December 30, 2008

Petey and the Bird

I made another YouTube video of Petey, this time him playing with a toy bird on a string. Terrifically boring to most of you, I'll admit, but it's fun having a little one around again. (And NO, this is not a sublimated baby wish. I commented to the Snook this morning that while Petey is fun, entertaining him is also a lot of WORK and I'm grateful that we can lock him in the laundry at night and get some sleep.)
December 29, 2008

Cat Détente

So far so good...
A cautious Cat Détente seems to have been established in the Snook-Howard household. After sulking beneath the bed all day yesterday, Dr. Amy finally emerged to investigate the newcomer. They got within three feet of each other, with Amy hissing and trying to establish her dominance. Petey, to his credit, cowered and looked appropriately submissive. Amy then gave him the stink-eye and tried to look dignified as she stomped back to her sleeping place. And that's pretty much where they've left it, with thankfully no fighting whatsoever. Personally, I think "annoyed tolerance" counts as a huge WIN considering it's only Day 2. We're taking Petey to the vet tomorrow to get his microchip put in. (The vet recommends against giving him "the snip" until he's six months old, so he's got a temporary reprive on that.)
December 28, 2008

Introducing Professor Death!

As if one cat wasn't enough... we brought home "Petey" (aka "PD" aka "Professor Death") today. Yes, Snookums named him. He thinks "Dr. Jones and Professor Death" should be some kind of punk rock band.


We introduced him to Dr. Amy while he was still in the cat carrier. There was some interested sniffing on both parts before the inevitable hissing began. Since then he's been confined to the laundry room, where we've set up his bed, litterbox, scratching post, and food bowl. Amy's been sulking in the bedroom pretty much ever since. I talked to the vet this morning and she said it could take a couple weeks for them to get used to each other. (And if there are any bad issues, she can give us calming kitty pheromones to spray around the house.)

Miss Fee and the Sock Victim did a great job of socializing this little fella and his brothers for the past week. We were a little worried when we heard how smart Petey was. He managed to open their bathroom windows and escape multiple times! They warned that he was the most skittish too. Fortunately he seems to be warming up to us, and while he's in his safe room he's happy to have pats and scratches. (I made a video). My only worry is that he hasn't used the litter box yet, but he's been eating like a pig so I expect it's just the stress of the new place. Dr. Amy did pretty much the same thing when we moved last year. Wish us luck!

50 Kids Get a Wii for Christmas

50 Kids Get a Wii for Christmas. I know my ovaries are just supposed to shrivel up in the face of such hysteria and avarice, but I actually thought that was kind of sweet. I'm sure that if my parents had had a videocamera in 1983 when I got my Cabbage Patch kid I would've looked just like this. (Also, judging by the amount of wrapping paper and boxes in those living rooms: what economic crisis?!)
December 27, 2008


Me and Snookums at ???We're home! We made the trip back today in just over six hours. (There was a car accident that slowed the southbound traffic a little more than expected.) All up, I did nearly 800 miles of driving in the week! I've uploaded all our photos and videos, including our visit to Timbertown, our kisses from the dolphins at the Pet Porpoise Pool, and our lunch at the Pub With No Beer. (And ten points for anybody that guesses the background to this photo without clicking through to the caption. I've always wanted to stop there! UPDATE: Miss Fee correctly spotted that it was the big fake Uluru of the truck stop formerly known as Leyland Brothers World.) Many thanks to Ma and Pa Snook for putting us up for the week. And especially huge thanks to Miss Helen for housesitting and taking care of the cat. It's nice to be home...
December 26, 2008


Anybody up for going to the cricket next weekend? It appears there are still tickets available. Let me know and I'll organise it!
December 24, 2008

So far this week...

