Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sleepless nights

I like sleep. I like sleep alot. Unfortunately, I am a statistic. About one in three adults in the world suffer from some form of insomnia. Apparently there are three general categories of the disorder. (Definitions lifted from Yahoo Health)

  • Mild or transient insomnia - sleep difficulties that last for a few days; there is little or no evidence of impairment of functioning during the day

  • Moderate or short-term insomnia - sleep difficulties that last for less than a month, that mildly affect functioning during the day, together with feelings of irritability and fatigue

  • Severe or chronic insomnia - sleep difficulties that last for more than a month, that severely impair functioning during the day, and cause strong feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and fatigue

Without medication, I suffer from chronic insomnia. My chronic back pain is a huge contributor to my sleeplessness. But, my anal-retentive personality is another major ingredient.

For the last three years, I have been on medication to diminish my back pain at night so I can sleep. However, after three years, I believe that my system is becoming resistant to the drugs. Several times in the last few months, and twice in the last week, it has taken me over four hours to fall asleep after going to bed.

On Tuesday, I went to work with less than four hours of sleep. Luckily, traffic was very light due to the holidays. It only took me forty minutes to drive in and to drive home. However, I should not have been behind the wheel of a vehicle. On both trips I had to perform every trick in the book to stay awake while driving. I slapped myself. I turned the air conditioner on and aimed the blower at my face. I played the radio very loudly and sang along horribly. Plus, I was so punchy and useless at the office that I might as well have stayed home. I was just as sleep deprived on Friday, but I was much more functional.

I usually try to avoid going to the doctor. But, I think it may be time to change my nightly medication formula. I need something that will allow me to fall asleep quickly but won't leave me with a dopey feeling the next morning. In the past, the most effective sleep aids have had that effect on me. With all the advertisements I have seen lately for relatively new insomnia medications, I am hopeful that there is something that will work for me.

The trick will be to get my doctor to prescribe something for me. He is the kind of physician who is reluctant to prescribe a problem away. He is particularly sensitive to the potential addictive factor of any giving drug. There are two prescriptions that I have been on in the past that he will only prescribe a month's supply at a time. I know that his is the right approach. However, I hate feeling like I have to go to his office prepared as if I was entering a court room to make my case.

Hopefully, he will hear my pleas for consistently restful sleep and will be able to offer some solutions. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Fat Monday

It doesn't seem fair that I only got a three day weekend off for Christmas. My husband and son both have the entire week. (Pardon me for a moment, but, "Whaaa!!!")

Other than that quibble, I had a fine holiday. Oddly enough, I found myself at church twice on Christmas Eve. Considering my extremely a-religious past, and continuing agnostic beliefs, I find that fact VERY amusing. The morning service topic was of interest to me: "Why we celebrate" (for Unitarian Universalists, it is quite an engaging topic). We went to the evening service as a family, largely because the Religious Education Director requested my son's assistance for the service. Also, my husband is head of the building committee, and the furnace decided to dysfunction just before the first evening service.

In other news, I have been eating like there's no tomorrow. I need to put myself on a raw fruit & veggies diet for the rest of the week, I think. I have a weigh in at the gym, and I need to make sure I stay under my three pound maximum weight gain for the holidays. Not only could I lose my $10 ante, but I'd forfeit some of my self respect after fighting so hard to lose all the weight in the last year.

I would REALLY like to hit the 1/2/07 anniversary of my diet at 55 lbs less than when I started. (Heck, I'd be ecstatic if I could see 60 lbs down, but I'd have to go on a strict WATER-only diet between now and then to meet that goal.) I wonder if I should hit gym twice a day until then!

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's the thought that counts

I received a Christmas present today from someone at work. It was a thought present, that did not cost overly much, but showed that the giver knew something about me. The person who gave the gift is Catholic and takes the holiday pretty seriously. Then again, she takes an awful lot of things pretty seriously.

It was a very strange sensation for me to appreciate and accept this gift in the spirit in which it was given. I definitely did appreciate the gift. However, I really do not like the person who gave the gift. On a personal level, she gets on my nerves quite a bit with her self absorption and competitiveness. On a professional level, she does not listen to anyone else's opinion or take into account anyone else's experience or knowlege. She also has to be right all the time, though she pays lip service to "I'll be the first one to admit when I'm wrong." (Ha! I haven't seen that happen once in five months.) Her primary concern is she not look bad, not what is the best next step for the business.

But, like I said, I experienced a very strange sensation when I opened the gift. It did make me smile, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness in selecting and giving me the gift.

So, I suppose I'll keep my ill wishes for her in check for a couple of weeks, in the spirit of the season.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The thing is better!

OK. My MP3 player and my computer are getting along MUCH better, thank you. It did turn out that the issue was caused by the botched upgrade for Windows Media Player. So, again, more reasons to hate how MS products are so tied into the OS that they can screw up non-MS products running on their Borg-like OS.

All the same, I am so happy that my MP3 player and I have worked things out. We have a wonderful relationship that I hope lasts a very long time. *sigh*

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's just a thing... right?

I LOVE my Sansa m250 mp3 player. I bought it in September to replace my last (dead) player when I decided I really needed one to inspire me to up my workouts at the gym. Since purchasing it I have gotten re-addicted to the downloadable audio programming available at Audible. I don't just listen at the gym either. My son has a 90 minute tennis lesson on Sundays, where I basically wait around and twiddle my thumbs (since it takes us 35 minutes to get there from our house, I kind of have to hang out).

Today, when I hooked the player up to my computer, it refused to recognize the device fully. I couldn't add or remove content. I am pretty sure that I hooked the thing up on Saturday, and refreshed the content before heading off for the gym. I now suspect that a botched upgrade to Windows Media Player may have been the culprit.

I put in a call for help to SanDisk. Hopefully they'll have some wisdom. I feel ill thinking that I can't do with my MP3 player what I normally would do.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Not too old to rock!

My husband, our thirteen year old son, and I went to see Godsmack this evening. If you don't know who they are you should probably just move on and come back for my next posting.

