Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just For Fun

Today was the second day of census job training.

The alarm went off much too early this morning. I'm not used to working a standard 8 hour day; for many years my jobs have been part time or had flexible hours. (I know, I'm quite the princess!) I quickly showered and dressed in business casual clothes, another thing I haven't done for a while. After a quick breakfast and a bit of Internet surfing, it was time to leave for the day.

There was a hectic morning of training, and then it was time for lunch. We're allowed an hour. Everyone in the group lives close to the training facility, and it sounds like many of them go home during the break. Even though I could do that, I've been bringing my lunch and eating outside. It's nice to get a bit of fresh air before I have to go back inside for the afternoon. Today's weather was blustery and cloudy, but it felt great.

Our training facility is in a building which is next to a city park. The park has a lake, paved trails, pavilions, tennis courts, and a play area. After I finished my lunch I took a walk. The park was deserted, because the weather was cloudy and blustery. I made a loop around the perimeter of the park, and had time to spare.

I glanced at the playground as I walked by it. It's been updated since my boys were young enough to go there and play. It has things to climb up, slide down, and spin around in. The swing set, which was placed in the far corner of the playground, seemed particularly inviting. It had quality belt seats, shiny chains, and a soft rubber mat underneath it.

I think the last time I used a swing I had the excuse of being with a child; somehow that makes it more acceptable, but today I was by myself. I decided not to let that bother me; after glancing around to make sure no one was looking, I hopped on a swing, grabbed the chains, and started pumping my business-casual-clad feet.

It felt great to be flying through the sky. I thought about trying to see how high I could swing, but remembered I had somewhere to be. It would be pretty embarrassing to fall off and go back into the training class with torn-out knees on my pants or skinned hands from a playground accident. I swung for about five minutes, but panicked I saw a car pulling into the parking lot. I quickly stopped myself, jumped off the swing, resumed my persona of middle-aged woman, and walked back to the training building.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I forgot to tell you that I got a job! It's quite temporary, though. I'm going to be an Enumerator for this year's portion of the 2010 Census. It had been so long since I'd taken the test I'd forgotten about it, and was completely surprised when I received a call about two weeks ago asking if I was still interested. Of course I said yes.

The first job requirement is a week-long training session, which started today. The training location is convenient-only four miles from my house. I left the house at the same time I usually do, but traveled in the opposite direction to get to the training facility. After a bit of confusion finding the correct parking lot, I made it into the building and joined approximately a dozen other trainees.

The Census department takes its responsibilities seriously. Before I was offered a job, I had to take (and pass) a screening test and a background check. Today we were fingerprinted. We had to sign forms agreeing to keep census information confidential, and then stand and take an oath of office stating the same thing. Anyone who does reveal personal information is subject to a jail term, a fine, or both.

The role of an Enumerator is to verify addresses to insure that every housing unit receives a census questionnaire in 2010. Unlike in previous censuses, there's no pencil and paper involved. After the paperwork was all completed and signed, each Enumerator was issued a hand-held computer equipped with GPS to use in our work. We also received a badge and a canvas bag with the Census Bureau's name and logo that will help identify us when we're on the streets.

The real work will start next week, after we're trained, and will last about eight weeks. Until then I have many more hours of training. There's a thick manual to go through, and homework most evenings. There's even a final test to complete before we can be official.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Check The Number

Today I learned what the numbers on the bottom of my checks mean.

I was having a discussion with Tony about the long string on numbers at the bottom of our checks. I knew that some part of it was the account number, but wasn't exactly sure about the rest. It turns out the collection is very logical.

The first set of numbers on the check is the American Banking Association routing number. The routing number consists of 9 digits: AAAABBBBC. AAAA is the Federal Reserve Routing Symbol (mine indicates things go through the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis), BBBB is the institution identifier (which is specific to my bank), and C is the Check Digit (used to verify the accuracy of the other numbers).

The second set of numbers is the account number, and the third set is the individual check number.

After we figured that out, we moved on to a related question: why is the first set of numbers on the deposit slip different from the one on the check if it's going to the same account? It turns out that question has a logical answer, too. If a bank has a dedicated location that only process deposits, it will have a different routing number.

Now I know.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lights Out

Tonight Tony and I participated in Earth Hour.

Earth Hour, which is held on the last Saturday of March each year, is sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The event tries to raise awareness for the need to take action on climate change. Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights. In 2008, 50 million people throughout the world went dark. This year the goal is participation by 1 billion people.

In our house we actually stretched it out for more than one hour. The period was scheduled to start at 8:30; at 7:30 we turned off the computers, TV, and lights, and played cards in the kitchen by candlelight. I was surprised at how many candles it took to make enough light to see! Initially we had a motley collection of votive candles, which was barely adequate. I went upstairs and got a tray of pillar candles out of the bathroom. With the votives at one end of the table and the tray at the other it was sufficiently bright.

