Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pittsburgh Welcomes the World? Bah.

G20 is starting (has started?) today. El presidente is supposed to be arriving as of a few minutes ago, if I heard right. The news radio stations are a flurry of critiques and snarky comments and Pittsburgh business hates that the entire area around the convention center where G20 meetings will be held is closed off, barricaded and guarded and everyone's lost business and money from the deal. That's not even going into the issues we're having with traffic, what with stopping it on the parkways to let delegates come rolling through the empty streets in their heavily-armored motorcades, half the downtown blocked off and several major throughways being re-routed around the city. It's a nasty mess and honestly, I'm pessimistic about the entire thing, but then I haven't been connected enough to educate myself about what's going on past listening to the radio when I can (10-minute snatches in the car)... so I can't really comment other than to report the unease that everyone else seems to be feeling, and note that the large noisy 'birds' passing by every few hours with binoculars almost certainly aimed at the area below are making me nervous, too.

The mayor has apparently declared a state of emergency as well, the effect of which is to increase police power during the summit and to limit the rights of protesters including the right to open carry a firearm without a carry permit (normally, open carry does not require a permit of any kind - only concealed carry requires the License to Carry Firearms). This means that anyone caught openly carrying a weapon without their LCTF is likely to be hauled away to the jail with the several hundred protesters who have been stuck into cells and the rather upset prisoners rousted from said cells to live in the jail gymnasiums until the summit's over. Did I mention it's a mess down here? But that's politics for ya...

In happier news, I saw two deer yesterday morning while driving to work. Came around the corner of the street that lets out of our little neighborhood, and there they were on the side of the road, looking wide-eyed and utterly confused at the amount of morning traffic, while we stared back at them equally wide-eyed at the closeness of nature. I'm 5 minutes walking distance from a major road through the South Hills and it's amazing to me still that there's a full hillside of grapevine and second-growth forest to block the noise and the exhaust fumes from the houses up here, plus deer, rabbits, groundhogs and other interesting critters wandering the brushy hills.

I think what's kept Pittsburgh green is its lack of flat space. Most cities built near water are on floodplains, from what I've seen; they naturally use every bit of ground available to them. Here where there are cliffs and steep hillsides along the three rivers and where they had to build two incline railways just to move miners and steel workers from their hilltop homes to the industry at the banks, there is still a lot of green space that has been built over, under, and around but not through. It's as though the city isn't so big after all, until you crest a hill and the illusion vanishes in the glitter of a thousand windows staring back at you from the hills. Pittsburgh is a pretty city.

In other news, Mystra the puppy (did I mention we got a lab/retriever/something else mix puppy?) is doing well. She's finally figured out how to bark and we have retaliated by telling her "good speak!" and then shutting her up by handing her a treat and praising her for being quiet. She's picking up on it fast - I hope that by next week she'll know both "speak" and "quiet" to add to sit, lay down, come, potty (only outside - she hasn't had an accident yet today!), and stay (although stay is difficult. Try asking your toddler to sit still some time!). She is also very friendly and our biggest challenge with her is getting her to recognize that not all new people want to have a puppy diving at their legs. She doesn't like to be dragged away from new friends and thinks that everyone loves her!

Lots of fun, lots of running around. My schedule was messed up due to some lack of paperwork last week on the part of the insurance company, but it's back to normal this week and I only lost a few hours so I'm not crying - yet. We'll see how much I have left over after next week's paycheck goes to rent and bills. We haven't turned the gas on since the only thing that uses it is the heat and water heater - pitcher showers with water heated on the stove work pretty well! Honestly, I'm glad we didn't have to pay gas the first few weeks here. It's allowed me to put a little bit more money toward buying things like blinds for the windows. Soon we'll be working on curtains as well! Things are coming together nicely - pictures coming soon!

That's about it - we're using Rick's phone and the tethering service that he's been paying for so that we can connect to the internet at home, but I'm going to make a library run at some point this week to return a few books and pick up some more reading. I'll say one thing - not having 'net at home has really improved my reading habits!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Stuff of Interest

Newsweek has an interesting article about children and race perception, if you have time for a read. It's definitely worth noting that NOT talking about race (or hair color, or gender, or anything else) allows a child to form a bias against those of other races as part of a natural psychological need to categorize people and to form a group in which they feel safe and accepted. Kids gravitate toward those they feel will share their views and opinions (much as adults do) and they are likely to separate each other using the most prominent physical characteristics when they are young, which can lead to a lifetime of unspoken separatist attitudes.

