Joanna problems, updates

My hard drive crashed.

No, not the new computer.

That happened a couple of years ago, but I had a handy dandy external hard drive with everything backed up on it. It’s about my third or fourth, and I migrate my data every couple of years to keep it safe. YAY! Everyone is happy!


But then, due to a weird sequence of events…. well….

I bought a new computer about 6 months ago. My external has been working wonderfully with the new desktop and I’ve been happily chugging along.

train chugging gif

Then we moved 6 weeks earlier than anticipated. When we packed up the computer, I backed everything from it onto the hard drive. I did not mirror 15 years worth of data from the hard drive onto the desktop.

We flew to Raleigh for my sister’s wedding. It was lovely. When I got home, my computer seemed a-okay.

About two weeks after we got back, one day I tried to access a file I use regularly and…..nothing.


luke nooooo gif

The hard drive was powered on but the computer wouldn’t recognize it.


vader nooooo gif

My music, my photos, my writing…


Cue the crisis.

troy nooo gif

So I took it to a place where they check on such technological things, and once they physically pulled it all apart, they can mirror the data onto a new hard drive.


But in the meantime while I wait to get that back…. I don’t have my photos. So there won’t be any more 2015 Travelogue posts for a bit. I’ve got one sitting in pending waiting for pictures, but…. y’know, no photos.


PS: When they called me to talk to me about the contents of the hard drive to make sure they were “finding everything,” the conversation went something like this….

IT dude: So, can you tell me what’s on this device?
Me: Uhhhmmmm nope. It’s got everything on it since college so I’m not totally sure what all’s there.
IT dude: Okay, I’ll read you some of what I’m seeing. So there are 9,452 photos…..
Me: Probably.
IT dude: 12,687 music files….. that’s a lot of music.
Me: Since. College. And I’m old. So this was before Napster was illegal.
IT dude: …….okay then. Wow. Moving on, I see…. Five powerpoint presentations?
Me: SINCE. COLLEGE. Don’t judge me.


So there you go. Back up your stuff in three places, y’all. Seriously.

But they have all my data and I’ll have it back soon! YAY! Everyone is happy!

dancing cat gif

Joanna problems, Two for Tuesday

Two for a Tuesday

Well, look at that! I managed to not wait three months to update the blog again. Amazing! For this (I would say “lovely” but it’s snowing again and about 13 degrees outside so it’s just “this”) Tuesday, I’ve got two small stories for you from the last week. We’ll start with what happened today so everyone can end this adventure on a high note.

Winter and I are not friends. The fact that I have two actual friends named Summer is purely coincidental and amusing, but the point remains that I have no friends named Winter, seasonally-based or otherwise. In an effort to make Winter in Chicago (which is a brand new experience and providing a whole host of other “entertainment” including frozen windows and slogging through brownish-gray “snow”) more bearable, I am trying to embrace a few winter traditions. Last night I made hot apple cider in my percolator so that the house would smell wonderfully like apples and cinnamon and cloves and allspice with the ADDED BONUS of hot cider. Win-win, right? It was lovely sitting in front of the fire with a big, steaming mug of cider.

Today I set the percolator on the counter with the basket full of still-damp spices (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and whole allspice) exposed for drying and then disposing. I did the daily kitchen-floor-sweeping (who on earth thinks it’s a good idea to put a back door directly into a kitchen??) and set the broom against the counter….where it slid and knocked into the percolator which knocked into other things which all went bouncing across the white tile of the freshly-cleaned kitchen floor in a veritable explosion of drippy spices. Between the cloves and allspice and remnants of cinnamon-infused apple drips, it looked like an army of incontinent rabbits had just charged through the place. You’re welcome for THAT image.

So now the floor is swept (again) and steam-mopped (again) and the kitchen rug is in the washing machine (again) and I’m going to try and eat lunch at some point, I suppose.

