Royal bloodlines

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , ,
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Before I forget, I want to write this down…

When I was young, my mom mentioned to me in passing that I could have been a princess/lady (??). Somehow that became a little joke I would tell occasionally, saying that I’m 2% princess. I also knew that I had Manchurian heritage from my mother’s side.

This week when my professor said I looked Han Chinese, I wasn’t so sure so I called up my mom to check. She confirmed my memory that our family had a lot of Manchu from her side (my grandma being full Manchu and my grandpa being half). Since bloodlines go through the men, we were technically considered Han because my grandpa’s dad was the Han in the family.

I also clarified the whole royalty situation (as best I could) and learned that my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather was the last generation that was supported by the emperor. What does that mean? Basically, he was closely related enough to the emperor that he was taken care of by the ruler. This was for a Manchurian dynasty called Huang zhu, if I heard correctly. So if they had hung in there another 100 years, I could be living a cush life right now. Per my calculations, that makes me up to 6.25% royal. 😛

Now imagine my amusement when one of my friends recently likened me to Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time… I know nothing about the show or about her, but I’m happy to embrace the title! 😉

iCloud, you’re dead to me

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , ,
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May I rant a bit? It’s been weeks since my iCloud backup worked and Apple support didn’t solve my problem. I’ve given up on using it and I’m so frustrated with Apple.

It began a couple of weeks ago. With one of the iOS 9 updates, everything went awry. My backups used to take up about 3.3-3.5 GB worth of space and then suddenly I was getting an error message pretty much daily, telling me I didn’t have enough space in iCloud. So I try deleting the current backup to free up the 5 GB of space and trying again with no success. I thought the issue was that the photo backup got turned back on, so I tried turning it off. Sometimes it would straight up give me an error message that it couldn’t be turned off at that time and sometimes it would look like I had turned it off, but then got undone the next time I went back.

After much troubleshooting and trying tons of things, I finally booked an appointment at the Apple Store. Coming out of that appointment, I’ve decided to write off iCloud entirely. As it turns out, it is completely useless to me (unless I want to pay). I was passed from one person to the next and ultimately dealt with four different people, two in the store and two on the phone. They ended up telling me that my options were to either pay for more storage or do manual backups to the computer. Let me tell you, I was not a happy camper when that’s all they could come up with.

screenshot of icloud backup screen with options

What’s the point of turning off Photo Library if supposedly you can’t turn off photos in iCloud? I still don’t believe those folks knew what they were talking about.

My greatest problem with what happened was that my backups were well within the limit for years. Suddenly, the space needed for the backup jumps up to nearly triple the amount of space for no reason? It’s not like I suddenly started sending a lot of text messages, taking a lot of pictures, or downloading a lot of new apps. I had no spike in activity, so therefore I expect no spike in the storage space. Not a single one of them could explain that to me. Furthermore, they said that my photos were always backed up and I couldn’t turn that off. Then what in the world is the Backup Options list with Photo Library as an option for?! And how could I have EVER successfully backed up when I know I’ve had way more than 5 GB in photos alone all these years? Yet somehow, I’m expected to believe that it magically worked all along and a good 10-15 GB of photos were able to squeeze themselves into a 3.5 GB backup.

I guess what bothered me the most was the complete lack of logic in how things could have worked before and how they could have changed so drastically without explanation. Telling me that, “Well if you just buy the extra storage then this wouldn’t be an issue,” is not going to help. Of course I know I can PAY you to get more storage. And I don’t care how small the cost is, it’s the principal of the matter that it worked before and now it doesn’t. What sort of technology gets worse as it updates?

So many other problems came up too, all with no sensible explanation. Why did an attempted backup fail yet still take up 3 GB of space? “It tried to back up some of the data.” Why wouldn’t that try to take up the whole 5 GB? Why does it stop at 3 GB each time? (No idea.) Why does Next Backup Size say 0 bytes and all apps say No Data? Does that mean nothing gets backed up? Then how could I not have enough space for nothing?! And on and on and on…

So because of that, iCloud is dead to me. Yet ironically, as I write this and look at my phone settings, iCloud backup is magically working again. Photos off, backup at 3.1 GB. I can’t trust those Apple people to know anything about their products.

