Monday, January 31, 2005

Volleyball and Snow!!!!

God is definitely good. Al hamdoo lillah! The year before I left, the DC area got one of its biggest snowfalls in like 20 years. Since I've been here (like two weeks), it's snowed three times. And it's accumulated some each time. And then stayed for a while afterwards. I've missed the snow. Yesterday as Dawn and I stayed home due to cancelled church services, we ate snow cream (with an added twist, thanks to Dawn - powdered strawberry Qwik!!) and watched Alias all day while doing a puzzle. It was a wonderful Sabbath!

And to make it even better, I spent the previous evening playing my first volleyball match since April of 2003. And it felt _GOOD_. I'm still feeling it, but I don't care and can't wait for next week! I have missed volleyball _so_ much.

So, although I miss the daily group dinners, discussions of deep-ish things, and evenings of Alias-watching with our group, there are _definite_ advantages to being back in America.

And after three months, I've even put my hair in a pony-tail a couple of times without wincing. Mostly though...I just _really_ prefer it to be completely free. But still....there were two months in Amman where it was down a lot of the time, and three months here now. It was weird though. I spoke to part of our Hispanic congregation on Friday night and showed them how I'd do my hair and cover...and that too. But it still felt good to let my hair back down. :)

But also al hamdoo lillah for the success of the elections yesterday!! I'm praying that I'll run across someone with a marked finger around here so that my Arabic can stop being a parlor trick. :)

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Everyone, please be in prayer for the Iraqi elections. They happen tomorrow, but remember that they are 8 hours ahead of us (on the east coast), so by the time you wake up in the morning, the polls will be getting ready to close.

Specifically, pray for:
- Peace and safety during the polling process.
- Participation by those who are eligible to vote.
- Understanding of the new process by the voters.
- The integrity of the polls and the vote-counting process.
- Clear winners to avoid (more) sectarian strife following the elections.
- That we and the Iraqi people would know that, no matter the outcome, God's will is being done.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

School Days...

Well, the very, very good news is that it shouldn't be a problem for me to get back into grad school. It might take a week or two for all of the paperwork to actually happen, but it's probably _going_ to happen. In related news, you know how I've been saying that I was within the 5-year time limit for taking all of my classes for this degree? Yeah....since I started in 2000, I actually got cut off _this_ year, not next. Because with my Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering, I'm not actually able to count to five.

But Mary doesn't think it'll be a problem, so I'm not worried. Plus, I'm just not worried.

In other news, I went to my software safety class today at 4. I was a little early I thought, so it didn't surprise me that there was a class in the room....but when the discussion on the very entertaining movie they were watching about the possibility of cyber-terrorism taking down power grids (paid for by your tax dollars and mine) continued, well past the 4 o'clock hour, I figured that something was amiss. The class was being held in the Instructional Television building (meaning lots of technology for broadcasting lectures via satellite to other places and what not), so the people in charge of the building were around and helped me figure out that my class was actually on _Tuesday_, not Thursday. I felt like an idiot (especially coming fresh off of the counting to 5 thing), but was mostly worried that it would conflict with the other class I'm taking on Tuesdays. Fortunately it doesn't, so life is even better than it was before since now I'll have another free afternoon/evening each week. :)

But since I didn't have class to go to, I went shopping! :) I used my Christmas Linens-N-Things gift card to get stuff to hang things on, then I went off in search of a bookshelf. I went to Target first. They didn't have any bookshelves (??!), but I got notebooks for my classes and a hole puncher and a couple of other things. Then I went to this furniture store because it was halfway between Target and Kolhs. They had, no lie, _one_ bookshelf in the entire store (which could easily have fit two football fields). Said bookshelf was of the typical pressboard quality found so often now-a-days, but this one was apparently pressboard lined with gold or something because the _display_ model cost over $300!!!!

So then I went to Kohls. They didn't have any furniture at all....but they were having a clearance sale where things were up to 80% off. I actually found a suit-ish jacket that I can stand. I think it normally sells for $60 or more, but I got it for $13. Now I just have to find pants or a skirt to match it. The "nice" pants that I have bought recently are black, but the jacket is blue. It was even the right size. It was probably the only thing in the whole store that was small enough for me.