While I am in my forties, I love music so much that I try to stay somewhat current. I like a wide variety of styles as evident from my list of favorite artists (in no particular order):

  • Dave Matthews Band

  • Tom Petty

  • Godsmack

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

  • The Crystal Method

  • Cake

There are a bunch of others that I am extremely fond of, but the above have extremely high status.

Notice how Godsmack is there. So, imagine my glee at attending this evening's concert event. There were two warm up bands: Soil (review: um ... screaming distorted dirt) and Shine Down (review: not bad, but still kind of loud).

I had only seen Godsmack in concert one previous time, in an 'accoustic' show. I loved that show, but had heard that they put on an awesome full out pyrotechnic show. This evening's show was billed as "an anything but silent night". The band and the effects were awesome. There were a couple of songs that I thought the sound/mix could have been better on, but overall the actual spectal was FANTASTIC.

Sully Erna is a fantastic showman who really gets into his music and feels his audience. The video back drops for several songs were very cool. The pyrotechnics were unexpected but perfect where they were utilized. The mosh pit dynamics were just plain strange.

For the up tempo songs, there were about a dozen guys who had cleared two areas of the floor to thrash out at each other in time to the music. They came extremely close to actually brawling. However, the point seemed to be to abuse each other as much as possible without exchanging actual punches that security guards would throw them out for. For one of the later songs, Sully actually encouraged the mosh pit to 'go crazy' (citing the two areas of the floor where the desired behavior had previously occured). Great. Sully was basically inciting a riot! So, it got a bit wild during that song, but, again, no actual punches were thrown. ... the poor security personnel.

I had a fantastic time, even though we split before the encore performance. My son had fallen asleep during the show, and I felt that the 'responsible parent' thing would be to get him home, especially since it was a school night.

It's going to be tough going to concerts in the future. First off, I have a cardinal rule for concert going: I will not cross Boston's 495 to go to a concert, regardless of who is playing, even if the tickets are free! I simply don't want to deal with the hassle of driving, parking, and exit traffic, that breaking the rule would entail.

Second, my husband laid down his own edict on the way home. He is done with concerts of any kind. Heck, he found last year's Trans Siberian Orchestra performance too loud. (What an Old Guy!) I am grateful that he opted to attend Godsmack with me this evening. I even brought ear plugs for everyone. He used them for the whole concert. My son was not interested in them. I used them for Soil and Shine Down, but had to experience Godsmack 'in the raw'. And, it was truly a memorable experience for me.

Unless I can find a friend who likes the same bands I like, I will be attending concerts with my adolescent son. While that wouldn't seem so bad, our tastes over lap only slightly, and he tires of the event long before I do.

So. Exactly who's too old to rock and roll? Not me!!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

What to read

As anyone who knows me, or has read this blog over time, knows that reading is my favorite activity bar none. Over the years, I have amassed quite a huge collection of books, with the intention of reading them all. Realistically, even if "I had a million dollars" (or a billion) and could afford to do nothing but read, and if I lived healthily for another sixty years, I probably could not read all the books in my possession (much less the books that I would want to read that I do not currently own, or that have yet to be written).

I have belonged to several reading groups over the years. Currently, I lead a group affiliated with my church. In addition, I have had the privelege to have people ask my advice on what book they might enjoy next.

With "so many books, so little time" how DOES one decide what to read? Sometimes, it's happenstance. I come across the same title in several different places (book reviews, best seller lists, recommendations from others, a display at the library). Sometimes, I go for a title because I enjoyed something else that the author has written. Sometimes, I pick something up on a lark based purely on an attraction to the cover and an enticing blurb on inside front matter.

All that being said, I have stumbled on a couple of resources when I'm looking for a special 'something'. This desire for a special 'something' to read is much akin to a hunger for a midnight snack. You know the feeling. You go downstairs and 'shop' the refridgerator not knowing what it is that you want, but hoping that something will call to you to satiate the amorphous desire for that particular morsel.

The first resource I'd like to recommend is Book Browse. The site is a great resource for reviews of current (and recent in the last few years) fiction. If you become a member (which I did) the site recommends books based on othter books that you've liked. Say that you are like me and were one of the ten people who really liked Michael Crichton's Timeline. Book browse recommends James Patterson's The Jester, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, and Susan Price's The Sterkarm Handshake. I read and enjoyed the first two, so I guess I'll have to add the third to my bottomless list of books that I'd like to read.

Another resource that I highly recommend is usually available through your local library. NoveList is a service of Ebsco publishing. Using their search feature, you can put in a few keywords for a type of novel that you are looking for, and the database will usually supply you with a number of potential candidates. For example, if you were looking for fiction relating to immigrants in Boston, you could search the keywords "immigrant" and "Boston" and you might hit on The Garden of martyrs by Michael C. White.

My latest find is a site that recommends titles based on what you have read. The Library Thing allows you to track your reading history and/or titles that you own. Based on any individual title that you have read, it will recommend other titles based on what other people, who have read that title, have also read (or have in their collections). One of the more interesting features of the site is that it also has an "unrecommended" feature. So, say you liked Crichton's Timeline. The Library Thing un-suggests that you read Vladimir Nabokov's Ada; or Ardor: a family chronicle. Good to know. Then again, it's Russian, so there's little danger that I would have voluntarily picked that one up any way.

So, undecided about what to read next? Try one of the above resources. The Library Thing is free. Then again, so is asking me!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

If I had a million dollars

I love the musical group The Bare Naked Ladies. I even went to see them live last month. They put on an excellent show. They have a funny and thought provoking song that has been creeping into my brain a bit lately: "If I had a Million Dollars" The song totally collided with my appreciation/love/fascination with the movie "Office Space", in which there is a scene where the characters discuss the tactic of some high school guidance counselor helping you figure out your ultimate career by asking you what you would do if you had a million dollars. One of the characters points out that "the question is bull shit to begin with. If everyone listened to her there would be no one to be janitors because no on would clean shit up if they had a million dollars."