In the meantime, here’s the other story. Snow walking away from Outback

Yesterday I had an appointment downtown and on the drive back home I noticed a park. I’ve done this drive a few times, but it’s the first time I’ve been confident enough in where I was to notice things other than traffic, street signs, etc. The park was buried in snow, but the roads were clear (thank you, infrastructure) so I detoured.

Lake Michigan snow beach trees

And found myself looking at water through the trees. So out of the car I trudged and toward the water because, after all, a determined Jo will eventually find her way to a beach. And oh what a beach I found.

Lake Michigan snow beach

The ice floating on the water, the snow piled up in banks like sand dunes… It was pretty for about five minutes. Then I trudged my way back to Harriet (Jones, Subaru Outback) and headed home as the flakes got bigger and more accumulation announced itself.

Lake Michigan, snow stripes on trees

I do think it’s interesting the way snow sticks to trees in patterns depending on the wind and the shapes of the branches and things. I don’t think that Winter and I will ever be friends, but we might be able to find a truce. As long as there aren’t any more incontinent rabbits wreaking havoc in my kitchen.

geek life, Joanna problems, musings

I don’t like clowns. Or old dolls.

See? Creepy as all get out.
Photo from:

While watching a season 2 episode of Supernatural last night called “Everybody Loves a Clown” I was confronted yet again with the unsettling disquiet I feel every time I see someone dressed as one. While I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (fear of clowns) I also really don’t like seeing them. I find clowns to be highly disturbing. But why is that?

I never saw the movie IT as a child. Not that in and of itself that’s surprising, but I know some people develop an early fear of clowns through some type of accidental exposure to a horror film. But why is a clown even the subject of a scary flick?

To me, clowns perfectly illustrate the created sense of horror. If we look at the broader question of why things on a written page or a TV screen can scare us, then it starts to make a bit of sense. Horror stories are basically divided into two types: slasher and psychological. Either it’s scary because of the blood, guts, and gore, or it’s scary because it tricks your mind into feeling unsafe. Movies like IT often combine these elements, but I think clowns themselves fall solidly into the mind-trick category. Why is that?

To artificially create a sense of horror, a story teller must first evoke something that seems safe and then turn it around to become unsafe. The familiar becomes strange and therein lies the terror. Our brains are wired for patterns and recognition (which is why we see shapes in clouds or think we recognize people we’ve never met), which helps us remember things and develop relationships and all sorts of other handy things that make our lives better. So what happens when something we’ve previously experienced as safe becomes unsafe?

Think about coming home at night when you’ve left during daylight and forgotten to leave on a light. Does it feel a little disquieting? What if something has moved since you left? Maybe you forgot that you dropped that towel there, but suddenly coming across it in the dark might be enough to really give you a fright. It’s easy to feel “creeped out” in your own home simply because it isn’t exactly how you thought it would be. It’s the feeling of having a curtain-less window at night where anyone can see into the room from outside, but you can’t see them from inside the lit room. Unsettling. It’s the same room and window as before but now you can’t be sure of what’s beyond the light.

Back to clowns. With our brains wired to detect patterns and to read faces, a clown with her mask or face paint goes directly in opposition to that. The expression painted on her face might not match what she’s really thinking or feeling. It might be unsettling to be unable to “read” her expressions correctly. It might also be that there’s something just off enough about the performance of a caricature of a person by a person is what makes the clown frightening. A clown is the representation of something that is supposed to be expected (a human) but is hiding her true identity and attitudes for the sake of misdirection. It’s no wonder people find them disturbing.

Weirdly enough, I think this is the same reason I don’t like old dolls.

Why is this what you get when you wiki-search “doll” anyway?
Photo from:

Dolls are also representations of humans, and generally speaking new dolls are just fine. I’m not afraid of Barbie by any means. But Barbie doesn’t look “real” to me, either. When you’ve got an old doll, though, and it’s started to come apart at the seams, or has lost an eye, or simply looks like a discarded small person, then the creepy factor definitely rises.