We played one game of Rummy, which Tony won handily. He suggested a second game, and won that one by an even more imposing score. At 9:15 I'd had enough, so we put everything away and went back to our normal lives.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekend Update

I got a call this afternoon from son Donald, who was on his way to work. I could tell from the smile in his voice he had good news. He announced that the silica gel dried out his MP3 player and it was working again!

He's happy he doesn't have to go through all the hassle and expense of getting a new player. Then, just before we hung up, he said he'd return the silica to me to hang onto until the next time he needs it. I hope he was joking!

In honor of the excellent news, here's some Donald-approved music. (I'm pretty sure he "borrowed" my Ramones Greatest Hits CD and burned it onto his hard drive:)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Snuff It

Today I extinguished a candle with my fingers.

This activity was on my original list of Things to do, but I never got around to it, because I was scared that I'd burn my fingers. However, today I decided to stop being a chicken and complete the task.

I've watched people do this before, so I know that the trick is to get your fingers wet before you touch the flame. The liquid adds a protective layer of water so your skin won't get burned. After your fingers are wet, you grab the wick and then release it quickly.

I got a votive candle out of the dining room, set it on the island in the kitchen, then lit it. After a couple of minutes of psyching myself up, I stuck my fingers in my mouth and pinched the candle wick. It went out with a sizzle; I guess I had really wet fingers!

My fear turned out to be groundless. It didn't hurt at all. As a matter of fact it was so cool that I repeated the whole process again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Drying Out

Son Donald was at the house doing laundry today. He was pulling the last load out of the washer when I heard a mournful cry from the laundry room. Turns out he forgot to remove his MP3 player from the pocket before his work pants went into the washer. The player went through the complete cycle-wash, rinse, and spin. Although the exterior was now clean and shiny, the screen was completely fogged up; a sure sign of interior water.

Before Donald went out to buy a new player, he thought he'd try to let this one dry and see if it still worked. Between our brainstorming and a Google search, we came up with these ideas for drying out the unit:
  • Using a blow drier
  • Using a can of compressed air
  • Setting it under a low-watt light bulb
  • Putting it on top of the heater vent overnight
  • Putting it in a bag along with rice or silica gel packs

The last idea made a light bulb go on in my head! I had a jar of silica gel left over from a project last year, so we decided to see if that would work. Because I didn't think it would be a good idea if the desiccant touched the player, we used a small deli container placed upside down inside a bowl (like a shelf) and added a layer of silica beads. The player went on the shelf, then the lid was put on the bowl.

All the Websites said it's going to take at least 24 hours (maybe 48) to see if the experiment works. Donald promised to report back when he knew if his player would make it or not, but at a minimum he'll have to go through several agonizing days at work without his tunes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If Life Gives You Lemons...

Sage at Wise Herb's Random Jottings honored me today with the Lemonade Award, as one of her " favourite blogs". I'm honored to be included on her list.

Now I'm supposed to nominate other blogs to receive the award. It was hard to limit myself to just 10 blogs that entertain me on a regular basis, but a rule's a rule. If you're nominated and want to participate, that would be awesome, but please don't feel obligated to do so.

My nominations (in alphabetical order, so as to not play favorites):

Artistic Mission--One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to read about subjects that are completely foreign to me. Dan Jaboor is a full-time artist and blogs about his creations and art shows in the St. Louis area.

Available Light--Kathy P is another person I don't think I'd ever run into in my "regular" life; I always look forward to her blog posts.

Dkzody's Weblog--Dkzody is a teacher in an inner city high school in California. I enjoy reading her thoughts about teaching and life.

Going Crunchy--Shannon lives in the Chicago area and works in a library. As she puts it, her writing is "about a librarian, the environment and life".

In the New--My blogging inspiration. Jen Mac was the original "new thing a day" blogger. After she finished her project, she took a long break, but I'm happy that she's back at it!

Life in the 2nd half century... --emom's tagline is "Who knew life after 50 would be so much better?" I think she may be the only blogger I read who regularly writes in blank verse!

One Dad's Life--Gregg mixes family anecdotes and beautiful photographs he's taken. His blog is usually good for a laugh.

Philip Barron--One of the newest subscriptions in my RSS reader. Philip comments on current events, sports, and food...and occasionally about cats.

Scribbit--I think Sage nominated this blog too, but I'm going to copy her. Michelle writes from Alaska; how cool is that?

Walk It Off! A Walker's Rambles...--Written by my friend JD, who also is the crochet editor for the Craft Gossip Blog Network. JD is one of my frequent walking partners, and I often read something in one of her posts that we've talked about on the track!

If you're interested in nominating other bloggers for the award, here are some guidelines:
  1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

  2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!

  3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post and let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

  4. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Inner Knowing

Today I played psi games to test my psychic abilities.

