Friday, December 30, 2005

Blog? What Blog? You Mean I Have a Blog?

OK, so I've been lazy. I can't believe I haven't posted anything since November 26!

It is ironic when I think about starting this blog. Laura thought the whole thing was kinda weird. Then she created hers a few months later and has been so much better than me about staying updated!

Anyway, too much has happened since November for me to recount it in detail here. The summary:

Dec. 5: Went cross-country skiing in Pattee Canyon, I think maybe a week or so after the walk I described in my last post. It was a "demo day" with a local shop called The Trailhead, so I got to try out different skis for free.

Dec. 11: I couldn't convince Laura to try skiing with me, so instead we tried snowshoeing instead. We both had a great time. We initially went on rented snowshoes (again, from the Trailhead), and liked it so much we bought our own. Alas, we've been unable to go again since then. A few pictures here.

Dec. 14: Stayed out way too late the night before we were to have the walkthrough on the new house.

Dec. 15: Closed on the new house, but did not officially own it until about five days later. We did, however, start moving in the next day (Dec. 16). Apparently there were some issues holding up the actual funding of the loan and so forth. Went shopping and ordered a new dining room table, sofa, and end tables from the Ashley Furniture store here in Missoula.

Dec. 16: Rented a Uhaul and moved most of the big stuff from the rental to the new house. Also moved some little stuff, like the cable modem and router. To a house with no cable connection yet. This was the start of nearly a week without online access. At this point, I had a good excuse for not blogging!

Dec. 17: Mayflower delivered our stuff out of storage. Finally! Some of these boxes were packed LAST SPRING when we were decluttering the old house to go on the market.

Dec. 18-19: Unpacked, tried to organize my new office as usable as possible.

Dec. 20: Went to post office to get keys to the mailbox. Note to self: five days before Christmas is a terrible time to go to the post office for any reason.

Dec. 20: Went back to work (telecommuting)...with no internet access. No e-mail. Discovered that the post office keys didn't work either, so no snail mail. I've never felt so cut off from civilization in my life!

Dec. 20-22: Drank a lot of lattes at the nearby Barnes & Noble Cafe, using their wireless internet access.

Dec. 22: Bresnan finally got around to transferring our cable TV and internet to the new place. Got back online right around the time many of my co-workers back in Illinois were taking off for the holidays.

Dec. 23: Laura called the post office and was told they switch out the locks on Tuesdays and Fridays. Assumed I got the keys to late on Monday to get on the schedule. Someone from the post office came over and opened the box so we could get a week's worth of mail.

Dec. 24-25: Went to see the in-laws in Bozeman. Had a nice time, but Laura's mom was very obviously not feeling well. She stayed home from church on Christmas Eve, which I think might be a first.

Dec. 26: Went shopping and spent money received for Christmas. Also took Bailey to a new vet (conveniently within walking distance of the house!) to see if they could do anything for his miserable itching and nasty break-outs. They took skin samples to try and better diagnose the cause of the rashes, so now he has little stitches in a few spots. They also tested his thyroid, which is low, and gave him medication for that. Who knows, maybe it will help. The cortisone shot has helped as well.

Dec. 27: Discovered the mailbox keys still don't work.

Dec. 28: Called post office again and was told someone would fix it and leave NEW keys (we had the wrong kind) at the post office. So I went to the post office. They couldn't find the keys. The supervisor promised to fix it the next day and BRING me the keys.

Dec. 29: Finally got mailbox keys that work. Had much excitement in getting the snail mail.

Dec. 27-today: Worked, unpacked, worked, unpacked, etc. We had to get all the boxes cleared out of the dining room by tomorrow when our new dining room table arrives.

Wow. I can't believe that 2006 is just about here!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Winter Walk

Went for a short walk up in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area here in Missoula. I'm looking forward to doing some cross-country skiing up there, maybe in a few weeks. The trails didn't look groomed yet, although I did see a few skiers out. I haven't cross-country-skied since around 1999 and I'm delighted to be living in a place with so many cool places to go!

Anyway, a few pictures:

The start of the trail
Starting down the trail

Sign pointing out where the heck I am
Sign pointing out the various trails

A mountain visible through the trees
Nice shot of a mountain through the trees

Baby trees!
Some of the trees aren't very big yet

From the parking lot
Looking back from the parking lot

On my way back down
View from the road

Still on my way down
View from the road II

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Almost Forgot

Apparently I've been doing this blog thing now for one year!