What would you do if you had a million dollars? Does this desire point to your ultimate career?

For me, it doesn't. A million dollars just isn't what it used to be. As much as I love the music of the Bare Naked Ladies, the final line from their song just doesn't hold water: "I'd be rich." Nope. A million dollars in the bank really doesn't make you rich. It takes a lot of the daily economic stress off of you, but it doesn't make you 'rich'.

I would pay off some stupid consumer debt, for starters. I would definitely quite my current job that is 60 minutes from my house. I'd set aside at least 10% of the million for my son's higher education and related expenses. I'd probably finish all the remodeling that my house desperetly needs. Having a million dollars probably wouldn't give me enough financial cushion to work where I'd really like to work, in a book store or library. I could probably take some less intense geek job in NH, where I wouldn't have to spend two hours a day in my car. But, it is enough to think about working just enough to get by.

What would qualify as 'rich'? 'Rich' would be owning a comfortable home in a semi-rural area, without a mortgage. 'Rich' would be having a nest egg in a low risk investment that would net you at least $200k/year. 'Rich' would be being able to part with 10% of your income each year to charities you value and not to feel the bite on your standard of living, in any way. 'Rich' would be being able to look your child in the eye and tell him/her that he should apply to any college and not worry about the cost of tuition, room, or board, that it was already set aside.

'Rich' definitely takes more than a million dollars. What is 'Rich'? I'll take 'comfortable wealth' for ten million dollars, Alex.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Grow some funk of your own

I have been in a kind of funk for the last couple of weeks. It seems to grow worse by the day. Initially I simply thought it was PMS. Then I thought it was a combination of PMS and some real issues.

I really do like the work that I am doing at my (relatively) new job. Unfortunately, my boss is a volitile Mr Hyde/Dr Jekyll combo pack, with definite emphasis on the Mr Hyde persona. Plus, my sixty minute commute is sucking the life out of me.

The good side to the horrendous commute is my audio book time. It really does make a huge difference in my sanity. The week before Thanksgiving I listened to "House of Sand and Fog". What a depressing depressing DEPRESSING story. I nearly gave up on it several times. The writing was great, but I didn't think I could ride the train wreck of events until the end. I was grumpy enough without hearing about stupid people doing the most stupid things they could could do in every horrible situation they found themselves in.

Today I started Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a somewhat depressing post-apocalyptic story. I love the genre and the writing is great. However, the tone may not be in my mental best interest right now. Maybe the physical book I am reading will help counter act the downer to the McCarthy book.

This morning I started The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. This non-fiction work is about how an amusing runt pig changes the author's perspective on life just when she needed it. I forget how I stumbled on the title, but I have been wanting to read it for a while. I like non-fiction about animals. Also, the author is a New Hampshire native. I was so warming to the author's voice this morning that I was annoyed that the timer on the stationary bike was beeping at me telling me it was time to go take a shower and start my misserable day.

I have been extra touchy around my family lately too. It's not fair to them, I know. I'm not sure what's causing it, so I don't know how to make it stop.

Unfortunately, my son is really starting to act like a sullen self-absorbed teenager. I had errands planned on Friday, that I expected my son to accompany me on. However, his attitude demonstrated that coming along would be a massive burden, so I uninvited him, in a snit as I stormed out the door. Then, my husband and I had planned a family outting on Saturday, which I categorically uninvited my son on, since he didn't seem all that interested in and I didn't want him sullying my good time (which I did have, thank you). Then, this evening, my son and I were discussing the latest topic in his school music class. Apparently, they are about to start a unit on music from the 1950's. When I offered to pull out some music from the era from my collection, he shot me down, saying that he really wasn't that interested in that music and would just take notes in class to meet the requirements for the unit. This really bummed me out, since I LOVE music and love to share it with others.

The day was also darkened a bit by an argument I got into with someone regarding Middle East politics. My undergraduate major was in history with a dual focus on both Middle Eastern and Jewish history. However, the person I was arguing with treated my knowledge and opinions as if they were meaningless. They know what they know and would not hear me. This has happened on this topic before with this person, even though my academic background on the topic is known.

So, grow some funk of your own, amigo.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Movie Marathon (with reviews)

Over the long holiday weekend, I managed to view two movies in the theaters and two in my living room. Here are the reviews, in brief:

"Deja Vu" (in theaters) - Denzel Washington stars as an ATF agent investigating a terrorist bombing of a ferry full of armed service personnel out of New Orleans. His uncanny Sherlock Holmes-like ability to pick up odd details, and make clues out of them, gets him invited to join an experimental investigations unit looking into the event. The unit has access to technology that lets them see exactly four days and six hours into the past. Washington is somewhat obsessed with one indirect victim of the bombing. Her involvement is key to catching the culprit.

Good mystery with minor touches of science fiction (some suspension of disbelief required). Acting and writing are very good. Recommended for fans of Denzel Washington, thrillers, and lite SF.

"Casino Royale" (in theaters) - Daniel Craig makes his debut as the latest James Bond. Bond is after an international financier who fronts for terrorists.

I'll admit it, I really wanted not to like Daniel Craig as Bond. I had some loyalty to previous actors, and was disappointed that some of my favorites for the next bond didn't win the bid. However, Craig is a mighty fine Bond, indeed. The implementation of this Bond installment was done somewhat differently than previous versions. While purists may find fault with the differences, I think those same differences made the film a better mainstream film. First difference that a Bond fan will notice: no scantily clad female silhouettes during the opening credits. Second, the music was more complimentary and less of a character in its own right (yes, I know this will make many cringe). Third, Bond was less over-the-top cheeky. Don't get me wrong, he was still arrogant and cheeky as all hell, it just wasn't as gratuitous as in past installments. AND, a number of the other characters faulted him for his arrogance. Finally, (minor spoiler here) Bond doesn't expend a lot of energy, or screen time, casually sleeping with the hot women in the film (and those women are not as shallow as the bulk of previous Bond women).

