Sunday, January 31, 2010

Time for a New Computer

I've written 110 of the 350 words required for my first Humanities discussion (due Tuesday).  I saved what I have so far on a flashdrive so I can finish it tomorrow.  I have a 2 1/2-hour break between classes on Mondays and Wednesdays that I've been using to study or complete assignments.  My laptop has Word 2003, though, and the school uses Word 2007.  The school's computer should be able to read my version, but can my computer read the 2007 version?  They have laptop stations so I could bring mine with me, but the battery life is not very long.      

As I was debating whether I should get a new one, I was flipping through the channels on TV and saw that they were selling Acer Netbooks for $380.  Really?  That cheap now?  And small enough to throw in my purse?  I'm sold.  I haven't heard a lot of good things about Acer, though.  My Toshiba laptop survived an end-over-end tumble down a flight of stairs.  I've had it at least four years and it's still working for me.  I wonder how much a Toshiba netbook goes for...

I found a 10-inch, 3-pound, Toshiba netbook for $322.84 on Amazon.  It has a battery life of 9 hours.  It sounds perfect for taking back and forth to school. 

Does anybody remember when we had to type on a typewriter?  Those little plastic strips we used to correct mistakes?  Having to "squeeze" letters to fix typos?  Having to start all over with every revision?  I don't miss that at all.  Some changes are definitely for the better!         


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brazos Bend State Park

This morning I dragged myself out of my warm bed, layered up, and headed to Brazos Bend State Park for a hike with BCO.  The temp was in the low 30's so I wore two pairs of pants, three shirts (one with a hood), gloves, and my ear-warmer headband.  I didn't get started early enough to make breakfast so I ate a Cliff Bar.  I also had not stocked up on water and didn't have time to stop and buy any.  There was zero chance of heat being a problem and it was just a short 6-mile hike so I grabbed a bottle of Sunkist instead.  It turns out I didn't need anything to drink at all, so I didn't get caught with it.  I need to buy some refillable bottles for future use.

We met at the nature center and I was tempted to head back to the car for a jacket to put over my three shirts because I was still a little cold, but I was reminded I would warm up quickly once we started moving, so I didn't.  They were right.  As long as we were moving, I was comfortable.

We started on the Pilant Slough Trail, a "1-mile long trail that starts near the ampitheater at the nature center and follows Pilant Slough as it meanders through the bottomland forest" according to the park's trail map.  If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see one of the many puddles we did our best to go around.  I was wearing a pair of retired running shoes which I managed to keep mostly dry.  I definitely need to invest in a pair of waterproof hiking boots.  Wet feet on a cold day would not have been pleasant.   

The trail ended at Elm Lake, where we waited for the slower members of our party to catch up.  I wasn't moving and the wind was blowing, so I was cold again.  I'm glad we didn't have to wait long or I would have had to do some running in place or jumping jacks or something.  If you click to enlarge this photo you can see the ducks.  How can they swim in water that cold?  Brrr...

We picked up a portion of Elm Lake Trail and followed it to the start of Spillway Trail which "leads through a bottomland hardwood swamp and connects Elm Lake Trail with 40-Acre Lake Trail".  We crossed a footbridge and someone noticed an alligator floating just below the surface of the water.  I wish I had a camera with a polarized lens because that would have made a great photo.  At the end of the trail was an observation tower.  I'll wait for a trip in warmer weather to climb it.

We then hiked the 1.2-mile 40 Acre Lake Trail, which took us in a circle around the lake.  About halfway around we came upon a picnic area.  We took a short break and some people ate snacks or visited the restrooms.  I took a few pictures of the massive live oak trees covered in Spanish moss.

We ended up back at the Spillway Trail and took a second trip across the bridge.  One of those sticks floating on the water is actually an alligator.  Our submerged friend from earlier, maybe?  Click to enlarge if you can't find him.  Below is a different view.