Well, a year and a day if you count my first post, which was all of one line. One year if you start counting from the first post that actually says something.

It's actually kind of amusing to read this post, where I described some of the topics I planned to write about. One of those topics was Montana, but I didn't really give any hints that I was planning on moving here. This move was in the planning stages at that point (we've been planning this since around April or March of 2004), but for a variety of reasons I couldn't really talk about it yet.

At any rate, it's been a year. Hard to believe!

Compare and Contrast

View from my house last Thursday:
View on a clear day

Approximately the same view has been like this since Saturday.
Mountains? We have mountains here? Where?

It is a good thing I have pictures so I can remember what the sky looks like!


My Montana voter registration card came in the mail yesterday. I completely missed the most recent election since we were literally in the process of moving, but I'm all set now for the next one!

Slowly all the little things have been coming together to make my move more and more official. Last Friday we went in and picked up the new Montana license plates. Montana has a huge selection of specialty plates that cost a little extra and benefit various groups. I know Illinois had these, too, but I don't remember there being so many! We picked the plate for the Montana Wilderness Association. It looks like this:


The other plate in the running was this one:


It looks odd to see something other than Illinois plates on my little Civic!

Friday, November 18, 2005


Drove by the new house today. They've finally put the first coat of paint on the outside!

First, our half of the townhouse:

Then, the whole thing:

I suspect it will be a while before they get to the trim, since it has to dry enough for a second coat first.

I absolutely love the color! I will be glad when the exterior work is done -- at this time of year, weather could really delay finishing the house. The longer I live and work in this tiny rental house, the more anxious I am to move!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Winking dog!

Winking dog!
Originally uploaded by SaraS.

I just thought this was too funny not to post. I've never seen Cricket wink before.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tormenting the Pets

Visited Petsmart today (hence the comment about horses in the previous post) and decided to solve the problem of the dogs shivering all the time:

First, Cricket:
Cricket in Sweater and Hat

Cricket Pouting in Her New Sweater

Then, Bailey, who always seems to look crabby:
Bailey Scowling in His New Sweater


No, we didn't get a sweater for the cat. I don't think I want to try and put one on her!

Things that are Different

There are the big, obvious differences since moving here of course -- particularly my view of mountains right out my window:
View from Rental House

But then there are the little things that don't jump out quite so much, like these:
  • Radio ads for hunting supplies (ending with the tagline "The buck stops here." Groan).
  • Radio ads for car service places mention hunting ("get your rig ready for hunting season!").
  • Radio ads for ski stores.
  • Radio ads for horse supply stores.
  • Petsmart has a whole section for horse stuff.
I'm not in Chicago any longer!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Quick House Update

No pictures, though. We drove over and took a look last night after work. The front walk has been poured and was apparently dry, because the plastic that had been covering it the previous day was gone. This was nice because we could get to the porch without walking through muck!

We peeked in the windows with a flashlight to see the new appliances. There is also a big stack of interior doors in the living room waiting to be installed.

The best part, though, was when we drove down the alley to see the back. The garage and back of the house have been painted! I've been very anxious about when this was going to get done given the cold and wet weather lately. Hopefully they'll get the rest of the house painted soon as well. I am very excited to see the "fireweed" paint color on the house for real. Laura picked out the colors back in September (with my input over the phone), and I have been looking forward to seeing them for real ever since. I love the fact that I'm getting a red house.

From what I could see with a flashlight, the color looked great. I'm looking forward to going out there again this weekend so that we can see the color in the daylight and get a few pictures.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Telecommuting, Day 1

My first day in my home office went pretty well. I will be very glad when the new house is done, though. At the moment, my "office" is just a desk pushed up against the back wall of the living room:
The Temporary Home Office

Note that I had to expand some of my supplies onto the window sill and the pass-through to the kitchen. Also, this is extremely neat for me -- my desk is normally strewn with papers and files. I just don't have the room here to really sprawl out.

Since my office is in the living room, I discovered today a need for noise-canceling headphones to block out Laura's activities (particularly the TV). We made an emergency run to Best Buy after work today, so I should be set for tomorrow. They'll be handy when traveling on airplanes, too. At least that is what I'm telling myself to justify the expense. Laura is looking for a job (she applied for several today - go wish her good luck!) so presumably eventually she won't be around while I'm working, unless she ends up with a job with irregular hours or something.