In summation, if you are a long standing fan you may find fault with this installment, but try to view it with fresh eyes, I think you may find that the execution will gain the film a new respect outside the traditional audience (and isn't it worth it to broaden the fan base?). For folks who have had little use for Bond in the past, DEFINITELY give this one a shot. It is a fine FILM, not just another Bond flick.

"Four Brothers" (on DVD) - Mark Wahlberg stars as one of four adult adopted brothers of a murdered mother. All four men have checkered pasts, that would have been worse had they not been adopted by their mother. Two men are white, and two are black; though the race thing is nearly superfluous to the story. The men decide that their mother's death was an execution and vow to uncover the reason behind it, and to exact their revenge. Things are never what they seem, and get way out of hand. (Ultimately, this flick reminded me very much of an old favorite western, "The Sons of Katie Elder" starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Earl Holliman.)

I didn't have high expectations for this flick. However, it was an evening well spent. The twists were interesting. And the action was great. If you like tough guys that you can care about, who are somewhat smarter than you initially want to give them credit for, and you like lots AND LOTS of gun play, this is worth a rent.

"Lucky Number Slevin" (on DVD) - Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, and Stanley Tucci. Got your attention, yet? Bruce Willis is an assassin. Josh Hartnett is the seeming victim of mistaken identity caught between two warring crime bosses (Freeman and Kingsley), one who wants a pile of money, while the other will forgive a debt in exchange for assassinating the other mobster's son. This is a complicated situation, that is made all the more intriguing by where the story goes by the end. You may see it coming, but you probably won't. Even if you do, it is fun getting there.

This was an unexpected gem. The plot, writing, and acting were all fantastic. I am still stunned that we didn't hear about this flick when it was in the theaters. Great sleeper. Excellent choice if you are a fan of Hartnett, Freeman, or Kingsley. Also excellent if you like movies about organized crime, or mind benders. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. My son loved it and now wants to buy a copy. I don't know that I'd go that far, since half the fun was the twist that the movie took at the end, but maybe another viewing is in order to make the final call on that. Definitely MORE THAN WORTH A RENT.

Overall, we made some very good entertainment choices this weekend. Now, its back to the mundane world of work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Battle of the bulge - an intriguing challenge

A few weeks ago, the gym at work posted an interesting challenge. They noted that the average American gains seven pounds over the holiday season (from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day). Their challenge: Fork over $10 to a jar and weigh in the week of 11/13. Weigh in once a week through the week of 1/2. As long as you gain no more than three pounds, you get your $10 back. If you are the one who loses the most weight over the holidays you get the money forfeited by the other participants for going over the three pounds. You get disqualified if you lose more than twenty pounds, so that they don't appear to promote rapid starvation weight loss. I signed up, of course.

My first weigh in was ok. I lost two tenths of a pound. Yesterday probably put a massive crimp in that, along with some leftovers today. However, I went to the gym this morning, and plan on going Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as well. Hopefully, I'll behave on the food intake the rest of this weekend.

I'm not too concerned about food intake during December. I don't really feel the need to cook for December holidays. And, I tend to steer clear of most holiday parties in December. So, if I can maintain an even keel/keester come my Monday weigh in, I may have a shot at getting my ten bucks back. Who knows, maybe my competitiveness will kick in and I'll even lose some weight. (HA!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

You can't make this stuff up

"Adult educator wins city's citzen of the year award"

The above WAS an exact quote from the Nashua Telegraph. Perhaps she should work with the newsroom staff on their spelling?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too little, too late?

I just read that Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense today. While it's way past "about time", don't you think this action might have had a more positive effect for Republicans had it occured, say, at least a few days ago??? Duh!

I was happy to wake up to the news that the House will now be in the hands of the Democrats. NH sent two democrats to the House for the first time in twelve years. That's a definite indicator that people are tired of the current administration.

Will the Democrats turn things around? Will they get us out of Iraq? Will they reduce the deficit?

Ya know, I don't have high hopes for any of that. They're walking into a pretty big mess to clean up. I agree with the Republican pundits that the Democrats don't really have a plan on how to fix any of that stuff. I didn't really vote FOR the Democrats. As sick and sad as it may seem, I voted AGAINST the Republicans.

I really need to get around to reading Barak Obama's "Audacity of Hope". Maybe then I'll feel like I can believe IN something instead of just disliking what's going on in politics.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why ask?

Pet peeve #100 (it's not #1, but it does deserve a distinct number): People who ask "How Are You?" when they are passing you in the hall way.

OK. You pass someone that you know in the hall way. You make eye contact. You each say "Hello", and then one of you says "How are you?" Typically, as you pass the person asked has time to say "Good" or "Fine" or some other meaningless short answer. The respondent usually doesn't have time to return the inquiry, because the parties have passed each other.

The question really is meaningless. Usually the person asking doesn't REALLY want to know. The respondent both knows this and doesn't want to create an awkward social situation by giving a longer, if more truthful, answer (by offering perhaps, "I've been sick all week." or "Fantastic! I got laid last night.")

When I actually speak to a friend that I haven't talked to in a while, if one of us asked the other "How are you" we do so because we actually care about the answer. The respondent usually gives an answer more closely approximating reality.

I wish people would not casually throw out the question "How are you?" when they really don't care, and they really don't feel like taking the time to stop to find out.