I know movies like Toy Story and books like A Little Princess with tales of toys coming to life when the children aren’t present are meant to be endearing (and mostly are– I love Toy Story!), but on some level the idea of a doll that can get up and walk around, though only when you’re not looking, is actually a terrifying one.

I suspect this is why the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who work so well as the stuff of nightmares. They only move when you’re not looking.

Well that’s enough about scary things for one Monday. Click here if you want to read more about coulrophobia. Lots of photos of clowns, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Sweaters are causing me SERIOUS PROBLEMS.

Someone needs to invent a better way to store sweaters than “stacking” them.

First of all, how are you supposed to fold a sweater anyway? They’re bulky and they slide around and it’s hard to know what to do with anything that isn’t a regular scoop neck and you can FORGET about folding a cowl-neck into any decent shape.

Then what do you DO with them, once they’re “folded” into some semblance of a rectangle? I’ve tried stacking them on a shelf. This DOES NOT WORK. Sure, they’ll sit there well enough for a while, but when you go to take one of them out of the stack EVERY OTHER SWEATER falls onto the floor. Even the sweaters in other stacks fall onto the floor. It’s like they all suddenly get all melodramatic: “You mean  you aren’t choosing ME today? The HORROR!” and then they faint.

You cannot hang sweaters in the closet, either, because the shoulders get those pokey corners sticking out of them and this is NOT 1986 and none of us is Madonna (except Madonna herself, who I am 99.999% certain does NOT read my blog), so POINTY SHOULDER SPIKES are NOT OKAY.

There needs to be a way of storing sweaters that doesn’t take up TOO much room, and where you can gently remove ONE of them to wear it without upsetting all of the others. Possibly they each need their own condo. It makes perfect sense! Condos come in nice groupings with individual spaces for things, and they are usually arranged in a relatively compact way. SWEATER CONDOS should DEFINITELY be a thing.

Do you hear me, internet? Get on that.

Joanna problems

Confession time

Y’know how sometimes we do things without thinking about them, and then those things don’t make much sense when you realize you’re doing them? Me, too.

My iPad’s battery drained and it had to get put on the charger, which happens to be in the kitchen so that the iPad could rest on the counter. I wanted to finish watching a YouTube video, so I poured myself a glass of water and leaned on the counter to watch. I had to lean over the running dishwasher, but that’s okay– the steam feels nice sometimes.

And then I went down the internet rabbit hole and, an hour later, realized that my arm was strangely damp and my back was slightly sore.

That’s right. I stood hunched over the dishwasher long enough to build up condensation ON MY ARM.

Oh. And I also have YouTube on my phone, and of course the computer.


(If this wasn’t bad enough, I forgot that I’m supposed to be doing laundry, too. Oops.)

Speaking of the internet rabbit hole, if you haven’t seen this cover of Space Oddity by astronaut Chris Hadfield yet, you should.

Joanna problems, national parking, Slight sarcasm, Travel

Well, I SAID I wanted to see the Sonoran Desert.

So here’s the thing.

I’ve been trying to go to as many national parks (or historic sites, as the case may be) this year as possible. I’m excited about my passport stampbook (as I’ve previously posted) and especially since we now live in the half of the country with all of the huge natural areas, I want to see them!

One of the exhibits I’ve always loved at the North Carolina Zoo is their Sonora Desert dome, so when I noticed on my newly-acquired roadmap of Arizona that the interstate went THROUGH it, I couldn’t resist! On the way home from the Casa Grande ruins, we looked it up on our GPS and found a place labeled “Sonoran Desert National Monument.” That sounded promising, so we programmed it to take us there.

And we started driving.

And driving.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert sign

See that? PROOF we were in the RIGHT AREA.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert road

We took a couple of smaller roads, then wound up on a two lane highway going straight across the Sonoran Desert, generally back in the direction of I-8, which we would pick up on the other side after stopping at the monument. The desert was fascinating, with far more plant-life that I expected in a desert, and we drove between two long mountain reaches, watching for wildlife (though we never saw any) and grateful for the full tank of gas and water bottles.