The games, which were developed by Dean Radin, were on the Website of Institute of Noetic Science (IONS). According to their Website, IONS:
conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness—including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention, and intuition. The Institute explores phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models, while maintaining a commitment to scientific rigor.
Although there were several suites of games available, I chose The Halls of Healing. They were supposed to test the roles of intention, attention, and intuition in intentional healing:
  • The intention game asks you to mentally "heal" a cartoon person
  • The attention game tests your ability to perceive when and where something happens, or is about to happen
  • The intuition game sees how well you can guess a cartoon patient's "medical condition"
Based on my pitiful performance on the games, I think my psychic abilities are non-existent!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Check It Out Without Checking In

Our area hasn't had a new hospital in more than 30 years, but that's about to change. Next week SSM St. Joseph Hospital is closing and being replaced by SSM St. Clare Health Center. St. Clare held an open house this weekend to show off their new facility, so today I took a tour of a hospital that's not open.

Tony and I weren't the only ones who thought the open house was a good idea. The hospital parking lot looked like a mall in December; there were lines of cars waiting for spaces in several rows, but when we drove to an aisle farther away from the main entrance, a parking attendant waved us towards a space. There were just as many people inside, but after some initial confusion we figured out what to do. The hospital had self-guided tours available on the first, second, and third floors. Each tour was marked by blue arrows on the floor, and there were staff people interspersed along the routes to answer questions.

The hospital's patient rooms are amazing. They're all private, and have a picture window to let in natural light. The bed had a wooden headboard covering the medical equipment, so it didn't feel so much like a hospital room. The feeling was reinforced by all the amenities in each room: a flat-screen TV, DVD player, wireless Internet, small refrigerator, a safe, and a sound machine. There's a family visiting area that can be curtained off from the main patient area that contains a pull-out sofa bed (which is nice since there are no set visiting hours) and plenty of seating for visitors.

We got walk through the nursery (complete with "babies") and see one of the operating rooms, the CT scanner, and the wide-bore MRI, which was open on both sides and didn't look so claustrophobic. We weren't able to see them, but our brochure told us there's an outpatient center, surgery center, heart institute, and a cancer center. I'm sure the rest of the hospital, just like the patient rooms, has the latest medical technology.

It looked like some of the finishing touches still needed to be done, but I don't think any of those will stop the hospital from opening on March 30. Frankly, I hope my visit today is the ONLY time I have to be there!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Marzidoats and Dozidoats"

I use a lot of oatmeal, but it's the quick-cooking type that comes in the cylindrical container. I add it to most of the muffins and breads I bake, because it's healthy (high in fiber and low in fat) and fills me up for a long time. Most mornings I'm out the door less than an hour after I wake up, and a muffin, along with fruit, milk, and coffee, makes for a quick breakfast.

I'm always looking to try new things, though, so last week when I was in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods and noticed they had steel-cut oats on sale I bought some. They've been sitting on a shelf in the pantry since then, because I wasn't sure how to cook them. Today I had enough time to do the necessary research and preparation, so I cooked steel-cut oats.

A quick oat primer: Steel cut oats, also known as pinhead, Scotch, or Irish oats, are whole oat groats (kernels) that have been chopped into smaller pieces. Rolled oats are groats that have been steamed, rolled and flaked for easier cooking. Quick cooking oats are rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces, and instant oats are cut even smaller and have salt, sugar, and flavorings added.

Every Website I visited had a slightly different recipe for steel cut oats, but they all had similar proportions of oats and liquid (1 cup oats to 4 cups water or milk) and a bit of salt. Many added dried fruit. The most common cooking directions were to bring the oats and water to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the oatmeal reachs the proper consistency and most of the liquid is absorbed.

After cooking my oats, I added a teaspoon of vanilla and a handful each of dried cranberries and raisins. I poured a serving into a bowl, along with a spoonful of brown sugar and some walnuts. Then I sat down to try my concoction.

WOW! The oatmeal was creamy, but actually had a chewy texture. After I finished the first bowl, I had a second one, and put the rest in the refrigerator, where I understand it will keep for several days. I know oatmeal doesn't always heat up well, but it will be good to have a quick substantial breakfast later in the week, even if its texture isn't as prime as it was today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Clean Sweep

Today is the first day of spring. The weather is getting warmer, the trees and flowers are blooming, and the birds are returning. Unfortunately, that means that Spring Cleaning time is here too. Although I enjoy the clean house that comes as a result of the work, I don't enjoy the process itself. This afternoon I eased into the project by spring cleaning my computer.

This article by Microsoft was my inspiration. My computer was running a little slow; when I read that a spring cleaning could help my computer run faster I was interested. When I realized I could do this cleaning from the comfort of my chair, I was all ready to start!

These are the steps I took:
  • Got rid of the clutter--I removed some extra icons from the taskbar, and cleaned up the unused icons on my desktop.
  • Removed old programs--I didn't even know I could do this. On the Control Panel, there's an Add or Remove Programs command. The benchmark in the article was to get rid of a program that hadn't been used in over a year. I wasn't quite that brave (I'm always afraid I'm going to remove something vital and my computer will stop running), but I got rid of several things, including an obsolete photo-organizing program. When I was done, I also removed the files from the Recycle Bin, along with the hundreds of others that were there; I obviously hadn't cleaned that out in a long time!