Next up: Those statements people make at someone who has just sneezed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Out of touch, but not without things on my mind

I really intend to post more often, but life gets in the way. I don't want it to. I want to have time to write what's on my mind. Maybe I'll just make a sprint down the list of things and see if anything comes of it:

  1. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. However, I didn't enjoy it as much this year because I was too distracted with other commitments and goings on in my life.
  2. It's national novel writing month, and I'm depressed that I'm not doing something with that.
  3. My college counselor contacted me to find out if I still wanted to pursue my degree in Applied Health Care Technology. I do. Unfortunately I have two things standing in my way right now. First, money. A number of other financial commitments have come up since I first became interested in the program (family related). Second, I'm having a hard time keeping pace with all the intellectual demands of my new job, so I don't feel like I can spare the brain cells on school right now.
  4. I'm trying to figure out a long standing family issue. I took the first step, but I don't know where I want to go next. Uncertainty has never been a friend of mine.
  5. After getting on a plane for the second time (fourth if you count both directions) this year, I'm starting to feel better about air travel again. I'm beginning to revisit some long standing desires to see other countries. High on my list is Iceland. The juxtaposition of glaciers and volcanos fascinates me.
  6. I'm really looking forward to a big party that I'm throwing for some former coworkers. I'm also nervous as all get out about hosting such an event and all that could possibly go wrong. Me? Type A? YUP!
  7. Physical therapy for my back is moving VERY slowly. I worry that I'm not really making any real progress. I don't think I could stand to live with this pain for another twenty to forty years.
  8. I've lost a total of about 55 pounds since the first of the year. While that is very cool, I would really like to drop another 15. I don't know if I have it in me to do it. At least not permanently. I also worry that I could gain all the weight back.
  9. I really don't like the way the world is going. I plan on voting on Tuesday, if only to vote against the status quo. I don't know that it'll make any difference, but it's got to be more effective than screaming into the wind or sitting in the dark and getting drunk.

Hopefully I'll be able to devote some more focused attention to a posting soon. However, this month is EXTREMELY busy for my household. At the very least, maybe I'll make some short glib posts during the chaos.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dancing in the dark

Monday night I went to see Bare Naked Ladies with a couple of friends from my old job. We met for dinner first. It was a very pleasant evening. The show was great. BNL are great musicians and very humorous. They adapt their show to the location and the audience quite well.

Towards the end of the show, I noticed that a number of fans had gathered behind the floor seating so they could dance. I enjoyed watching these fans surrender their inhibitions to dance, albeit in the dark. I'm sure that most of them had a few (overpriced) beers in them to help them on their way. However, I had to admire their free unconscious enjoyment of the music. None of them were stellar dancers. None of them were overly 'beautiful' people. But there they all were, unselfconsciously giving into the rhythm of music they loved.

I dance when I'm home by myself. If I dance when anyone else is around, I make sure that I do it for comic effect.

I envy the dancers in the dark. I don't think I could have gotten up and danced within sight of the friends I was with. But, it really did look liberating.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Random Thoughts At An Airport - Part 2

My final day of training let out very early. I called a cab to get me back to the hotel, where I picked up my bag and caught a ride in the courtesy van to the airport. I arrived just after 2pm, though my flight wasn't scheduled to depart until 9:40 pm.

When I arrived at the ticket counter, the agent offered me the option of catching the 4:40 flight on "stand by". I don't think I've ever flown "stand by" before. I really wanted to go home, so I said "yes". Who wouldn't want to skip five extra hours at the airport.

The 'opportunity' may turn out to have been a mistake. My bags will definitely be going on the earlier flight. I may never see them again. Also, who knows where I could end of sitting if I even can get on the plane. I hate air travel with a passion. I don't want any parts of a window seat. I am definitely not cut out for the responsibility of sitting in the 'emergency' row (no one on the plane wants the person who is most freaked out by air travel to be the one in charge of the emergency egress). I have a tendancy towards motion sickness, so I hate sitting near the rear of the plane or over the wings where there can be more vibration.

Just in case I would be flying sooner rather than later, I prepared myself pharmacologically. I took Dramamine for my motion sickness. I took a Valium to calm me down a bit. Then, about two hours later, I took a very mild muscle relaxant because my back was spasming and the Valium wasn't really working.

Perhaps I should be on the TSA's "no fly" list for all my traveling idiosyncracies.

All week, my IBS has been at issue, so the added stress of dealing with all the drama of air travel has got me on the verge of another attack. I took some of my meds to try to stave one off. The last thing I need is an attack while I'm on a plane, or trying to board a plane, or even trying to get the heck off a plane.

Dulles Airport is kind of a train wreck, pardon the mixing of transportation metaphors. The main terminal is for ticketing and security screening only. The lines were outrageous, and the agents were not overly friendly. I can't blame them. The number of people they have to deal with every day is incredible. And, most people, like me, are pretty stupid about air travel.

There was a sign at the beginning of the ticketing line that said that if your luggage weighed more than 50 pounds, you could be charged $50. My luggage weighed more than 50 pounds before I picked up the two hefty binders from my training this week. I pulled the binders out of my main bag and repacked them in a zippered tote, in hopes that the stricture was for each bag. I was stressing about that when I got to the counter. Then, the agent asked me for a credit card to complete my ticketing. I didn't want to swipe my debit card, and I didn't think it would work anyway since MIT had purchased my ticket. Then, the agent said I just needed the confirmation number from my itinerary. However, I had lost track of my itinerary during my multiple repackings today. See, I'm such a travel idiot, it never occured to me that I would still need the stupid thing in order to fly home.

Earlier in the week I finished reading the Ann Tyler book I had brought with me (excellent read, by the way). On Thursday night I bought and read a romance novel (yes, I am embarrassed by this selection of reading material). So I didn't have a book to read while waiting. If I didn't have to listen for my name to be called for the whole 'stand by' thing, I could slip my MP3 player on and listen to one of the multiple recordings that I have going on there. I did pick up the current issue of The New Yorker.

I cannot get over the number of people who are addicted to their cell phones. There was a guy behind me in the eticketing line who made at least three different calls to family members back home while we made our way up to the counter. There was another guy who felt an urgent need to leave a voice mail for a business colleague while we were on the two minute shuttle ride between the main and A terminals. Over the course of two hours in the waiting area for the flight, I got to listen to five different people make at least a dozen distinct calls to friends, family, or business associates. I stopped counting the number of people I saw coming to or coming back from planes who were yapping on their phones.

ARGH! I hate cell phones.