Do you know what to do in a power outage?

laelene Posted in how to guides, stories,Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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The back story…

Yesterday morning I was woken up from a dream by Panda’s voice. It took me some time to figure out he was trying to talk to me. “The power’s out,” he said. Huh? That woke me up a bit He explained it had been out since 1 and asked if I knew how to open the garage door. I explained it to him and settled in for some more sleep before I had to get up. Moments later, his phone started ringing. The neighbor was calling to ask for helping opening her garage door.

Panda went to practice on our door first, and then called me to help make sure it was done right. For some reason, ours was not staying up once you pushed it. It took a lot of maneuvering to get it to a precarious position where it didn’t start sliding down. Luckily, the neighbor’s was working fine and stayed up the way it should. We both backed our cars out of the garages and Panda went off to work. The neighbor then asked me with help closing the garage door.

It was pretty high and took a little jumping to grab the handle and pull it back down. Once in place, I pushed in the manual lock to keep it in place and we went through her home so I could leave from the front door. She decided to show me the lighter she placed by the gas stove, explaining that she had no idea she could still use the stove! Panda had explained that to her. Then she did something that showed me she really hadn’t gone through power outages before – she opened the freezer door wide open.

She wanted to show me the ice packs she was afraid would melt and start leaking. I quickly got her to close the door and explained that if she kept her fridge and freezer sealed, they can retain their cold temperature for hours. I made sure to emphasize to NOT open either door until the power came back on.

This experience was surprising for me. I thought everyone knew the basics of what to do (and what you can/can’t do) in a power outage. While power outages aren’t commonplace in the US, they certainly do happen here and there, whether due to equipment failures or weather conditions. Haven’t we all been through one at some point? Perhaps not. So with Hurricane Joaquin and other impending weather conditions likely to cause a lot of flooding, it’s likely there will be more power outages up and down the eastern seaboard.

Are you prepared for a power outage? Here are my tips and suggestions:

Before the Outage

-Prepare supplies. This includes everything from extra food (canned or dry goods) and water to flashlights and candles. Don’t forget those long reach lighters! Make sure to have some warm clothing and/or blankets available if temperatures have been cooling in your area as they have been here.

-If you have any sort of health concern, have tons of medication or equipment pieces ready to use. If what you need requires power, it might be best to go somewhere that will have a backup generator and professionals who can help you.

-Get a battery/solar/hand crank powered radio. In case your phone signal has issues, this can allow you to get news.

-Try to fill up on gas now so you aren’t in crazy lines later. Just in case you need to evacuate (and assuming you can actually drive out of the area).

-Speaking of evacuating, throw together a “go bag” with power bars, some water, clothing, and other items you’d need if you have to make a quick run for it.

-Charge up devices, battery packs, and anything else that needs or stores power. It’s always better to have plenty of backups.

-Transfer some ice packs to the fridge to help keep the temperature down in there during the outage.

-When anticipating a storm, bring in anything from the outside that might get damaged or blown away.

-Gather up some books, board games, and other activities you can do without any electricity.

During the Outage

-Once there is an outage, be sure to unplug devices hooked up directly to the wall. Turn off any surge protectors just to be extra safe. Larger things like fridges and microwaves should be fine, so no need to go climbing in some dusty area trying to unplug those.

-Do not open the fridge or freezer doors! Feel free to throw down a rag by the freezer door to absorb any leakage from melting ice, but don’t look in there until the power has come back on.

-If it’s light out and not crazy windy or rainy, go outside and enjoy! If it is raining heavily and that’s why the power went out, grab a book and read by the window or spend some time chatting/playing games with your loved ones.

-Use the radio to stay tuned to any emergency news, especially potential evacuations or worsening conditions.

-If it’s dark out, snuggle up in a blanket, light some candles, and enjoy the peaceful flickers of light. Take advantage of the opportunity to get a little extra rest and sleep early!