The rental house does have a second room that used to be a porch before it was enclosed. I considered setting up my office there, but the house only had one cable connection, and we really didn't want to string a huge piece of cable across the whole house. Since we're renting, we can't exactly ask the cable company to install additional outlets, either. So, that extra room currently is our storage room with the bicycles and empty boxes.

At any rate, so far I'm liking this whole work-from-home thing. My high-speed Internet connection was solid all day and I had no trouble getting to stuff at the office. I didn't miss my one-hour-each-way commute at all, although I do have a whole pile of unheard audio books and podcasts on my iPod. I need to figure out exactly when I'm going to actually listen to those now that I don't have that drive!

In other news, it has been snowing ever since afternoon. Real snow, not rain! Laura is thrilled. I am not used to snow quite this early, but I'm kind of liking it (especially since I don't have to drive an hour to the office in it!).

Back to Work / Snow

So, today will be my first day back at work since our move...telecommuting from my very small temporary house. I spent much of yesterday organizing my desk space so that I can actually function here. I'm hoping the new cable Internet doesn't go out at an inconvenient moment -- it was solid yesterday, but somewhat flaky Saturday morning.

Woke up this morning to a dusting of snow on the porch and some flakes coming down. You can't even see the mountains that are normally visible from the front porch.

Snowing in the Early Morning

Bailey didn't like his morning walk much. He has been pretty crabby ever since we moved.

Bailey, Looking Crabby

Thursday, November 03, 2005

In Missoula!

We've been here, in Missoula now since Monday around noon. I don't yet have Internet access at the rental house, so I can only blog/surf from the hotel. Why are we staying in a hotel? Because our stuff has not yet arrived. We tried sleeping on cots the first night we were here, and it lasted all of thirty minutes. The animals find the cots comfy, though:

animals at the rental

My welcome to Missoula was less than great, as it was raining when we got here. According the locals, it had been beautiful the day before. Go figure. Then we drove by the new house, and I panicked a bit because the siding was the wrong color, and not the cool red we expected. Apparently, it comes from the factory white and they paint it after it is up, which makes perfect sense. I was thrown off by the fact that the base white color is very similar to one of the trim colors we picked, so I worried that they had flip-flopped the colors somehow.

I was a little concerned Tuesday morning when we woke up to more cold, gray, rain. Laura said "I warned you that it is gray in the winter here," to which I responded, "yes, I thought by 'winter' you meant, like, January, not November!" Fortunately, it did clear up a bit. The last few days it has been drippy and rainy in the morning, and then a bit more clear in the afternoons. Possibly snow by the weekend. This morning it was obvious that it had snowed up in the mountains a bit -- you could see the line on Mount Sentinel where the snow stopped.

Overall things are going pretty well. We've been to Target just about every day since we got here. We're hoping that we won't need to go back at least for a few days now. It is pretty odd living in two places -- the Comfort Inn and the rental house. Waiting around for our stuff to arrive is making me very anxious, especially since I need to setup everything for telecommuting by this weekend so that I can start work on Monday. I was hoping to spend these last few days unpacking and organizing, not running errands and sitting around on camp chairs in an empty living room! It also doesn't really feel like we've moved when we're staying in the hotel -- it feels just like so many other vacations. I don't think the fact that we've really moved will sink in until we actually have our stuff at the rental house.

The new house is looking great and coming along fast. I'm really hoping we can close early in December and get settled well before Christmas. We did a walk through yesterday, which was nice for me since I never got a chance to see the inside of a unit like ours when we bought it.

A few pictures:
The tiled entry:
entry tile at new house

The back of the house from the detached garage:
back of new house

Master Bedroom, with a view of the backyard and garage:
Master bedroom of new house

View from the room that will be my home office (I am SO looking forward to working here!):
View from upstairs room in new house

And a few pictures from our drive:
Crossing the Mississippi from Wisconsin to Minnesota. I like the shadows of our bicycles on the roof of the car:
Crossing the Mississippi

Cricket getting bored in South Dakota:
Cricket in car

Arriving in Wyoming after the very long trek across South Dakota:
Arriving in Wyoming!

Arriving in Montana at last!
Welcome to Montana!