It was interesting, too, that there weren’t many cars. Most of the “scenic” stops were closed for the season, but that didn’t bother us because we planned to stop at the monument.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert wide

At this point I want to note that there are not that many photos from this drive. That’s because I kept expecting to, y’know, GET to something. These photos of cacti?? Actually from BEFORE we got into the national monument area.

After a while, we reached the point where the GPS told us to turn and drive 11 miles to the monument. We slowed down to make the turn…

…and then stopped. We were facing a sandy track that crossed some railroad tracks that ran parallel to the two lane highway. On the near side of them was a VERY large sign that said: “DO NOT ENTER.” Oh, and some WILD COTTON BUSHES.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert wild cotton

I looked again at the GPS. We’d followed the directions correctly. But then I noticed that the 11 mile “drive” was supposed to take over an hour… across sand… And we realized then that the “Monument” was probably the DESERT ITSELF.

THANKS, GPS. We were now in the MIDDLE of the Sonoran Desert. Well, about 11 miles from the middle, as far as I can tell.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert cacti

To be fair, I DID say I wanted to properly SEE the desert, and not just drive past it on the interstate. And boy howdy, I SAW that desert.

We checked our map and discovered we were closer to I-8 if we kept going forward rather than backtracking, so that’s what we did.

I guess some monuments are bigger than others. I’m still bummed I didn’t get a stamp for it, though.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Pop Quiz at the DMV

Today I went to get new license plates for my car. The old plates expired while the car was in storage, so when I got it back two weeks ago, I started the process of getting them. First I had to get it repaired; it needed a new belt and a new sensor, and that was a little expensive, but really not as bad as it could’ve been. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I went to an honest car repair place: they only charged me for work they actually did, so, for instance, one thing they did only took 20 minutes, therefore they only charged me 1/3 of their hourly rate for it. I appreciate things like that.

Next was the smog check and certification. Oh, California, and your eco-friendliness. I’d had the car smog checked once before in order to get military base stickers, but it had been too long ago to count toward the new license plates now, so I had to go back yesterday. I found a walk-in place about five minutes from home and was done in half an hour.

So then today at the DMV….

I’d made an appointment, for which I was very grateful as it meant I got to be in the very short line instead of the really long, walk-in line. When I got there, I hadn’t filled out all of my paperwork yet, but that was okay because they would inspect my car while I filled out the pages. I got all of that done, and got registered for new plates…. and then thought to ask a pertinent question:

“By chance, do I need to have a California driver’s license, too?”

The laws have recently (since I last moved) changed, so that military dependents must either be residents of their sponsor’s (so, J’s) home state, OR they have to update it every time they move. Apparently I now fall under the new law.

SURPRISE! I needed a new driver’s license.

The woman helping me was super nice, though; she handed me a new ticket, having put me into an open appointment slot, and I didn’t even wait three minutes to be called. Because I had a military ID, I didn’t need to go home for a birth certificate (which I haven’t quite located yet in the unpacking), and they moved me quickly through the process. They took my fingerprint and my signature and my money and my photo.

And THEN I found out I had to take a written test.


They asked if I wanted to study, but I decided to wing it. Thirty-six questions, of which I was allowed to miss up to six. Yikes.

The test was mostly logical stuff, but some of it was California-specific, and some of it required me to consider the physics of my car. But my favorite questions were the passive-aggressive ones:

Of the following, which is true about tail-gating (driving very close to the car ahead of you):
a) it makes other drivers frustrated and angry
b) it is safer because it keeps other drivers from “cutting you off”
c) it minimizes collisions 

Seriously. There were a couple of questions like that, mostly about driving too slow and creating hazards, and where to drive in relation to other cars (Beside them so the other drivers can see you?), and about merging.

