Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cleverness versus Cursedness

So... For the most part, I've managed to hold my annual Winter Blues at bay by participating in a fair number of "Nesting/Cooking" type of activities: Lights are up. Tree is up. Most of the Christmas Gifts have arrived and are wrapped.

...And we had the First Annual Gathering of the South Bay Canning Club at my house, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and had a fun "Hen-Fest" kinda day (sans testosterone - DH took refuge on the boat that day!!!). I scored a boatload of yummy jams and chutneys and whatnot - in addition to pawning off some of my Excess. I call that a "Win-Win!"

Last week, Cool Neighbor E left a bag of home-grown blood-oranges on my doorstep (Yay Neighbor!), and I still had a couple of bags of fresh cranberries in the fridge - so I made Orange-Cranberry Marmalade (more on that in a separate post).

And - with all of this fresh, home-made jam - well, I *had* to drag out the Bread Machine (Sorry, I'm not so overcome with "Domestic-Nesty-ness" that I am willing to knead and bake my own bread!)...

But, mostly, I attribute my staving-off of Seasonal Affective Disorder to the fact that I've been spending sooooo much time in my Studio (aka the "Tiki Shack o' Perpetual Summer"). It is damn-near impossible to be depressed in my bright and "sunny" (okay overly-bright-fluorescent-lit) beach-side shack!

Every afternoon, after work, I've gone out there to squish clay, or sand-down my works-in-progress, or (::::gasp:::) glaze stuff. It truly is my own private li'l sanctuary. That's why I built it (err - "had it built!") and it's TOTALLY "Doing it's job!"

OTOH - there've definitely been some "Things" happening that are trying to STEAL MY HAPPINESS - dammit! One thing, in particular, has actually been semi-successful in putting me into a funk. I don't want to go into the details here - but it has to do with some "lingering financial/tax/legal issues" related to mom's estate and the sale of her house. And, unfortunately, it looks like I might be left "holding the bag" (to the tune of several thousand dollars) on that one. Sadly, that particular development has put me into a Very Dark Place...

Annnnd... It's been my experience that Negativity begets even more Negativity (not to get all Ooky-Spooky New-Agey on yer @ss or anything).

I'm certainly no Pollyanna. In fact, I'm generally pretty "cynical" in my view of the world (but - I like to think - in a humorous kinda way). For the most part, I *try* to be a "Glass is Half-Full" kinda gal and, overall, I think I can safely plagiarize Joe Walsh and claim that "Liiiiife's been gooood to me so faaaarrrr..."

But this particular speed-bump has been difficult for me to get over. And I'm working through a pretty good-sized chunk of anger over some - shall we say - "inequities" that have occurred in the recent past ("Justifiable anger" - I should note). This latest development has kind of turned into the proverbial straw...

Anyway, since I can't simply "blow it off" - I've been letting myself go to that Dark Place because the only way to deal with it is to, well, acknowledge it and "Deal with it!"

So, for the past week, I've been kind of letting it simmer (steam?) just under the surface (Warning everyone around me that "I'm dealing with sh*t" in the hopes that they'll, mostly, back-the-hell-off!).

So that's a whole lot of words that expressed Almost Nothing! Heh! But it's kind of the backdrop to my Story Du Jour!

So anyway... Night before last, I had dragged out the Bread Machine and decided to bake a fresh, tasty loaf of Honey-Oat-Sunflower-Wheat bread (again, recipe in a separate post). Evidently, it's been awhile since I baked bread because the "freshest" yeast packet I could find had expired back in September. Nevertheless, I sallied forth, and dragged out my bread flour, wheat flour, yeast, yada-yada, yada-yada, and dumped everything into the Bread Machine to let it work it's magic.

Wellllll, I ended up with a rather - shall-we-say - "compact" loaf of bread that could have easily shattered a window. Or broken a toe if you dropped it. And *something* (I don't know if it was the flour or the oatmeal or sunflower seeds) had obviously gone bad because it smelled funny and tasted even worse! (How do you f**k-up bread???) It made a rather loud (and none-too-satisfying) "thunk" when I dumped it into the garbage can. :::sigh:::

So the next day, I dumped the old flour, oatmeal, and remaining sunflower seeds into the trash and ventured out to Snob Hill. They've got a fairly comprehensive selection of organic "bulk" stuff. So I procured replacements to the aforementioned ingredients.

Forgot the honey though, dammit! (but I did have *just barely* enough for one more loaf!!)