A view of the Tobacco Root Mountains on the final leg of the trip:
The Tobacco Root mountains from the car on 90

Climbing Homestake pass:
Homestake Pass

Crossing the divide!
Continental Divide

Friday, October 28, 2005

Exhausted in Mitchell, South Dakota

So, I haven't posted in a week, but I have a good excuse. By the end of the weekend, everything was mostly packed up. The movers came Tuesday afternoon and cleared out all our stuff. We kept the laptops, of course, but I only spent about 10 minutes in the house Tuesday night, loading the car-items up before driving to my parents' house so that we could stay in some place with a bed (not cots on the floor!)

Wednesday I was busy at work wrapping things up and making sure my laptop is all set up for effective telecommuting.

Thursday morning we closed. It took a long time because the title company had to wait on some other form the buyers needed to sign. We were all done except that, and had to sit around for about half an hour chatting until things finished up and I got the big check in my hands.

Then we opened a new bank account at a bank that has branches in Montana, ran a couple other errands, and spent the rest of the day vegging out at my parents house. The cat was somewhat traumatized by spending the day in a strange place -- my parents' sunroom, but she did seem to relax by evening.

This morning, Friday, we were up by five A.M. and on the road by 6:16 (yes, I noticed the exact time, but forgot to set the trip odometer). We gave the cat a tranquilizer. She fretted in her crate for a bit, then relaxed and dozed the rest of the way. The dogs all behaved well, but they have always been good travelers.

It is a very long drive from Batavia, IL to Mitchell, SD. And now I am exhausted. I have to say, though, this is the first time I've been in a hotel that has a notice informing you that if you leave your gun in the room out of a case, the housekeeping staff will not clean the area around it. And leave your dog in its crate, or the staff won't enter the room at all!

It appears to be pheasant season here. Several guests arriving at the same time as us did indeed have gun cases with them. I remember driving to Montana last November and being taken aback by the site of dead deer and elk in the backs of trucks on the road. I suppose this is something I will just get used to...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Home Stretch Weekend

So we're getting down to the homestretch here on the packing and cleaning. The movers come Tuesday to haul our stuff off to Montana. The other day, I finally finished transferring really old files from my old Macintosh to my current computer. Afterward, I discovered how easy it is to disassemble a Macintosh LC III:
Inside of an Old Mac LC III

Today is our last trash day while still owning this house, so we wanted to get as much garbage out as possible. Laura overdid it yesterday while I was at work, hauling so much stuff that she is very sore today. I helped when I got home. We have to put a garbage sticker on each item. We went through about 25 stickers:
Last Trash Day Before We Move

The dining table alone took quite a few -- six chairs, the two base parts, and the top. We had intended to donate it, but no one wanted it because the top needs refinishing.

Anyway, I took a vacation day since we're down to the homestretch...although everywhere I look I see so much stuff to be packed! How did we end up with all this stuff??

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What Do You Need?

I don't usually do these things, but this was pretty funny. From David at Better Living Thru Blogging, type your name and "needs" into google and see what comes up.

So, here's what I got:

1. Sara needs...a loving, playful home (hmm, playful?)

2. Sara needs to discover the experts in the area. (Experts in what? In what area? Why?)

3. Sara (that's rather vague)

4. Sara needs...your vote (I cannot imagine even wanting to run for office)

5. Sara needs to hand him one of those weapons (I don't have any weapons, unless you count pocket knives)

6. Sara needs...something more than the well-established love of her companion (I don't think Laura would like this one)

7. Sara needs...a caesarean section (I'm wondering what they would find in there. Does someone know something I don't?)

8. Sara needs...further surgery (More surgery? After the caesarean? OK, I am staying away from people with knives for a while!!)

9. Sara needs to quit whinin (I'll quit "whinin" when you learn how to spell!)

10. Sara needs to shut the hell up (Um, no. Sorry. I will NOT shut the hell up)

I did 10, but there were a few more down the list that I found funny:

Sara needs...insoles (well, my feet do tend to hurt a lot. I hate buying shoes)

Sara needs...sleep (always!)

And let's end with the most bizarre:
Sara mate with a comparable alien, not human, to keep her new perfect species alive (er, what?)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Taxes, Domestic Partners, Marriage

Conservatives like to claim to be all in favor of tax breaks, except of course when those breaks might benefit gay couples. Likewise, they are all about getting government's nose out of private business, except for when private business wants to actually help out gay couples.