I know that I'm petite, but I still don't get how I'm a size 4. I've got a big top and a big bottom, but anything larger than a 4 just falls off of me. I don't _think_ I'm skeletal or anything. I know I eat enough. But its _VERY_ frustrating to go shopping and not find anything smaller than an 8. I went from Kohl's to Walmart. Not only did they have cheap hangars, they also had a bookshelf for $32. It's the cheap of the cheap kind, but it holds all of my books and will do me nicely at least until I move again.

So, now I'm gonna go cut up boxes for recycling.

Oh...and the book that's recommended for my Satellite Design class? $134.50!!!!! And that's on Amazon ('s prices were even higher!)!!! I'd forgotten how astoundingly expensive engineering textbooks are. Good thing I can write it off for year....

Oh, and Amazon's "People who bought this book have also bought..." lists? EEEEEEVVVVIIIILLLL. That list is of the Devil. I rebuke it in the name of Jesus. I have been tempted to squander more money from those stupid little lists than from anything else I've ever known. It's like Amazon can read my mind and knows titles which will elicit great longings in my heart. Titles like Spacecraft Systems Engineering make me think - I'm already spending $134.50 for one book...what's $66.77 more? And Bah! Now I know that the Farscape mini-series is out on DVD now! Bah! (Btw, Claudia Black will be on Stargate SG-1 tomorrow night.) At least it's not horribly expensive.

Settling In

Well, yesterday was my first full day back in Maryland "for good." Sunday I drove to Nashville, got some more of my stuff on Monday, then drove back on Tuesday. Yesterday was a full day with getting my car serviced in the early, early AM, lunch with my pastor, then an afternoon of trying to figure out what to do about getting back into grad school with my advisor. I also ran into my ex-boyfriend, Jean-Marc. He's married now! (Don't worry, it wasn't a surprise to me or anything, it was just the first time I'd seen him since the "big day.") Hard to believe sometimes that it's been six years since he and I dated.

Anyway, then I went to my first class - Satellite Design. It looks like it may be more work than I expected, but hopefully it won't be too bad. There apparently were complaints about the lengths of homework assignments the last time the course was offered, so hopefully they're going to work on that some this time. It's gonna be a really fun class though. We've been given "Level 1 Requirements" (i.e., top-level requirements for the system, some of which are imposed by the instrument that the spacecraft (s/c forevermore) we're designing will carry, some imposed by the launch vehicle we've been assigned, etc.) and we get to completely design the s/c bus to adhere to those requirements. It'll be fun, I say, but then I've always loved design classes. :)

Today I'll spend in the continuing unpacking/organizational phase for my room. It's pretty much just boxes and stuff all over the place right now. For all that I tend toward the cluttered side of life, I can't stand it when things aren't organized and I like to feel "nested," so it's somewhat discombobulating to still have my "home" be a wreck. I'm working on that though and will work some more today. There are a few things I need to buy (like a new bookshelf and some hangars) in order for everything to have a home, so that's probably what I'll spend my "out and about" hours doing today. I also still need to get a MD driver's license. That might be a "tomorrow task" though.

I also need to stop by the University again today to talk some more with my advisor's wife who I hate referring to in this manner since she's an aerospace professor in her own right and on the graduate selection committee. So, from now on I'll just call her Mary since that's her name. My advisor will be code-named Dave. Oddly, that's his real name too. Either that's not sneaky at all, or it's so sneaky that it's really amazingly sneaky.

Yes, I've been watching too much Alias.

On the job front, I've got a couple of irons in the fire including one at ARL (the Army Research Lab). It's a defense-related thing....but actually _defense_, not offensive that makes it better somehow? It would also mean working for a guy at my church which could have its good points and its bad points. They're going to send me an application, then I'll interview after that, in sha'allah. Hope with me that ARL has a "casual" dress policy because all (both) of my business suits got eaten by mildew while I was away and I'm too cheap to want to spend hundreds of dollars (and many, many hours of shopping) replacing them right now. Actually, I took the mildew-eating as a sign from God that business suits are a tool of the Devil and should not be worn except at great need. But maybe I'm biased in that regard.

