* No, you cannot.
* No, you cannot.
Once that's done, though, I have an actual book to read: The Cuckoo's Calling, the detective novel J. K. Rowling wrote under a pseudonym. I didn't have to wait very long for the copy I placed on hold to arrive, because I cleverly placed a hold for a large-print edition instead of the, ah, regular-print. The only downside for me is that the large-print edition wasn't published until after Rowling was revealed to be the author, so the author's blurb on the back flap is about her. I would have liked to see what it had to say about "Robert Galbraith." One could also consider the fact that I'm keeping a large-print copy of the book out of the hands of someone with bad eyesight who might actually need a large-print copy to be a downside.
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UPDATE! This week is shaping up to be less busy churchwise than last, at least in terms of actually having to go to there. I was there on Sunday, of course, and much earlier than usual too since the bell choir played that day, and I'll be there on Thursday for choir rehearsal, and twice on Friday, in the morning for the memorial service of a longtime choir member and in the evening for English Conversation Time, and on Saturday for the orchestra rehearsal for the Vivaldi Gloria, which the choir will sing in worship next Sunday ... hm, that's five visits in one calendar week versus six last week, so not really that much less busy. Especially since I had to do a bit of work coordinating volunteers to help prepare and serve a meal following the aforementioned memorial service. Nothing too strenuous, mind you -- I talked to the widow on the phone, sent a bunch of emails, and created a Doodle poll to track signups -- but it adds up.
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UPDATE! I've made my initial visit to healthcare.gov. The whole thing was pretty painless, once I was actually allowed to create my account. The first three times I tried, I was told my account couldn't be created because of an error, but the exact nature of the error was not specified. The site suggested some things I might have done wrong, but the actual problem -- I had chosen a password that contained an invalid character, which I confess was completely my faultfor not reading the instructions more carefully -- was not among the suggestions.
This was aggravating in two ways. First, it would have been super easy for the coders to build a password verifier into the form. And in fact, they did just that in the form entry for the user ID; if you chose a user name that didn't contain both letters and numbers, it refused to let you proceed until you did. Second, each time the account creation process failed, I was taken all the way back to the beginning. I had to re-enter my name, used ID, password, and choose three security questions. Thanks, Obama!
Once I created my account, however, it couldn't have gone more smoothly. I found several plans that offer good coverage and are affordable even on my limited income. I have to look at all the options in more detail, but I anticipate being able to make my choice and pay the first month's premium in time for my coverage to be in effect on January 1, 2014. Thanks, Obama!
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UPDATE! I came from from Pres House last Sunday with a ton of leftover taco meat, so I tried a variation on the chicken Divan recipe using diced tomatoes, taco meat, cheese soup, and crushed nacho tortilla chips. As a casserole, it was a failure; the soup was not an effective binder. But as a nacho topping, I think it would be pretty successful. I'll need to pick up some tortilla chips to know for sure though.
Images via Tumblr
I just rewatched this Community episode -- 1x12, "Comparative Religion" -- last week. It's a great episode; the scene where Troy and Pierce try to teach Jeff how to fight is one of the funniest sequences of the first season, and the battle at the end between the study group and the fly-dancing bullies is wonderfully silly.
That second scene is set is set outdoors and is scored to the song "Kiss With a Fist" by Florence + the Machine, and when I watched it I was reminded me of how much more money COmmunity had during its first season than in the subsequent one. During the first season, they shot on location frequently and many episodes had commercial music on the score, including one -- the piano coda from "Layla" in "Contemporary American Poultry" -- that must have cost a fortune. By the second season, location shooting had all but vanished (except for one trip to the Universal backlot for the clip show) and Dan Harmon was paying for the rights to use Sara Bareilles's "Gravity" in the episode "Paradigms of Human Memory" out of his own pocket. Season three, they never left the studio and I can only remember three or four commercial songs all season, and in season four there weren't not even that many.
Earlier this year, I watched all four seasons of My Name Is Earl, and I couldn't help but be struck by the contrast between that show and Community in terms of their budget for exterior shots and especially for the music. Almost every episode featured multiple scenes shot outdoors, and the music ... man, the music. Earl routinely had music by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Marley, and The Eagles, among many others. Even in Community's first season, when commercial music was common, you rarely heard anything by acts as popular or well known as what you heard in the fourth season of Earl. Nothing against the Fratellis or Matt & Kim, but they're not exactly Queen or the Doobie Brothers. Sure, the second season Community episode "Epidemiology" had all those Abba songs, but according to the commentary track, that one episode ate up the music budget for the entire season.