See, I'm currently in the process of enrolling in my medical benefits for next year, which is a great way to get a "nice" reminder that, while domestic partner benefits may be a lot better than nothing, they are not anywhere close to "marriage." I should probably point out that my company was acquired last year, so this is the first time I'm enrolling in the new company's plan.**

So, I go to add Laura as a dependent and I get a reminder that I need to provide additional documentation on our relationship. Funny, I strongly suspect that the married folks don't need to fax copies of their marriage certificate to someone two states away, but OK, whatever. We'll fill out the form and track down a notary public.

Then there is the tax issue. Most people don't think about the portion of their health benefits that the employer pays--they only worry about the amount taken out of each check. In our case, we need to worry about both.

First, the payroll deductions that cover MY part of the benefits are all nicely pre-tax, thus lowering my overall tax burden a smidge. The deductions for Laura's part, however, are not. They will be deducted post-tax. OK, it isn't a huge amount and it isn't as though it would put me in a different tax bracket, but still, it is a difference. I suspect this difference would become even greater if we were to throw a kid or two into the mix.

Then there is the matter of the premium that the company pays for our benefits. You know, the part that you never see, that you don't even think about. Can you even name the amount your company spends on your health benefits each paycheck? Anyway, for my part of that premium, all is fine and I can pretend it isn't there. But the amount my employer pays for Laura's benefits will be conveniently tacked on to my taxable income and reported to the IRS, so I get to pay taxes on it. How exciting. At the present moment, I have no clue how much this will amount to, but given the rising cost of healthcare I keep hearing about, I suspect it won't be a tiny amount. If my employer's share of the premium is equal to my share, it will be at least $1,500 for the year. I strongly suspect that my employer and I are not splitting the cost of the benefits 50/50, so it will probably be more than that.

And all the "small government conservatives" out there are perfectly happy with this arrangement. More taxes! From certain people, anyway.

Oh, and the part about the government's nose in private business? While poking around to figure out exactly what the DP benefit requirements are, I stumbled across a page indicating that DP benefits were not available in certain states due to state law. That is, the same insurance company that is perfectly happy to cover domestic partners in Illinois is forbidden by state law from providing those benefits to employees in, say, Virginia. There were four or five states on the list -- fortunately not including Montana where we will be living in less than a month. It did look like some of the plans could still be used in those states, but not others.

What do you want to bet that the people behind those particular state laws call themselves "small government conservatives" (also sometimes known as "republicans") when they're not busy passing legislation forbidding insurance companies from selling insurance to certain types of people?

**I should also point out that my complaint here is NOT with my company. I do appreciate the DP coverage and I'm glad it is there. My employer isn't trying to be unfair, they are just constrained by this:
The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that domestic partners cannot be considered spouses for tax purposes. Thus, employers are obligated to report the fair market value of the domestic partner coverage as income to the employee. The employee must pay income tax on that money.
Although I did not know until visiting the above FAQ that legislation was introduced to fix this inequitable situation in 2003. It appears to have been referred to the Ways and Means committee. I've no idea if it ever has hope of seeing the light of day. I do find it interesting that the vast majority of co-sponsors are Democrats. I thought Democrats were the ones who want to make us all pay more in taxes. They must have been confused to co-sponsor a bill that would reduce my taxes!

I am also amused / horrified / saddened by this description of the bill from a so-called "pro-family" site (emphasis mine):
Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2003 attacks the institutions of marriage and family. Current federal law excludes the benefits of employer-provided health coverage for spouses and children from being included as taxable income. However, if those benefits are offered to someone other than a spouse or child, they are taxable. H. 935 seeks to provide special rights for homosexuals by amending the Internal Revenue Code to treat homosexual partners as married spouses so that an employee whose company is providing health insurance for a homosexual domestic partner is no longer taxed on the value of that insurance.
Did they really write that with a straight (ahem) face? They describe (correctly) the inequity in taxation, then state that removing that inequity is giving homosexuals special rights? They have a funny definition for "special." And I don't even want to think about how self-centered you must be to see a change in taxes that doesn't affect you as an "attack" on yourself.

No, I won't provide a link. Just google the full name of the bill ("Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act") and I'm sure you can find it.

Sometimes I Wish I Could Write Poetry

But, since I can't, I'll just recommend this.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We Must Be a Stop on the Migratory Superhighway

There was a bit of a ruckus in my neighborhood this morning.

