Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My inner thighs are killing me

Though not for the reason(s) you smut-minded people are thinking. No, the reason my inner thighs are sore (and will be, probably, for several more days) is that I have been biking up hill and down on and around San Juan Island in Washington for two days -- a 15th anniversary gift from my spouse (to commemorate our first bike trip together, in the Loire Valley, for our honeymoon).

And despite walking like a cowboy, I am enjoying every minute of this trip. The other six people, all of whom are from Canada, are lovely. And the tour leader, Nate (who is adorable) and second in command, Luis (a saint), are terrific (and terrifically patient). We totally lucked out.

This morning we went sea kayaking in the cold, gray rain, for three hours, yet it was so beautiful (magical really), no one really cared about the inclement weather. We saw many harbor seals, a nesting pair of bald eagles, and kelp the size of softballs. In a few minutes, we are heading off to Friday Harbor (I know, "On a Tuesday?") to get sandwiches and go on a sunset whale watch.

Pictures to come soon.


UPDATED 8/04/08: This is the only Orca we saw in the San Juans.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thanksgiving came early this year

Mashed potatoes and gravy!

The new "Wild Turkey" home delivery service from Whole Foods is great. Only problem is catching the darn things. (We counted at least ten birds, but they moved so fast -- who knew? -- and were going in different directions, so it was hard to figure out just how many there were.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

While the kid's away, the stuffed animals will play...

Or "When Stuffed Animals Go Bad."

I decided not to publish the drunken, boozy pics (which were not pretty). But as a public service, I decided to share these telling photos, so you can prevent such goings on from happening at your house, when your child goes off to sleepaway camp for three weeks, and certain stuffed animals don't make the cut, get left behind, and get bored and ornery.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One of the problems of working at home

This is Flora. While she has a half-dozen other rooms she could lounge in, many or all of which have better, way more comfortable spots for her to recline her 15.5 pounds, her favorite spot is my office. Specifically my desk. On top of my notes and papers. Resting her head or one paw on my laptop's keyboard, with one paw on my mouse or wireless keyboard.

Flora, full name "Flora Adorable," named so by my daughter when she was five, has the not-so-adorable habit of batting me with a paw when she wants attention, which is all the time. When she does not receive it, she takes said paw (with its full complement of razor-sharp nails, which I have been trying to trim for five years and which even the techs at the vet's refuse to attempt) and places it on my keyboard or my mouse, which results in th

is. Or th77788888888888888is. Which is not very helpful when one is trying to type an article or case study.

Flora also sheds. A lot. On my papers. On my computer. On my keyboard. On my monitor (which she rubs up against constantly and now looks like it could use a shave).... So I have taken to lint-rolling her. Which she doesn't like. At all. And runs away. Only to return the second I put it down. Which starts the whole process again.

I also keep a can of "Dust Destroyer" (compressed air -- "100% safe for the ozone!") by my side, in a (mostly futile) attempt to keep my keyboard somewhat fur-free -- and shoo Flora away when she gets really bothersome. (Cats really hate the Dust Destroyer.) Though that, too, has a limited effectiveness. (After briefly leaving my office, to watch the birds that have decided to nest atop our porch light, she is now back, once again lying across my weekly planner and papers.)

Another problem with working from home? Getting sidetracked by YouTube videos friends email you -- or you see highlighted on TV, like this new one from the people at JibJab, about the presidential campaign. (If you don't have a cat or dog to help you procrastinate, I highly suggest watching it.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Freedom to whine, but not freedom from responsibility

I just checked the Bill of Rights, and there isn't an article that gives Americans the freedom to whine (though some of you may put "whining" under freedom of speech, so I'll spot you on that one). Similarly, while the Declaration of Independence encourages us to pursue happiness, I don't think the Founding Fathers would consider owning a 5,000-square-foot McMansion (particularly one beyond our means) or a gas-guzzling SUV (ditto) an inalienable right.

But to hear some people (i.e., seemingly intelligent, upper middle class people) whining about the high price of gas, and how now they cannot afford to drive their Hummers and Land Rovers any more, you would think it was.