Not that I should be surprised. Community's ratings have never been good, and it's kind of miraculous that it was ever renewed at all, much less four times, and I'd rather have the limited budget that Sony gives them go to the actors and writers than to rock stars. Nevertheless, it's grating.
Not everyone needs or wants a teddy bear, of course, so in our store (and in the other Madison stores, and the one in Minnesota that's owned by the same franchisee), we suggest to customers that if they don't want the bear for themselves, we can donate it to Toys For Tots on their behalf. This policy of enlightened self-interest has led to us selling a fair few bears this season.
At first, we just put the donated bears in a bin behind the register, ans boxing them up and moving them to the storeroom as needed. Then one day when I was working at the kiosk, a pair of Marines came by and dropped off an official donation bin, which I assembled and placed near the register. As the shift progressed, I noticed people looking into the box as they walked past, so to give those people something to look at, I went down to the inline store, retrieved a box of donated bears, and dumped them into the new bin. And as more bears were sold, we put them directly into the bins.
I bring this up today because I worked at the kiosk this afternoon, and when I glanced into the Toys For Tots bin I noticed that in addition to the bears we sell, there were quite a few other toys in there, many of which were not products we carry. Meanwhile, the donation bin in front of the jeweler across the hall from the kiosk is completely empty, and I think putting our donated bears in there is what makes the differnce. It's like a busker putting some money in his guitar case, or the pianist at the piano bar seeding her tip jar. People are more likely to do something if they think other people are doing it too -- it's routine at the sandwich shop for people to ask what the most popular sandwiches are and then order one of them -- so maybe when people see the toys in our box, they're inspired to add something themselves.
Or maybe it's just because the jeweler's bin is agaist the wall outside their store, and ours is literally in the middle of the corridor. Maybe I'll move some of the toys from our bin over there to see if it makes a difference.
- Sun, 20:23: Cookies http://t.co/lm67RU4n4V
- Mon, 08:54: Had to trudge through two stretches of uncleared sidewalks on the way to the bus this morning. Bad show, neighbors!
- Mon, 08:59: I cleared my walk last night. It was super easy; the snow was so light & dry I could've used a broom if there'd been a little less of it.
- Mon, 09:00: Or if I had a bigger broom, I suppose.
In addition to the ones I took home with me, I also ate more than a few there on site, including one I decorated myself:
My friend Greg suggested that decorating cookies was an activity intended for the children in attendance, but nuts to that.
Many of the guests, myself and the aforementioned Greg included, were City of Madison election officials, so much of the conversation revolved around elections: how bored we'd all been this year with only two elections to administer; the new tabulators recently purchased by the city that will be used for the first time in the February 2014 election; and the proposed changes to how write-in votes are tabulated, to name but three. One wonders what the people who weren't election officials thought of finding themselves in the midst of such a large number of election nerds.
Here are some ways I might have described the weather today, were I still in college:
- Butt cold
- Ochen cold
- Colder than a witch's tit
I was introduced to using "butt" as an all-purpose intensifier by my college pal Dick Z., who lived in the room next to me. His reasoning was that if "butt" could be used to mean "very" in the phrase "butt ugly," then it could serve the same purpose for any word. Being freshmen boys, we embraced this logic wholeheartedly. Ochen is the Russian word for "very," and since one of our circle of friends was a Russian major, that worked its way into our vocabulary as well. As for the third, Erik B. introduced us to that one, which apparently was something people said up in his hometown in northern Wisconson. (In a similar vein, he also introduced us to a similarly colorful weather-related phrase: "pissing like a big dog," used to describe a heavy rainfall.
Anyway, the point is that it was cold today. When I left the house this morning, the official temperature in Madison was 2° F. By the time I left for the Christmas open house I attended this afternoon, it had soared to 13°, and when I left there an hour later to go to work, we'd reached our high for the day, 15°. It's back down into the single digits now. Tomorrow will be comparatively balmy, with a projected high of 26° -- but it will also start snowing. They're forecasting up to 2 inches before the day is through. Could cause some commuting problems Monday morning, but I don't work until 2:00 p.m. so I hope it won't affect me.