Anyway....I'm going to go shower now and get my butt moving on the ever-growing list of things I need to take care of and buy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Yay, God!

Bah....runtime error deleted my post. Oh wasn't terribly well-written anyway.

So a few days ago, Mrs. C. called and made a _great_ suggestion - that I live with her daughter-in-law, Dawn, while Dawn's husband (and Mrs. C's son), Joe, is in Iraq (that's right - he's G.I. Joe). Dawn's been praying for an opportunity to share the extra space in their house and it's just a perfect fit. We're both _really_ excited about it. She's excited about my piano being there and because this gives her a chance to re-arrange things.

I'm excited for a whole bunch of reasons. Not only is this a low-rent option, but I also won't need to rent a big truck in order to bring a lot of furniture....but I'll still have enough room to have a little space of my own. I'll have to convince my brother to keep some of my stuff for a little while longer, but I don't think he'll mind.

We're both also excited because we started talking tonight about the things I learned in Iraq about sharing with Muslims and she's really excited to learn more. This'll give me a chance to review and learn more while we study it together. Hopefully we'll be able to get some other folks involved too.

I'm just so excited that this is working out like this. It's like the apartment shopping was just a way for me to know exactly how generous God is. So, yay, God!

Or as they say in Iraq, al hamdo lilla!

Monday, January 17, 2005

One Step Up

Well, I'm still unemployed, uninsured, and homeless....but at least I'm not living with my parents anymore. That's a move in the right direction, isn't it? ;p

The drive here was uneventful, as usual. I spent Saturday and some of Sunday afternoon looking for apartments (Barbara came along on Saturday). We went to a lot of places, so I spent Saturday evening setting up a spread sheet on my computer (have I mentioned that Henry's not a paperweight anymore? Yes, thanks to the generous help of my church, he has a new hard drive and is back up and running, although we've still not recovered any data from my old hard drive. But, at least he's no longer a $3000 paperweight!). Since everywhere had some different variation of pet fees, student discounts, utilities, specials, and laundry issues, I decided to compare them over the course of a year rather than month-to-month. So, I'd add together the monthly rent for twelve months, any monthly pet fees for twelve months, any monthly utility estimates for twelve months, then add in any one-time fees like the application fee, add in an estimate for laundry costs if a washer and dryer weren't included in the apartment, and subtract any discounts. Not surprisingly, the two efficiencies that I looked at topped the list of cheapest place to live over a year. Far more surprisingly, for only ~$200 more (over the course of the year, not monthly), I can get a 1BR apartment, newly renovated, in one of the nicer areas of Laurel (Montpelier). It even comes with an alarm system and is actually ground-level (not "ground floor" which ends up being down several steps quite often) - making the installation of the piano _MUCH_ easier. They've even got one coming available this Saturday.

The only "catch" is that I need to have income before they'll lease it to me. I can probably get my parents to co-sign for me if it comes to that, but the alternative would be a letter of intent from where ever I plan to work. Some of the other places would take six months of bank statements, but not this one, and money in the bank doesn't seem to make much of a difference. That makes me wonder how really rich people who don't need to work manage to rent apartments. Maybe they just buy stuff.

Anyway, so that sent me to job hunting today. I've just applied online to a place in Silver Spring where I'd be a software tester, do some tech support, and write users manuals. That might actually be the low-stress job that I'm looking for. Another alternative is the Army Research Lab. I was talking to the dad of one of the girls I grew up with at church, telling him about how I was looking for a job, etc. and the guy behind him asked what I did, then gave me his card. He works for SAIC at ARL. That might work out well too, although I would imagine that they do a lot of work with defense stuff and I've never been too keen on that. Don't get me wrong, I think that wars are necessary from time to time (this time included), and I'm glad that there are people who are willing and able to design, build, and use defensive and offensive weapons and equiment, but I'm just not one of those people. But then again, it's a job, and it's right down the road from the nicer of the two efficiencies (which is running a close second to the 1BR due to its location and the friendliess of the staff). I'll email him and see what he can find for me. Most of the other jobs I've seen in the papers I've looked in have been "driver" or "assistant," etc.

