Friday, February 22, 2008

Entertain Yourself

Two online video series I really enjoy, for your entertainment:

First, You Suck at Photoshop. The premise is a guy named Donny giving Photoshop tutorials, but Donny's homelife is falling apart, and that continually breaks into the tutorials. It's like a very dark sitcom, very funny. First episode. (From there you can find the rest.)

Second, Calls for Cthulhu. The premise here is a hand-puppet Cthulhu with a late-night call-in talk show. You really just need to watch it to get it. Hysterical. Episodes here, in reverse order, so scroll all the way down to start.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Eco Woah!

We got a lower-flow showerhead a couple months ago, 1.6 gpm down from 2.5 gpm. Just a basic dealie I picked up for about $12 at Lowe's, off the shelf, not anything special, expensive, and super-high-tech from a "green" catalog or website. It's aerating, so the spray is actually more forceful than it was with the existing 2.5 gpm showerhead. (My only complaint is that I think it actually makes the bathroom too steamy, because the aeration seems to make it mistier faster. My husband thinks this is crazy talk and there's no such thing as too-steamy a bathroom in the winter. I also could use an adjustable spray pattern but you don't get adjustable spray patterns for $12 --I can always upgrade.)

Anyway, we got our first full-month bill with the new showerhead, and I can confidently attribute about a 1500-gallon drop in our use to the new showerhead, which makes my water bill way more attractive, even after the City of Peoria charges me for garbage on my water bill because the city council lacks the balls to call it a "tax" instead of a "fee." Just sayin'.

Just wait until I get those high-tech low-flow dual-flush toilets!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just News

I know I haven't been blogtastic of late, because I've been soooooo busy teaching, with four all-different classes, two of which I've never taught before, so that's a lot of prep. I think things will actually be SLOWER when I'm into the part of the semester where I do nothing but grade papers. But to update generally:

*Residential Wiring is going well. I wired up my first circuit on Saturday, a lightbulb controlled by two switches. It worked! (Fiat lux, baby!) What sort-of amuses me about the class is that I don't think I've gotten so much praise for being minimally competent or downright mediocre since I was about EIGHT. I don't know if it's that I'm the only girl in a class with 19 boys, or if it's that virtually everyone but me has experience in the construction trades and so don't think the instructor is speaking in a heretofore undiscovered form of gibberish, but whenever I accomplish a minor task, my instructor praises me to high heaven and is all delighted that I managed to TWIST TWO WIRES TOGETHER AND PUT A HAT ON THEM.

(On second thought, perhaps the fact that I call it a "hat" gives him ample reason for joy when I don't cause things to actively light on fire.)

I've been accustomed to being in high-achieving academic situations since grade school, so I'm really not used to getting praised for being at the bottom of the class and managing to finish the assignments. He's all, "You're doing so well! I'm so impressed! You wired that up just right!"

*Took students on a field trip today to the Hindu Temple just off Farmington to observe a puja ritual as part of our Hinduism unit. It's really a spectacular building; you're missing something if you haven't been. (They also serve lunch on Saturdays and Sundays which is also REALLY GOOD.) It's in this weird little neighborhood where there's a quonset hut with three dormers and vinyl siding, and a house with a roof at like an 85-degree angle pitch. You follow the road to where you THINK it should dead end, and suddenly it turns and - bam - there's this Hindu temple right there.

*Working on a new web project I hope to launch before too much longer. This, of course, is contingent upon me having time to work on anything but work. But early-semester office hours are always excruciatingly dull since you have nothing to grade yet and no students want to see you yet, so I have ample quality time with a computer that basically browses the web (using IE, it's like living in the dark ages of 2002, I swear) and nothing else.