It was also very cold yesterday, which wasn't any fun for me but was a whole lot less fun for some people I met at English Conversation Time last night. They had walked to the church from Capitol Square, a short (less than a mile) and pleasant walk on a warm sunny day but not so much after dark in 10° weather. Making it all the worse for them was that they were all Burkinabé, which is to say natives of Burkina Faso, a primarily tropical country in west Africa. Luckily for them, they ended up getting rides home afterward. As did I, thankfully.
This isn't the calendar job, by the way. It's my other job, at a sandwich shop. I'll bet most of you didn't know I worked at a sandwich shop! Well, I do. I left my job with the university many months ago because it was making me unhappy and my unhappiness was affecting my performance and my declining performance was making me more unhappy and so on in a vicious cycle. I told very few people I'd left that job, because I was embarrassed at having crashed and burned in it, but recently I've started opening up about it more.
Anyway, like Arthur Dent in Mostly Harmless, I make sandwiches now. I also slice meats and cheese, wash dishes, run the cash register, and one time I made a delivery. (The driver was out and it was only four blocks away, so I walked it over.) Between it and the calendar job, I easily cover my expenses, and the fact of the matter is that I'm better at and happier in transactional customer service jobs than at office jobs.
Meanwhile, the now-partial day off is going well. I slept in a bit and ran an errand or two. I've just now realized I won't be going to the hockey game, because I forgot to bring the ticket (note to self: put tickets for Sunday's game in my wallet when I get home tonight), but that's OK; I've still got those emails to catch up on and the health care website to visit, and the game would have interfered with that, so it's all good!
Friday will also be the sixth day in a row that I've spent an hour or more at the church:
Sunday: Worship service
Monday: Connections Commission meeting
Tuesday: Deacons potluck
Wednesday: Advent meal and Vespers service
Thursday: Bell and Chancel Choir rehearsal
Friday: English Conversation Time
As yet, I have no reason to be at the church on Saturday. I might ride past it on the bus, though.
What I do have on Saturday, other than working at the mall, is a Christmas party. The Madison City Clerk is having her annual Christmas open house. She and her daughter spend most of the month of November making and freezing various kinds of cookie dough and most of the week before the party baking. Guests are encouraged to bring tins or containers and take home as many different kinds of cookies -- I think the invitation said she'd have about 90 different types this year -- as they can carry. Yum!
Sunday it's back to church, of course, and after that my sister and I are going to a hockey game together. Fun!
Speaking of church responsibilities, last night was the Deacons' annual December potluck, which meant I had to prepare a dish to pass after work last night. I had mentioned to my sister when I was at her house on Thanksgiving that I needed to think of something to prepare for the potluck, and she suggested I make the chicken Divan recipe that her husband had made the first time he cooked for her when they were dating. I looked over the recipe and decided to looked tasty, and more importantly easy, so I gave it a try.
Chicken Divan a la Jim
- 10 oz. package frozen broccoli
- 1 cup cooked chopped chicken
- 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
- ½ cup. mayonnaise
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 oz. shredded cheese
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp. melted butter
Prepare broccoli according to directions on package and place in bottom of a casserole dish. Layer cooked chicken over broccoli. Combine soup, mayonnaise, and lemon juice, and pour over chicken. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Combine the bread crumbs and melted butter, and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes. Serves 4.
I made a few adjustments to the recipe. I used winter vegetable mix (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) instead of just broccoli, because I had an extra package of the former in my freezer already, and cream of broccoli instead of cream of chicken for the same reason, except in the cupboard instead of the freezer. Also, I roughly doubled the recipe, mostly because I was cooking for more than two people, but also because the recipe as written would be too small for my small casserole dish. (I say "roughly" because I used a 16 oz. bag of vegetables, not 20 oz. Also, I may have used slightly more than 2 cups of cooked chicken; I started with a pound of uncooked chicken.) Everyone seemed to like it, so I'd say the adjustments worked, or at least did no harm. I call that a success.
I'm already experiencing one of my classic reactions to stress: I only want to read fanfic. I've revisted a number of my favorite Harry Potter fics, and a quick look at ff.n earlier revealed a bunch of Harry/Susan Bones fics I haven't read. That and the no doubt huge number of Jeff/Annie fics that have been written since my last fic-reading binge should get me throuh the end of the year, when I expect things to settle down.
I also intend to listen to this song, often and loudly. It has a strange power to strengthen my spirit.