I also need to email someone in the aerospace department. I'm still not able to register for classes and no one seems to know why. The person that I was sent to didn't answer my voicemail, so I'll try email now. I've still got over a week before classes start, but I really need to take care of this.

I'm pretty stressed about it all right now. I know that everything is happening according to His plan, but _I'd_ certainly like it all to be settled.

I hope to go to the inauguration on Thursday. I don't think I've ever been to one, despite living in the area for most of my life. I vaguely remember working the day of the last inaugural (about two blocks away, actually) and thinking that I should have walked over.

Anyway, that's where I am right now.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I Am A Packing Queen!!!!!

So my travel plans have changed (those of you who know me and/or my family will not at all be surprised at that). It was just too much to try to fit in this weekend, and the whole driving all night thing sans caffeine just wasn't smart, so here's the new plan: I drive up tomorrow during the day (with a brief stop in Cookeville to drop some stuff off with Toby who went back to school today), then take my time in finding an apartment. Once that's done, I'll fly to TN, pack a U-haul with the rest of my stuff and my furniture (knowing better what furniture will actually _fit_), then drive back. Or my family will pack for me, drive up, then drive back. I vote for door #1 though. I was in MD when my stuff went to TN, so I didn't help with that at all. The least I can do is be there for the unloading of Jesse's basement since I missed the loading.

But, as you can see in this post's title, I am a packing queen! When going through all of my stuff, between trash, goodwill, and repacking I diminished in "stuff" by 12 variously-sized boxes, and several bags. But not only that, but today, I fit everything I wanted to in my car with room to spare. But you really just have to see it in order to appreciate the full magnitude of my mad packing skillz. Every nook and cranny is filled. No space is left empty (except the top and where I'll sit). The back seat bottom pulls out before the back of the seat folds down. Under that space is all of my linens. In the triangular space between the front seats and the first row of boxes are my SCUBA fins. You really have to just see it. And what's funny is that since I had room after I put in all the stuff I'd planned on taking, I'm _really_ having to fight the urge to bring more stuff...just because I can. :) But I won't because I don't want to deal with anything more than I'm bringing now.

But now I'm sleepy. I stayed up late last night, hoping to sleep as late as possible this morning, making it easier to stay up late and drive tonight. But I only made it to about 2...and then got woken up multiple times this morning...all of them by 8:30 I was too awake to sleep anymore. So...going to bed now. I'll be in MD tomorrow for good(ish). Saturday is the first (and hopefully only) apartment-hunting day. Once I find an apartment, then will begin the job-hunting day(s). And on the Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday after Jan 26th begins the school days.

Ok...going to bed now....later!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Guitar! (and Packing)

So, I went to the guitar store where I bought my old guitar. Turns out, they knew a guy who could actually fix it - if I wanted to pay as much or more than what I paid for it. So instead they showed me around the ones they had available for cheap, but decent quality. And for $250, I ended up getting a used Fender in really good condition. I'm "kinda" excited about it. The guy said that they sell for almost $1000 new. I haven't looked it up yet, but I'd believe that it was a pretty good quality guitar. Plus, it's a Fender. :) I've actually _heard_ of that brand. :) It's a natural finish, cut-away style, acoustic electric. They also sold me a used direct box for $25 (that kind sells for $50 new), so now I can even plug in at churches that don't provide them for us. :)

But all of this is more than a little bittersweet. Like when you bring a pet to the vet for the last time, I left my old guitar with them for a proper burial. They all got a chuckle out of that notion, but they understood. It was a good guitar and did me well.

In other news, I spent yesterday afternoon/evening under Jesse's house going through my stuff. It didn't take as long as I expected. All that I have left to do today is go through my book boxes, many of which are apparently full of old school notes and assignments (making the task significantly easier). I threw a lot of stuff away, and I've got a car-load full (with the back seat down too) of stuff for Purple Heart when they come by tomorrow.