We then headed back to our cars and some of us caravanned to Chili's for lunch.  Bad news:  Service was terrible.  Some of us waited an hour for our food.  Good news:  It was on the house.  I didn't leave a tip because I didn't have anything smaller than a ten.  I had planned to add the tip when I signed the check.  Are you supposed to tip if your meal is comped?  I'm not convinced the waiter was completely to blame...

Friday, January 29, 2010

So Far, So Good

I've survived my first two weeks of school!  And I'm still excited about attending!  I'm doing my best to keep the negative thoughts out of my head - the ones that say, "you can't do it" and "get a job".  Sadly, it's not always just in my head.  I may need to cut some naysayers out of my life.

Every time I tried to go to school in the past, something happened and I couldn't.  When I was a teenager I asked my parents if they were going to help me pay for college.  They said, "You're never going to graduate high school."  I nearly didn't.  I was working 38 hours a week.  I was not able to keep up.  I went back for a 5th year and signed up for a coop program that allowed me to leave at noon.  When I finally did graduate, my parents weren't there.  My father's fishing trip was far too important to miss.

My parents not only didn't help pay, they refused to allow me access to their tax returns so I could apply for financial aid.  By the time the requisite two years of not being claimed as anyone's dependent had passed I was married.  My husband really wanted me to go, he said, but there was always some reason why I couldn't.  One day I went to the school and signed up for an EMT class without his permission.  He was not happy.  He complained about the money I was spending on gas.  He accused me of having affairs with fellow students.  He reported my car missing hoping I'd get pulled over on the way to class.  The very next semester he decided he needed to go full time.  I, of course, had to quit school altogether since we (I) could barely pay the rent.  Words cannot describe the anger I felt.

I got a much-needed divorce, a better job, and a decent car.  I decided to try again and signed up for a couple of classes in the evenings.  That lasted for 2 semesters - until my boss started changing my hours and demanding that I work more overtime.  My daughter was in elementary school and it became too difficult to keep up.  

I may not get another chance. If I'm going to get my degree I need to find a way to go the whole four years now and make education my priority, not work. If I work, it will be part time and it will never come before studying.  I'll talk to the financial advisors at the school about my options. I may not qualify for grants now, but I will probably qualify next year. I need to find out about student loans, too. Do they still have GSL's?  There has to be some way to do this, and I'm going to find it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bon Jovi Hawaii 1987: Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Part of our vacation package was a welcome breakfast our first morning on the island.  Most of us headed down to the lobby in our pajamas, thinking breakfast was at our hotel.  It was not.  We ran upstairs to change and grab our cameras as quickly as we could.  We then boarded a bus and were taken to another hotel a few blocks away.  This is when I learned that "continental breakfast" is a pastry and a glass of orange juice.  They also offered tea, and I learned there were ways to drink tea other than over ice.  It's quite tasty served hot with milk or cream, too.

Breakfast was actually a sales pitch for snorkel tours, dinner sails, luaus, and sightseeing trips.  I now know that it's best to book your tours at the activities desk of your hotel.  They have all the tours offered at the breakfast and more, without the hard sell tactics.  You can even rent a car.

After breakfast, it was Hilo Hattie's turn to kidnap us.  Hilo Hattie is an excellent place to shop for souvenirs, but you can get a ride any time.  They have several pickup locations in Waikiki.  They bus was also scheduled to take us on a tour of the pineapple and macadamia nut factories.  We didn't want to spend our day visiting these places, so we declined the "free tour" and walked back to our hotel.  It was a beautiful morning and not an unpleasant walk.   

Our route took us past the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (The Pink Palace), The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, and Waikiki Beach.  About halfway back to our hotel, I spotted an old woman lying half on the sidewalk and half in the street.  Thinking she was sick or had suffered a fall, I stopped to ask if she was okay.  "I'm awful hungry," she responded.  Another first; we didn't have homeless people living in the streets of Magnolia, Texas.  They try to keep them out of sight of the toursists, but there are plenty in Honolulu.

