and his mom had his XO in tow. His was one of the machines that has a lot of software installed that they justifiably were concerned about losing in the event of an upgrade. But he had a good time creating activities like Write and Record, and inviting us to them. Everybody was typing at once in the Write activity, demonstrating (and experiencing) the XO's collaboration features.
I also brought an Ubuntu SD from XO Explosion. This was the first time I actually used it so we could all get a look at how it works for the first time, at the same time. The grownups pretty much all give Ubuntu a big "thumb's up" for turning the Little Green Machine into a tool for grownup productivity, as it has Firefox and Open Office installed. Everyone also likes the fact that once my developer key was copied onto the Ubuntu card, all I have to do is boot with the Ubuntu card in the SD slot and bingo -- instant Ubuntu. Then I can reboot without the card in the slot, and voila -- I have Sugar. The ability to switch between both systems completely at will is a huge boon.
One of our attendees who has been to some DC meetings had some XO info cards to hand out, because sure enough, people saw all the Little Green Machines and wanted to know more about them. We touted the XO to at least three people during the course of the meeting.
So there you have it. Kids. Upgrades. Ubuntu. Info cards. Telling people about OLPC and XOs. That was our day in a nutshell.
Let's do it again next month!
For the first time in about four weeks, I didn't need the melatonin supplement to fall asleep. I fell asleep on my own (at about 2 AM, which is a little late for most people but for me, that's actually pretty good). AND what's more, I STAYED asleep until about 8:30 AM.
Wow. A whole night's sleep, and it found its way here all on its own, without the melatonin escort. I honestly can't remember the last time I could say THAT. There is a Santa. ;)
Friday, December 05, 2008
Incompetence. How the bleep hard can it be to get the paperwork right? Ins. co. will probably blame the therapy provider's office staff, and the office staff will probably say the ins. co. fouled it up.
Either way, of COURSE we got a Bill from Hell on a Friday and have to stew over it for a weekend before hearing anything back. Same as when I was single and injured my knee 14 years ago -- different insurance plan and company, same problem. I'd get five separate, incorrectly billed physical therapy bills on a Friday, and have to be annoyed all weekend before calling on the following Monday morning to get the issue fixed.
The US health care system is still a mess. Incompetence and non-caring is part of the problem. The rest of the problem is that even WORKING PEOPLE can get socked by a bill that still remains standing after it's been disputed (or that can't be disputed). I can't imagine how an indigent family would scrape together funds to pay a bill like we just got in the mail.
Holy cow, was it ever a bill, for a good portion of every freaking PT session I attended, beyond the copay I brought in at every visit. WTH? Mark is in search of what the actual coverage is for physical therapy treatments, even as I type.
Anyone who thinks that the US health insurance system isnt fouled up needs to think again. We pay good money for the best health insurance that a major corporation offers its management employees, and STILL we're getting nailed with a giant bill. And this is after treatment for an injury, not after some elective surgery or procedure.
What the heck do people with inferior, or no, medical coverage do after an injury? I know that an ER has to treat a person regardless of whether they have medical insurance, but what about the followup care? You can't go to the ER for that.
This is just messed up, period.
Out of the time I spent there prior to my friends' arrival and after their departure, I swear I spent as much time answering people's questions as I did actually using the computer. People in South Philly have no hesitation about querying a complete stranger about something that attracts their interest, and the little green-and-white device with its two green antennae certainly did that.
I gave the link for ordering an XO to three people -- that would be amazon.com/xo -- and I hope they take part in G1G1.
Speaking of the XO, I'm trying to coordinate an Upgrade Party for this month's Philly Users Group meeting. We meet at 30th Street Station and take advantage of the free wi-fi that a few vendors have available. Since a new version of the User Interface was recently released, I'm trying to get as many local people as possible to attend the December meeting to do a mass upgrade. (I've upgraded already and I think it's great.)
One other motivation for my efforts to get a big turnout for the December meeting is this: it will be the only monthly meeting we have during this year's G1G1. If my one little machine interested Starbucks patrons, how much more interesting will it be if we have a whole flock of XOs all in use at once?
So here's hoping that we get a good turnout, plus boost G1G1 into the bargain!
Thursday, December 04, 2008
There's a young lady whom I'm acquainted because of some cats newsgroups on Usenet (yes, Usenet and newsgroups are still going strong).
She's a very nice young woman, and she's fighting a battle for her life against cancer and liver disease. Every time I get an email from the Caring Bridge site, that her blog has been updated, I get a lump in my throat while clicking on the link because I fear the worst.
One of her oldest friends has taken over the duties of providing updates, as she's too sick/medically sedated to do so at this time.
Please do spare some prayers and good thoughts for this woman and her loved ones if you get a chance.
I was all set to dial in via AOL when I noticed that my computer was trying to connect to a wifi router... somewhere. Gosh knows where it was, but when I looked at the list, there were a whole bunch of networks visible. At least three of them completely lacked a password or any form of encryption.
Just for kicks, I let the laptop connect to see what would happen. Sure enough, there I sat with an internet connection, in my parents' living room, and I wasn't even tying up their phone line with a dialup connection. Bonus. I'm not entirely sure that such things are allowed, but hey, I won't tell anybody if you won't.
I was a bit skittish about trying to get into the benefits website on this unencrypted connection, even though the site itself is secure, but it turns out that wasn't an issue. Why? Because my parents haven't got a temporary user password to log in with, and the only way to get that is to generate a command to have them SNAIL MAIL it to the user.
So I issued the "mail me a temporary password" command, and then wondered if I could get a PW over the phone if I were speaking to a human being. Therefore, I called the benefits phone number and got a representative.
Unlike the un-knowledgeable rep that my parents talked to on the phone on Tuesday, the one that triggered their request for me to use my computer to look online and print out benefits info for them, THIS rep was knowledgeable, articulate, and genuinely interested in customer service. God bless her, and I wish more people in jobs like hers had her demeanor and her knowledge of the information that they're supposed to be able to provide to customers.
She verified that a password was going to be mailed to my parents' address. She also was able to answer a lot of the questions that my parents were unable to get info about from the rep they'd spoken to the day before.
So even though I wasn't able to get info ONLINE, we were still able to get my parents' questions answered. Plus, they're going to get a password for logging in. When they do that, I'll be able to log in from home, on my ENCRYPTED connection or better yet on the WIRED connection on the desktop upstairs, and print the information they're looking for.
We ordered hoagies for lunch, so while we were waiting for those, I tracked down Youtube videos of Odetta (see the one I linked to in my previous post), Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis. :) In other words, it was a productive day even if some things didn't quite go as planned.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
They tried to call the company's information line and speak to a human being about the health care plan, but the service rep was unaware of the meaning of "donut hole" and what it means to the health care coverage of the company's retirees. That's SUCH a basic term, that once she proved not to know what it meant, my dad was justifiably leery about believing her knowledge of anything else she had to say.
Therefore, I'll be heading over there with my laptop, and my ability to access AOL via dialup, in order to ensure that my parents can go online and review the information package that way.