-To open the garage door, pull firmly down on the red thing dangling down. This releases it and allows you to manually pull the door up. If you push it past your head and as far up as you can, you should be able to get it to stay there. To close, grab the handle (you might need a chair to help) and start pulling the door down. Make sure you support the weight and bring it down in a controlled fashion so it doesn’t slam down to the ground. From the inside, there’s at least one side with a metal bar that you can push to lock the door in place so someone from the outside can’t open it. Secure that in place and you’re done!

-For those with gas burners, when you try to turn on the flame and hear that clicking noise, light up a flame and stick it by the burner. It will catch the natural gas on fire and allow you to heat up food. Be careful not to get too close when lighting.

-Depending on the severity of conditions, carefully ration the food you eat so you don’t rush through it all. Same with the water supply, if your piping is affected and the water gets contaminated.

After the Outage

-Open up the fridge and check for anything that might have spoiled, depending on the length of time the power was out (say, more than 4 hours). If anything is above 40 degrees, it might be spoiled. The freezer can last up to 48 hours by some accounts, so your food should be ok if the outage wasn’t long. If you’re concerned, feel how warm the food is and make your judgement call on what to keep or toss.

-Replug anything that you’d unplugged and turn those surge protectors back on. Do a spot check of lights around the home. They should work, but you never know.

-Those with garage doors, you can pull the metal lock out and press the garage door opener. The piece will move until it clicks back into place and then you can open and close the door electronically like before.

-And then you can start moving everything else back into their original places too!

-Be sure to restock on anything that got low so you’re prepared for the next one.

 

I’ve shared what I’ve learned from personal experience. I’ve never had flooding, so you’ll find that area lacking in my points. Let me know if I missed anything else! I personally like a minor power outage since it forces us to live more simply for a little while.

A string of travel troubles

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , ,
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For the past two weeks, my family has been struck by some really unfortunate incidents. It started exactly two weeks ago, when we happily drove from the hotel to Pier 91 in Seattle. My parents, husband, aunt, cousin, and I were set to embark on our week-long cruise to Alaska. After dropping them off, Panda and I drove to the nearest rental car location to drop off the car. The plan was to walk back to the pier, which was about 3 miles away. As we were enjoying the day, debating whether we should take a bus for part of the trip, I got a phone call from my parents: my aunt and cousin would not be allowed on the cruise.

It was one of those surreal moments where I thought, “Could this actually be happening?” But indeed it could and it did. Turns out they needed Canadian visas since there was a stop in Victoria, BC. We were never informed of this and didn’t even realize there was a Canadian stop along the way. It was too late to do anything at that point, so I started looking up last-minute flights to Oakland, where my other cousin was. We found the nearest bus stop and got to the pier as quickly as possible. On the way, I managed to find a decently priced flight that afternoon. It was pretty devastating to see my aunt and cousin for the last time, having to send them off to the airport when we should have spent a week together on our “family honeymoon” (as I called it).

That totally changed the tone of our trip and it just wasn’t the same. We still managed to enjoy ourselves, but not nearly as much as we could have.

Upon arriving home after the vacation, I then heard from my mom that my dad nearly missed his flight back to China. They overestimated the time they had and he barely got let on the plane while his luggage was not allowed. So my mom had to ship the contents separately. We’re having some bad luck, my mom told me, don’t go out if you don’t have to and let it blow over. She felt that we needed time for the pattern to break.

The next day, I was thinking about my upcoming plans (and the other big vacation of the year, to Europe) when I suddenly realized that a week of team events at work coincided with my grand vacation. The very week that my team lead had asked us to check our availability for was the week that I’d be gone for my trip. I can’t believe I had not made the connection earlier; everyone had likely already booked their flights. I felt absolutely awful and didn’t know what to do. I considered the costs of rearranging the trip, but with multiple flights and some prepaid hotels, it would be too much. This was my first big screw-up and I profusely apologized when I told my team lead. Luckily, he’s a very chill guy, so he didn’t make a fuss about it. I still feel bad though, and irresponsible.