Even I made a quick call to my husband's office and left him a voice mail saying that I might be coming in early because of my standby flight. But, at least my call was directly related to my travel needs. I wasn't trying to get some last minute business in, or trying to occupy myself while in the airport, or making sure that I hadn't missed some critical opportunity in my life while I'd been unable to use my cell phone on the plane.

All the planes were arriving or departing very late due to high winds on the east coast. The "4:40" flight turned into a "5:50" flight, which was a lot better than delay that most people had to put up with or the "9:30" flight I was supposed to be on. I'd never flown 'stand by' before. I was very anxious to get home. As they made the final boarding announcement for the plane they called out some passenger names, which I couldn't fully make out. I thought maybe one of them had been mine, so I went up to the gate. Though they hadn't called my name, they did give me a boarding pass and told me to hurry to the plane. After a bit of confusion about where to sit, I settled myself into a seat. Then, I took advantage of the fact that cell phones could be used while the plane door was still open. I quickly called my husband I told him that I was on a plane and that I would see him in ninety minutes or less.

Oddly enough, as much as I despise air travel, I was extremely grateful to get on that plane and to be taking off for home.


Random Thoughts At An Airport - Part 1

My husband drove me to the airport today. I suggested that he just dump me at the curb, but he wanted to come in with me and have something to eat or a coffee. I think he did it for two reasons. First, he's going to miss me (though he's already admitted that he's looking forward to having our king sized bed to himself). Second, he knows how much I hate flying, so he probably hoped that coming in with me would help me stay calm and manage the stress better. We checked my bag and had a light lunch in a restaurant next to a security check point. It was nice. After lunch, he went on his way, and I got in line for security screening.

The security screening process was a bit more thorough than when I last traveled in April. The security staff tested my shoes for ignitable chemicals, probably because of my custom orthotics. I also was the recipient of a random body pat down. The keyboard that I typed this on, an AlphaSmart 3000, had to be sent through the x-ray machine a second time, to verify that it did not contain an explosive device.

While in line for the screening, one of the security staff asked me if I had any gels, pastes, creams, or liquids in my carry ons. These things are currently permissible in small quantities. To make the screening process easier I made sure to put all that stuff in my checked bag. As I was leaving the checkpoint area I noticed a sign that said that lighters and matches were not allowed on the plane, even in checked baggage.

My stomach sank a little bit. I had packed a small jar candle and a book of matches in my checked bag. I don't know how closely they x-ray those bags. However, I really didn't want to give the TSA any reason to go poking around in my bags. I felt like I had to put my TENS unit in the checked bag, though it makes me nervous to let it out of possession when traveling since I rely on it so much and it would be expensive to replace. However, I doubt that the TSA would let me bring a device than can deliver a mild electric shock to a person onto a plane. C'est la vie. I'm curious to see if my bag has a "opened for inspection" tag on it when I go to claim it at the other end.

I was in line behind a well dressed largely built woman. She did almost everything correctly. Shoes on the conveyor belt. Laptop out of its bag. Liquids (etc.) in a right-sized ziploc bag, out where the bag could be inspected. Unfortunately, she must have missed the sign dictating that all jackets and blazers must be removed and put on the belt as well. One of the security team asked her to remove her blazer. She complied, albeit with an air of quiet unhappiness. Beneath her black blazer, the woman was wearing a white tank top. Without the blazer, her large chubby arms were exposed for all the world to ridicule. While I never reached this woman's proportions, I understood how she felt. When you are overweight, most people try to dress to take attention away from their sin of girth. Black has always been a highly occurring color in my wardrobe. For years, I would only wear shorts in public if the thermometer was over 90 degrees. And, most of my clothes were more than comfortably baggy. I think I thought that people wouldn't KNOW how fat I was if they couldn't really make out the true outlines of my form. These days, a lot of my clothes fit, if not snugly than merely comfortably. It's now rare for me to wear something a size or two larger than my true size.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Perhaps I have some right-wing leanings

Warning. This opinion may offend some of you.

As a young adult, my political leanings were solidly with the Democratic Party. Over the years, I have adopted a more centrist/moderate viewpoint. For most social issues, I am more inclined to agree with Democrats. When it comes to government spending, I have grown more conservative.

One issue I have always been relatively right-winged about is capital punishment. Anyone who has shown blattant disregard for human life, particularly the cold, premeditated, snuffing out of innocent lives, does not deserve any semblance of mercy, in my opinion. Case in point, cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren gunned down a family of five over a religious difference of opinion. Now, Lundgren has joined a suit of several death row inmates claiming that lethal injection, particularly in their physical situations, would amount to cruel and inhuman punishment. Lundgren says that his diabetes and obessity would make lethal injection a particularly lengthy and painful process for him.

Fine. I hate to sound heartless, but I have a solution: guillotine. Make sure the blade is nice and sharp. Offer him any substance of his choosing to relax him prior to the scheduled event. Alcohol, muscle relaxants, or even a nice big bucket of chicken from KFC.

Frankly, while I agree with the Consitutional sentiment prohibiting "cruel and inhuman punishment", there are dozens of ways to kill someone relatively quickly with little pain. If lethal injection is problematic, offer the condemned the opportunity to pick their preferred method of "quick" sentence implementation.

Some might ask for a nice bullet to the back of the head. That would also work for me. Maybe I'll offer my opinions on gun control at some point.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Adelphia and Comcast both SUCK! (updated)

Two weeks ago we received a letter telling us that we should be excited and should be looking forward to all the wonderful new service offerings coming our way during our imminent transition from Adelphia to Comcast.

Well, I am SO excited. For the past four hours all the Adelphia web and mail servers have been hosed. I can tracert to them, but they might as well be down. I can't pick up webmail, pop mail, or view an Adelphia web page that might explain the situation. I've surfed the newsgroups, as well as regular news feeds, and can find nothing on this major outage. Adelphia is still a significant ISP.

My husband has been trying to call Adelphia's offices in Londonderry, NH, but keeps getting a busy signal. Gee, that seems strange, huh?

I can't wait to find out wait brand of idiocy is behind this fiasco.