When I got home, I decided I'd try it again. Set-up the Bread Machine on the bar between the kitchen and living room and let 'er rip.

Later that afternoon, I was on a mind-numbing conference call. One that, fortunately, I didn't have to be an "Active Participant" in. So I was able to multi-task!

I got the Most Brilliant Idea of using my Netbook (which has a built-in camera *and* spends most of it's life out in the studio) as a kind of "Remote Thermometer" (actually, more like a "Baby Monitor") so I could supervise the kiln's firing progress without having to run out to the backyard every hour...

(Okay, in case you forgot the blog-post title, we are now - FINALLY! - approaching the "Cleverness" part of my post!)

So I dragged my Netbook into the house and futzed around with the webcam-software to figure out how to capture images. It took a fair amount of futzing, but I got it to work (Yay Me!). Then the more "challenging" part was "How do I get my Laptop to ACCESS my Netbook's webcam software remotely?" I tried using Windows "Remote Desktop" but I couldn't get it to work (one machine is running XP and the other is running Windows7 and I have NO clue how Hubs has the Home Network set-up!). Not sure exactly what the problem was - but I just couldn't get it to work. And besides, I think someone needs to be *at* the Remote Machine to allow access. And - with the remote machine being in the Studio - well, that would kinda defeat the purpose, right?

It's a good thing that my mind-numbing conference call was a LONG one!

Then I did some Googling... (and yes, the conference call continued!)...

Long Story Short ("Too Late!"). I ended up setting up a dummy Skype account on my Netbook. Actually, it's a "real" account (to Skype) but only *I* know the account name - and the "dummy" account will ONLY accept calls from my "real" Skype Acct. I was able to tweak the settings so that it will automatically answer, and display video, when my "real" Skype Acct calls it.

End result: I can Skype my Netbook and look at the display of my kiln-controller (which shows current temperature) at any time. Yayyy Meeee!!!

So, after the conference call ended ("FINALLY!!!"), I set-up the Netbook in front of the kiln and aimed the camera. Trouble there was: The Netbook needed to be set appx 10" from the kiln in order to be able to read the display. The kiln can throw-off a whole lot of heat (it gets up to over 2000*!). I do have a cheap Logitech USB web-cam so I installed *that* software. I can tape the El Cheapo webcam to a stool next to the kiln. End result is the same: I can view the temperature in real-time, but I probably won't mind so much if I accidentally melt a $30.00 web-cam! (I doubt it would happen, but why risk it?)

(This snapshot was taken with my laptop - in the house - from the webcam - in my studio!)

So Big-Time "Yay Meee!" In fact, I was soooo tickled with myself I posted it to Facebook *and* emailed DH (who was in So-Cal on business). DH, as I'm sure I've mentioned, is an Electronics Engineer/Geek Extraordinaire - and our In-House IT Guru. And, it is assumed that I, being the wife, am utterly and completely devoid of any kind of "Technical Skills" (nevermind that I am a Business Systems Analyst/Software Designer, by day). Hell, even *he* was impressed that I figured that out - "All By Myself" (okay, maybe with a little help from Google!)...

Well, I think I used up what little "Good Karma" I had left because - let me tell you - it was all downhill from there!!!

So, I've got a fresh loaf of Honey-Oat-Wheat-Sunflower Bread kneading and rising in the bread-machine on the bar (must'n't forget about that!), and I've been running back-and-forth to the Studio. I'm contemplating doing a bisque-firing so I can crank-out some more Christmas Gifts: I still have a few ornaments to fire; a couple of "Christmas Craft Projects" for the neighbor's kids; Some bowls and Snack-Trays that might make nice gifts; and a handful of "Leftover Clay Critters" that I'd squished out of, well, Leftover Clay Blobs...

So I wander back to the Studio to start loading the kiln, and DH calls me to check-in from SoCal. I walk through the door and flip the light switch. "Sh*t!" One of the ceiling light fixtures is dead. "Well THAT sucks!!!" No warning, either. Just 20 minutes ago, it was working fine. Now it's completely DEAD.

Bear in mind, I'm teetering on the precipice of my "Dark Place" and it really doesn't take much to push me over the edge, so that really got me kind of irked. Hubbie's wanting to tell me alllll about his rental car (Mustang V6 convertible) and all the minutiae of his day, and all I can do is think about how peeved I am that "I'm sitting in the dark in - what's SUPPOSED TO BE - My Sanctuary!"