So then I thought that maybe things were on the up and up. When my mom told me about my aunt losing her bag and having it stole in SF, I thought the troubles were back. But then it turns out the thief got hit by a car (what?!) and the police were able to return her purse when the processed the scene. Wow. And I did get a smile first thing Monday morning, when I had a gift on my desk: a bag full of cat toys. One of the guys who worked in our co-working space dropped it by over the weekend. Last Friday was his last day (of course his two weeks had to be during my vacation) and he’d been meaning to bring his extra cat things, but he kept forgetting. So I was super surprised when it actually showed up!

I’m hoping that this all means the unfortunate circumstances will stop plaguing us now. I’m generally a pretty lucky person, so I’d like things to return to normal.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,
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holding madagascar hissing cockroach to faceIt’s been almost exactly a year since I started volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo & Butterfly Pavilion! It’s hard to believe and I’m happy that my volunteer time is still going strong. Every time I go volunteer, there is so much to preoccupy me that I hardly ever get pictures. I’m slowly working on that so I can share more of what you’d be able to experience there!

Let’s start off with the Madasgascar hissing cockroach, one of the staples found on the insect cart. These are hardy creatures that don’t require much maintenance. We keep two tiny slices of sweet potato in a jar for them and I can’t even tell they’ve been eaten. While they may look scary, they’re actually really safe and quite clean. I’m sure that’s why they’re popular in TV shows that have them crawl all over people or offer them up as creepy snacks to contestants.

Hissing cockroaches don’t fly, jump, or bite. They are not toxic, have no stingers, and their only defense is to hiss. So really, there’s no way they can hurt you. At all. Even when people know this, they get creeped out. I guess many phobias are rather irrational. I admit they aren’t the prettiest of species, but they’re cute in their own way.

You’ll only find them hissing when they’re feeling upset/threatened (or for males, also when they want to mate). They domesticate pretty easily and the ones we have hardly ever hiss. Usually it’s just a brief “Ugh, why are you picking me up again? Just leave me alone” sort of hiss that vaguely resembles a rattlesnake. To create the noise, they have spiracles along their abdomen – look closely and you’ll see dots lining the sides. They push air through these spiracles to hiss, which is kind of like whistling through your sides. This is pretty unique in the insect world, since most of them create noise by rubbing body parts together, like wings. Obviously, the Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have wings, so it found a different way.

Here I’m holding a male up to my face to show you how large he’d gotten. You can tell he’s a male by the horns on his head, which are quite pronounced. Females have tiny bumps there and their antennae don’t get nearly as fuzzy. They grow to similar sizes and colors vary from about as dark as this guy to far lighter, almost golden yellow. They can live a good 2-5 years (females tend to live longer), which makes them a long-lived insect. Their longevity combined with their ease of domestication and lack of harmfulness make them great pets! I’ve had many schoolteachers and students tell me they had them in their classrooms.

It’s always fun to see who is willing to hold these guys and who freaks out. It’s usually the children running up all wide-eyed and excited while the adults stay back. The larger the person, the greater the fear it seems. I had a towering giant of a man scream when he tried to hold one, which was actually quite terrifying. Some people actually shake and jerk as they try to not throw it off their hands. Then there are the babies who jut out their little hands and I can barely get the hissing cockroach on their tiny palms. Usually people go away with a new appreciation for these creatures, and a little less fear/misunderstanding of them. That’s always my goal!

A Galileo thermometer saga

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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It was a long time ago that I first learned of Galileo thermometers and immediately put it on my mental wishlist (and then my blog wishlist). After many years of waiting, I was super excited when Panda treated me to one – that was four years ago. I proudly displayed it first at my apartment and then in my room at home when I moved back. But just two years into my ownership, Missy managed to break it when she was jumping from a cabinet to my desk’s shelf. Due to the height, and perhaps an impact with part of the desk on its way down, it shattered and left quite an odor in my room. I was bummed and vowed to get a replacement someday.