-- update, from the LA Times --

"An outage Monday prevented former Adelphia customers nationwide from getting e-mail on their accounts for more than six hours, though they could otherwise surf the Internet and use other e-mail accounts, Rockenwagner said.

The outage was caused by an equipment failure in a former Adelphia office in Pennsylvania, she said"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Training and relaxing

I'm about to head out the door for five days worth of training on a piece of software that I will be responsible for at work very shortly. We all know how much I love air travel, so the coming and going will not be pleasant for me.

While I will miss my family, I am looking forward to some alone time in the evenings. I have loaded up my mp3 player with several intriguing audio programs from Audible. I may do some actual reading and some writing (taking my pseudo laptop with me). Also, I plan to have dinner with a couple of friends who live (relatively) close to the hotel I'll be staying at. I wish I had more time to visit with all the people that I know in the area, but most don't live THAT close and I only have a few hours each evening. Besides, I'm also looking forward to making use of the hotel's fitness facility in the evenings as well.

I hope to check back in here next weekend with a trip report, and maybe some reviews of the audio programs I manage to get through.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Unofficial State Moto: "Drink Safely"

You have to love a state this brash. On I-93 just south of Concord, NH, we have State liquor stores on both the northbound and southbound sides of the road. Whose brilliant idea was this? First off, I-93 is a toll road, so the State is already making money off of the folks driving on this stretch of highway. But, we have no shame in trying to make more money from drivers, even if the means to the end (think about that statement) encourages people who drive to drink. OK. While it's not an absolute condoning of 'Drinking and Driving', the location of these State run liquor stores has always irked me. It's just wrong.

However, to show that the State is concern about the safety of the drivers who patronize these establishments, check out the other building that sits beside the liquor store (again, this configuration is replicated on both sides of the highway):

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wild life is everywhere

I love seeing wild life, especially in unexpected places. At work there is a ground hog who like to have an evening snack beside the sidewalk that leads to the garage. Recently, a squirrel has taken to running along the window ledge outside my office just past 4 p.m. And, this morning, I met a frog while walking along the path near my condo association's club house.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

But can parents be PARENTS?

Our local YMCA has a lovely hot tub. Unfortunately is located right next to the swimming pool. While this might be considered convenient by most, I find it somewhat inconvenient on Saturday mornings when I want to relax in the hot tub while a score of children are not absorbing their swimming lessons.

Yesterday, as I started to unwind in the hot tub, two little girls (around five years old) began shrieking in their highest pitched loudest voices. This went on for nearly a full minute before the life guard spoke to them. This quieted them somewhat for a few minutes. However, in short order they were back at it on and off for the next five minutes. I got fed up and gave up, since the most enjoyable part of my YMCA experience was being ruined.

Do I blame the five year old girls? Nope. What I want to know is why wasn't the instructor attempting to quiet the girls? Why did the pool life guard have to intercede on behalf of the rest of us trying to enjoy the pool area? Also, here's the MUCH BIGGER QUESTION: Why didn't the mother, or mothers, of these girls get off their lazy butts ten feet away and exercise some parental control on their offspring? The benches on the pool deck were full of prim and propper looking moms gazing adoringly at their little cherubs in the water. Yet none of these suburban nitwits saw a problem with the girls' behavior.

I can't tell you the number of retail stores I have been in where elementary school children have been allowed, by their laissez-faire parents, to treat the establishment as their personal playground as the run full tilt up and down aisles yelling at the top of their lungs. If the parent manages to register that their child is behaving inappropriately, they ineffectually address the child with such statements as "Johnny, stop that." or "We don't run inside."

I have often witnessed such behavior completely out of site of a parent. Imagine, elementary-aged children unattended in a public place. (Do the parents have a secret wish that their children are snatched away?) I have blocked the path of a child or two running through a store and severly addressed them and informed them that the store is not a playground.

One child do slow his pace and walked away from me. I encountered him running two aisles later. So, I stuck my arm out and let him run into it, virtually clotheslining him. (Yes, I know I am evil.) I then had him take me to his mother. The woman had two other children in one of those child-friendly carts that combine with a pretend car. The two she had with her were also quite boisterous, which she had trained herself to ignore. I guess if you can't train your children you train yourself to ignore their foibles. I told her about my two encounters with her son, minus the clotheslining aspect of the second. She tiredly looked at me and appologized for his behavior. She then told him he needed to keep a hand on the cart at all times for the rest of their time in the store. Needless to say, I did see him later bouncing around without one hand on the cart, as the mother tuned him and the other two, again.

Some of the more liberal minded folks out there may be inclined to dismiss this scenario as "kids will be kids". That really doesn't work for me. Society needs for parents to be parents. Children need to be taught from a very early age about acceptable behavior. If parents do not correct their children's behavior at age five (or six, or seven, or eight) they're going to find it very difficult to break their children of bad behaviors later on.

I am inclined to believe that parents who are not correcting their child's behavior at five, probably won't be doing much about their child's behavior at twelve or fifteen. It is no wonder that I keep encountered more and more self-centered overindulged young people with a garish sense of entitlement. All the local high schools student parking lots are full with predominantly late-model cars. Those cars are driven with the music so loud and bass-cranked that you can hear the music six cars back from them at a stop light.

I could go on and on about the trickle down effect of poor parenting and its overall effect on society. But it does seem rather pointless. As my friend, ChangeJunkie recently pointed out on her blog, manners seem to have gone the way of the carrier pigeon. Why should people be concerned about how their child's behavior effects society when they don't really care about the impact of their own behavior.

Every time I get irritated with the phenomenon of Other People's Kids, I thank whatever Powers there are that our son has never been the cause of irritation to others (at least not that I know of). My husband and I made sure that our son knew from a very early age what was acceptable behavior and what was not. "Time out" worked when he was a preschooler. Loss of priveleges or, in the rarer more extreme cases, a solid reaming out worked as he got older.

