Grab Bag: Did you ever wonder…

… why hotdogs and hotdog buns don’t come in packages with the same quantities?

… why people will pay more for a machine made widget that will likely fall apart faster than a similar handmade widget?

… why words spelled with the same letter combinations (eg: daughter/laughter) don’t sound the same?

… why a woodchuck would even want to chuck wood?

… how long to the Point of Know Return?

… why the Son had to Carry On if he was so Wayward?

… what those last two questions referred to?

… why people drive on parkways and park on driveways?

… why your feet smell but your nose runs?

… if plastic storage container lids and socks end up in the same alternate dimension when they disappear?

Do you wonder about something? Post it in the comments.


Clean It Up!

It was a part of the job that nobody liked, so it piled up and got progressively worse until some poor person had to deal with the entire pile at once. I was that person.

My first teaching job was in a school that had a severe overcrowding problem. There were  1200 students in a school built for half that. Classes met all over the crazy place. Any widened part of a hallway got turned into a small, impromptu classroom by putting up partitions and hanging a poster-sized whiteboard on the wall. Desks were any makeshift or ancient specimen the custodians or maintenance could find in storage. My classroom didn’t have desks. It had three 8-foot tables surrounded by a mismatched collection of stools.

As the science lab teacher, that worked fine. My room was actually split 2/3 for me and 1/3 for a special ed teacher. We worked it out so he pulled his larger classes when I was teaching computer lab down the hall or when I was on my conference time, and he made sure that his conference time was scheduled when I had my larger classes. It all worked out fine with a little juggling.

Attached to the science lab was a lockable supply closet. On my first day there, halfway through the school year, I started planning out what kinds of activities I would be able to do with the kiddos who were going to be entrusted to me for 50 minutes at a time. Naturally, I wanted to see what kind of supplies I had to work with, so I unlocked the closet and tried to open the door.

I barely got it open far enough to peek inside and flip the light switch. The room looked like someone had upended several science project kits in the room then run out the door before the resulting avalanche could bury them, but there were sturdy shelves lining the walls.

I smiled. My classes wouldn’t start until the following Monday, so I had time. I was up to that challenge, but I wasn’t half brave enough to wade in there in a skirt and sandals.

The next day, I wore slacks and closed shoes. Opening the door took a considerable effort. I’d thought about getting a running start, but a couple good shoves got the job done. I stepped inside and confirmed that the qualified disaster area extended beyond just the sliver I’d seen the afternoon before.

First, I’d need to take stock of what I had, and that meant hauling all the junk out of there and sorting it. Fortunately, I had those three tables and a long counter down the back as well as 3 mobile lab carts. Lots of horizontal space for sorting, and if I ran out of that, there was always the floor.

Unpacking the room took the rest of the day, but it was like a treasure hunt. A kid sorting through a pile of random toys might have been happier, but I doubt it.

There had indeed been science kits upended in the room in addition to the random scientific flotsam collected over time. I sorted the kits back into their boxes and found their documentation. Then I split the rest of the equipment up by what I would most likely use it for. By the time I left, the closet was empty, and every horizontal space available in the room was covered with an amusing assortment of stuff.

The next day, I cleaned up the closet itself. It looked like no one had shown it a dust rag since the Johnson administration. Forget dust bunnies. That closet was infested with dust elephants. I went through an entire roll of paper towels trying to find out what color the shelving was supposed to be then I borrowed a broom from the custodian to evict the dust elephants from the corners of the room.

When dark gray metal shelving shined, I knew I was ready to put everything back in. The reassembled science kits found their spots on the only shelf tall enough to hold them.

Then I went around the room neatly stacking stuff and clustering them by which discipline would be most likely to use them. While I did that, I took an inventory, which I attached to the door when I was finished.

Once finished, I surveyed my work and decided that it was good enough for a start. .


2017 Goals: Eating Goals

Yes, indeed, I do plan to eat!

But… that’s not what this goal is about.

I have pervasive food allergies and intolerances. My “Don’t eat that!” list is up to 65 things I have to watch out for. Some of these things are real common in the American diet like sugar, soy, and colors/flavors (natural, artificial, or otherwise).

I’ve been running into an increasing number of other folks who have restricted diets for health reasons or sometimes just personal choice. My southern pa now has to forgo carbs in his diet as much as possible because he’s diabetic or just about there. My northern dad had emergency heart surgery for my birthday several years ago. He now minds his diet very closely, too.

So, I have two goals related to eating:

First, for me, create a database. Putting a meal plan together for a week can be annoying. There are lots of rules I’ve been given by a nutritionist that — according to current research — is supposed to slow down the acquisition of new allergies and intolerances. Pain the rear, but it seems to be working. I have had a lot fewer problems with food reactions since starting that plan.

To make meal planning easier, I want to create a recipe database of all the mutated recipes I’ve managed to come up with. I currently use an old fashioned DIY recipe book, but some things fit multiple categories. If I concoct a database with key words, I can search for something like “quinoa” or “quick-fix lunch” or something and get a list of all my options in one place instead of flipping from one end to the other of my recipe book to find my choices. I should end up with a more varied diet that way.