I’m glad I waited, because I had no idea I would relocate to the east coast and it sure wouldn’t have been easy to transport it on my own. Turns out it was another 2 years before I decided it was finally time to reward myself with that replacement. At first I was sad that I couldn’t get the exact same one I had before. Attempting to reorder gave me an error that none were in stock. I had meticulously compared options and found the 17-inch height with 10 temperature globes inside was the perfect combination for me. I don’t think I would have been satisfied with anything else. I saw 21-inch ones with 10 globes, 17-inch ones with 7 or 8 globes, but not my ideal one. So, I waited.

One day, I just happened to notice they were back in stock! It was pretty thrilling. But then the challenge was that I didn’t want to pay shipping and I was $5 off from the minimum charge to get free shipping. Right around that time, we decided to take a look at headboards, since the furniture store ones were way more expensive than we’d like. Panda found an awesome one for a very good price, complete with shelf space for me. We got that and tagged on the thermometer – yay, free shipping!

cardboard box for galileo thermometer

I was super excited when it came, in the same box I remember.

galileo thermometer and the styrofoam encasing it came in

I carefully opened the box and considered a safe place to display it.

galileo thermometer tinted blue by broken globe inside

I found my spot, but then noticed that strange blue tint. Was it supposed to be like that?

galileo thermometer with broken pieces of globe inside laying at bottom

Turns out one of the globes completed shattered inside and dyed the whole thing blue. Sad times!

Luckily, it only broke on the inside and it wasn’t leaking. I had to file for a return and spent some time trying to figure out how to do a straight exchange. Turns out you can’t when the item is sold by an individual vendor like mine, versus by Amazon itself. All I could do was return and reorder. I printed out a label and a UPS guy even picked it up from my front door one day! Unfortunately, due to the shipping charge, I’d have to order something else to get that free shipping again. I found myself waiting yet again… the item went out of stock, but then eventually came back. I figured out what I could order with it that was around the $5 price range, so I ordered it a second time and hoped that it wouldn’t get thrown around during shipping. About a month after getting the previous one, this one arrived.

galileo thermometer with broken pink globe at bottom

So I got my second one and all looked well until… hey, what’s that pink one doing so low?

bottom of galileo thermometer with pink temperature globe laying leaking

Upon closer inspection, the tip of it was broken just enough to leak.

large red reusable lint roller for cleaning clothes

I got a lint roller in this shipment to pad the cost. I’ve wanted a large one for years!

See the tiny globs of pink liquid escaping? I considered keeping this and having a non-functional globe that looked ok from afar. I couldn’t do it. So again, I returned it. This time UPS even printed the label and applied it! I just packed it up and left the box outside my door. I quickly found another $5ish item to get – a hand boiler toy. I reordered once more before they ran out of stock on me. I almost didn’t dare hope. I mean, shipping had been rough and these things aren’t crazy delicate, but they can’t be thrown around. It might just take some luck to get an unbroken one. How many tries would it ultimately require?

beautiful galileo thermometer on display at home

Thankfully, this one came in mint condition! It is now on display with my other items.

I had to check and recheck this one over the course of a week or two before I truly felt like it was pristine. I was worried I might have missed something! But no blue tint and all globes float! So finally, I have my replacement. Isn’t it gorgeous? This one better last me my lifetime!

Smokey’s calming collar

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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Sometimes, Missy and Smokey will get into wrestling matches. I can’t quite tell who is instigating it and who is causing more damage, but Smokey is larger, so just putting her weight on Missy is potentially dangerous. For a long time, I’d just make a loud noise when the fighting appeared to get aggressive. One day, Panda suggested we put collar back on so she can’t sneak up on Missy. We decided to give it a try and we found a surprising result: Smokey appeared to be much nicer overall with the collar on!

smokey cat sleeping on body pillow with red collar on

Look at how angelic she is! She’ll even touch my leg when she’s sleeping.