I don't remember the rest of the trip in chronoligical order.  The next seven days are a blur of luaus, snorkel tours, Australian rugby players, beaches, and concerts.  I'll post the highlights in no particular order beginning next week.  If you have travel stories of your them and link up here:  Travel Tip Thursday.    

Today's tip:  Unless you are traveling with a tour group and there will be information or announcements you need to hear, skip the free breakfast.  It's a high-pressure sales event designed to separate you from your money before you have time to spend it elsewhere.      

Good Night

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I spent my last evening with Poker Guy before he's gone for good to Ohio.  He made me promise we'd see each other again.  He held me for the longest time and then said, "I won't say good-bye, I'm saying good night."    *sob*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Learning to Cook

I'm trying to save money and eat healthier by cooking more often.  In the past we would go to the grocery store and load up on everything that looked good to eat.  The result was that we would eat about half of what we bought and the rest would go bad and have to be thrown out or sit in the pantry for years.  That approach is not much cheaper than eating out.

I drive by at least three grocery stores on my way home from school every day, so I am trying a different approach.  I'm actually planning menus and only shopping for one or two meals at a time.  It's easy enough to stop and buy the ingredients after school and eat leftovers or sandwiches on the days I don't want to cook.

We've been trying out different recipes from the books and magazines I've collected but rarely used.  I made Turkey Minestrone from Taste of Home's Pasta Cookbook.  I thought it was pretty good and my daughter ate it without complaining.  I like making big pots of soup like this and freezing the leftovers.

We had a half pound of ground turkey and three-fourths pound of turkey sausage left over and I told my daughter we need to find something to do with them before they spoil.  I don't want to keep throwing food away.  She decided she wanted to make turkey burgers with the leftover ground turkey.  I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and found buns on sale for a dollar.  Cheese slices were 3 packages for a dollar.  Dinner only cost me $2.70 and I didn't even have to cook!

I found a recipe for chili to utilize the leftover turkey sausage.  All I had to do was cook the sausage then open three cans and a bottle of salsa.  It doesn't get much easier.  It won't win any chili cook-off's, but it's not bad.  My daughter said it was awesome.  I froze a bag of these leftovers as well.

Now I've got leftover hamburger buns I need to use.  I found a recipe for pulled pork sandwiches in my Rival Crock Pot cookbook.  I stopped again on my way home to buy the shoulder roast and the other ingredients that I didn't already have.  I can smell it cooking now and it's making me very hungry.      

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Not Slacking - I'm Prewriting

According to my Comp textbook, "Prewriting techniques are like the warm-ups you do before going out to jog -- they loosen you up, get you moving, and help you develop a sense of well-being and confidence."  It also states, "Of all the prewriting techniques, keeping a journal (daily or almost daily) is the one most likely to make writing a part of your life."    

That probably means I'd get more out of it if I wrote my entries before I spend hours studying and working on my assignments.  I should be warming up here first.  I should be making it a priority instead of something I do in my spare time. 

I'm too brain-dead to post anything worth reading right now.  I'm feeding the cat before she starts chewing on my textbooks and then hitting the sack. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Choosing a Major

I'm seriously considering declaring Humanities as my major.  I love taking arts and history classes.  If I decide to return to international trade, it doesn't matter what I study.  It only matters that I have a degree.  If I choose to pursue a new field, there seem to be many for which a humanities degree would be appropriate. 

This semester I'm taking Humanities, Art Appreciation, and Spanish classes, all of which are appropriate.  If I'm still as excited about studying art, languages, and history at the end of the semester, I will make it official. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have people changed?

For my English Comp class I have to compare and contrast one way in which people in American society have changed since my childhood.  We are specifically instructed not to write about technology; to write about changes in personalities, goals, behaviors, attitudes, etc.  This is difficult since I don't believe we have changed.  Our teenagers are still doing the same stupid things they've always done...they think they know everything but are in for that same rude awakening we all experienced.  We still have the same mix of idiots and geniuses, assholes and sweethearts, introverted and extroverted, selfish and giving people that we've always had.  The only thing that has changed is the technology.