  • Defragmented the computer--I actually do this on a monthly basis, thanks to an Outlook reminder, so I virtuously patted myself of the back and moved on to the next task.

  • Upgraded the operating system--My computer used to tell me when there were Windows updates, but I guess it stopped doing that, because there were two packs that needed to be installed.
  • Cleared the cache--I started out by trying to delete selected files, but that was taking too long so I completely cleaned out the whole thing. I'll have to look up all the passwords on the sites that used to "remember" me, but it's worth it to get rid of all the junk cookies.
  • Assessed the memory and tools--After I did all the work, I rebooted the computer. The computer flew through the shutdown process, and every program opened extremely quickly. I checked the amount of free space on the hard drive (there's plenty) and made sure the mouse and keyboard had fresh batteries, so they wouldn't stop working in the middle of a job.
When I had completed all the recommended jobs, I added one of my own. I changed the display settings, using a springlike wallpaper that will make me smile every time I see it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tale of Two Colleges

Today I met with one of my old students who has a bit of work left to do before he can receive his high school diploma. We've been meeting weekly at Meramec Community College, which is close to his house.

I don't have a parking pass for the school, so I usually park on the street and walk to the library. The school is on spring break this week, though, so I was able to park in the parking lot. I approached the library building from the opposite direction I usually do, and saw a four foot tall brick column standing next to one of the buildings. There was an old-looking stone plaque inserted in the middle of the monument that said "Collegium St. Joseph".

I was intrigued, and stopped for a closer look. A brass tablet on top of the column gave this information:
St. Joseph Seminary
Laid August 27, 1889

The seminary served the order of the Redemptorist priests founded in Naples, Italy in 1732. The 80 acre site where St. Louis Community College at Meramec now stands was purchased in 1888.

Meramec continued the establishment of education facilities on this site in 1964.
I had no idea about this land's early history, so after I got home, I did some research, and found:
  • A very old (1957) area street guide showed the area blocked out and called St. Joseph's College.
  • According to Wikipedia, the proper name for Redemptorist order is the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Joseph’s College was a Redemptorist minor seminary (a secondary boarding school for teenage boys who have expressed interest in becoming priests) in Kirkwood, Missouri. They came after elementary school, and were prepared academically and spiritually for later entry into a major seminary, where they studied for the priesthood.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any information about why the college was closed in the early 1960s. None of the original buildings is standing on the Meramec campus; except for the brick column, St. Joseph's Colleges seems to have disappeared into thin air!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not Customary

I don't spend a lot of time going to funerals (thank goodness), but in my experience when someone dies, there's usually a set series of events: a wake the night before at a funeral parlor, then the funeral the next morning, immediately followed by a drive to the cemetery. Today I went to a funeral that didn't follow the normal order.

The deceased was a cousin of Tony's. He'd lived out of town for many years, and I've never met him. We heard over the weekend that he had passed away and there would be a memorial today at a local funeral parlor since he was being buried here in town. The obituary stated there would be a visitation at 9:00 and a service later in the morning. We arrived to find the chapel full of people, and chatted with relatives we never see except at funerals and weddings until it was time for the service.

Much to my surprise, since I was under the impression there had to be a Mass when a Catholic person died, the service was led by a priest. There were several prayers, scripture readings with a Responsorial Psalm, and a beautiful homily. That was followed by a litany, The Lord's Prayer, and a closing prayer. After the closing, we were directed out to the parking lot; those who were going to the cemetery were given directions about getting in line and turning on their car lights and blinkers.

When I got home I did a bit of research about Catholic ceremonies for the dead. I learned that there are three principal components to a Catholic funeral: the vigil for the deceased (sometimes referred to as the "wake"), the funeral liturgy (which often, but not always includes the celebration of Mass), and the rite of committal (at the cemetery). While a funeral Mass is preferred, a funeral liturgy outside Mass is permitted.

I guess I learned something today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Home Town

I get to take a vacation day today; I'll be stuffing myself with corned beef and cabbage. While I'm gone, you can read my Tour Of St. Louis at Scribbit.

Monday, March 16, 2009


My family would tell you I'm a casual sports fan at best. Although I try to keep up to date on how the local sports teams (both professional and college) are doing, my interest usually doesn't go beyond that. However, today I filled out a NCAA basketball tournament bracket.

Most people enter a friendly bracket contest at work or school, but since that's not an option for me, I entered an online contest that promised one million dollars for a perfect bracket; otherwise there will be 50 winners, with prizes ranging from $10,000 to $250. I seriously doubt any of that money will be coming my way!

