Archive for June, 2009

Swimming laps or making soup?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

hot swimUnrelenting heat and minimal rain have combined to turn Houston’s swimming pools into bathtubs.

When Bill asked me whether I had a good swim this afternoon, I said it depends. If you like carrots and celery, and you think they would complement your flavor, then adding yourself to the hot salty swimming pool could make a nice soup. But if you’re looking for something more cool and refreshing, look elsewhere.

For the rest of the summer, I think a new marketing campaign is in order, touting the therapeutic benefits for joints and muscles of non-impact exercise in a 95-degree pool. If the term weren’t copyrighted, they could name it after that hot yoga style.

More than melts the eye

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

So, we were watching Real Time with Bill Maher the other day, and Cameron Diaz was being interviewed. She mentioned going to go see what almost everyone with any ounce of a critical eye is calling the biggest POS movie of the year, possibly of all time (paraphrasing, of course). Of course, Cameron, being the clever observer of humanity that she is, mentioned that she was going to look at Megan Fox. Hmm. Perhaps if one prevented Michael Bay from hiring really attractive women for his movies, he might quit making money, and people might quit letting him direct. What a thought.

That being said, I do feel like I must offer equal time to those who might offer a contrary perspective on Transformers 2: Revenge of the Audience. Read it. The review might even change your perspective on the entire medium of cinema.

Linkage Here.

David Cook to play Galveston!

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I admit that I subscribe to fan news for David Cook. Today’s email says he’s added tour dates, including a July 5th show in Galveston:

David Cook to play Moody Gardens July 5th

I know where I’ll be that night! Anyone want to go with me?

Smart meter, but not the contractor

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Wednesday morning, while working at my desk, I was surprised by a sort of POP! sound followed by the power going out. I assumed that someone somewhere blew a transformer, and I continued to work at my battery-powered laptop in the rare silence of no electrical hums.

A few minutes later, the power came back on. I would have thought nothing of it, but then I heard a kind of THUNK! noise nearby. I turned to look out the front window and saw a Centerpoint contractor at our electrical meter. Grrr.

I knew that Centerpoint is rolling out smart meters in Houston, and I knew they would do ours soon because they left a hang tag on the door a week or two ago. But I expected they would at least knock on the door, let me know, and perhaps let me turn off the computer equipment before doing it. Silly me.

I flew out the door and confronted them none-too-politely. I told them I had a roomful of computer equipment that didn’t like losing power abruptly. I said that with cars in the driveway it should have been obvious that someone was home, and asked them why the hell didn’t they knock?

Greg-the-contractor stammered for a moment and then apologized, saying he had assumed that his partner had already knocked, and “you know what happens when you assume.” Yes, sir, I do.

new smart meter
Our shiny new network-enabled smart meter

Greg the contractor
Greg, the not-so-smart contractor, with our old power meter

I will probably get excited about the features of the new meter eventually. But Greg and his buddy precluded that for the moment.

Bob’s first pie!

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

While pondering what to do with five pounds of blueberries, it dawned on me to make a pie. I say “dawned” because I’ve never made a real pie before. Cold instant mousse in a pre-made graham cracker shell, yes. Hot creation in pastry, no.

Sharon shared a simple recipe with me: berries, sugar, flour, salt, lemon juice. We paused on the way home to pick up a frozen pie shell and some vanilla ice cream and we were set. When we got home I went to work!

Bob making pie
I’ve never done this before!

berries in the pie shell
This pie was filled with love… of blueberries!

In the baking process I found a new use for my Raytek MiniTemp. While our oven knob claimed 450, our gas oven quickly reached 510. Oops! But this way I knew not to leave the pie in the oven for the prescribed duration. Regardless, the hot blueberry goo that oozed out of the pie onto the baking sheet was absolutely divine.

Bob's first pie
The steam vents say “yum” not “rum.” Really!

The pie “rested” while we ate dinner and watched the movie, “Waitress,” in which pies play a leading role. Afterward we enjoyed fresh blueberry pie ala mode. Yum!

Field trip: Picking our own blueberries!

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Bill is away in NYC almost every week. As a result, he must be selective about how he spends scarce time in Houston, and few opportunities compete with bicycling. But when I learned there were pick-your-own blueberry farms nearby, I knew I had a field trip that would capture Bill’s interest. He LOVES blueberries!

big blueberry bushes

big Texas blueberries
Big, ripe, Texas blueberries

Around here, blueberry season runs from approximately June 1 to July 1. We were too late last season, but I marked it on my calendar this year so we wouldn’t miss it!

Friday afternoon I checked Moorhead’s Farm website and confirmed we were set for Saturday. I invited Sharon to come, too. We got up early, breakfasted, and got ready to go. Before we left, Bill checked the farm site again and was horrified to read the “Friday night update,” which said a horde of people had come and picked nearly all the ripe berries. They advised waiting until the following weekend. Rats!

However, Bill was not to be deterred. (Did I mention that he LOVES blueberries?) He used The Google to find a second blueberry farm nearby, and by 8:20 am, we were off to Chmielewski’s Blueberry Farm.