I have to create an outline and turn it in Monday.  I guess I have to make something up.  She said the thesis should be arguable, not fact...she's interested in how well we argue a point through our writing.  I will have to argue the side I don't believe. 

Oh, wait...does more respect for the environment count?  Do we have more respect for the environment?  We use our own bags at the grocery store, recycle, walk instead of drive...hey, she did say arguable...

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Favorite 4 Letter Word

That's right...FREE.

I just found out the school offers free tutoring to anyone who wants or needs it.  It's been 10 years since I've written anything for credit, so I may be using them a lot.  All we have to do is go to the Enhanced Learning Center and sign up for 30-minute sessions.  On Mondays and Wednesdays I have 3 hours between classes.  I've been using the time to study in one of the many student lounges they have set up.  I could easily schedule some tutoring sessions then as well.  I'm really starting to believe I can actually do this!

I'd like to find a way to stay in school for the next 4 years and earn my Bachelor's Degree.  If I study hard and make A's, will they give someone my age scholarships? 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


It's Travel Tip Thursday and I have nothing to post.  I have two chapters in my English Comp book that need to be read before 7 a.m., so it's not going to get written tonight. If I'm going to continue my story, I'll have to join the camp that writes ahead of time.   I'll have it ready for next week.

It appears I'll have a lot of writing assignments this semester.  I thought about posting my work here but my school uses software that searches the internet to catch cheaters.  I'm having premonitions of being told I've plegarized myself.

My first is for Humanities: 
1.  What are we?
2.  How did we get here?
3.  What's the point?
In no less than 350 words I have to give my opinion as to whether these 3 questions are sufficient to have created arts, religion, history, philosophy, and the sciences.  Of course the answer is "yes", but I have to come up with reasons why...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to School

Today was my second day of school.  The first day was awful.  I was not expecting to have so much trouble parking and was late to class.  Then, my asthma started acting up and I couldn't stop coughing and couldn't speak to tell anyone what was going on.  I grabbed my inhaler, stepped into the hall, and didn't return until I was better.  I guess they figured it out once they saw the inhaler.

Today was better.  Biology was always one of my favorite subjects in high school and it appears it might be one of my favorite classes now.  It was fun getting reaquainted with the slides and microscopes.  We were given the option of working alone or with a partner.  The woman sitting next to me and I decided to work together.  Her strengths were my weaknesses and my strengths were her weaknesses.  That makes a great partnership because we both benefit. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


For some reason, I was craving a cheesburger last night.  I bribed my daughter to run and get it for me.  I gave her 20 dollars and said she could keep the change.  Someone hit her.  She's okay, but shaken up.  All because I wanted a cheeseburger.  I'm a horrible mom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Plan for the New Year

I don't like to call them resolutions because I reserve the right to change anything that isn't working.  I learned this at a 4QL seminar.  You keep the things that are working, stop the things that aren't working, and start things that may improve the quality of your life.  You don't have to do it just once a year.

Hanging out with the BCO crowd and a few of the Meetup groups.
Running / walking marathons.
Traveling. corner / drawer / closet at a time.

Online dating.
Eating out unless I'm with friends or one of the Meetup groups.

Attending the singles events that include free dance lessons. 
Meeting more people in the real world. 
Eating at home.
Collecting marathon finisher's medals from all 50 states. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm a Nerd

I'm way too old to get excited just because I got an email response from a rock star.  A one line response that did not invite further correspondence - but a response!    


I was going to wait until school starts to continue blogging...but I have news.  I had dinner tonight with my brother who I haven't seen in 17 years.  He sent me a friend request on Facebook.  Most of my family I have no intention of speaking to ever again, but my brother and I got along pretty well.  It wasn't nearly as awkward as I thought it would be...