The stuff did pretty well under Jesse's house. All of my remaining clothes and linens are musty (as are the books), but there were only three boxes that were sitting in puddles. One had stuff that I really didn't care about at all (old trinkets for my Sunday School class, old nail polish, etc.), one had dishes so it didn't do any damage, and one was my box of Cal Ripken memorabilia. Every time my mom would find an Orioles or Cal memento anywhere, she'd buy it for me, so I had a box full. But also in there were my ticket and souviener posters from Cal's 2131 game that I went to with Barbara. Only one corner of the box was wet, but it was, of course, the corner by the big and flat things. The posters were completely ruined, but the ticket is still readable, although a little worse for wear. It's got a blue-ish tinge now from the envelope that it was in for safe-keeping, and the embossing stamp that they used to mark the ticket (instead of ripping it like normal) is gone, but it's still legible.

My games were attacked by some paper-eating bug. The boxes are still in tact, but the top layer of paper is gone in a lot of places. There's only one set of "stuff" that I can't seem to find. I thought there was a box of old cassette tapes and CDs, but I can't find it. I'm pretty sure I put all of the CDs in one of those CD notebook things and recycled all of the cases since otherwise I would have had boxes and boxes of CDs, but I had a good number of tapes too, and I don't know where they are.

I managed to get a nice-sized "crick" in my neck that a heating pad and I are trying to get rid of right now, but after that, I'll go finish wading through the books. After that I just need to collect and organize all the stuff that's scattered around my parents' house now, then I'll be ready to go. :)

Monday, January 10, 2005


I haven't been much of a blogger lately. I have my suspicions as to why, but they're not really important. Hopefully soon I'll get back to doing it more regularly. But as a result, there are lots of little things to talk about, none of which really deserves its own here's the miscellaneous randomness of my life:

Moving: Well, the big move may happen this week. What I know for sure is that I'll help out with my dad's Science Club meeting on Thursday after school, then I'll drive to MD overnight. Normally, I'd forego overnight driving (especially sans caffeine), but I need to spend Friday looking for (and hopefully finding) an apartment. If I find one available for immediate occupancy, my parents will drive up on Saturday with all of my stuff, furniture, and my cat. If I find one that will be available really soon, or even if I don't find one at all, they'll just bring up my stuff (no furniture or cat) and I'll store it or something. Then, when a place _is_ available, I'll make another trip to TN to pick up my furniture and cat or possibly my family will come up again during Spring Break. As two months is a long time to go without a bed, I'm really hoping it won't be that last option. So, MD folk, I'll be back in town "for good" starting sometime early Friday morning, but I'll be pretty busy over the weekend.

School: I just tried to register for my classes and there's some block on my registration. The lady who might know what the problem is comes in at 1:30. Hope with me that it's something simple. I now plan on taking three classes: Tuesdays, 7-9:30PM is Space Human Factors and Life Support; Wednesdays, 6:30-9PM is Satellite Design; and Thursdays, 4-6:30PM is Software Safety. The human factors class will be interesting - it'll cover life support systems and the "human" aspect of space travel. I'm counting this as my "easy" class since my "expertise" at my old job was the life support systems on the Space Station. Design classes are always fun, so the satellite design class should be good. It'll give us a nice overview of each typical satellite system (power, thermal, guidance, etc.), then I'm sure there'll be a group design project. :) This course is possibly time-consuming, but hopefully also not terribly difficult. The last one could be really hard, or it could be a cakewalk. I hoping that some of my friends from my old job will take the class with me, so we can cut up in the back of the room. :)

Job: I still have no idea about a job. I figure that I can live (_very_ carefully) as long as I'm making at least $6/hr full-time, but I'll also need to pay for school, so something higher than that would be really good. It needs to be full-time so that I've got some amount of medical insurance, and I'd rather it be relatively mindless work. The last real "hourly" job that I had was in high school at Service Merchandise and I used to have nightmares about it, so hope that I've gotten over my fear of working in retail sales. If anyone knows of anything, let me know. This semester it could pretty much be anything, even a 9-5er, but I don't know about next semester, so flexible hours are probably necessary.