Yes, I am talking about you, Judith Warner, New York Times bestselling author, journalist, radio commentator and New York Times blogger, though you are far from alone.

Against my better judgement, I decided to read Ms. Warner's latest blog post, "Futility Vehicle," about how she can (supposedly) no longer afford to drive the gas-guzzling Land Rover she and her husband bought a few years ago, which the author describes in the first sentence as "a story of selfishness and greed, of self-centeredness, envy and the ignorant folly of a person too short-sighted to realize she should count herself lucky because her college education didn’t have to be paid for with the milk of a goat."

Oh yes, mea culpa, mea culpa. Poor bestselling author and happily married mother of two. Boo hoo hoo. Could someone please slap this bitch?

Similarly, years ago, I knew another seemingly intelligent woman (single at the time) who, although she made good money, spent more than she earned, and knew she was, but didn't care. Until she was forced to declare bankruptcy. Instead of taking responsibility -- i.e., not spending more than she earned or admitting she had only herself to blame -- she declared that it was the credit card companies' fault, and they didn't deserve her money. Of course, later she complained about all the problems she had because she had had to declare bankruptcy.

Hello?! Whatever happened to personal responsibility people?

Maybe Phil Gramm was right.

Don't get me wrong. I think whining can be good for the soul (and do plenty of it -- when I don't get a job I've gone after, or don't get paid, or am ill-treated by someone I thought was a friend). There are even studies that show complaining is good for you -- or better than bottling up your angst and anxiety, which can lead to ulcers or worse.

And my heart goes out to, for example, the overweight woman who exercises regularly, watches what she eats (and doesn't cheat), and still can't lose weight. Or the guy who has spent years slaving away at some job only to get laid off, just after his wife has given birth to their second or third kid or their first child is heading off to college. Or the woman who put her husband through business school, sacrificed her career for his, raised a family with him, then gets dumped for a younger, newer model. Or the family of four who makes due with one car, doesn't live in a McMansion, doesn't go on fancy vacations and who truly can't afford $4/gallon gasoline and a 10 or 20% increase in their food bill. (You get my drift.)

But please, the rest of you, you people who knew you were being selfish and greedy and self-centered, and thought that was cute or that it wouldn't catch up with you and/or blame all your problems on everyone else, please shut up.

7/14/08 UPDATE: Contrary to what President Bush just said in his White House press conference, the reason we are in the current oil crisis is NOT because Democrats in Congress, who only recently gained a majority, refuse to allow drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) or in the Arctic, the results of which, btw, should they be successful, would not be felt for MANY years -- and could create environmental problems, which could take a greater toll on our economy. (Note: I am saying could, not will.)

Our current oil crisis is not due to a handful of Congresspeople but due to years of consumption and now increased world consumption (the old supply-and-demand problem), who controls most of the oil fields, and our government's foolish squandering of the opportunity after 9/11 to get citizens to conserve energy while encouraging companies to invest in alternative fuels instead of fossil ones. Had we spent the last 6.5 years in those endeavors, and not selfishly guzzling gas, we might not be in this mess.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"So You Think You Can Dance" vs. The NY Mets and the SF Giants

Popular dance competition versus struggling area baseball franchise on a roll. What did we do before remotes? (Sadly, we do not have picture-in-picture, otherwise there would be no blog post this morning, and I'd be hard at work writing that case study.)

The 42-minute rain delay (during the baseball game) certainly made life a little easier, for about 42 minutes. But I was seriously torn.

As many of you know, I have been a devout (or devoted) Mets fan since I was a kid back in New York City in the '70s, and remained one even after they traded Tom Seaver and were in a perpetual slump. (I still love you Lee Mazzilli -- even though you are no longer cute!)

In fact, we fans had gotten so used to the Mets sucking on a regular basis (though I still loved them) that it came as a bit of a shock when they made it to the World Series -- and won! -- in 1986, a victory made all the sweeter as I was in college in the Boston area at the time and was surrounded by Red Sox fans. (And to all you Red Sox fans reading this who still feel they were deprived I say "oh boo hoo hoo." You've more than made up for that defeat. Speaking of defeat, how about those 18-1 Patriots, huh? ; )

But getting back to the present... After living in the Chicago area for over eight years and then having a kid and despite moving back East having little or no time for a sport that often takes more than three hours to play (how do people watching cricket do it?), my burning love for my New York Mets had cooled to a warm ember. Until last year.