In other news I shot the groundhog (with a BB!) today. He was only nibbling weeds, but I'm not about to let him get cozy in my garden, and Rick thoughtfully left the bb gun by the window. The pudgy critter jumped about a foot in the air when I popped him in the side, and then headed for the shed like the devil was behind him. It made me giggle, but I'm sure it's only a temporary fix. If I could fire the .22 within city limits I'd have aimed for his fat head, but as it is, the BB gun packs a good sting and will make him think twice till I can go digging under the shed and block off his hole.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Walked to the library today to save the quarters for the laundromat instead of feeding a meter. It's a gorgeous day, and I enjoyed it. I might stop for ice cream on the way back, since my paycheck was a little more than I expected it to be (hooray!).

Kitten (I've forgotten to update about her! Oh no!) is doing well at nearly 4 months old and is free of the ear mites that had taken over her darling little ears when we first got her. I've been watching all of the cats closely to make sure no reinfestation took place - so far so good! They're all overjoyed by the couch and spent the morning curled in various positions on and around it and me as I finished off another book. I'm going through this library entirely too fast, but I love having books so close, and I'm trying to catch up on my reading before November, when I'll be deep in work and writing. NaNo is coming again!

The library is full of characters as always. Maybe if I hang out here enough this winter I'll start typing out stories about them, because things are always funnier if shared.

Off to get something tasty for lunch and enjoy my Friday before work! :)


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Busy, busy, busy!

Ok, time to put my fast typing fingers to work, since I've slacked off on blogging till my computer timer says 12 minutes left! Still no 'net at home (of course) - my paychecks are only this week getting caught up to the 15-hour weeks I've been working for the last 3, and I'll be up to 32 or so as of next week (Hooray!). Next month they'll catch up to the 30-hour weeks and I'll actually be making enough to pay that nagging student loan that I defaulted on last month. The office handed me a case with a darling little boy who is one of quadruplets, so I've been told I'll be there as part of a TEAM of TSS's; we each have an assigned kiddo but it'll be good to have backup! I'm excited to get the extra hours and hope that the case is as fun as it sounds (they usually are).

Gardening is going well. I found 5 or 6 teeny tiny carrots sprouting after I'd given up on the entire bed; I don't know if the rest were dud seeds (they were old) or if they just didn't like the weather. Two of my second-planting peas have come up as well. I guess I'll have to content myself with a meager pea harvest this year and try new seeds in the spring.

I also found out what's been digging holes under the fence in the garden - a FAT groundhog. I had thought that whatever it was had been scared off after last week's discovery of holes in the pea bed (which is right against the fence) but I went out this morning to investigate the appearance of 3 more holes (none of which made it all the way under - the other side is paved in large chunks of rock) and as I was scrutinizing the unknown critter's handiwork I happened to glance up... right into the eyes of a very large and very content groundhog. He hurried under the shed as soon as he heard me say "You bastard!", but now that I know what he is, I'm going after him. Anyone know how to set up an effective snare? I want groundhog stew, and this one's big enough to give us stew meat for a month.

Jeep continues to be dead. Rick replaced the starter, and it's not the issue. The engine still clunks and won't turn over. Most likely it'll need an engine replacement but we can't afford to get it towed to a garage just yet so it sits.

Got our couch (half of it, anyway) on Wednesday. Rick went north to see his grandmother after news that she got a good offer on the house and she'll be moving soon. He borrowed her van and brought her down for the evening; we got the couch set up and had a great dinner and a nice visit. She's found a cute apartment near us and her daughter so we'll all be within range for holiday visits and random stopping-by. He's back up today, bringing her home again and cleaning out his old room.

It will be good to have family closer than New York, even if it's not technically my side of the family. I miss everyone back home but no one seems to have time to come visit, and I can't afford time off work yet. Hopefully with the addition of more hours to my schedule I'll earn enough paid time off to take a holiday break. I'm debating the offer of a Saturday client as well, but pending more information I don't think I'm going to take it. 30+ hours a week is good enough for me, at least for now. I'm waiting for a library position to open up, but failing that I think I'll try for a few hours tutoring each week, instead of taking more clients. Variety is the spice of life, after all!