My picks were a combination of my nominal research, pre-selected picks from "experts", emotion, and a bit of random reasoning. For the most part, I chose the higher seed in each game, but I have our state school, Missouri, going farther in the tournament than most experts, because I'd like to see them do well; Son Tony is an Illinois alumnus, so I had a soft spot for them, too. I made at least one pick based on the school mascot name (The Temple Owls-how cool is that?), and threw in a couple of upsets, because it wouldn't be the NCAA tournament without them!

I may tweak my bracket for the next few days; I have until noon on Thursday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bamboo U

I bought some new socks the other day. In addition to all the choices I usually have to make (short or long? white or colored? print or solid?) I was faced with another decision-cotton or bamboo. I ended up buying the bamboo socks, because I was under the impression that it was a good "green" decision, but I really wasn't sure. Today I researched the advantages of bamboo for fabric.

A sticker on the sock package touted the "Luxuriously soft bamboo" that "Keeps feet dry [and] reduces foot odor". The side of the label indicated in smaller print the socks were made with rayon from bamboo, polyester, spandex, and rubber. I thought rayon was for silky-looking Hawaiian shirts and dresses, not socks!

Bamboo is not a fiber, but the world's fastest growing grass. It grows without requiring chemicals or pesticides, and reaches maturity quickly. It can be harvested in about 4 years, and doesn't need to be replanted; it spreads by underground runners that send up new shoots.

Rayon is a fiber that is neither synthetic or natural. It is manufactured from naturally occurring cellulose that requires extensive processing to become rayon. Rayon can be made from any fiber that contains cellulose; bamboo is just one of them. The cellulose is extracted from the bamboo, then mixed with chemicals to convert the plant pulp into textile quality fiber.

Once the bamboo is harvested, there are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a fabric: mechanically (by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant, then using enzymes to break the bamboo walls so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn) or chemically (by processing the bamboo leaves and shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye, and carbon disulfide). Most bamboo is processed chemically because it is cheaper and less labor-intensive.

Advantages of bamboo clothing:
  • It's easy to launder
  • Bamboo is highly absorbent and wicks water away from the body faster than cotton.

  • The structure of bamboo fibers make bamboo fabrics more breathable than other fabrics.
  • Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
  • Bamboo clothing is 100% biodegradable--I'll keep this in mind when the socks are ready to be tossed-it can be in the compost pile!
The socks were very soft and silky, and had a slight sheen. They kept my feet warm, even when I walked out to the mailbox to get the mail. At the end of the day I laundered them in warm water in the washer, and dried them in the dryer. They came out much softer than cotton socks would.

I think I'll keep them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Show Me The Way To Go Home

One of the presents I got last Christmas was a hand-held GPS receiver. However, winter in the St. Louis area isn't the time to be outside exploring, so I haven't gotten a whole lot of use out of my nifty navigator. Today I took a class to learn how to use a GPS unit.

The class was held in a room in the recreation complex at Queeny Park, a county park close to my house. When I pulled into the park, the marquee said there was also a train show going on. There's only one building, so I figured both activities would be there. There was a long line of train enthusiasts waiting to enter, but a sign directed anyone attending the GPS class to a separate entrance door.

There were about two dozen people in the class, and everyone had a different reason for being there. Some wanted to use a GPS unit for hunting or fishing, some for hiking, and one man wanted to use it to find the boundaries on some property he owned.

The activity brochure had promised I would learn to get the most out of my GPS unit. The first part of the class was held indoors, where there was a PowerPoint presentation that covered basic terminology and information about how the GPS system worked. After we had digested all that, we were given a slip of paper with the coordinates for several waypoints (places to find) in the park. After everyone had entered the coordinates into their units, we divided into small groups and went out to find the places. Each group was assisted by an experienced user.

I was surprised how quickly the time went; before I knew it the class was over. I'm looking forward to practicing with my new toy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fair Game

In my continuous search for an elusive job, today I went to a job fair.

Last month I went to a "one employer" fair, but today's had multiple employers (more than 30 according to the advertising). It was held on the campus of one of the area universities. Because I wasn't a student or alumna of the school, I had to pay a higher admission fee, but I figured it would be money well spent.

I spent some time beforehand researching the employers that would be there, so I could have a short list of the ones I really wanted to talk to, then I researched those places and learned as much as I could about them. The last step was to come up with a list of questions to ask when I got face time with them.

I arrived at the campus 15 minutes before the fair was scheduled to start, but there was already a steady stream of professionally-dressed people walking toward the building. The registration procedure went very smoothly, and I was waiting in line to get in when the doors opened. My first stop was the bleachers at the side of the room, where I sat and perused the information I got when I registered. I was interested in about a third of the organizations there, so I highlighted the stops I wanted to make on the map, and in what order, before I started walking around.

Many of the tables quickly developed VERY long lines, but I was lucky. My combination of education and experience steered me towards employers who were more specialized and had shorter lines. In some cases, I didn't have to wait at all!