Not only did she and Missy fight less, but she was less aloof and more tolerant of being held or picked up. It seems that she became more docile, as if it exerted control over her and kept her bad behavior at bay. What a curious effect. It ended up being far more effective than we’d imagined, so now whenever she acts up, we put her collar on. She’ll sit there frozen as we strap it in and then calmly strut around, not looking for trouble. When she sleeps, she actually looks happy. Not alert, or wary, or downright uncomfortable/unhappy. It’s like she’s finally at peace.

This usually works for 2-3 days and then I start to feel bad because she can’t hide from Missy and I also notice her starting to kick at it. So by and by, I remove it and let her be free (but perhaps more prone to attitude too). At least we’ve found something simple that can help curb her issues if they escalate again! Overall she’s getting better at letting us pet her and even hold her at times. I’ll retrain her yet!

My court date

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Back in November, I got a ticket at IAD when I was picking up my parents. I felt it was completely unfair and the officer was very rude, so even though it was only $40, I decided to contest it. Part of it was also a curiosity of that whole process. I called in about three weeks after receiving the ticket, when I was sure that I wanted to go forward with contesting my citation. The gentleman let me know the next available slot was more than a month out from that point – Feb 3rd at 1:30. Apparently in VA, officers have a certain slot where they handle all their cases from the previous weeks and for my officer, that was his next time. I booked it and was told I’d receive some more information at home.

loudoun county sheriff's car parked outside in dark

I meant to get a picture of what went down in our foyer, but in the excitement I forgot, so I got their vehicle before it drove off.

Weeks went by. I worked, took time off for the holidays, returned to work, and went on with life as usual. Then one night I got a message from Panda that sounded totally ominous. Officers had stopped by and needed to talk to me! This totally threw me off. What officers? Why did they need to talk to me? Panda just said they’d be back later that night, so I needed to get home around 7. Apparently they needed to issue me a ticket for running a stop sign or something? No such thing had happened, so that had me very confused. It all sounded very odd to me, so I called up the local police station to check in on whether that was standard protocol. They looked it up and determined that there was something the officers needed to deliver to me. I suddenly remembered the court date and figured out it was probably the summons for that. So I got home, called the police station to let them know I was home, and the officers came by. They were really nice and said they just had to give me the paperwork in person on behalf of the officer who wrote me the ticket. Loudoun officers need to deliver summons on behalf of the airport officers it seems. Must be a jurisdiction thing.  The officers also let me know that it could go pretty quickly or I might be waiting at the courthouse for hours, so I cleared my schedule for that afternoon, just in case.

loudoun county courthouse in leesburg virginia

Beautiful day and a very nice courthouse.

Finally, my court date rolled around today. I went to work as usual in the morning and worked until lunch. I ate a quick meal before heading out with plenty of buffer time in case I got stuck in traffic, lost, or otherwise diverted and delayed. The drive was good and I arrived with plenty of time to spare. It took me some time to figure out where to park and which area of the building to walk to. Upon entering the courthouse, there was a security check where we were told that cell phones were not allowed except for lawyers. There were free lockers you could put them in – I had also brought my iPad to play a game while waiting, but I figured they probably wouldn’t want that either so I locked it away as well.

When I walked through the metal detector, it beeped and I looked worried. The cop monitoring it said not to worry, they were there to help and attributed my shoes for setting it off (metal in the heels I guess). I then continued in where another officer was able to take a look at my paperwork and direct me to an area with two possible courtrooms. She told me to check the monitors outside for my name so I’d know which one to enter. I skipped the windows where clerks of some sort were helping other people. The whole area was very bright and clean – very impressive. I thought it’d be a stodgy old place that smelled kind of strange and had off-yellow light, but it was airy and quite white.

At first glance, courtroom 1D only had 4 names for 1:30, so I went to 1C. That one had a list of names for 1, so of course I wasn’t on it. After standing around waiting with everyone else for awhile, I noticed the screen outside 1D change. Turns out I had only seen the last few names – the first screen had the bulk of them, which included mine for 1:30. A good 15 minutes beforehand, they opened the doors and we filed in. Nobody talked, so I wasn’t sure what to do, but I figured I was at the right place so I’d follow them in. The courtroom had a bunch of padded benches for us to sit on. Everyone chose a spot (I went for the second row, left side) and settled in. I gazed around at the room – tons of lighting, a portrait of some man on the wall closer to me, the judge’s seat with a nice big chair, tables for both sides, and a podium in the middle.

