A time to fight, and a time to run screaming

It didn't used to worry me. Someone would come to work sick, coughing and sneezing and generally polluting the air around them, and I'd shrug it off. No more. The 'stand and fight' behavior is for the young, I've decided. A couple of weeks ago, my co-worker and fellow technical writer came to work sick. He stood outside my office door and apologized, but he just had to finish something up.

A day later, I had a sore throat and cough. Three days later, I was coughing up a lung and every single muscle in my chest and stomach ached from coughing. A visit to the doctor provided the verdict: bronchitis with 93% lung capacity. What the...? This would never have happened a decade ago, but times change and the body doesn't shrug things off like it used to.

So because one person came to work sick, I spent the last eleven days coughing and feeling miserable, didn't enjoy our special 35th anniversary weekend at the lake, and missed a week of work.

Next time, I run screaming in the other direction.


Monsoon, Anyone?

The frogs were croaking this morning when I left for work, at the early hour of 5:00 am. After yesterday afternoon's rain, I wasn't surprised. When the pond fills up, the frogs go crazy. But I didn't expect to sit in my car outside my office for 10 minutes, waiting for the wind and horizontal rain to slow down enough to make a mad dash for the door.

My office windows face south, and all day long I watched the squalls blow through. Heavy rain, then brilliant sunshine, then rain again. I lost count of the separate systems that blew through.

Mid afternoon I took a break and walked outside in the sun, talking with my sister on the phone. We chatted about the weather, among other things, and she mentioned reading a meteorogist's blog about our atypical winter, and that it was too early to give up on snowfall for western Washington. And she was right.

As I left work, driving east toward home, every time I was stopped by a red light, a rainstorm caught up with me. Traffic would move and I'd drive east away from it, only to be caught again. A couple of miles from home, the temperature plummeted and the sky got black, and it started to hail. People came out from the local QFC just to watch it come down, and the wind drove it into the side of the buildings. Between work and home, a linear distance of about 6 miles, the temperature dropped from 48 to 38 degrees, and my car thermometer was warning "ICE." Shades of winter in March.



Quite by accident today I discovered a Blue Heron rookery. Surprised to see two herons flying tandem across the road, one of them looking much too large, I slowed down to look. The second heron was carrying a 4 ft. branch in its beak. They're nesting, I thought. And just as I passed the gap in the woods where they'd flown, I saw the nests. I came back later to look again, and this time, I had to creep along the shoulder before I got the perfect view into the rookery. In a few weeks, when the trees by the road have leafed out, you won't be able to see the nests. But now, if you know where to look, there's a perfect view of a dozen huge nests in the tops of dead trees, each with a sentinal Blue Heron.

I did take photos with my ultrazoom, and can see nests and birds because I know they were there. To anyone else, they'd just look like bare trees. I wonder how long this rookery has been here. I've driven this road every single day for almost 30 years, and walk in the nearby park every week. And I've never seen these nests before today. The herons chose their site well.


Around the world by computer

In the wee hours this morning, I talked with two of my nieces. One conversation took place on facebook, the other on Skype. One niece is in York, England and the other is in Adelaide, Australia. Two computers, two networks, two nieces = a whole lot of talking and fun. Both girls are working on their Master's degrees, and I wish I was closer than half a world away. I miss them both.


Is it a train..

...if it's just engines? My town has two sets of railroad tracks, and it's always a challenge to leave work at just the right time, so I can make it across town without getting stuck behind a freight train, the Amtrak Cascades, or the commuter train. Tonight I timed it perfectly: I got across the first set of tracks, then heard the crossing bells and saw the gates drop down.

As I waited at the next intersection for the light to turn, I watched for the train in the rear-view mirror. A yellow Union Pacific engine, then another, then another… wait a minute! Where's the train? There were 9 engines in all, pointing forwards and backwards, and not a single car or caboose. Too bad I didn't get stuck waiting for this train... it would have made a great photo!


Breakfast at The Farm

Dave spotted a review about this place in the Times, and we decided to check it out. The Farm is near Poulsbo, and is a working farm that just happens to serve breakfast the first Saturday of each month. We arrived early and got in line, beating a serious crowd by mere seconds. By the time they opened up the doors, we were chilled and thankful we were near the front, not back a hundred people or so.

They offer a couple of meal choices, which you order as you enter the building. We also bought cookies and a loaf of banana bread to go, then found a table in the back with a view out over the fields. The self-serve coffee stand was closeby, and we helped ourselves a couple of times before our food arrived. It was very good (but not sure I'd want to wait in line an hour or more).



I've been spending my week creating translated versions of one of my technical manuals. German, French are done, now I start the Italian. We hire a company to actually do the translation, but part of my job is to import the text files, add back the numbers (which we remove so we don't pay 22¢ a word to 'translate') and add any other text that's already been translated. Then I replace the illustrations, wiggle stuff around so it fits, create the parts lists, check line breaks so words split correctly for that particular language, redo the tables of contents, and whew... it's done. It's actually a satisfying part of my job, easy but time-consuming. It's one of those tasks you need to have on the back burner--perfect when you need a break from the really tough part of writing technical documentation.

Easy... but oh-so hard on a beautiful day like today! Spring is just bursting into bloom, right outside my windows.


Brussels sprouts

While I have been spending a lot of my spare time whacking the underbrush (and in my case, the over-the-head brush), there's also been plenty of time for cooking and enjoying the winter vegetables. Take the beautiful Brussels sprout, for example. I don't have a good history with this wee cabbage. I have vivid childhood memories of sitting at the dinner table long after everyone else had left, facing a few sprouts on an otherwise bare plate, and refusing to eat them. If we'd had a dog, I wouldn't have been in vegetable trouble... but our cat was very uncooperative. And my parents figured out pretty quickly that any request to go to the bathroom during dinner also involved flushing vegetables.

It wasn't until I was an adult, eating at my sister's table for the holidays, that I learned to love the Brussels sprout. Bob, my brother-in-law, has a masters touch with this vegetable. He steams them until they're tender but still a bit crunchy, then cuts them in half and sautes them in browned butter, which brings out the nutty flavor. I copy his method with no guilt whatsoever, and have shared it with friends. They all say they're the best Brussels sprouts they've ever eaten.

Thanks, Bob! (p.s., Dave thanks you too)


Room on the bed for two

Both cats claimed spots on the bed last night, so we let them stay. James curled up between us, and Phoebe slept at the end of the bed, next to the soles of my feet. They're both learning how to be bedroom cats, finally.

Phoebe, our Russian Blue, used to last about an hour then she'd bang on the door and head for the basement. James, our very large American Shorthair, is pretty good about staying put, and usually lasts until 2:30 or 3:00 (sometimes with some extra incentives, like a head scratch or a tummy rub). So she gets to sleep on the bed on the weekends. Weekdays, no. I'm not crazy about getting up twice to let cats downstairs, when my alarm goes off at 4:30! Last night they both stayed until 3:40. And I'm pretty sure Phoebe stayed only because James was there, and she doesn't want James to get all the attention.

It’s kind of amusing to have a jealous cat. You’d think they’d have other things to worry about, like getting food and sleeping as many hours as possible in a 24-hour period. Until James came to live with us, Phoebe wasn’t jealous of the other cats. But when it comes to sharing human attention, the competition never stops.