Every "interview" was different. Some employers were just collecting resumes, and some had a set of questions they asked. I tried to remember that they were evaluating me, and I didn't have a lot of time to make a good first impression. I think I did a good job at most of the booths. I found out that some of the employers I was initially interested in didn't have any need for someone with my certifications, and I crossed off some because they turned out not to be a good fit.

It only took me a 90 minutes to chat with all my target employers. There were still people coming in as I was leaving; I wished them good luck. When I got back home, I sent thank-you notes to the places I was really interested in, and downloaded job application packets to start filling out.

Now it's time to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Starring Me!

I receive occasional e-mails from JibJab, an online humor site with eCards, photos and videos. Today's message was all about St. Patrick's Day. Although it's a bit early, today I made an e-card starring myself!

The e-mail said:
Make your friends and family green with envy by starring in a JibJab St. Patty’s Day eCard. They’re funnier than a kick in the Blarney stones!
Last year I Elfed Myself on the same Website. It was a lot of fun. The St. Patrick's card was a similar deal; if you have an account, you can upload pictures to their server and paste them into a scene, or use one of their stock heads-politicians, actors, musicians, and other celebrities.

When you're finished, you can e-mail it, embed it, or download it to your computer. You can also add the image to mousepads, mugs, photo prints, or greeting cards for a price.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today We're Observing . . .

The first item I saw when I checked my RSS feeds this morning was a post about Johnny Appleseed Day from Sage at Wise Herb's Random Jottings. I wasn't aware of the holiday, but thanks to Sage I researched the life of Johnny Appleseed.

Johnny Appleseed (born John Chapman on September 26th, 1774), is an American pioneer and folk hero who planted apple trees across the American Frontier. Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated on March 11th, which some believe is the day of his death in 1845, because it is during planting season.

He was an apple tree nurseryman who for nearly fifty years planted trees in much of what is now Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, providing orchards for westward-migrating settlers. Johnny arrived in an area before any pioneers, tried to predict where they were likely to settle, planted apple seeds, and waited. By the time the settlers arrived, he would have two- to three-year old apple trees ready to sell. He left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold the trees, and left to plant new nurseries, returning every couple of years to care for the orchard and the growing trees.

Johny Appleseed was a devout Christian who was known to preach his Swedenborgian faith during his travels. He led a simple nonconformist life, dressing in the worst of the used clothing he received, giving away the better items in barter, and often going barefoot to save leather. Contrary to popular belief, Johnny actually didn't wear a pot on his head.

Johnny rarely accepted money and donated any money he received to churches or charities. He looked upon nature as his friend, practicing kindness to animals that was contradictory to frontier customs. For example, he often used his profits to purchase lame horses to save them from slaughter, nursing them back to health and then donating them to a family in need.

Johnny Appleseed died in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The exact date of death isn't known, and there is some controversy about the burial site.

In honor of the day, I baked some muffins. I used oatmeal and whole wheat flour, folded one shredded organic Rancho Royale and one Granny Smith apple into the batter, and added cinnamon and nutmeg.

Here's the Johnny Appleseed blessing that I learned as a kid at camp, which is actually a Swedenborgian hymn:

Oh the Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and the rain and the apple seed
Oh the Lord is good to me

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Two O'Clock Somewhere

Tony spent most of today working downstairs in his office. I felt sorry for him mid-afternoon because he was working so hard, and suggested a walk. He jumped at the chance, so we put on our shoes and went to Sonic Drive-In for Happy Hour.

There's a Sonic a half-mile from the house, so it wasn't a very long walk. It's the closest place to get fast food or a soft-serve dessert, but I've never been there for Happy Hour. Between 2:00 and 4:00 you can get soft drinks, slushes, limeades and iced tea for half price.

After perusing the menu, I ordered a large watermelon slush. It was only 90 cents, and I was all about getting the most for my money. My eyes (and budget) were bigger than my stomach, though. The large size was VERY big! I started out drinking it too fast and got a brain freeze.

We sat at a table for about a half hour, then decided to finish our drinks on the road, so I put the lids back on my cup and we started walking home. Unlike a normal happy hour, the only mind-altering chemical I had to worry about was sugar; I had a major rush!

Monday, March 9, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I grow a few vegetable plants every summer. In years past, my "garden" consisted of tomatoes (slicing, Roma, and grape) and peppers (green, red or yellow, and hot). Every few years I mix it up and add something else. One year it was zucchini, and last year eggplant. About six years ago I got really exotic and grew garlic. I also keep pots of chives, basil, oregano, and parsley on the deck so I can get to them easily when I'm cooking.

It's nice seeing the plants grow and harvesting the results of my work. I've been thinking about expanding my selection of plants, so today I planned a new vegetable garden.