It felt like hours of sitting waiting at people came in and out. Some folks had lawyers who came to talk to them, then exited to talk to others. It was all very confusing. I just hoped I wasn’t first, since I would have no idea what to do or say. The police officers came in and took the front right area, where a jury might normally be. Most were in uniform but I think a few plainclothes people were also part of them. It was hard to tell who was a lawyer, who was an officer, and who was a normal citizen. At first I sat rather straight, but my back quickly started to hurt. The seating was soft, but the back of the benches were pretty far back and it seemed too relaxed to lean back like that. Alas, I caved and sat back after awhile. Right around 1:30, the guy who must have been the bailiff (who I thought was just another police officer attending court) had us all rise for the judge. We then took a seat as the judge quickly explained how it would go.

We had the option of 3 pleas: not guilty, guilty, or no contest. For the latter two, he would provide a sentence since you are basically admitting wrongdoing. No contest was meant that we recognize there is enough evidence against us. The majority of people before me entered “guilty with an explanation” – I guess they just wanted reduced sentences. Many of them had lawyers, so I felt rather alone. The judge was very kind and I got the impression he was looking out for our well-being. When one gentleman approached with no lawyer, explaining he tried and couldn’t find one he could afford, the judge suggested appointing one. The guy refused (he just wanted to plead guilty and get back to work), so the judge made sure he understood the ramifications before providing the paperwork for him to waive his right to an attorney. Another guy – a kid, really – seemed dumbfounded when the judge told him he’d have to get back to that case since the attorney for the Commonwealth of VA had not yet been consulted on whether to pursue jail time as part of the sentence. The judge was so concerned about him he had the kid return to the podium, look him in the eye, and confirm that he was ok before moving on.

The majority of pleas were guilty, so the judge would quickly provide a sentence. When there was proof that the person had started to fix the problem – take a driving course, apply for a VA license, or change out a car that had expired plates – the judge was more lenient and gave a lesser fine. When the person was a no-show, he would quietly let the officer know what the final fine amount was and the officer noted that in some giant binder they seem to come with. When there was representation, the case got pushed back for later. When it was more complex than a few quick minutes, the case also got pushed back. The whole process was rather efficient, getting as many cases out the door early in the process as possible. Finally, after a dozen names or so came the officer I was up against. Or so I thought. He had two no-shows, the judge issued a fine amount, the officer thanked him, and walked out. I was immensely confused. What about me? Had I somehow not shown up in the docket? Suddenly I started to question whether I was in the correct courtroom. After all, nobody had confirmed anything when we first entered.

Just as I was considering going to the back or outside to ask someone, I heard the judge call my name. Oh, and another thing I really liked about him – he greeted each defendant with “good afternoon” and asked if he was pronouncing the name correctly. With me, of course I had to correct him and I actually remembered it as he addressed me. When he asked my plea and I said “not guilty” he told me to take a seat. I got grouped into the “more complex” ones since I wanted to fight my ticket. However, the officer then spoke up and told the judge that since he did not have notes on the matter, he wanted to dismiss (or did he say withdraw?) it. I stepped back to the podium as the judge let me know that due to the officer’s request, my citation was null, so I was free to go. That was it! I thanked him and walked out pleased that I didn’t have to go through the whole explanation later.

As I picked up my electronics and exited the courthouse, it all felt surreal. Should I have gotten some sort of signature or stamp? How would I have proof that this was actually dropped? Did I really not have to do anything?! What a strange feeling. I didn’t even need the summons and ticket that I had brought with me. It really couldn’t have been simpler or tidier of a process. I walked back to my car and drove off not really believing it was so easy. I guess with a minor ticket like mine, they figure they have bigger fish to fry. People who actually committed a serious offense, like running a light, speeding waaay over the limit, driving without a license, or driving under the influence (all cases that had come before me today). So less than 25 minutes from the moment I stepped in that courtroom, I was already back in my car driving back to work. I’d say contesting my ticket was totally worth it!