Anyway, I passed. In fact, I only missed two– apparently it is illegal in the state of California to smoke in the car if there are any minors in the car with you. I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t know. And I missed a physics-related one. I think my favorite thing was that they just assumed I’d pass and took my photo and money first. Or maybe that’s how they force you to go through with it. No practice tests.

I also registered to vote.

So, I guess now I’m officially a California resident. Go me.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff, Travel

And that is how horror films start.

My sister and I decided to travel a short distance from home this weekend, as we do from time to time. It was a last minute type decision so I looked online and found a hotel that sounded good, called and made a reservation.

I should tell you now that we knew it was a historic inn. It got great reviews online and the manager I spoke to was friendly and helpful. It’s the off-season and we got a great rate. Sounded fantastic!

So tonight we drove into town, found a place to eat dinner, and then plugged in the address to the GPS.


We saw it first as we came around the corner. Tall, white columns, large carriage lantern over the door…. and not a car in the parking lot.

I slowed down, and we pulled into the spot right in front of the main door, assessing the situation.


It was one of those old motor-inn style affairs, with the parking spots right in front of the little doorways, a light above each one. Painted white, metal latticing, etc. Y’know, quaint.

But deserted. Completely deserted.

A breeze was making the carriage lantern sway slightly. The shutters were just a little crooked and rattling. And then we noticed that our cell phone signal had all but disappeared.


We sat there, neither of us wanting to be that girl, but continually saying, “Well, what do you want to do?”

And then the lights flickered.

And that was it.

That is how horror films start. We couldn’t call to order a pizza, much less cops in case of a MURDER outbreak.

So we backed out of the parking lot and drove quickly back to the nice place we’d passed on the way to dinner earlier. When we told the woman at the desk our story, she gave us a discount. Thank you, front desk lady.

My sister did remind me that this is only the second scariest Murder Hotel she’s visited in the last year. This one, she says, was like Sunday afternoon in the park compared to the other one, mostly because of the lack of blood spatter. Bonus for that.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Toiletgeddon 2012, or I Got My Parents a New Bathroom for Christmas. (The exploding toilet saga.)

So here we are. It is December 5 and I finally have a story for you. I’ve already told it partly on twitter, but feel that it should be EXPLAINED. Here it is, as I wrote it, commentary added as needed.


3:28pm: Twitter I just got attacked by a TOILET.
3:40pm: Seriously, there is an INCH of water on the floor. I had to grab the rug and RUN.
3:42pm: And THEN I had to barricade the door with towels to save the hall carpet and THEN I had to run for rubber boots and wade back in.
3:42pm: Because SOMEONE had to shut off the water.
3:42pm: I deserve a metal. Seriously.

And here is where we take our first commentary break. Seriously, after I flushed it, the toilet started filling (it’s old, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) and then… then it DIDN’T STOP. It just kept on going. Water pouring out onto the floor, racing toward the door. I really did RUN. And then I called my dad who reminded me how to turn off the water, which in my panic I, of course, had forgotten. Sigh. Back to the action.

3:48pm: And NOW, Twitter, it’s leaking through the downstairs ceiling. AWESOME.

Notice the six minute gap? Yeah, I’d collapsed (feeling relieved) on the couch in the upstairs den to wait for my dad to arrive with cleaning supplies. I realized I was thirsty and went downstairs… Only to find the water POURING out of a spot in the ceiling AND out of the (purchased just three months ago) overhead light fixture. Do you get this? OUT OF THE LIGHT. It was dripping off of the five globes of that light like a weird sprinkler. I grabbed my mom’s plastic containers (sitting on the counter to dry… sorry about that, mom) and shoved them under the drips. The light, however, was DIRECTLY over the antique kitchen table… Luckily (if you can call it that) there was a tray on the table that caught and collected most of the water. The tray didn’t make it, but the table seems to be okay, after being sterilized. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the dripping:


So my dad got home and we unearthed the wet vac and (equipped with gloves and rubber boots) cleaned the bathroom. He even bleached it. And then my mom got home. The cleanish bathroom:


By then the ceiling (which, if you haven’t figured it out, is in the kitchen breakfast nook) was leaking in NEW places. See?