I found a plethora of sources of information about garden planning; books from the library, magazine articles, and Google searches provided more information than I could ever possibly read. However, all of my sources agreed about a few things:
  • It's important to plant things that we actually like to eat.
  • I should organize the garden on paper first and
  • Plan on doing successive plantings of cool and warm season vegetables
The research suggested that a "small" garden would be 12 feet square. When I actually paced that off in the back yard, it seemed way too big; I don't want to spend the entire summer messing with plants! After some thought I decided to keep my plot in its current space, but triple it in size. That will minimize the amount of sod I have to remove and the amount of "West County clay" soil I have to improve. The rows will run north and south (east and west is generally considered more ideal) because of the slope of the yard. The plants I've grown there have traditionally gotten enough sun, though, so that shouldn't be a problem.

My plan is to start out the season with snow peas (growing up a trellis next to the deck) and lettuce. I may plant some carrots if the ground turns out not to be too rocky. After the weather warms up, the cool-weather veggies will come out and I'll add tomatoes, peppers, ONE zucchini plant, and perhaps an eggplant if they have them at the greenhouse. If the trellis turns out to be sturdy enough, I may try some beans.

I don't have to worry about Bambi lunching on the lettuce, but it's a yearly battle to keep the rabbits and squirrels from eating their fill, so there will be a fence around the whole thing!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I heard on the radio this morning that today is International Woman's Day, which is celebrated on March 8 every year. Since I knew nothing about it, today I researched International Woman's Day.

According to the United Nations:
International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.
International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900's. Its roots can be traced back to the struggles of women workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, to honor women's struggles for better working conditions and voting equality.

In 1975, during the International Women's Year, International Women's Day was given official recognition by the United Nations. The day is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. In addition, events are held all over the world.

The song "Bread and Roses" has become associated with International Women's Day. Bread symbolizes economic justice and roses represent quality of life. Here's an old clip of Joan Baez and her sister Mimi Farina singing it:

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Last year I got my knives professionally sharpened for the first time in many years. They worked so well I made a note on my calendar to have it done again this year. The reminder popped up today, and since the mid-70 degree forecast was 20 degrees higher than normal, it seemed like a great day to combine a bit of outdoor activity with my errand. Before Tony and I left the house, I printed out some information, and today I took a walking tour of The Hill neighborhood.

The Hill, which is situated close to the highest point in the city, is a St. Louis neighborhood known for its Italian heritage. A good chunk of the neighborhood's residents are still Italian. The fire hydrants are painted red, white, and green, the colors of the Italian flag. You can tell by looking at the well-kept houses and yards that the residents take a lot of pride in the area.

We used the tour as a starting point, since I've already been to many of the suggested stops:
  • J. Viviano and Sons Italian Grocery is a great place to buy olive oil, pasta, and spices.

  • Tony enjoys Shaw's Coffee, which is located right next to Viviano's.

  • The Missouri Baking Company has got the best Italian cookies, although their pastries are pretty good too!

  • Although you can get Volpi salami in most grocery stores, it's always a treat to get it from the original store.

  • I've passed St. Ambrose Catholic Church and the Italian Immigrants Statue many times, although I've never been inside the church.
However, there were a few places that were unfamiliar to me:
  • Girasole Italian Gifts and Imports was described as a good place for Italian products or a Hill souvenir.

  • Although I've had ravioli from Mama Toscano's Homemade Ravioli, I've never been in the store.

  • There are dozens of restaurants in the area, but I didn't know Eovaldi's Deli and Catering.

  • I was extremely surprised to read about the Baseball Hall of Fame Place (an honorary block of Elizabeth Avenue where Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up, and broadcaster Jack Buck bought the first home for his family) and the Soccer Hall of Fame Place (where five of the 1950 US World Cup soccer team that upset England lived).
Tony and I decided to park the car close to the cutlery store and ramble around. We walked on many of the major streets, but also walked up and down several of the residential blocks. There is a wide variety of housing types on the Hill. Bungalows are mixed with shotgun-style and traditional red brick. Some houses were obviously newly-built; although most of the new architecture fit into the area, there were also a couple of McMansions that really stuck out.

Taking our cue from the walking tour, we ate lunch at Eovaldi's Deli. There were only a couple of tables to sit at, but it didn't matter. The service was friendly, our sandwiches were excellent, and the homemade beef-barley soup was wonderful! We passed on dessert, but couldn't leave the Hill area without something sweet. Before we picked up the newly-sharpened knives, we stopped in Vitale's Bakery for some cannoli to take home.

You can be sure my calendar is updated to remind me of knife-sharpening time next year!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cover Construction

I totally stole this idea from Jen Mac of In the New.

Did you know there are Random Album Cover groups on Facebook? I didn't. The idea is to make a picture of something completely random with a combination of nonsensical words, phrases or names overlaid on it. To make a random album cover:
1 - Go to "Wikipedia." Hit “random... Read More”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. (My word, Klęcinko, is the name of a village in northern Poland.)

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album. (I actually liked the entire quote I was given..."If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others", by Tryon Edwards.)

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. (After a couple of clicks, I found out that my picture was taken by Bartek Kuzia. However, I changed the aspect ratio to make mine square like an album cover, so it became a bit unproportional. The original photo is much nicer.)