Freaking out

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,
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Tonight, Panda and I changed up Smokey’s litter because she didn’t like the lightweight one we were using. We’d gotten a more normal type that she was quite happy with and we haven’t had any accidents since we got her the new litter. With another litter box and a pan, we decided to add the new litter and see how she reacts. Right after the change, she came around to sniff the pan. She started to get in, sniffing hard, but then decided to go into the litter box she favors most. We waited as she kicked around and then did her business. As she was coming out, she was furiously kicking the litter.

Suddenly, she plopped out of the box. Like her butt landed on the ground and she was curled up with her rear tucked up under her. I thought her foot got caught, but then she stayed like that and suddenly I thought she hurt her foot. Horrible thoughts of paralysis and diseases raced through my mind as we watched her start to drag herself along, butt scraping the floor. She left little poopy drag marks. As she made her way down the hall to the bonus room (our giant room the size of a 2-car garage), Panda and I stared in shock. What was going on?

We then realized that she was rubbing her butt because it somehow didn’t feel good. When it looked like she was going to continue her duty on the carpet of the bonus room, I quickly went to try to pick her up. She stayed in that awkward vertical position, making it difficult to carry her. At first she meowed her sad, complaining little meow, but then she hissed at me – that’s the very first time I’ve ever heard her hiss. I quickly let her down and we managed to get her in the hallway again, where she continued dragging her toosh on the ground. Finally, something came off and she ran off to lick her wounds.

I guess she’s not getting enough fiber, because that’s one odd issue that I’ve never seen before. I wonder what would have happened if Panda and I weren’t there to observe. Thank goodness we were, and quickly cleaned everything up. Smokey then sulked around for much of the night, before collapsing in exhaustion and sleeping the stress away. What a little worrywart.

cat curled up in circular wooden tray with one foot sticking out sleeping

Before the chaos, I was admiring how cute she is.

Grocery shopping

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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dozens of inko's tea bottles in small whole foods two-tiered shopping cartThis morning I had a massage scheduled at Massage Envy and when I was done, I decided to swing by Whole Foods to see if any of my drinks were on sale. There are a couple of brands of bottled drinks that I like to get there, but only when they’re on sale so I can combine that with the store’s case discount (buy one case, get 10% off). I was happy to find my favorite bottled tea brand, Inko’s, on sale. I immediately grabbed a dozen each of my go-to flavors: blueberry and white peach. Then, as I was checking the price, wondering what the original price was, I noticed the tags said clearance price. Now per my understanding, when something goes on clearance it’s not coming back. Sooo I tracked down someone who worked there to check and was heartbroken to learn that they are discontinuing this brand from their store.

variety of bottled teas on shelf at store, with large gap where inko's tea flavors are

I emptied quite a bit of the shelf.

Apparently they’d been trying to reorder it but couldn’t seem to get them from the company? Well, whatever the case, I was told that what was on the shelves was all they had and there’d be no more. Upon hearing this, I immediately went to get another dozen drinks, clearing them out of the rest of the blueberry and white peach and also getting some honeydew and original to try. The shelf was about half empty by the time I was done. As I pushed my cart out, the bottles jingled and jangled against each other and I was glad that I checked today.

two pints of ben & jerry's ice cream and two pints of giant brand ice creamThen after dinner tonight, I had a craving for ice cream. Panda mentioned a deal Giant is having where you can get a free pint of Giant’s own brand of ice cream when you buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. It’s their way of having you compare their brand to the brand name (and hopefully adopt their ice cream as your new fav). When we got there, we found that Ben & Jerry’s was on sale, so we decided to both choose our own flavors. We ended up getting 4 pints of ice cream for just $7.18 with tax! Now that’s a pretty sweet deal.

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