So far this week I've...
  • Driven about 500 miles
  • Picked strawberries from a roadside U-Pick stand
  • Learned to crack a whip from a real old-fashioned bullocky
  • Gotten kissed by a dolphin and a seal
  • Went fishing in the pouring rain in a tiny boat
  • Ate oysters raw straight out of the river
  • Finished Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Still on my To Do list: a visit to the Pub With No Beer!
December 22, 2008

A Holiday in the Bush

A Holiday in the Bush (Subtitled: Internet Withdrawal)
On Saturday the Snook and I made the six hour drive up to Eungai to visit the Snook homestead. It's gorgeous up here, and so far we've been doing a really good job of being completely lazy. We went for a walk. We've taken naps. We've watched native birds playing in a birdbath. We've got very little cell phone signal, and we haven't touched computers for 48 hours. (Yeah, I was starting to shake a bit.) Today we're going to Timbertown for a "fair dinkum day out." I can hardly wait!

If you don't hear from us before then, have a Merry Christmas everybody!
December 20, 2008

Modern Day Bushrangers

This morning the Snook and I both confessed a shameful admiration for the ATM bandits. They're just so crazy! For the past couple of months they've been blowing up ATMs with, like, compressed gas and making away with the cash. They haven't killed anybody yet, and the police seem nowhere near catching them. They're like modern bushrangers!
December 19, 2008

Garden Update

Garden Update
This cooler, wetter summer has been great for my veggie patch. You'll recall that we planted seedlings in October, which were coming along nicely in November. Now? It's like a jungle out there.

Garden - December 2008

I laid down weed matting last month, over which I put a layer of lucerne mulch. We've been keeping it well watered and fertilizing every Saturday. So far the only casualty has been my tiny pea plant, which suddenly stopped growing and withered away. (No idea why; maybe it didn't like the soil acidity or something?) Anyway, more pictures after the jump, including THE PUMPKINS THAT ATE CHIPPENDALE.

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Three little kittens...

Three little kittens... Yay! Miss Fee and the Sock Victim found three little kittens in their yard yesterday. They're thinking of keeping two, and we're thinking of finally getting Dr. Amy Jones a little brother. We're just waiting to hear back from the vet. (Being a responsible pet owner, Miss Fee is arranging to get them desexed, chipped, and vaccinated.)
December 18, 2008


NEW JOB! Just heard back from the interview I had yesterday... and I got it! Very similar job in a different company. I get to start on January 5, which means I've got a nice little bit of vacation time here. So if you crossed your fingers or put some positive vibes out into the universe for me, THANK YOU! It's such a relief. :)

Unemployment in Sydney

Unemployment in Sydney. Interestingly, the area where I live (the inner suburbs) has relatively low unemployment, whereas in the distant suburbs it's climbing. Presumably that has to do with the cost of living in the inner city. I guess if you can afford to live here at all, the chances are you're in a more stable industry and you can get rehired easily. Seems pretty pathetic to pin your optimism on some dubious government statistics, but I'll take it.
December 17, 2008

Official Tough Bloke Pictures

The Official Tough Bloke Challenge Pictures are now available! They had photographers on the course in certain spots, so if you wanted to see us on the actual obstacles, now you can. [Me / Rodd] I'll leave it up to Clare and Emily whether they want to share theirs with the whole Internets.

Snookums in the mud   Me in the mud

I told you it was muddy. (More after the jump...)