*Cleaned my computer. Actually decided to clean the cat hair out of the keyboard instead of just air dusting it and shaking out the crumbs. Turns out the cat hair was the only thing holding the keyboard (which is older than my marriage, so about 6) together, and once I got the cat hair out, it quit working. Since my equally-geriatric mouse hasn't worked properly in ages, I gave in and bought new ones. So, yay, I'm wireless!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Memo to Metereological Processes: ENOUGH WITH THE SNOW

As if yesterday's heart-attack snow (if you look in the dictionary under "heart-attack snow," there's a picture of yesterday's snow fall, because it was absolutely paradigmatic heart-attack snow, and a bitch to shovel) weren't enough, my garage door is frozen shut. Which may or may not be a slight improvement over yesterday, when it froze OPEN while it was snowing, thus rendering the garage useless for all its "keep snow off things" tasks. It's been freezing a lot this winter, and it typically makes up its mind after a few hours (or once a couple days, luckily frozen open) that it'll start opening and closing again. But I am very inconveniently stuck at home during the Pucks and the PlayHouse press conference. (Follow the link, buy tickets, it's going to rock.)

It will become spectacularly inconvenient (paradigmatically inconvenient?) if I'm still stuck tonight when I have to go teach.

Also I am out of butter and would really like to buy some now that I have this nice new stove for baking things in. But, again, garage frozen shut.

I am starting to share East Bluff Barbie's feelings about winter. (crude gesture, limitedly SFW)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Voter Mini-Fraud

Really it's more incompetence than fraud, but it's a problem in either case.

When I received my ballot, I was given a federal-only ballot, and the poll workers didn't seem to know what to do about that to fix it (although I was not very aggressive; they were struggling to work the computer properly, the polling place was surprisingly busy, and most poll workers were elderly). The system also made it difficult to tell that I'd received the incorrect ballot until the end of voting, since it leads you through one race at a time and doesn't give you an "overview" of your ballot before you begin.

In any case, I was improperly only "allowed" to vote federal races, and was not given a ballot with state or local races.

The Peoria Election Commission, when I called, informed me that the federal-only is for special cases where people have moved precincts within the last 30 days (I, obviously, have not) and that it was poll worker error that I was given the incorrect ballot. They also told me this was a SYSTEM-WIDE PROBLEM that they've had many calls about today, and have workers out trying to "fix" the poll worker error on the fly.

I asked what would happen in the case of a close race where many people were not allowed to vote in the races in question; the PEC didn't have an answer, but guessed that if the candidates challenged it would go before a judge.

I realize this is not directly attributable to the computer, but rather to users struggling to USE an ill-designed, opaque computer system (one that is also hackable and makes recounts virtually impossible).

Can we PLEASE go back to voting with pencil on paper now, like most other civilized democracies?

PS -- the machine does print out your votes, after you hit the button, on the little roll of paper for you to verify (of course, if it shows something wrong, you can't do anything about it), but the polling station was SO dark and the print was SO tiny I couldn't read it at all, and my eyes are 20/25 and 20/40.

UPDATE: I did a recorded interview for WEEK news at 6 p.m., just a quick couple of questions.

Never Have I Ever ...

Voted in a primary before. (Mostly because I've always been registered in Illinois but I spent 8 years out of state and absentee voting for a primary where the majority of the races are uncontested is a PITA for very little return -- and a bigger PITA before all these motor voter and early voter programs when getting an absentee ballot was like pulling teeth. An angry alligator's teeth.)

But today I'll be heading out to my polling station and voting in my first primary. I've been waffling over what ballot to draw (I'm not registered in either party, and Illinois is an open primary), because I think the GOP Congressional primary for the 18th district is important (and there's a distinct possibility the primary will decide the race), but I believe I'll draw a democratic ballot, as I'm also deeply interested in the 92nd district statehouse race on the Democrat side.

So you can consider this my official endorsement for Allen Mayer.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Somehow it remains just as exciting as when I was little.

Mr. McGee measured about 6" or 6.5" with a yardstick, but blowing makes it so hard to tell, and I haven't caught the "official" accumulation yet.