This was the view out my back door. The roofs are my neighbors off our alley.
Birds Gathering

This was the view from my front porch of the houses across the way.
Birds Gathering II

The pictures don't do it justice. Stepping outside was to step into a cacophony of noise. The birds were gathered on every single roof I can see from my house.

Ten minutes later, they were all gone. Not a single one left in the neighborhood.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love autumn? So much better than the hot, humid summer.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Does it Look Like Someone Might be Moving?

A small sampling...

Boxes in family room...they are taking over...creating a wall between the living and family rooms
Boxes in Family Room

Breakables waiting to be packed
Breakables Waiting to be Packed

Boxes in the loft
Boxes in the Loft

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Didn’t I just comment about getting used to winter in Montana?

Laura was talking to her parents this morning, and apparently it snowed in Bozeman last night. As I’ve now confirmed at bozeman-mt, thanks to the tip from Big Sky Blog.

I’ve been told by Laura that snow this early in the season usually melts with a day, but still.

My various friends and co-workers here in Chicagoland think I’m crazy for looking forward to living in a place where it snows in October. Although I would have preferred to move during the summer, I’m still looking forward to this. I have a couple pairs of old cross-country skis in the garage that haven’t been used in years. Once we move, I plan to get new boots, replace the bindings, and find some good cross-country trails in / near Missoula. According to this, it shouldn’t be hard to find a few good spots.

I’ve never done downhill, and Laura doesn’t like it, so I don’t expect to do much downhill skiing. We’re thinking of checking out something like this, though.

This site seems to be a pretty good starting spot for finding Montana weather. The web cams of the various mountain passes are cool, too.

Some Good News from Connecticut

As reported by The Zero Boss. Civil unions were passed back in April and went into effect Oct. 1.

As the Zero Boss notes, the gripe that somehow gays are thwarting democracy won’t work this time, since this was passed by the elected legislature and was not compelled by the courts. Not that that will prevent the inevitable whining from the right, I’m sure.

Incidentally, I think creating something “separate” but “mostly equal” from marriage for gay couples is silly and somewhat wasteful – why not use the perfectly good laws we already have? But, from a purely practical standpoint, civil unions are better than nothing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

OK, Another Test

Still trying to figure out if the Blogger for Word thing is worth bothering with. So, here is a post with a few pictures. A few weeks ago, we had another batch of bunnies show up in the yard (the link in this sentence should go to Laura’s blog).

Here’s Laura holding one of them:
Bunny in Hand

And here is another hunkering down in the long grass:
Bunny in the Grass

We’ll see if this post shows up with links and pictures intact.

UPDATE: the links work. The pictures don't. Blogger for Word converts the brackets around the html to something else so they show up in the published post as code rather than as pictures. I had to manually fix them up in a text editor again. Maybe it is just a matter of using a special style or something in Word, but for the moment, it doesn't look particularly useful.

Seems like a good idea, but…

So, Blogger now has this nifty “Blogger for Word” add-in thing. I installed it and tried to use it for my last post (the “Slacking Off”) one. It worked in the sense that it did publish my post. It completely failed in the sense that it mangled the HTML I had pasted in for the Flickr pictures. I finally copied the post in a text editor to repair it.

So, I’m trying it again with this post, with no pictures or links. Still, what is the point of using a tool that can’t handle pictures and links for blogging? Grrr.

Slacking Off?

Think maybe it is time that I mowed the lawn?
Time to Mow the Lawn?

I kept this up pretty well while the house was on the market, but now that we’ve got our offer and we’re just waiting to close, I’m finding it awful easy to slack off.

My gerbera plant has also seen better days:
Dead Gerbera

Dead Gerbera II

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Banned Books

Got this from frogblog. A list of the top 100 most banned/challenged books. The idea is to highlight the ones you've read.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel [only the first three]
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Good News in Michigan

This has no impact on my life, seeing as I have no plans to live in Michigan, but it still made me happy to hear:
A judge in Michigan ruled on Tuesday that the state ban on same-sex marriage does not infringe on domestic partner rights.
If you're not familiar with what happened in Michigan, here's a quick recap. Last November, Michigan passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The specific text of the amendment was this:
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as marriage or similar union for any purpose.
During the campaign for this amendment, the people proposing it insisted that they had no intention of taking away anyone's benefits. They were proved to be liars less than a month after the election when a state representative began pushing a resolution to block domestic partner benefits for state and city employees. I blogged about my outrage here.