While my spouse and daughter have attended several (or more) games at Shea the past couple of years (I still miss the multi-colored metal cladding), often with my nine-year-old nephew, who I have no doubt could some day play for the Mets (yes, he's that good, and I ain't braggin'), I have contented myself watching them from the comfort of home and my big screen HDTV.

And as there is only so much Food Network and HGTV a person, even one who likes food and real estate and decorating, can take, and there is next-to-nothing of interest on network TV or basic cable, I have been watching a lot of Mets baseball. ("Jo-sé, Jo-sé, Jo-sé, Jo-sé. Jo-sé. Jo-o-sé.")

But last night, between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m. ET, I was torn, as Wednesday is not only Prince Spaghetti Day and Sundae at Carvel but "So You Think You Can Dance," which I am absolutely addicted to, much to my surprise. I love the dancing (though not necessarily the dancers), the judges, and the host, Cat Deeley. Seriously. I. Love. This. Show. Am even going to buy tickets to see the Top 10 on tour.

But the Mets, my Mets, who have been on a roll (could it be that firing Willie and making Jerry Manuel the coach did the trick? Johan Santana and others say "yes") were playing the San Francisco Giants at home, and I had to watch.

Let me just say (or, more accurately, type) that after about 10 minutes of me incessantly flipping back and forth, my spouse, child, and cats walked out of the room in disgust. (Okay, the cats stayed, but they slept.) And I was (blissfully) left alone to watch "So You Think You Can Beat the San Francisco Giants." Which the Mets in fact did, decisively, 5 - 0, last night. Putting them at 47 - 44 just 1.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, the team with possibly the WORST mascot in the league. To which I say, "Let's go Mets!"

But getting back to that dance show... Not a great night. Yes, there were some very good routines and dancers, but few really breakout performances, though I loved the Bollywood number. For the record, my favorite couples right now are Chelsie and Mark, Courtney and Gev, and Katee and Joshua. But I think Will, who is a Debbie Allen protege, could wind up being the winner or in the top two or three. And I think Comfort and Thane have gotta go -- and will tonight.

And with that bit of analysis, I must get back to work.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It was a dark and stormy Monday, the kind of Monday that could drive a gal to drink...

[Insert cheesy 1940s or 1950s detective music and imagine Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade (or Philip Marlowe) or Garrison Keillor as Radio Private Eye Guy Noir reading this post. Trust me, it will be way more entertaining.]

It was one of those post-long weekend Mondays, the kind of Monday where you have lots to do and not enough time to do it and you swear that some evil spirit or sprite is out to get you....

The day started off okay, albeit a little hectic. But on the plus side, the black cat didn't knock over his litter box, nor did the orange-and-black stripey model throw up her breakfast all over the house, as often happens, particularly when I got places to go and people to see. So I was feeling pretty good.

I got the kid to her day camp on time, only to discover her friends had been mysteriously placed in another group. But at least the kid liked her counselor. So I figured I was battin' .500, which, as anyone who follows baseball knows, ain't too bad.

I even got in a quick workout at the gym -- after knocking back some Ibuprofen and covering my neck and back with Biofreeze to mitigate the borderline migraine headache I'd been dealing with since last night. Again, so far, so good.

I had a lot on my mind, and I got home just in time to talk with my first client -- only to realize as I picked up the phone that the line wasn't working. I kept my cool, or tried to, casually checking each phone. Nothing. Nothing but noise and static and whispers, making civilized communication impossible.

This normally would not throw me off my game, but, like I said, I had people to talk to and questions to ask. And my first appointment was with a gentleman in the U.K., who was there on vacation, and had asked me several times if I was sure I would be able to call him as he was staying at his in-laws and didn't want to run up their phone bill. Of course, I reassured him. No problem. But I was wrong. Dead wrong.