For others, a friend and I have been kicking around an idea to create a recipe book or webpage dedicated to people who can’t eat much. We even have a name for it: “Food Without Much in It.” This will have information on how to mutate recipes and the tricks and “rules” I follow now that seem to have worked for slowing down the development of more allergies.

This might be a bigger elephant than I can eat, so my first tasks are to create an outline and figure out how to organize this beast.

That should keep me plenty busy for 2017.

2017 Goals: Crafting Goals

I like to do crafty stuff. I sew some of my own clothes, make quilts, do beadwork, embroider things, and a huge assortment of other creative stuff. When I get going on some manner of craft, I end up with material and other supplies all over the place. The room where I’m doing the crafts ends up looking like a candidate for an episode of Hoarders.

For 2017, I have a few goals related to craftiness.


At the end of 2015, I purchased material for and cut out the parts for a bunch of quilts that I was going to make for Christmas presents in 2016. Well… that didn’t entirely work out. I got a bunch of the tops pieced together, but I didn’t get the embroidery and beadwork done, so the putting-the-quilt-together part didn’t happen. My first goal is to start knocking some of those projects out.

Christmas Presents

I would like to make Christmas presents for friends and family again. For 2016, I found a couple that were easy to make and relatively flat so they fit inside envelopes! That sure saved on the shipping costs, so I’m going to try for something like that again. For folks who are local, I might even use some of the quilts I need to finish. I don’t know if those will fold flat enough to send to folks without incurring a killer shipping cost.


I often end up with enough crafty things that my family and friends have too many  of those things. Like scarves. Or denim purses. Or … whatever else. I’ve tried selling my excess stuff on Etsy. No joy. Very little traction. I had 100 things listed and sold 2 in a year. Whee doggies. I’m trying out Mercari now. Folks are “Liking” the stuff I post, but no one’s buying the stuff I post. I need to keep the stuff I’m listing for my brother’s business separate from the stuff I list for myself, so I’d rather not use eBay. I’m not sure crafty stuff will sell well there anyway.

I’m going to continue trying different venues (both IRL and online) until I find one I can get some traction on.

The first two goals are workable, I think. That last one will be a bit of a challenge, but we’ll see!

2017 Goals: Writing Goals

I didn’t quite make my writing goals last year. I made some good progress in the right direction, but the mission was not accomplished. Several factors played into that (moving several states north, some challenging editing and critiquing assignments, job hunting, losing a good chunk of the work done with my smartpen, etc), but in the end, the goal was a bust.

I’m going to try again. My second goal for 2017 is to finish the draft of A Suitable Arrangement.

The good news is, some of the smartpen OCR text can still be used. I was able to resurrect some of it and parts of that still work with the new plot outline a friend helped me put together when I discovered my original plot map had holes you could parallel park a semi in. So far, I’ve been able to bring across about 7500 words (typical novel is about 90,000 words). I know there are some other usable parts that will survive, too.

I’m also going to take part in “JaNoWriMo.” Every November, there’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a sort of writing contest in which novelists try to put together 50,000 words toward a novel. (50,000 words is considered the smallest acceptable word count for some kinds of novels). A pile of my writer pals all decided that’s a stupid time of year to do it because of holiday shenanigans. So, about 100 of us are doing JaNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month). I’ll be working on A Suitable Arrangement. To make the goal of 40,000 words (they also thought 50,000 was a little ambitious), I will need to write about 1300 words per day. Doable. Definitely doable.

No, the work I did in December and the text I bring across from the old OCR file won’t count. I’ll account for that so only new writing gets counted.

I currently have about 10,000 words on the project, so successfully completing JaNoWriMo will give me the first half of the novel.

After January, I plan to keep up a writing goal of 500 words per day until it’s finished. Some days I’ll manage more. Some days I’ll manage less … or none.

Once I have it written, the revising part comes next. I’ll spend some time polishing it up myself, using the self-editing checklist put together from comments I consistently get from different editors.

By the end of 2017, I plan to have a completed and revised draft of A Suitable Arrangement.

2017 Goals: Career Goals

For 2016, I set some goals for myself with various, mostly favorable results. I’m setting new goals for 2017 in the areas of career hunting, writing, crafting, and eating.


After the Grand Northward Move, I started looking for work in fields I’m interested in doing for a living: editing, writing, training, and/or improving performance. Although some of those are not apparent in my resume, I actually do have experience in all of the above.

By January 1, 2017, I had about 80 applications out in the world and I was signed up through a few agencies. Unfortunately, few companies actually hire people at the end of the year. Tax phenomena become less challenging if they wait until after the first of the year, and a lot of the hiring managers take time off for family, like a lot of folks do.

In the meantime, I’m doing some project work for my brother’s business by listing some sterling silver jewelry on eBay.

Presently, I do have some traction on a couple applications through an agency and one that’s a direct hire. As the new year kicks off and people get back from vacation, I’m hoping some of the others will gain some traction, too.

My first goal for 2017: Find a job, preferably in the field I spent so much time and effort studying for.