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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned in the Past 24 Hours
  1. If/when you get laid off, resist the urge to drown your sorrows for at least a few hours. Get to a computer, dust off your CV, and start sending emails.
  2. When you do go to drown your sorrows, get other people to pay. Note: Everybody is really, really nice to you when you've just been laid off.
  3. Always wait til the last minute to buy expensive hats and wigs for your company Christmas party, because if you buy them and get retrenched the very next day, inevitably the stupid shop will refuse to give you a refund. (Bastards.)
  4. Don't underestimate the power of spite. Get angry at the idiots who let you go. (Don't they know how awesome you are?!) Use that as motivation to get cracking right away.
  5. Don't be proud. Tell everyone you know that you're looking for work. You never know where a lead is going to come from.
  6. People are amazing. I had no idea how many folks would be willing to help me out, even "Internet-friends" that I've never met. (Sample email I received today: "You don't know me, but my wife knows you from some knitting site and said I should email you my company's open positions...") Maybe there's something to karma after all.
  7. I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful friends. When I moved here seven years ago, I didn't know anybody other than the Snook, his family, and a couple of his college buddies. The outpouring of support I've had in the past 24 hours has been really gratifying and humbling. Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you to those of you that poured sangria down my throat; thank you to those who sobered me up; thank you to those who sent job leads and tips; thank you to those who offered kind words and encouragement.
It'll be good. I actually had an interview today, about 25 hours after I got the axe (which must be some kind of record, right?). Regardless of whether it works out or not - pleasepleasepleaseplease - it was good to have some immediate positive reinforcement. Things aren't dire yet. The sun is still shining, and I've got a path ahead of me. It'll be good.
December 16, 2008

Laid off.

Laid off
Well, at least you can all officially say that you now know someone who was a victim of the economic down-turn. Anybody have any good job leads?

The Barefoot Contessa's Ultimate Ginger Cookies

The Barefoot Contessa's Ultimate Ginger Cookies

Ginger Cookies

I was flicking through my news feeds yesterday when this recipe started shouting at me. (No, really.) I've had some crystallized ginger in the pantry for ages, so I thought it might be a good way to use it up. Plus Rodd likes ginger a lot. I'm categorize myself as ginger-ambivalent, in that I like it as long as it's not too strong (when I tend to find it sort of medicinal). So I wasn't expecting to like these cookies. I WAS TOTALLY WRONG. I could tell as soon as I pulled them out of the oven that these were made of WIN. I handed one, still warm, over to the Snook. "These taste like Christmas!" he said. They sure do. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with all the spiciness and aroma of the best gingerbread you've ever had. Highly, highly recommended. (Recipe here. I substituted treacle for the molasses since I already had some in the cupboard.)

Didgeridoo infertility

Why the heck am I getting a Depo-Provera shot every three months when I could just play the didgeridoo? (Look, I'm all for respecting traditional culture. But I walked through Circular Quay Sunday morning and a crowd of tourists was gathered around a 12-year-old white girl playing a didge, and I didn't see any tribal leaders standing there cursing her to a life of barrenness. Leave Nicole alone.)
December 13, 2008

Tough Bloke Challenge 2008

Tough Bloke Challenge 2008
We picked up Clare and Emily this morning and headed to Cataract Scout Park near Campbelltown. The drive took about an hour, so we got there in plenty of time for the 10am start to the inaugural Tough Bloke Challenge. Six hundred athletes lined up to run 8km through the woods and thrash their way through a dozen or so obstacles. They sent us off in waves every minute for about two hours. I intended to try to carry my camera with me to record the fun, but about ten minutes before our start time I realized it was a bad idea. Why? Because the first finishers were coming through and I could see that they were COVERED IN MUD. Yikes. So the camera stayed behind while we headed out onto the course. Here are the all-important "before" and "after" shots. (Note the colour change of Clare's shirt!)

Before After

It was CRAZY. First of all, it was 33°C today! (That's about 90°F.) So stinkin' hot and windy. Snookums was nursing a slight hangover from his work Christmas party, and I was recovering from a week of stress and sleep deprivation. Needless to say, we weren't in top form. We took off at about 11:30am and started the 3km (about two miles) jog into the woods. Snookums and I dropped back early as Emily and Clare powered on ahead. Then we came to the obstacles. The first ones were easy, just climbing over and under stuff. Then came the dreaded monkey bars. Clare and Snookums made it across while Emily and I suffered ignominious drops into the muddy water. (We expected that.) We continued on over walls, hurdles, and bridges. Then we came to the first of the "surprise" obstacles: a 6-meter-long pit filled with mud with barbed wire strung above it. Folks, we had to crawl on our chests through that stuff. It was thick and cold and gloppy, and at one point my knees lost contact with the ground completely and all I could do was flail. For me, this was the hardest obstacle on the course. By the time Snookums finally hauled me out, we were both covered from head-to-toe with what felt like wet cement. And we were only halfway done! We shuffled onwards, squelching in our nasty shoes and trying to shake it off as best we could. We climbed more walls. We scrambled over piles of tires and walked across balance beams. We crawled through dank wet pipes and then army-crawled through a water pit. (That helped clean the mud off a little.) We swung on ropes off a platform and landed in the water. Eventually we came the final obstacle, a chain suspended between two platforms. The goal was to get across it by hanging upside-down with your hands and feet. (A Race Marshal told us that the First Aid people had been on permanent standby there all day.) I took one look and went, "Nuh-uh." So I left Snookums in the queue and headed to the finish line. Emily and Clare had beat us there and managed to get a photo of me coming up the home stretch. Then we went back to cheer on Snookums to the end. We all claimed our beers and burgers and sat down to share stories and nurse our wounds. (My injury tally: massive bruise on my left shoulder, bruise on my right tricep, scrapes on my forearms and knees, and a slight sunburn on the back of my legs.) It was a GREAT day! I'd really like to do it again next year with the goal of completing the obstacles I wasn't able to do. Any takers?

(Apologies for the weird green line on the right. That wasn't on the version I made, but YouTube somehow added it when I uploaded.)

Dead Air.

Dead Air.
So... not a lot of posting around here this week, huh? Sorry about that. It just turned into this Perfect Storm of non-posting conditions. Work was busy, life was busy, and there's the added pressure of trying to finish everything off before the holidays. I also spent a couple nights helping the Morris and Sons crowd set up for their Christmas Sale (which starts today!). And on top of it all, I really just couldn't find anything worth posting. Eh, that's the way it goes.

But not today! In an hour we're heading out for the Tough Bloke Challenge, an event which promises a big, long, hilarious, MUDDY post later this evening. (That's assuming that I'm not still hanging on the monkey bars like George Michael eight hours from now.) Wish us luck!
December 9, 2008

Another Idol sighting!

I had another Australian Idol sighting tonight! I walked home via Darling Harbour and noticed a big crowd of funny looking people standing around. There didn't seem to be a red carpet, but I did see some bikini babes standing in front of a Musicoz sign. (I Googled it and discovered that it's an awards show for indie artists. Which explains why they were all funny lookin'.) As I wove through the crowd, I suddenly realized I was walking right past Brianna Carpenter, who was famously called out last season for being out of tune when she was actually deaf in one ear. As you might expect, she looked like a kooky refugee from Newtown. I wonder if she won?
December 8, 2008

Back in the city

Back in the city and it feels so good!
Today's the first day at our new office location near Wynyard. As I don't need to take the train anymore, Snookums and I can commute together in the mornings again! It was spitting rain today so we decided to take the bus. It only took, like, ten minutes to get here. (Granted, the traffic was oddly light today.) We're in a really cool old heritage building with high ceilings and hardwood floors. The old bits near the bathrooms and the stairwells are tiled in that old-fashioned way that always reminds me of railway stations and elementary schools. My desk faces across the little park at Wynyard, and I have giant windows in front of me that let me look over the city skyline. (Hm. I just discovered the problem with big windows: the sun shines in my eyes! Time to lower the shade.) Of course, there's still a lot of work to be done and the dust isn't helping my allergies. I managed to get my computer set up though, and the Internet seems to be working at the moment. I can't wait to hit Chop Chop at lunch...
December 7, 2008

Guild Website Survey

Guild Website Survey
For any NSW knitters who didn't see it on Ravelry, the official Guild Website Survey is now available. I'm happy to build in whatever people want, but we need to convince the folks in charge that members will actually use it.