After several failed attempts at conversation using the land line, unable to use the spouse's VoIP line, which doesn't allow one to make overseas calls, and unable to ratchet up the speaker on my cell phone to hear more than a whisper, the analyst agreed to call me.

Try as he might, from both his land line and his cell phone, he couldn't hear me -- and I could barely hear him over the static and buzzing. So we agreed to call it quits. He would have to email me the answers to my questions.

It was now time to do a little troubleshooting. My specialty. So I grabbed the old analog phone from the bedroom and a cord from my office and headed outside, in the muck and the dirt, to test the line. It wasn't pretty. But life ain't always pretty. As I suspected, the problem was in the line.

So I went online to AT&T's Web site to file a service report when the site went dead. Strike two.

That's when I picked up the phone and placed the call -- only to wend my way through a seemingly endless set of instructions. After navigating and pressing the appropriate buttons, I got a recorded message that my problem had been noted -- and should be repaired by Friday, July 11, at 6:30 p.m. For those of you not too good at math, that was over 100 hours from when I reported the problem. Just saying.

So I popped a couple more pills -- this time some naproxen sodium (aka Aleve) -- and made my way to the spouse's office, to use his Voice over IP line. Problem solved. At least temporarily.

But the story doesn't end there.

While on the can, I noticed that the newly repainted trim didn't look quite right. Although I had no time for dilly-dallying, I couldn't let this pass. So I headed down to the garage, where the extra paint was kept, and, after discovering the bastards who had done the paint job neglected to label the cans, lugged several cans up to the bathroom -- and then went in search of something to pry the lids open, some brushes, and a stirrer.

The clock was ticking. I had a kid to get from camp. And I had work to do. But I was a broad on a mission. That ivory paint had me in a snit, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's ivory trim when it's supposed to be white.

Somehow, I made it to camp on time. But that's when things got ugly, real ugly.

As I pulled my Mini into the last available spot, I heard a grotesque sound, like a goose being run over by an ice cream truck. I put my car into reverse, but that made the sound worse. And now people were looking at me and children were pointing. Not a good sign.

It turns out, some concrete had come loose, and in my hurry, and in trying to avoid all the SUVs twice my size all around me and children running into the parking lot without looking, I didn't realize it -- until I had driven right over it. Like I said, things got ugly, fast.

But time and my kid wait for no dame. So I parked as best I could, with the concrete block wedged under my front end, and dashed onto the field to get the little angel, who then helped me dislodge said block from underneath the front of my ride.

I could tell you about how later I burned the chicken, undercooked the broccoli, and threw out my back, but I got a kid to put to bed and work to do.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Watermelon nature's Viagra? Just remember to spit.

Just in time for the Fourth of July holiday, the Associated Press reports that researchers have discovered that watermelon "has effects similar to Viagra." (Now you know why this man, to the left, is smiling.)

According to the AP story: "Watermelons contain an ingredient called citrulline that can trigger production of a compound that helps relax the body's blood vessels, similar to what happens when a man takes Viagra, said scientists in Texas, one of the nation's top producers of the seedless variety" [and polygamy central. Gee, I wonder if there is a connection?]

The only problem is that you would need to eat at least six cups of watermelon (preferably the yellow-fleshed variety) to get the desired (ahem) effect. And, wouldn't you know, watermelon is also a diuretic. So you'd probably wind up spending more time in the bathroom than in the bedroom. (Though I doubt that will stop some guys from smacking down on some nice, fresh, juicy melons this weekend.)

So ladies, if you want to get some rest this weekend, I recommend you tell your man that when it comes to watermelon, just say no -- or if he must indulge, remember to spit, not swallow.

And with that I wish you all a very happy Fourth of July holiday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Feeling Bearish?

You're not alone.

Bears have been making a lot of news of late -- from Bear Stearns to the current bear market to stories and a live video of a bear running around Totowa, New Jersey, on Monday (apparently just one of many recent bear sightings in New Jersey).

But my current favorite bear story may be this one, featured on Monday's "Today Show" and on the front page of MSNBC:

Maybe Stephen Colbert was right to be afraid...