At any rate, the good news is that the issue ended up in front of a judge, who ruled that the vague wording of the amendment did not bar domestic partnership benefits at all. From this article:
In the opinion, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk makes it clear that the constitutional amendment does not impact domestic partner benefits.

“Health care benefits are not among the statutory rights or benefits of marriage. An individual does not receive health care benefits for his or her spouse as a matter of legal right upon getting married,” wrote Judge Draganchuk. “Health care benefits for a spouse are benefits of employment, not benefits of marriage.”
Well, duh. Employers offer all sorts of benefits to their employees for all sorts of reasons. Some companies might offer DP benefits out of a sense of fairness, recognizing that gay employees also have families that matter to them, but that doesn't change the fact that the benefits are really just compensation, just like salary and any number of other "fringe" benefits. I recently learned that my employer will provide "pet insurance" next year. Does this mean they have somehow "elevated" my pets to the same level as children or spouses?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Laura has been complaining that I haven't posted much lately. So, here is a post.

We are waiting to find out if our buyer's financing is approved. This should happen by this Friday and all the parties involved (real estate agent, lawyer, etc.) tell me there is nothing to worry about. So naturally I am worried. I'll be glad when this is finalized.

Assuming all goes well, we will be heading to Montana at the end of October.

When we started planning this whole adventure, I had hoped to move during the summer so that I could enjoy nice weather before my first Montana winter. Alas, no such luck. Talk of snow in September? I have much to get used to.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

House Notes (Both Old and New)

Things are moving along on the house selling front. We're ticking off the various contingencies on our buyers' contract and counting down to our October close date. Everything is going well so far. The inspection only turned up a few minor issues that we need to fix. The appraisal has been done. I think the buyers are fairly close to having their financing officially approved.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will all work out and we'll be hitting the road to Montana by the end of October.

We have tentatively lined up a place to live until our new townhouse is completed, which should be in December or possibly early January if anything slips. This is still a little shaky, as it is actually a small house (one bedroom!) owned by our Montana realtor. The house is currently on the market and could sell between now and when we sign our lease. It will be interesting being renters again -- even for a short time -- and living in such a small home! Our new house will seem huge in comparison!

Speaking of the new house, it is progressing nicely. Laura flew out to Missoula yesterday to pick out all of our custom stuff -- paint colors, flooring, light fixtures, etc. Today she called me repeatedly with various questions and updates. She also took lots of pictures of the progress...apparently the house is fully framed and roofed already!

We decided on red for the siding and a light beige color for the trim. The paint they use is Sherwin-Williams, so I pulled up their nifty
"color visualizer" to see how the colors will look on an arts and crafts style home. If you're curious, the red is "fireweed" and the trim will be "antique white." Our house will also have a third accent color, which will be "camelback."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Flowering Herbs

My basil and mint plants have both sprouted flowers. I'm hoping that pruning them back will help make them useful for a little while longer -- my mom has actually volunteered to take them in when we move (my parents have a nice sunroom which is great for wintering plants).

Anyway, the basil flowers are a pretty shade of purple:

Basil - Now Flowering

Basil Flowers

The mint, on the other hand, is not particularly attractive:
Mint plant - now flowering

For reference, some much earlier photos of the plants are here

Recommended Reading

Watermark has been posting some narratives from a person volunteering at an evacuee center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Very detailed accounts that give me a great deal of hope:

Friday, September 09, 2005

Great Big Bugs

A couple evenings ago, I leashed up the dogs for their evening walk. I stepped out on the porch, looked up, and saw this:

Praying mantis hanging out on the porch ceiling

Cool! Well, I thought it was cool, but Laura doesn't like insects much, and she REALLY doesn't like huge insects like this. I just left it alone, since praying mantises eat other insects and pests (although according to this, "larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds and even rodents.")

The next morning, the praying mantis was gone and there were very few insects hanging around my porch. The next evening I checked again, and sure enough, the insect was back, this time creeping up the side of the porch:

Praying Mantis on Shutter

I haven't seen it again this evening, so maybe it has decided to lurk around someone else's house. Laura finds it disturbing, but I think it is kinda cool!

Minor update - there are a bunch of cool praying mantis photos on flickr here: