Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hi Kosta!

I just got an email from my friend Kosta in Switzerland. Kosta was an exchange student from Germany in high school with my sister at Preston High School. When I was in Germany 10 years ago I visited him in Berlin and he showed me around. He was a great tour guide and made the trip a lot of fun! I also developed a great appreciation for the German mass transit system because of going around town with him. I also went back a couple of years later and it was great to see him and his family again. I hope all is well with them.

So...for Kosta and anyone else who hasn't talked to me much lately here is a run down of what's happened with me over the last few years.
  • 1998 - graduated from WVU
  • Got a job at WVNET as a Help Desk consultant...later moved into a web developer position.
  • 2000 - got married to Steve Marra
  • 2003 - got laid off from WVNET where I was a Web Developer because of budget problems
  • Got a job at the WVU Center on Aging as a "Program Manager" (a.k.a. a PR person/web designer)
  • Started working on my master's project in Journalism at WVU (don't ask how that's going, please...arggh)
  • Started teaching part-time (public relations layout and design a.k.a. desktop pubslishing) for the School of Journalism
  • 2004 - still working at the Center on Aging...busy busy busy
  • 2005 - had a baby girl in Sept. Steve is the stay at home daddy.
  • Applied for and got a job at the WVU Office of Information Technology as a Web Developer
  • 2006 - Steve gets a job at WVU OIT as well.
  • Bought a house.
  • Still working on that master's project...arggh.
  • Happily ever after.
Not a long list, but it has kept us busy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Fugly Sunroom

We repainted our sunroom this past week and laid down some cheap carpet to cover up this incredibly ugly floor covering. The yellow was just too much. I wanted to put our Christmas tree out in the sunroom because we didn't want Kira to constantly be pulling ornaments off, you could see the lights from the road and there is just more room in the sunroom. BUT the room was just too ugly for me to stomach having our holiday photos taken in there as it was. So we just made those simple changes (and plan on making more later) and it looks a whole lot better.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Flip This House


I wish I had about $50,000, so I could buy this place, renovate and flip it. This house is in Arthurdale, our new community, and the house is already gutted. It just needs to be overhauled. I've been watching too much Flip This House, Flip That house, and Property Ladder, I guess. =)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

current debates in the web world

One of my daily reads is Eric Meyer's blog. Today he talked about the debate currently going around on what makes web designers/developers "professionals." Many of us in the web development world have encountered this problem and in following the links from Meyer's blog, I read another designer's post (Jeff Croft) that described a personal history so very similar to my own I wondered how many of us there are out there in the same boat.

Another blog (D. Keith Robinson) had questions about the possibility of starting a peer-based network of professionals which sounds a lot like the structure we have with our state's web developer's group (SWIG). I think it would be wonderful to have a nation-wide group, but I think that already exists in pockets. I, personally, would like a to be a part of a respected professional organization, though.

Public Relations professionals have PRSA, graphic designers have AIGA and other professions have unions or associations that respresent them. I think Web Designers and Developers deserve something on that level as well. The trick is making sure it is highly regarded and worthwhile to its members.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

changes and changes

We are settling in to the new chapter in our lives at our new house in Arthurdale.
Things at the house are going quite well. We're still putting this away and sorting, so things are still disorganized, but it's coming together...slowly We still have stuff to get from mom's (books and stuff like that), but the the things we need are all moved. We're going to need to sort and have a yard sale at some point.

The hardest thing about getting used to living in Arthurdale (aside from having neighbors again)is getting used to the PO box thing. There is no local USPS delivery in Arthurdale, so you have to have a PO Box. We have a package that I have no idea how I am going to pick it up. We leave before the desk opens and come home long after they close. We'll figure somethingout though.

Steve's job is still going very well and I really appreciate having him here. I was extrememly happy about that last week when I had an sudden bout with kidney stones. I thought it was food poisoning, but the doc said it was probably kidney stones, so I'll have to go with that. Regardless I was in a lot of pain and Steve was there to help me get to the doctor. I don't know how I would have gotten there otherwise. I didn't make it out of the parking garage without puking twice.

Kira started daycare on the 18th and LOVES it. She loves being around the other kids and, frankly, I think she's really bored when she's at home. But she has a lot more room to ramble at the house than at mom's and I can take her outside easier too.

See her blog for an update on her birthday party.

With daycare, she's already gotten a cold, so she's not been feeling well since last week. Hopefully she'll build up a tolerance though.

BTW - if you are ever thinking of buying baby shoes, buy Robeez or something like them. They are the best shoes I have ever seen for babies. Kira loves hers and they are easy to put on. She doesn't take them off!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Closing today!!

Great news! We're closing on our house in Arthurdale today. We'll be moving in probably this weekend and next week. Kira's birthday is the 16th so hopefully we'll be able to have a little party then at the new house.

YAY!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

link

Link of the day: Overheard in New York

Just found this site. Funny.

Birthday fun

Friday I turned 31. Yee haw! The day started off pretty well. Bryan stopped in to say hi on his brief visit to town. We got to take him by to see Kira at dad's and have lunch.

Later my family and I went out and had a pretty good time. Steve, Kira and I went to Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse with Andy, Hannah, David and dad. The food was great and it was fun to watch the show of the chef making our food in front of us. Kira was a little weirded out by the fire I think, but loved the sushi rice!

After dinner dad took Kira to his house to watch her while the rest of us went to see Snakes on a Plane. It was great! I read review that said it would be the most fun you'd have all summer, and I'm inclined to agree. It was pretty durn fun. Ridiculous at times, and it'll startle you from time to time, but very well done for such a silly premise. One thing that struck me was that most of the things that happen weren't completely implausible...well I guess I should say that if they are, I don't know.