And for any software nerds who are interested, the survey runs on some free PHP-based software called Ask People. It's not the fanciest thing in the world, but it was quick to set up and it does the job well. So far I'm recommending it...
December 6, 2008

Here it goes again!

Probably not news to some of you, but I just discovered that Notre Dame's Marching Band performed OKGO's "Here It Goes, Again" at the USC game this year. You remember the video, right, with the dancers on treadmills? Be sure and watch the formations.

That is AWESOME. As students we all used to go nuts whenever they'd do a number that required a bunch of them to put down their instruments and dance. Combining that with the actual dance from the video AND making the giant characters move back and forth on their treadmills? GREATEST THING EVER. (Link courtesy of Peter Sagal, who calls it "the highest accomplishment of human culture to date".)


My sister used the term "twi-hards" in an email recounting her viewing of Twilight last week, and I nearly pissed myself laughing at the neologism. I thought she invented it. Turns out that the fans are actually using it themselves (along with "fanpires"). Suddenly it's less funny.

32cm Soft Serve?

Holy crap! Smile Korea Mart on George Street sells a 32cm soft serve ice cream cone. (That's a FOOT-LONG to those of you on the old system.) I think I might have to come home via the city tonight...

Edited to add: OH, I DID IT!

Footlong soft serve

My friend Nina and I couldn't resist. Guess how much for this monstrosity? $2.70. THAT'S NOTHIN'. The little girl at the stand was amused by our enthusiasm. "We saw you on the Internet today," we said. I got the chocolate/strawberry twist. I ended up with it all over my shirt. It was so very, very worth it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dave.

My sister sent me a link to this news story about President Bush phoning a dozen servicemen in Iraq to wish them each a happy Thanksgiving. One of them was Dave Mickem, who was in my class in high school. I had no idea he was over there. (Upon second thought though, I seem to remember him saying something about joining the Army.) Anyway, best wishes and stay safe, Dave.
December 3, 2008

Bulgarians are cool.

Note to self: When a Bulgarian invites you out to beer, you say YES! The highlight of my night: "The guy who invented Tetris? I knew him." NO. WAY. In my world, that's like saying you knew Edison or Tesla.

Ebert Rants

Roger Ebert rants about Ben Stein's stupid "Intelligent Design" documentary. I especially like the newspaper cartoon he reprints at the bottom. Has anyone else noticed that Ebert's output has become increasingly erratic - and AWESOME - this year? I especially liked the really long ode to his rice cooker. He's really getting into the blogging since the TV show ended.

Indian Food

Curries = good
I went out for Indian food last night with some of my co-workers. Yum! I went for the "Royal Feast," which doesn't appear to be on the website menu. There was chicken tikka, seekh kebab, vegetable samosas, onion pakoras, then a giant plate of lamb Biryani Hyderabadi. (I ended up taking half of it home for the Snook.) Then I had two little delicious goulab jamun for dessert.

Today I just found out that one of my Indian co-workers' wives maintains an Indian recipe blog. Neat!
December 2, 2008

I see London, I see France...

I see London, I see France...
The sun was shining this morning so I happily resolved to finally wear my pretty new sundress to work. I put it on and twirled before the mirror--and suddenly realized there was a slight problem. The dress was thinner than I thought, and my legs were glaring through just like Princess Diana's. Oops! And truth be told - this will horrify my Grandmother - I don't actually own any slips anymore. So the dress went back into the closet until I can procure some proper undergarments. I'm glad I caught it before I left the house!

Bret the Elf

We were idly watching The Return of the King yesterday while doing other things - me, knitting; Rodd, gaming - when I had a jolt of recognition. "Wait! Stop! Rewind!" I said. "That elf... looks strangely familiar." We watched the sequence again. "Is that Bret from Flight of the Conchords??" It was! It's the bit where Arwen is leaving for the Grey Havens and has a vision of her and Aragorn's child. Bret's the Elf Escort who tries to get her moving again. I am oddly proud of having noticed that.