So I'm looking up at the non-functional light fixture, and Hubbie's yammering-on about how the seats and dashboard of the Mustang compare to his Camaro (and I'm registering, roughly, 70% of what he's saying). Then I notice that the plastic diffuser/cover thingie is coming off of the other overhead light fixture, so I grab a broom and use the handle to try to squish the cover back into place "Uh huh... Really? Yeah, they *are* kind of Retro, aren't they?"

Then: CRASH!!!

The diffuser/cover falls to the floor and SHATTERS!!!

At THAT point, I wanted to cry.

(Okay, just so you're up-to-speed, we are in the "Cursedness" part of the post..!)

(But wait! There's more!!!)

So DH wisely infers that, maybe, it would be best to cut the conversation short (after he said he was sorry I was having a bad day - which I *did* appreciate!) (He also suggested an Electrician).

Okay... So then I go in search of a replacement Diffuser/Cover online. No luck.

Then I hop in the car and drive over to Home Depot to procure new light-bulbs (even though I don't think that's the problem) and see if I can find a new Diffuser/Cover. Light bulbs, I found. Diffuser? No such luck.

So I bought a brand new light fixture - figuring we could cannibalize it for parts...

When I returned home, I encountered a rather strange plastic-melting smell. WTF???

Welllllll... While I was at Home Depot (a whopping 15 minutes!), the bread-machine decided to commit suicide. See, when it's in it's "knead" mode, it kind of vibrates (not unlike the washing machine during it's Spin Cycle). Well, somewhere between "kneading" and "baking" the damned thing *walked* off the edge of the counter and fell to the floor - spilling a partially-baked (but very well-risen) loaf of bread onto the floor. Then to add insult-to-injury, it CONTINUED TO BAKE. The plastic-melting smell came from the plastic-hinges where the lid attaches to the machine.

Fortunately, I discovered it while the plastic hinges were still malleable-enough for me to put it back together (and yes, it still works). More fortunate still: I discovered it before it had a chance to trigger our smoke detector (which would contact ADT, who, in turn, would contact the Fire Department), or worse...

At that point, I pretty-much decided that running the kiln would be a Very Bad Idea. In fact, all I really wanted to do was go to bed (and try to avoid injury!!!).

"Tomorrow is another day!"

Soooo... This morning, after a fitful night's sleep, I awoke and tackled work email. I had one lengthy conference call that I would be leading, so I figured I'd print out my documentation ahead of time.

We have a Fancy Schmantzy Wireless Network printer. I figured I'd try to save paper and print "duplex" to the Fancy Printer... Couldn't get the work machine to communicate with the wireless printer :::sigh::: so I emailed the documents to my personal email. Kind of a pain, buttt.... Bring up the documents on my personal machine and send 'em to the printer.


So, I wander into the bedroom to attempt to "gently" un-jam the printer - only to leave a small corner behind. Rebooting the printer resulted in, yes, ANOTHER printer jam!

There's some fancy on-board video-tutorial on how to un-jam the printer, but when you follow-it, it kicks out even MORE warning messages ("Yada-Yada Cover is Open!") and, pretty-much, every message: Be it "Printer Jam" or "YaYa Door is Open" or whatEVER results in a Notification-Email to DH...

JeeeeeZUSSS!!! It was only two 3-page documents ferchrissake!!!! Turned into a nearly hour-long ordeal as I dismantled the machine and extricated torn-up confetti!!!

(In the end, I printed them on my crap-tastic local printer. Screw the trees!!!)

By this time, I was pretty-much fit-to-be-tied (and "Oh, yes" - I got an email from Hubbie inquiring about what was going on with the printer).

"Kill me now!!!"

Well, by the time the afternoon rolled around, I decided to TOTALLY tempt fate and started ANOTHER loaf of bread. THEN!!! I went out to the studio - again!

I decided to throw caution to the wind and fired-up the kiln... Went to hit the wall switch to turn on the exhaust fan - only to discover that it, too, was dead. This means it's NOT the light-fixture, but something electrical. I flipped all of the circuit-breakers (including the Main Panel), and re-set the GFI. Still, the light and fan are not working. I've called the original electrician and he will be out, tomorrow, to fix it.

I'm still moving forward with running the kiln (since those circuits are independent of everything else) and monitoring it closely on Skype!

Annnnnd... I *did* manage to successfully bake a loaf of bread without burning the house down.
So maybe, just maybe, my Karma is turning back around again!!!

If I never, ever post again - it means I probably self immolated! It's been nice knowin' ya!!!

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