Anyway...It was a grat time and I am very happy my family could come out and hang with me on my birthday.

My only regret about the day is that Amy couldn't be here to celebrate too, but I am sure they had a lot of fun anyway in the UP. =) We miss you guys!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Update

Steve pointed out that what I wrote in my previous post about his newfound employment at OIT sounded like I was still at entry level pay and annoyed that he was working here. He is the same paygrade as me, but I have years of service that make my pay a bit higher than entry-level. Any "annoyed" tone was that I've not been offered a higher paygrade at any time in the past 5 years. Of course switching jobs 3 times hasn't helped. ;P

With a higher paygrade comes more responsibility usually, so I am not eager to take that on yet... at least until I get the Office of Information Technolgy website redesign completed.

I am also very happy to have him here. I know he likes the people he works with and I really like having him close by.

The house loan through WVHDF is not going through, so we're doing a regualr mortgage through Centra Bank. It shoudl all be in order, but I haven't heard yet whether the loan officer got the title search stuff from the attorney or not. If not, I'll be pretty annoyed. They were supposed to have done this weeks ago. If so we may be able to close in a couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed!

aliens love firefox too



As a web designer, I am frequently annoyed that no matter how hard I try to design a site that looks good in all browsers Internet Explorer always displays it differently.

I thought this was a pretty cool endorsment of a far better browser. If you aren't using FireFox rather than IE, download FireFox now and never look back.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

anticipating


panoexterior
Originally uploaded by plastic_avatar.
We're just waiting for news of when we're closing on the house. The appraisal came back last week at $106,000 and we're good to go. We are very eager to get in our new house, so we just hope we hear something soon. We're waiting to hear about the WV Housing Development Fund first time homebuyer's loan that our loan officer wanted us to go ahead and try applying for.

The thought of our commute being cut in half is quite appealing. Steve looked at the clock this morning and commented that we'd already be at work about a half an hour into the drive.

Steve started his new job this week and Hannah has been babysitting. We're so happy that Hannah can help out these first couple of weeks. After that mom and then Andy will help. We've been able to enroll Kira in a daycare center here in town starting Sept. 18. - right after she turns 1.

In the midst of that WVU's classes will be starting again on Aug. 21 and I'll be teaching again on Tuesday evenings but only until 8.

So..right now I feel like it is the calm before the storm. I wish we could get the house sorted out before the semester starts but I don't guess that'll happen. Fingers crossed though!

Friday, July 07, 2006

work

So that hubbin' o' mine finally went out and got hisself a job.

He'll be starting August 1 at the same place I work, at the same paygrade (the same one I've been at for 5 years, BTW...grr) and in a better location on the SAME floor.

It's very exciting and sad. He's sad he won't be able to take care of Kira during the day, but it'll work out for the best. Kira is at the point where she wants to meet other babies, so this will be a good thing for her, too. We just need to find a place we like that doesn't have a huge waiting list.

If you know of any daycare facilities in Morgantown that are good and might have openings, please let us know. =)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

update on other stuff...positive thoughts please

We found a better house. Much better. It is about 10K more than we were going to spend, but it is SO worth it.

Steve is interested in any wedding photography shoots (or any other event) as well as family portraits or any other photography job you may be interested in. He is an excellent photographer and if you are interested just give him a call at 304-265-5424 or on his cell 304-216-0405. You can also email him at steve@sbahns.com.

If you'd like to see *some* of his work, he has a few photos on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/plastic_avatar/.

He has lots more and has covered a few weddings.

Hannah lands job at Morgantown High School!

I am happy to report that my sister Hannah has landed a fantastic position at Morgantown High School as their new Drama/Speech Teacher. MHS has never had a speech team like we did at Preston High and think she'll be a wonderful asset to the school. I am extremely happy for her. That particular type of post is very hard to come by in this state and to have found one in the town she already lives in is real really fortunate.

Congratulations Hannah!!

superman

We saw Superman Returns last night and we loved it. They did a great job of updating the story, Superman is gorgegous and the cinematography is fantastic. They did a better job of infusing humor without being too corny than the old movies.

I'm not a comic book fan and really only know about superhero stories from the movies about them. I did really enjoyed this movie, though, and I thought it was well done for the genre. I think Superman fans are probably pretty happy with it as well.

Monday, June 26, 2006

=(

They turned down our bid.

Steve doesn't want to bid much if any higher since we need to get the place rewired, and completely redo the kitchen and bathroom. I can't blame him, but it is so frustrating to me because the house is in the perfect place and has a lot of potential. They just seem to want too much for it in its present state. I figure someone else will swoop in with more money and get it. Oh well.

stomach churning

We made an offer on a house in Arthurdale Saturday and we're awaiting word as to whether or not they accepted. The place needs work, so we bid $10,000 under the asking price, but it is very new on the market and in a desirable area. It is really cute and I am dying to know whether or not we'll be able to get it.

It is driving me crazy. I'd become pretty resigned to not being able to do anything about a house anytime soon and this little place popped up.

So...fingers crossed!! Here is the house: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plastic_avatar/sets/72157594174833575/

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

She's here!

Amy and Todd report that Joplynn Thiamae Moser arrived at 5:54 p.m. (CST) on May 23, 2006. She was 7 pounds and 11 ounces and 19.5 inches long.

Mommy and baby are doing great!

Welcome to the world Joplynn!

I'm so happy that they have a little girl practically the same age as Kira. We're looking forward to meeting her.

Congratulations!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Amy & Todd's baby is on the way!

Amy and Todd are expecting the arrival of their baby girl any moment today. Amy went in last night to be induced. She's a couple of weeks early, but the doctors wanted to go ahead and induce because Amy's blood pressure has been going up and they were concerned.

Apparently everything is going fine, so I'm eagerly awaiting news that she's here. We'll be going up to see them and meet the baby after Memorial Day.

Their blog is here: http://themoserblog.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sayid's a good lookin' dude


Came across this site with hi-quality promotional photos from Lost. It was linked to from the Lost newsgroup. I normally don't follow shows in quite this manner, but I really enjoy this program. It has just enough mystery and surprise to keep me interested.
Lost-Media.com

Also posted on the list is a blurb on how they are going to run the episodes next season - something I think fans everywhere have been frustrated with. I think it is an interesting approach...better than reruns.

More cool photos from the season finale!:




from zap2it

ABC Promises Uninterrupted Blocks of 'Lost'
Emmy-winning hit will make way for 'Day Break' in January
By Daniel Fienberg

Josh Holloway of 'Lost'It's a plight that "Lost" fans know all too well -- You tune in on a Wednesday night praying for a new episode only to find a random repeat from nearly a season earlier, or else a lengthy and unexpected clip show. ABC is hoping to eliminate that
experience.

Following a format somewhat resembling FOX's successful treatment of "24," ABC revealed its new fall schedule on Tuesday (May 16), vowingto dramatically reduce "Lost" repeats. The plan calls for "Lost" to begin the season in its standard Wednesday 9 p.m. ET time slot, but
just when the show would typically move into a rerun cycle in the winter, ABC has an alternative up its sleeve.

"We really wanted to just say to the audience, 'Listen, it's going to be on for this block here and then we'll bring it back and it will run straight through,'" explains ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson. "So yes, the plan is that 'Lost' will come on in the fall in the first or second week of the season, run for seven episodes and then 'Day Break' will launch into that period and 'Lost' will come back in January or early February and run straight through for the remainder for the season."

That way, instead of wondering why Shannon and Boone suddenly seem to be alive again and why the castaways are still scratching their heads over the contents of the mysterious hatch, viewers can follow Taye Diggs as he relives the same day over and over again trying to avoid being framed for murder.

"I think it's the best role he's ever played," McPherson says of Diggs and his "Day Break" character. "He just explodes off the screen and really is a TV star. I think that like 'Lost,' it's a challenging area, but we really feel like in the drama world that's what we do well and we want to take those chances."

McPherson wouldn't rule out the possibility that "Lost" repeats might still air in different time periods, including the 8 p.m. hour before fresh content. He also refused to leak any information on new cast members.

"There are no new people at this point," he hedges. "All the cast are returning except the people we shot on 'Lost.'"

Although convention wisdom holds that a schedule loaded with new programming and low on repeats is an expensive schedule, McPherson urges pundits not to cry for either ABC or "Lost."

"It's an extremely profitable show for everyone," McPherson reassures the masses. "There's DVDs that'll be out, there's the dotcom, there's going to be a lot of content... The thing to keep in mind is that it won't be three-on/one-off/two-on/one-off. There will be no break in the aired episodes. Much like '24,' you will be able to come into that experience and stay with it week after week after week."

McPherson explains that it's all just part of a changing television landscape in a medium which is offering viewers more options than ever before.

"It's a more expensive schedule, but I think the audience is more demanding right now," he says. "I think that the audience has so much choice, is so sophisticated, is so demanding now that we have to work into our schedule more and more original programming and I think that
giving the audience what they want is something we're charged with doing."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yes Men pull Halliburton hoax



Halliburton Falls Victim To Pranksters Touting $100M “SurvivaBall” Suits That Protect Corporate Execs From Global Warming...

Yes Men pull Halliburton hoax - Business - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

CLASSIC!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ok so the houses on the market right now REALLY suck.

Yup. We were so dejected Sunday after looking at a house in Kingwood. It looked promising fromt he photo and desciption and we thought for 80,000 it probably didn't need *That* much work aside from updating, maybe new carpet, new paint. MMMMRRRR WRONG! Kitchen needed to be gutted and redone, new carpet thoughout, basement smelled damp, dehumidifier was running, mold on the basement wall on the slope, windows had water damage around the frames. For some reason one breaker box was in a bedroom and the other in the living room. For $60k we might have considered it and taken extra $$ to fix those problems.

SO

We are not sure what we'll do aside from proceed with the survey for 5 acres off of mom's property. We need 10% down to get a construction loan. We don't have 10K lying around (assuming it'll cost around $100,000), so I am not sure how that'll pan out.

eh...ideas?

Friday, May 05, 2006

House Hunt

We're looking for a house. We were planning on building, but have concluded that with the complications of having to survey off land and then mom needing to convince the bank to break it off the property (since it is mortgaged) AND the cost of buidling (would all HAVE to be under $100,000 that were weren't sure it was the best thing for us to do for our first home. Add that to the gas prices going no where but up and we had little reason to think it was the best thing for us to do.

I am very sad about this because We love living in the country and wanted to raise our children there. BUT in light of all the above we started looking for places that would be closer to where I work and would be in our price range thinking that maybe we'd find something that we could buy and possibly sell later for more $$.

Morgantown is the fastest growing market in the state and houses there are going for ridiculously high prices. Those prices are trickling out to Preston County too though.

So, in this process, we found our DREAM home in Arthurdale. Oh my god we loved it. It was absolutely perfect for us. The location, the size, the lot. Everything.
But, it is about $20,000 out of our price range. We can only go as high as $100,000 and they are asking $119,000. It is very sad. We fell in love HARD with the community and the house when we looked at it.

While at the bank we also found out that we absolutly NEED to get something NOW. They (the West Virginia Housing Development Fund - First Time Homebuyers loan) are changing the guidelines for how they assess your ability to pay for a home and student loans. While we were there the loan officer called the WVHDF and asked whether or not she had to take that into consideration and was told no, but that will change in a matter of weeks. If we fall under that we would never be able to buy a house. seriously. On paper we'd be paying something like $2700/mo. in student loans in addition to everything else.

So we are a little frantic now. We drove around all day Wednesday getting a feeling for the different areas in a 20 mile radius of Morgantown. We found we really didn't like Fairmont or the way downtown Grafton felt. We did like Arthurdale (of course) and the Blueville section of Grafton of of 119. There wasn't much appealing (or even in our price) range in Masontown and Reedsville (shockingly some of these crappy houses there are going for $140,000-$150,000).

So we have a couple of agents looking for us. They haven't come up with anything that I haven't found on my own though. It's all online except for most houses for sale by the owners.

Mom asked if we'd want to buy the house and the acres around it (only) and she'd build something. That's a last ditch effort. I thought once that might be what we'd want to do, but I don't want to be stuck with that house forever and I feel like if she doesn't want to sell us the entire property it wouldn't be worth it. We do want a nicer house and there is SO much that needs to be done to her house - roof, windows, siding, driveway. AND we could never sell it (nor would we want to), so I feel like we'd be locking ourselves in forever if we did that. Besides that, I don't think it is fair that I'd have to buy that house from mom, but later *IF* my siblings want a place she wouldn't ask them to buy property from her (though we have never discussed that so I can't say that for sure). (I know she wants to keep access to the property for them, but that is a non-issue. Of course they would have access to it and could then buy it at the same price or less than I bought it from mom.) We'd also have to get it surveyed anyway and I don't think the WVHDF will loan for more than 5 acres - the springs are farther than 5 acres from the house I think...not sure. They require that the water source be on those 5 acres. The timing is not on our side for this route anyway. We'd have to get this rolling paperwork-wise within the next few days/weeks and that ain't gonna happen - school doesn't let out until June.

So...that may be what we have to explore, but I think I'd rather get something that we can improve, and sell for a profit in the years to come and then build a great place later. OR find a way to buy a house in Artherdale and live there forever.

=)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Let's Impeach the President

Listen to Neil Young's new album, Living With War, for free online

I've never consdered myself a huge Neil Young "fan," but I do love many of his songs. This latest album is probably the best musical protest against this administration I've heard. Let's hope this is ushering in a new wave of protest music.

Watch the CNN Interview with Neil Young. They let him explain a lot more than they nromally do, even if the reporter sounds like an idiot.

You might also be interested in watching Pink sing her "Dear Mr. President" song on You Tube.

"Dear Mr. President"
(feat. Indigo Girls)

Dear Mr. President
Come take a walk with me
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep
What do you feel when you look in the mirror
Are you proud

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why

Dear Mr. President
Were you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
How can you say
No child is left behind
We're not dumb and we're not blind
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye

Let me tell you bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
Oh

How do you sleep at night
How do you walk with your head held high
Dear Mr. President
You'd never take a walk with me
Would you

CNN.com - 'Green roofs' growing more popular - Apr 28, 2006

CNN.com - 'Green roofs' growing more popular - Apr 28, 2006

Germans are so cool about stuff like this. They really have blown much of the rest of the world away on environmental policy.

RETTEN DIE ERDE!

Viral Video contest entry leads to job offer

A really neat story on several fronts. This kid produced a viral video for a contest using a Nintendo emulator on his computer and recreated a historic error from game six of the 1986 World Series.

Red Sox Redux

Bill Buckner's World Series Error Gets a New Life, Videogame Style



Charleston Daily Mail: MU Movie deal isn't about dollars and cents

There is an interesting story in the Charleston Daily Mail today about the economic side of the deal the Marshall University and the state struck with Warner Brothers to film "We Are...Marshall." For those of you who don't know what this is about I've been following this a somwhat on my (sad) movie blog (Sarah's Movie Column).


From a public relations perspective, this movie is a real coup for Marshall. I hope it goes well for them. I hate that everything nowadays comes down to name recognition and marketing, but I'm looking forward to the movie regardless.

Any chance to see WV portrayed in film in an accurate and positive light will be refreshing.
The movie folks seems to be taking great pains to be accurate and the locals seem happy with their efforts, care and respect. What a concept! - out-of-staters *respecting* West Virginians for once.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I love la la!

I posted a few weeks ago on this new website/service called "la la" where you can trade CDs with people for a $1.00 + shipping. Well, I've been using it since then and so far I think it is really really cool. I have been able to not only get new stuff but a lot of things I had on tape that I am too cheap to buy on CD again.

This is really nice.

I also LOVE being able to trade out CDs I don't listen to - especially ones I listened to once and thought were lame and was pissed I paid for.

lala.com

Friday, April 21, 2006

‘Snakes on a Plane’ a phenomenon on Web - Movies - MSNBC.com

‘Snakes on a Plane’ a phenomenon on Web - Movies - MSNBC.com

I really thought this was a joke, but it isn't! It sounds soooo stupid. The cult phenomenon that has come about because of this is hilarious.

More links:
Listen to the fake trailer here:
http://www.snakesonablog.com/2006/01/17/snakes-on-songs-ii/

the original story i heard on this:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5298003

The Wikipedia entry on this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes_on_a_plane

Monday, April 17, 2006

WTF?? 80's Heartthrob Quiz

Your 80s Heartthrob Is

Bill Gates


Kee-rist. Since when is Bill Gates an 80's heartthrob??

Monday, April 10, 2006

Brandy & Preston have a new baby!

This story is about a miracle. I just received an e-mail from Sue Jennings a client of mine and stepmother to one of my oldest friends, Brandy. Brandy told me a few years ago that she and her husband, Preston, decided that they would not have children because she has MS and she was actually even been told by the Dr. that she probably should not/could not have any after 30. She just turned 31.

I was so happy to read this!! It is scary and amazing and I hope and pray that everything goes well for them. Steve and I are so happy for you Brandy & Preston. We are sending positive thoughts your way.

Rather than rewrite Sue's telling of the amazing event, I'll just paste it here:

This is a mass email to let everyone we know the wonderful miracle we had this past Saturday.

We got a phone call early Saturday morning informing us that Brandy, Stan's daughter was in an ambulance on the way to hospital and that she was at least 8 months pregnant. This is truly a suprise because no one, even Brandy knew she was expecting. Now I'll back up some in time and explain. Brandy and Preston (proud father) decided before getting married no to have children because of Brandy's MS and Preston has a family problem he didn't want to pass on either. Brandy began taking birth control even though she has been told many times by doctors that she probably could never get pregnant. She has big cycts on her ovaries and hasn't had any cycles for the last two years, and a year prior to that hadn't cycled for a term of 7 years. Going on with this story, Brandy must has gotten pregnant in Aug. and in Sept she went on a diet and began walking. Slowly, very slowly she began to take off a few pounds. Come Jan. she took a round of cemo therapy to stop an attack she was having that has all but taken her eye sight. This is significant because right before this treatment they gave her a pregnancy test and it came back negative. Also if she had known she was pregnant she wouldn't have taken this treatment that saved her eveysight. Then to answer another question why didn't she feel the baby. One symptom of MS that Brandy has is a numbness in the lower half of her body. She actully couldn't feel the baby at all. She did start wondering what was making her stomach hard at times but couldn't figure it out. The climax to this story that 10:00 Saturday morning April 8th , 2006 Brandy and Preston found out they were having a baby. By 11:00 that evening they had a healthy and I might add beautiful baby boy weighing in at 6lbs 6oz. 19 inches long and has been named Samuel Paul Shrout. Brandy is doing very well, she did have to have a C section because of eclampsia. She gained a whopping minus 18 pounds during her pregnancy. So there it is. In case you don't know this couple personally please let me tell you that it was a sad day in all our lives when they let us know they weren't going to h ave children. There is not two people more loving and patient and giving in this world and who wouldn't be better parents. Well I guess we weren't the only ones who thought this, God must have thought so too. He took in into his hands to make eveything happen just as it has so Brandy and Preston could be blessed with this wonderful little person without a lot of worrying and anxiety.


We would like to also ask eveyone to keep Brandy in their prayers now because after delivery of a child all MS patients go into a very high risk catagory with the disease, experiencing many "attacks". I'm sure she will probably be taking more chemo very soon and this should help, but I believe prayers will help her even more. God has definitely had her in his sights so lets help keep her there. I've tried to call as many people as I could but have not gotten as far as I'd like so that is the reason for this email. We are very excited and full of joy and just want to share this miracle with our friends.
God bless, Stan & Sue Jennings

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sign Up for la la

la la - Sign Up

I signed up for this cool music service I read about in Newsweek last week. It is invite only right now, but if you do a Google search for la la you see an ad at the top of the page that links to their sign up sheet. If you go to lala.com on your own, however, you get a splash screen telling you to wait until July.

An interesting way to market this service, I think. You make sure your advertising on Google pays off, and you get people to help you spread word of mouth and iron out the bugs before your official launch.

Brilliant!

Anyway...I'm linking to the sign up sheet here anyway because I think it is a pretty neat-o service and I think if you are interested in music you'd enjoy it. (No I don't get anything for promoting it. I just think it is cool.)

Sign up for la la!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I am such a slack

I need to finish my Masters. The only thing holding me up is...well...me. My graduate project is on designing websites that "age well" meaning that they meet web standards and have been designed in a way that make them senior-friendly. This is a hold-over from my previous job, so it has been hard for me to feel like working on it.

I held focus groups in October (while I was on maternity leave) and asked 2 groups of seniors what they thought of the site (wvseniors.org). I was hoping they would have provided some feedback on the design, but mostly they just offered suggestions for content. While I think both focus groups were interesting, I found that this format is not very conducive to getting user feedback on a website. In Dec. 2004 we posted a user survey on the website and actually got better, more specific feedback on the site usability than with a face to face group of people.

I guess I am unsure as to how to put that in an official report on my graduate professional project. Part of the project was also to do a follow-up survey to ask them if the problems if there were any had been corrected...but if there weren't any, I am not sure what to survey them on. On top of that, it isn't my site any more, so I am not really as eager to do it.

I need to just buckle down and deal with it.

The hardest thing is motivating myself to sit down and listen to the recordings and transcribe it all. Listening is one thing, but transcribing is another. It is also something that is nearly impossible to do with a 6 month old wanting your attention.

Sigh. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

eBay fraud continued

Newsweek/MSNBC has another story on eBay fraud and cites some examples of people getting screwed for hefty sums of cash.

Here's alink to the article:
Swimming With Sharks - With more people buying goods on online auction sites, crooks are getting even more aggressive.

I'm glad they are reporting on this because it highlights a scam that caught Steve a couple of years ago. He bought a laptop on eBay, and thought it was above the board because the guy had excellent feedback. Turns out some schmoe's account had been hijacked by a con artist. The deal smelled fishy to me when they didn't use the eBay system to communicate (send q's and answers directly via e-mail so ebay didn't have a record) and asked that the money be wired Western Union, but Steve wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Now we know better, but at the time, it seemed less likely that it was fraud based on what we knew at the time.

So again I wonder if eBay is worth it anymore....

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

House

I usually hate to post about things that are "in the works," but hopefully fate will be on my side and it will get going. Steve and I are planning on building a new house at "the farm" probably across the valley from mom's place. Mom's wanting to build a new place too, but I am not sure what her schedule is. The wrinkle is that since the property is still mortgaged, we have to survey off the place where we want to build and then mom has to go to the bank and see if they'll allow her to break it off of the current loan. This is totally new territory for me, so I find this stuff difficult to deal with because it is complicated and confusing and I am not sure which route is the best route. I also hate waiting for other people to do things. I'd like to get going on this now, but know mom doesn't have time she can really take off of work to go to the bank or make phone calls during the day - until summer. Sigh.

Anyway - this is a short post, but one of the many things that are on my mind right now. The upside is that looking at house plans and thinking about hat end of things is a lot of fun for me. The financial/legal end isn't.

more later...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Aristocrats!

The other night we watched "The Aristocrats" on DVD. OMG. It is a movie about what is probably the most disgusting joke I have ever heard, but it was really funny.

This movie has its problems. The editing and the presentation is definitely not as good as it could have been. The filmmakers erred (IMHO) in not providing more complete tellings of the joke by the different comedians. I think that even if the premise is the same, it is still satisfying to hear each one's "performance" of the joke. So, I think it could have been a lbetter if they'd presented it with less splicing of the parts of the joke throughout.

That said...I thought it was a really funny movie about an interesting phenomenon. This joke has become a kind of inside-joke among comedians and everyone who tells it puts his or her spin on the joke - some even try to drag it out as long as possible. The film interviewed LOTS of comedians - many of whom roundly criticized the filmmaker for making a movie about this joke as it is so horrible (not just in taste...it's just a bad joke). I liked the movie, though because it was interesting to watch these comedians discussing the comedic art and well, some of the takes on this joke are pretty friggin funny. This is possibly the only time I have ever found Gilbert Gottfried funny; they show a clip from a Friar's Club Roast in 2001 and the story behind the event and his presentation there is priceless.

I'll also never be able to think of this movie without thinking of Drew Carey's delivery of the punchline (you'll understand when you see it).

There is something really satisfying in watching other people laugh. This joke and the artform in making it so gross makes comedians howl. It's so bad it's good, I guess.

Anyway if you rent it, prepare to be offended, but you'll laugh too.

Cats and bird flu

This is scary: Bird flu hits weasel-like animal

This article says that a marten has been found with bird flu in Germany in an area where cats (!!!) have also been found to have contracted the disease from eating birds. I think that is pretty frightening since I know we have cats at our house who do catch birds from time to time (mostly for sport). My mom also like to feed wild birds (which subsequently poop on my car - but that's another gripe) so attacting birds to our house is even more less appealing to me with this find. I have to admit that I really don't like birds much anyway. I am happy to admire them from afar and yes, some are pretty and I DO like hummingbirds...but I really hate starlings (gross) and sparrows (too many of them), mourning doves (they are just too stupid) and pigeons (thankfully we have none of out where we live, but I hate them anyway).

So I suppose the fears of a bird flu pandemic could be overblown, but I sure as hell hope they figure out a way to help people weather it if they catch it. In the meantime, I'm thinking we ought to keep the cats inside (though that might mean trouble with a capital Pee) and stop feeding the damn birds.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What is the point in eBay anymore?

I just read this article on MSNBC talking about eBay's latest fee increase: Ebay's Cleaver Fee Increase Plan

Ebay is officially a waste of time if you want to sell anything on your own. It's back to the flea market if you've got small items to unload. There is a deperate need for an alternative to eBay. Google...can't you do something? You've taken on a lot of other services...can't you try your hand at autions too? This market is in SERIOUS need of competition.

The thing that pisses me off even more about eBay is if you get ripped off there is absolutely NO recourse through eBay other than whiny feedback...which the seller can dispute. Even so, feedback ratings can be bogus. About 4 years ago, I think eBay hit its peak with a nice balance of cost, fairness and reliability. Here is an article fromt he NY Times concerning this:
Seeing Fakes, Angry Traders Confront EBay (note that you will probaby have to register - for free - to read the story)

So...am I going to stop using eBay? I am certainly not going to bother listing anything for sale unless it is worth at least several hundred dollars. But I just don't have anywhere else to look for some things.

There has got to be someone out there with the wherewithall, money and entrepreaurial spirit to take them on. If you have that kind of energy and resources, I will be happy to help. Just drop me a line...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Americans and work

I just read this article and had a sense that this is really indicative of what is wrong with this country. Here is the link: Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

This, another article I read recently (Can your job kill you?) and talking to my brother in Germany made me think about the state of affairs.

Americans work too much and it is killing us.

I'm not saying that we work to hard, we just work too much. So many of us do not draw the line between work and our home lives and spend so much of our time at work.

Andy is in Germany right now and he made the comment that Americans are too stressed out. He's right. Germans - well, most Europeans, actually - value relaxation. Quality relaxation, not just sitting in front of the tube or taking the kids to Disneyworld for a week. Think spending Saturday at a spa (the entire family) or taking a real vacation for a mimimum of 2 weeks. When Germans leave work (at least in my experience) they really leave it. I know I am making broad characterizations, but I felt (when I was in Germany) that Germans have a much more practical view of what it means to be healthy and value health so much more than in our culture, so that mentaility transcends different aspects of their society and influences everything. They understand that preventative medicine saves lives and money. They understand that mental health is just as important and enjoy life more by taking time to relax. Consequently they understand that eating fast food isn't particluarly healthy and often don't feel so rushed that they resort to it.

Also...if you need further proof...they even have a word that means "call it a day and relax": Feierabend!

Business people might argue that or 24 hour a day mentality keeps us ahead, but I think the article I posted above on productivity indicates that this is not the case.

Perhaps this mentality is changing. I know that in other articles I have read about Gen Xer's like myself have cited a different mentality on work and happiness. But we still have to face the demands of high stress jobs...which is one reason I was ready to switch.

I'm pretty content in my new job and for the first time in 2 years feel like I have some control over what I work on from day to day and can prioritize. I'm proud of the work I did before, but I also feel like I can do better work now because I'm not so scattered.

So, Leute...Feierabend!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Root Canal

Well, I survived my first and hopefully last root canal.

It was actually less horrific than fillings I have had in the past. With enough numbing and a friendly dentist, it's not so bad. I am cautiously optimistic that my new dentist is the "shiznit." Her office is practically in our backyard (by rural WV standards) so that is really cool. I like to support people who invest in my community. She's also really nice and straightforward and tells me what we're doing and what needs to be done.

I'd been shopping for a new dentist since part of the next to the last lower molar on the left side broke off on my most recent birthday. It had been sensitive since I got a filling on Sept. 10, 2001. I think it has been cracked since then and I just didn't know it.

Anyway. I go back on the 8th of March for a crown.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Visit this link: http://totalobscurity.typepad.com/flagorama/

I just received this e-mail from my friend Christopfer:

***************************
I don't know if I've shared this with you before. This is a link to Barry's newest web site. There was one particular section of his personal blog (totalobscurity.com) that got A LOT of traffic, so he separated it out and created its own blog. It's HIGH-larious, yet verydisturbing. Please enjoy!

http://totalobscurity.typepad.com/flagorama/

Yes, I'm very proud of my boyfriend's creativity and the fact that he has somewhat of a brain.

Hope this email finds you well!
Critter
***************************

I just visited the site and concur that it is really flippin' funny. I laughed my ass off at all the snarky comments and ridiculous flag-related photos. LOVE IT.

Thank you Chris for sharing!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fwd: Tech Support

Here are some tech support "yucks" that a friend forwarded me. Thought they were amusing... Enjoy!

***********************************

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?

Customer: A white one...

=============
Customer: Hi, this is Celine. I can't get my diskette out.

Tech support: Have you tried pushing the button?

Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.

Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.

Customer: No .. wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....

=============
Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.

Customer: Your left or my left?

=============
Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?

Male customer: Hello... I can't print.

Tech support: Would you click on "start" for me and...

Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates, dammit!

=============
Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...

=============
Customer: I have problems printing in red...

Tech support: Do you have a color printer?

Customer: Aaaah....................thank you.

=============
Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?

Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me.

=============
Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.

Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?

Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.

Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.

Customer: OK

Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?

Customer: Yes

Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?

Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work...

=============
Tech support: Your password is the small letter a as in apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, the number 7.

Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?

=============
Customer: I can't get on the Internet.

Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?

Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.

Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?

Customer: Five stars.

=============
Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?

Customer: Netscape.

Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.

Customer: Oh, sorry...Internet Explorer.

=============
Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.

=============

Tech support: How may I help you?

Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.

Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?

Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?

=============
A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.

Tech support: Are you running it under windows?

Customer: "No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine."

=============
And last but not least...

Tech support: "Okay Bob, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter "P" to bring up the Program Manager."

Customer: I don't have a P.

Tech support: On your keyboard, Bob.

Customer: What do you mean?

Tech support: "P".....on your keyboard, Bob.

Customer: I'M NOT GOING TO DO THAT!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sick yucky, but baby funny

Steve caught something a couple of weks ago and I caught it last week, so we've been sick for the past 5 days or so. I missed two days at work, but I'm back this morning. I'm still congested, but not as bad as Thurs. and Friday.

Kira had a little bit of a runny nose last night and a very slight fever, but this morning she seems ok. I figure she will get the cold, too, but my fingers are crossed that she won't!


The nice thing about being sick, though, is having some extra days to hang out with her.

I was reflecting this morning that when you're pregnant a lot of folks will tell you to enjoy it 'cause they grow up so fast yada yada yada...

You don't really understand that until you are confronted with this little person who is so darn cute and amazing (they learn so much so quickly) and you realize that they are only going to be that small for a very very short amount of time. A year is so little time. She'll be completely different in a year. She'll be different in 6 months! But I know it will be a lot of fun anyway.

Now I know all women are different and carry babies differently, but Amy sent a photo last night of herself so far and at 21 weeks she looks bigger than I did at 9 months!

Amy, there is no way you're not having twins! I can't wait to find out! =)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Movie Column: Swades

Last week I posted on a Bollywood movie on my movie blog. If you are interested, read about it on: Sarah's Movie Column

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Favorite actor this week: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (a.k.a. Eko on 'Lost')


Mario Perez / 2005 ABC, INC.

Last night's episode of "Lost" (see article at msnbc.com) was all about Eko played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. I have really loved seeing him in bit parts since seeing him in the first season of "Oz" on HBO. He usually plays African characters (I wonder why?), but what intrigues me is that they tend to be complex people and he pulls off the performances so well. He is quite adept at conveying so much about his characters simply through his facial expressions and eyes.

And before I get accused of having a crush, I won't deny that he is pretty damn fine, but that is aside from my point here (STEVE). Sometimes I just like to find out more abou the people I see on TV or in the movies.

SO - I wondered if IMBD.com (Internet Movie Database) had any info on him, so I checked out his entry an thought I'd share:
(From: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0015382/)
Height
6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini biography
Born and raised in London, England, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje began his career as a model in Milan before moving to Los Angeles to make the transition to acting. Fluent in several languages, including English, Italian, Yoruba and Swahili, he is best known for his roles in the movies Congo (1995) and The Mummy Returns (2001), and the HBO series "Oz" (1997).

Trivia
Has a masters in Law from the University of London, but took a different career path when bitten by the acting bug.

Is perhaps best known for his role as the cunning, fierce super-criminal Adebisi on "Oz" (1997).

He went from playing Ernie Hudson's good friend, the guide Kahega to Hudson's Capt. Munro in "Congo," to playing his enemy, the sociopathic Adebisi to Hudson's hard-headed Warden Glynn in "Oz."

The son of immigrants from Nigeria, he has played almost entirely African characters despite having been born and raised in England. He usually employs a deep, Nigerian timber while acting, while off-screen he has a very British, somewhat Cockney accent.

He is fluent in several languages including Italian, Yoruba, Swahili, and (of course) English. He can "get along" in a few other languages, including French.

Other links: http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/cast/93544.html

Anyway...thought you might be interested in learning a little more about this cool actor.

PS - According to the ABC.com Lost bio, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is starring in a film opposite Aishwarya Rai - my (and about 1 billion otrher people's) favorite Hindi actress! That ought to be interesting!

From the bio: "He also completed work on the film Mistress of Spices, a romantic comedy in which he stars opposite Aishwarya Rai."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Amazon.com Wishlists

On a lighter note today, I wanted to take a moment and post a note of appreciation to my family members (all EXCEPT NOAH - HINT HINT) who maintain an Amazon.com or Target wishlist. Not to endorse one company over another or anything...other wishlists are fine too. We just all have Amazon wishlists and it helps us find stuff for each other that we really want or stuff just for fun. The thing I like about it is you don't *have* to get stuff for people the *need.* Gift-giving is supposed to be fun and with a wishlist you can put stuff up that you need or just dream about.

Wishlists serve another purpose, as well, in my opinion. They help you get to know your friends and family. Most of the time we don't have time in our day to day conversations to find out what we're currently "into." Wishlists show you what someone is at least somewhat interested in. So it isn't just a tool to get what you really want for Christmas! So - if you don't have one - friends and family (esp. NOAH) create one and send me an invitation! Here's a link: Amazon.com

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sago Mine Disaster

Very very sad. I feel I should post on this as it has happened very close to home - an hour or so away.

It's been a long time since WV has had a mine disaster like this. The tragedy of having people alive, but trapped and trying to rescue them before time runs out makes events like this so very sad. To make this even worse the families are mistakenly told that 12 are alive only to find out 3 hours later that only one is alive and 12 dead. I can't imagine how crushing that must have been.

One of the miners was from Newburg just "down the road" from us and a friend of one of my clients.

CNN: Grief, anger as all but one miner found dead

West Virginia is usually largely ignored in the media, so to have the spotlight shown so brightly on us all the sudden is ...uncomfortable. I'd like to see research later on how the media portrays the people and the state. I think it's been fairly objective, but you can tell the media don't really "get" WV. Wolf Blitzer kept asking "Why would someone work in the mines?" Well, when the alternative is Wal-Mart at $5.15 an hour without benefits, why wouldn't you seriously consider a $17.00 an hour job? Hell, that's more than I make as a web designer working for the state. Even if you have a degree in something here, there aren't very many good paying jobs.

The next question the outside world asks is "Well, why don't you leave and find something better?" Lots of West Virginians do. Which means there are fewer people here to attract jobs, pay taxes and make West Virginia better. Aside from that point - we love our home. We want to live here. I love living in the country. It's safe here - most natural disasters pass us by (aside from snow and flooding). There is very little crime and I think overall we're a pretty friendly, sincere lot. But I digress (as I usually do)...

No one (at least in the reports I've seen) has reported on this being a NON-union mine. Maybe I'm glamorizing the unions a little, but they tend to insist the company work harder on mine safety. I did here Cecil Roberts (the UMW president) on the radio today talking about how union miners were helping with the rescue effort and that the UMW was trying to help out in any way it can - in spite of the mine not being unionized.

Mining is a damn dangerous job. Unions are a nuisance to the people who make the profits, but I think of all professions, this one really needs solidarity. When you work in a profession that could take your life at any minute, you should have some representation.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't limit benefits of unionization to only life-threatening work. I just think these kinds of jobs are too dangerous for someone to be on his own if he protests the safety of a mine, wages, hours or benefits.

Well...I can go on and on, but I won't.

I'm sending my positive thoughts to the lone survivor and his family.