4 - Use Photoshop or a similar program to put it all together. (I don't have a good graphics editing program on my computer, so I used a combination of Word and Paint to produce my cover. That led to some interesting changes in the photo's look.)
My cover:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Out On The Town

There are many music venues in the St. Louis area I haven't been to before. After last night, I can cross BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups off the list.

According to their Website, the building that houses BBs was originally constructed in the mid 1800's. A three-story addition was added at the turn of the century. Since then, the location has been used as a home, boarding house, reception hall, mercantile, millinery, transient hotel, bar, diner, and a House of Ill Repute. The club has won the Riverfront Times award for Best Blues Club multiple times. In addition to being a great place to hear live music, BB's is also known for their food; they received the Best of Food Network in 2005.

Tonight's musical act was Harper. Tony got us added to the guest list, and I was excited to go. However, the band didn't start playing till 9:30PM. Some nights I'm heading to bed by then! An afternoon nap and a large cup of coffee after dinner took care of that, and we headed out the door about 8:00 to drive downtown.

It wasn't hard to find a place to park on a Wednesday night. Since we arrived early for the show, only half the tables were taken, and we had our choice of seats. We had long since eaten dinner, but had to sample some of BBs cuisine. Our waiter pointed out some of his favorites, and we decided to split a catfish po-boy. The kitchen was nice enough to divide it up and serve it on two plates; each plate had the full compliment of lettuce, tomato, tartar sauce, and angry hushpuppies (with jalapenos and onions). It was great!

After our snack we sat back and waited for the music to start. It was worth the wait! Harper is from Australia, although he now lives in the States, and writes many of his songs. His singing was smooth and soulful. He's an amazing harmonica player, and also incorporated a didgeridoo (in honor of his Australian indigenous culture) into many of the songs. The music was a combination of rock, blues, soul, and world music.

Although the band was playing till 1:00, we couldn't make it that long. Partway though the second set I started yawning, so we settled up our tab and left. However, I suspect it won't be the last time I'm at BBs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Square Business

Today we're celebrating Square Root Day.

On Square Root Day, the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits in the current year. (For example, today's date is 3/3/09; 3 is the square root of 9).

According to Wikipedia, a Redwood City, California high school teacher named Ron Gordon first created the day for 9/9/81. Square Root Days occur nine times each century. The last day was five years ago, Feb. 2, 2004; the next is seven years from now, on April 4, 2016.

To celebrate Square Root Day, you could:
  • Eat a square meal
  • Drink root beer out of square-shaped mugs
  • Tie square knots
  • Cut root vegetables into cubes (a square on all sides)
  • Go square dancing
For dinner tonight I'm cooking cube steaks, and serving them with cubed carrots (but I'm adding onions and potatoes, which aren't true roots). If we're still hungry after dinner, I believe we'll be going for root beer floats.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Taking Inventory

Tony attended a business networking meeting today. When he got home he told me that instead of the usual single speaker, today they had two. The second was Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D, who's developing a new career assessment called the ReCareering Success Inventory (RSI). The inventory is almost finished; it's in the process of being statistically normed, and Dr. Johnson was looking for volunteers to help by completing the inventory online. Tony said that anyone could take the assessment so today I took a career assessment that's still in the process of being developed.

According to Dr. Johnson, ReCareer is:
Personally authentic work that feeds your mind, your heart, and your soul, that is either discovered or re-discovered after a previous career. ReCareer Seekers want...
  • Something deeper out of life
  • More purposeful work
  • More personal meaning
  • Their work efforts to align with their personality more closely
  • Their work to be more "on target" with their life
The assessment was easy to complete. It had 120 questions, and only took about 20 minutes. The first half asked questions about things that people who are engaged in a recareer search need to do; the second half asked about my recareer search. My answers to the questions will point out my areas of strength and uncover any areas that might require further strengthening.

The results won't be available for a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how I did.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trillion Dollar Question

Every time I open the newspaper or turn on the TV, there's another story about massive amounts of money. Last week President Obama proposed a budget for fiscal year 2010 of nearly nearly $3.6 trillion.

I know a trillion is a huge number, but just how huge? Today I did some research to try to get my mind around how big a trillion is.
  • According to the orders of magnitude, a trillion is 1012, or 10 with 12 zeroes after it
  • It's a million millions
  • The MegaPenny Project made a cube of pennies (but had to use 1,000,000,016,640 to even things out). The cube measures 273 x 273 x 273 feet, and weighs 3,125,000 tons
  • One trillion dollars could buy every person living in America 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies (I'd go for the Thin Mints!)
  • A trillion seconds is 32,000 years
  • One trillion dollar bills stacked one on top of the other would reach almost 68,000 miles into the sky, or about a third of the way from the Earth to the moon
  • If you were given one dollar every second, it would take 317 centuries (31,700 years) to reach one trillion
  • One trillion ounces is 83 million cans of soda