Guitar: I played and sang "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" for church on Sunday. When I got out my guitar on Friday to practice, I noticed a new "feature" near the top of the neck that I'd never noticed before. I thought it was odd that I'd never noticed before that it was two pieces that were joined, but whatever. On Sunday morning I realized that the neck was cracked, pretty much all the way to the fret board. The guitar made it to and from Mexico, to Kuwait, Iraq, and Jordan (probably - I didn't examine it very closely at the time), but sometime since then either due to temperature changes or impact or something else....well, she's dead, Jim. Lacking anything else to play, I went ahead and used her on Sunday morning, but I'm going to head over to the store where we bought her three or four years ago to see about buying a new one. They buy used guitars, so maybe I'll get some small amount of trade-in for her "electric" side or something. So sad. :(

Wasting Time in TN: I've spent much of my time here helping my family clean/reorganize their house. We've sent a lot of stuff to charity and a lot of stuff to the dump. During my less busy time, I've been playing games on the computer, and watching TV and DVDs. Last night we finished watching all of "V." That was originally a TV mini-series in 1983 and 1984, then it lasted one season as a TV show. It was about these lizards that dressed up like humans in order to act like our friends, but really to rape the planet of its natural resources. They eat a lot of mice and other rodents, and the guy who plays Freddie Krueger is a friendly lizard. :) It's fun. I also very much enjoyed the Alias season premier last Wednesday. JJ Abrams (series creator) decided to give that to my mom as a birthday present (Happy Birthday, Mommy!). I was worried through the first hour that my boyfriend Marshall (the tech geek) wasn't going to be on the show anymore, but he is, and I'm happy. My other boyfriend Michael Vartan, of course was still there. But sadly, they say that they've killed off Lena Olin's character. Fortunately, no one's ever _really_dead on this show (except for Dixon's wife, Emily (this time), and possibly many of the "red shirts," to use a Star Trek term). But Spy Daddy was just as ambiguously good as ever, Sloan was just as ooky as ever, and it looks like Agent Sean might get a girlfriend this season. :) Yay! Agent Sean is my other, other boyfriend (he's the big teddy bear imaginary boyfriend, Vaughn (Michael Vartan) is the hot imaginary boyfriend, and Marshall is the geeky imaginary boyfriend - hey....when they're just imaginary boyfriends, you can have as many as you like and switch between them depending on your mood. Imaginary boyfriends are very convenient that way.). The credits are a little different, but I could still do my internationally-known "Alias Dance" to them, and the disguises, accents, and fight scenes were just as much fun as ever, so I have high hopes for this season. :) now I'm going to head over to Jesse's house to spend time going through my stuff in his basement. That should be "fun." And cold. And dirty. But at least his crawlspace is tall enough for me to stand up, mostly. Purple Heart is coming by again on Wednesday, so I'm hoping to finish going through everything by then. That's the goal anyway. We'll see what actually transpires. We'll also see if I can practice what I've been making my mom do - enjoy it for one last moment, now give/throw it away!

Car: I finally got my MD license plates, so my car is official now!! :)

Computer: I forgot to tell you that my computer is no longer a paperweight! My hard drive is probably definitely gone (although we'll see about someone Marshall-esque retrieving the data, if it's not too expensive), but my church generously replaced my hard drive for me and got Henry back up and running again. Not having much need for him here, I've only recently finished getting him back to the way that I like him, but he's working just fine again. I'm still sad about all of the applications I've lost though. And I haven't connected him to the internet at all to update anything, so it's entirely possible that SP2 will work its magic again, but I hope it won't. I think I've got a scheme for having internet connectivity once I get back to MD, but otherwise, does anyone know the cheapest way to get internet access in the DC area?

Sunday School: I'm sure you've all been wondering how things have been going with my Sunday School class. Well, unexpectedly, I've really enjoyed the time. Mostly because I always had a class of one - me. No one else ever came, and except for the first time, I didn't get caught, so I got to have an hour of "me" time. That was definitely better than sitting in some class. :) But I turned in my book yesterday, so my career as an adult Sunday School teacher seems to have come to an end.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll think of something else piddly here shortly, but it can't be that important if I can't think of it now.