Houston-area blueberry farms

Just 30 minutes later, we were in the field and picking!

brightly-colored buckets
The farm provided buckets and bags for capturing berries

Bill picking berries
The berry bushes were much bigger than I expected

Sharon picking berries
Sharon has a knack for picking only the ripest berries

Bob eating fresh-picked berries
Not quite all of Bob’s berries made it into the bucket

little pickers

As Bill mentioned, there were several families with kidlets. So we took advantage of Bill’s height to reach the top-most branches, and left low-hanging fruit for the little people. Two hours later, our bucket was full, we were hot, tired, and happy, and it was time to come home.

The big question now is what to do with 5 pounds of fresh blueberries? Bill insists that they’ll get eaten as is long before they spoil. But I would love some additional ideas for ways to prepare or store fresh berries. If you have a favorite recipe, will you please share?

Blueberry Picking, for the win!

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

This is just a quick note, while Bob is distracted, to get a post in before she does. We spent the morning picking blueberries. About two hours of effort later, and we had 5.3 pounds of fresh, ripe blueberries. Lots of kidlings running around for you parents looking for some legal way to lose your kids.

The farm’s website is here.

Baby duck rescue!

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Shawn and Chris found an orphan baby duckling on the UH lab school campus this afternoon. They looked and looked but couldn’t find a nest or duck parents anywhere. When it kept trying to hop into the street, they captured it.

Shawnacy with baby duck
Shawnacy was fast enough to catch the hoppy little duck

duck baby
Here’s what s/he looks like up close

While the kiddos at school were *very* interested in the tiny baby duck, ducks do NOT make good pets. Shawn asked me to transport it over to the Wildlife Rehab & Education center on Old Katy Road.

While I was happy to take this duck to a safe new home where it wouldn’t get eaten, it made me a little sad that s/he had to face it all alone. S/he spent the whole car trip jumping and scrabbling and trying to escape. S/he managed to squeeze his entire head out of the little hole in the box several times and peep at me (although I was not fast enough with the camera to catch it)!

tiny duckbill
This little duck was eager to escape from the box!

The WRANDE staff member identified our duckling as a black-bellied whistling duck. Just minutes later, four UH students came in with ten more little ducks just like the one we found. These ten were found stranded in the main campus fountain. The girl said they hadn’t seen a mom or dad duck in days.

ten more baby ducks
This tote held ten more little ducks just like the first one!

What’s cool is they’re presumably all siblings. So now they are all safe and reunited and our little duck won’t be alone after all. I love happy endings!

You can see all the little duck photos in my FaceBook album.

What’s in a bed?

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Sometimes I just have to wonder how our cat, Tibbs, decides where to sleep. On the one hand, he’d rather be on a dish towel than a cold tile countertop, and a pillow than the floor. On the other hand, he also makes choices like these:

Tibbs racked out in a cardboard box
This can’t be comfortable, and he had room to settle differently

Tibbs crammed onto Bob's desk
He was persistent getting here, but I just can’t see why

I repeatedly shooed him off my desk and into my lap, into Daddy’s chair, into his window seat, etc. But when I wasn’t looking, he ducked behind my laptop and wormed himself into this awkward posture half on the scanner and half off. Silly cat.

And clearly, neither of us learned anything last week. (Silly Bob!)

Not quite serving on a Harris County jury

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I was called for jury duty today and spent the day downtown. I have a few observations:

1. District clerk Loren Jackson is a charismatic and clever politician. He showed up to personally greet and thank the assembled potential jurors for our service. Further, he says he makes a point to come every morning and afternoon to do so, which puts his name and face in the minds of 1,000+ Harris Count voters daily. If he keeps that practice up it will assuredly serve him well when he’s up for reelection.

2. Jackson also announced that the County will enable wireless internet access in the jury assembly room in the next few weeks. That will make it easier to do real work while you wait, and he encouraged us to bring our laptops when we come back next time.

3. It bugs me that the judge and others who clearly know the proper French pronunciation of “voir dire” — vwar deer — go along with the Texan bastardization to vor dyer.

4. The cell phone of the potential juror whose phone rang in the courtroom after we had been admonished at least five times to set our phones to vibrate, played the Texas A&M war hymn. The judge, a Texas Longhorn alum, was remarkably tolerant of said Aggie.

5. These items are essential for jury service:

  • Earplugs to tune out 600+ others in the jury assembly room
  • Reading material or other diversions for the long waiting periods
  • Paper and pen(cil) to take notes during juror instruction
  • Jacket or other layer because the new courthouses are extremely well air conditioned (for all the folks running around in suits)
  • Water and snacks for 5-6 hours (because they seem determined to push through voir dire, jury selection, and dismissal of excess jury candidates before breaking for lunch)

6. The contract dispute in question was kind of hard to get excited about. I’m glad that they got 12 jurors before they got to me, and I’m glad they let the rest of us go by 1:30 pm!