She called her homeowner’s insurance… And they arrived about, oh, an hour later. That’s when I learned what MITIGATION means.

7:29pm: Update on the TOILET SITUATION: the emergency plumbers are here. I am hiding in my room with the cats. #notkidding
7:30pm: Also I ate Chinese food (which is my go-to comfort food) and have a glass of wine in my immediate future.
7:31pm: The good news is we get a new bathroom AND a new ceiling downstairs. The weird news is they’re starting tonight.
7:53pm: There is a THING happening downstairs called MITIGATION. I think that’s an improvement, but I can’t be certain.
7:54pm: In other news, my cats still think I’m awesome, which is always comforting.

No joke, people came and started tearing out the bathroom floor, and part of the hall carpet which I hadn’t entirely saved. I saved MOST of it, though, which is apparently quite an accomplishment. Here is the halfway torn up bathroom floor:


They used a sterilizer on everything, including the table and the floors. And then they put a big fan in there to start drying it before the deconstruction crew arrived in the morning. I thought this made an annoying sound. I was wrong.

11:11pm: This is the THING that is cleaning the air after the TOILET ESCAPADES tonight.



9:38am: Well, Twitter, this morning the GUTTING OF THE BATHROOM commences.
9:39am: Things will be REMOVED. And the little space I had claimed as my writing room is now full of ALL OF THE THINGS.
9:41am: Oh. OH. And we might have to go out the front door, down the porch, and back in through the garage to get to the refrigerator.
9:44am: Sounds like the next week will be an ADVENTURE.

So the people came and started ripping out everything and we learned that the whole thing has to be redone (except, apparently, the tub) and so the bathroom is getting remodeled.

11:43am: Merry Christmas, mom. I got you a new bathroom and kitchen. Hope you like it!
11:45am: Twitter! Look at what’s happening to the CEILING.


11:53am: NOW look at the ceiling!


See how there’s only an eight minute gap there? They took that ceiling down so fast, I almost missed the whole thing. And then it looked like this…


This is the wide shot. You can see falling insulation in the back.


The deconstruction crew left not only another of those noisy fan things, they left a giant HEATER that, when you’re downstairs, makes the house sound like you’re standing on a RUNWAY surrounded by PLANES. See?



2:26pm: I have just had a shower for the first time in over 48 hours. #toiletgeddon2012


So that’s what happened. We’re still waiting on everything to dry before they start rebuilding it, and so everything is very VERY displaced, but at least the kitchen and bathroom get some TLC. And while the ceiling and bathroom were getting torn apart, I finally managed to get our Christmas tree decorated. Silver linings.


And now you know about Toiletgeddon 2012. You’re welcome.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Important Life Lesson: Use Caution with Dehydrated Foods

Thing I learned tonight:

No matter how tempting it may seem, it is NOT, in fact, a good idea to try and eat a spoonful of dehydrated* potato flakes. Even if you just want to see what they taste like. Even if it’s not an entire spoonful. They stick to the roof of your mouth. For a really long time. And then you have to drink lots of water and they get stickier and more like paper mache until you can finally swallow them.

This is all, ahem, theoretical, mind you.

And when I shared my, uhm, DISCOVERY with J, he so helpfully asked, “What, you had to learn your lesson about dehydrated foods AGAIN?”

I have no response for that. Mostly because I have previously gotten sick off of dehydrated apples (did you know they put SEVEN apples in a bag? And that they’re super easy to eat, like potato chips, until they rehydrate in your stomach and then you have SEVEN whole apples inside of you? Just a TINY bit uncomfortable…). Twice.


*Look, sometimes I just don’t feel like boiling and mashing potatoes. This is easier. Plus you can use them when you’re out of bread crumbs and you want to fry something. Seriously.