I'm not saying that we're the best parents in the world. Some friends and family feel that we're a little too tough on our son. However, we take our parenting responsibilities very seriously. And, to all accounts that have ever reached our ears, our son has always been one of the most well liked and well behaved kids of his age group.

One thing that usually drops my annoyance level with other kids public behavior is if I am with my son. He and I usually make eye contact when some kid is screaming or running in public. He usually sighs and rolls his eyes in annoyance. He helps me feel vindicated in my own annoyance with the misbehaving child.

Children are not all predisposed to acting like "drunken monkeys" or "midgets on acid" (quoting Denis Leary). Kids can be kids without running over their parents and societal expectations. Parents just need to be PARENTS!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bad Haggis?

This weekend we attended day two of three of New Hampshire's Scottish Highland Games. The day was chilly and rainy, but we had a pretty good time just the same. We heard some good music and bought at cd by a very popular, for the event, group called Albannach. While looking for a CD of their music, we found several CDs by another group that had us curious. The CD covers were quite professional looking, but the name was downright side-splitting: Bad Haggis. The question arose, "Is there such a thing as good haggis?" I have since listened to some samples of their music. Not bad.

We could have eaten actual haggis while at the games. However, given a choice between having some lovely sounding lamb stew or a dish noted for containing various organ meats and oatmeal, well of course the lamb stew won out.

The diet was out the window over the course of the weekend. It was our seventeenth anniversary and we were on a mini-vacation (with teenager 'in tow'). I indulged in my very favorite Scottish food, shortbread! Fat, sugar, white flour. What's not to love, right? So, I'm trying to crawl back on the wagon. It's been a while since I've really lost so much as a pound. I've been gaining and losing the same five pounds for about six weeks now. It's getting very boring. I really would like to ditch another fifteen by the first of the year. *sigh* Goodbye lovely shortbread, hello raw veggies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What's a vast?

The work day was nearly over when I found out that today was International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Did you know that avast means to start or stop an activity? Vast isn't a noun, so my title is rhetorical and silly.

In other pirate news, the Pirate Party in Sweeden failed to get enough votes to get a Parliament seat, or even enough to get financial assistance for their election costs. I wonder if there is a Pirate Party in the U.S. That's the kind of politics I could get behind: honest, in your face, no holds barred thievery and skullduggery.

My pirate name is:

Bloody Morgan Bonney

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Monday, September 18, 2006

The other voices in my head

Earlier this summer, my mp3 player took a dive. This was very annoying because I had just gotten a new stereo for my car that had an auxillary jack. The new stereo turned out to be a pain in the butt when it came to whether or not it would eject a cd. The saving grace was the auxillary jack. At least it was until my mp3 player died. Well, those of you who have read some of my other summer postings know that my car subsequently died, taking the persnickety cd player with it.

Recently, I started using an eliptical trainer at the YMCA. When I ride the stationary bike at home, I read. The mechanics of the trainer are not conducive to reading. So, I tried to revive the dead mp3 player on more time. No luck.

While I really didn't have $100 in my budget to splurge on a new mp3 player, I crunched some numbers and figured I could do it. Besides, it is 'workout incentive'. I can a Sandisk m250. It's got 2gb of space, an fm radio, and a voice recorder

This morning I preloaded it with several hours of audio programs from I used to be a huge utilizer of the service years ago, but got away from it when my life just got crazier and crazier. Tonight while I tortured myself on the trainer I listened to an interview from NPR with Robin Williams. I had forgotten how much fun it was to put the ear buds in and enter your own little world. Plus, Robin Williams is so hysterically funny I would forget that no one else could hear the jokes, and I'd laugh out loud. It probably looked pretty funny to other people: this woman using the eliptical trainer periodically laughing out loud.

I'm enjoying getting back into the exercise routine stuff. I go to the gym at work several times a week for muscle fitness. A couple of times a week I use the eliptical trainer, and some other equipment as a full blown excuse to use the hot tub, at the YMCA. I also ride the stationary bike at home almost every morning of the week. What I dislike most about going to the gym is the other people. The gym at work is usually not very crowded by the mid afternoon slot I choose to visit it. However, the YMCA always has a fair number of people hanging around.

This evening, I was trying to get past a wicked headache after my workout. I was drying off from the hot tub when these two teenage girls came into the aisle bringing their innane babble with them. I was literally physically in the middle of their conversation about what junk they were going to take on their school field trip with them. Pardon me while I growl.

Over the weekend, I was trying to relax in the hot tub. Unfortunately, the tub is on the same deck as the swimming pool, and weekends are chock full of children's swimming lessons. It's very difficult to unwind with the sound of three year old joyous shreeking. Then, when I went to change in the locker room, I had to deal with similar sweet sounds along with dodging the obstacle course of running toddlers.

Too bad I can't set ear buds permanently lodged into my ear canals so that I don't have to worry about taking them out for pools and showers. I would much rather listen to voices in my head than the voices outside of my head.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Out of my head you filthy memes!

Every evening, I take my vitamins and supplements. And, every evening I am treated to the strains of "Primrose Lane" as soon as I pick up the bottle of evening primrose. I find my self humming it and then I cringe.

I don't know how many of you remember that song. It is kind of an old one. However, we all have these little catch phrases in our heads that trigger memories. Phrases that lead us to songs, movies, or books. We can't stop the flood.

I can't hear the phrase "Let's find out" without thinking of "1 ... 2 ... 3" which was the next line after that in an animated commercial for Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops from back in the 70s.

There are also songs that, if you hear a phrase or two of them, will stay stuck in your head until you hear a more powerful song to force it out. I used to take great pleasure in torturing a work friend by singing a few bars of one annoying song or another, just to get the song stuck in his head and have him yell at me for doing so. Yes, I know I have an evil streak!

This "Phenomenon" (yes, that was one of the songs) was labeled in the 70s by Richard Dawkins as a Meme. I even read a book about memes called Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie. I was fascinated by how easy it was for millions of people to share an idea or memory.

I've often wondered if the easy spread of memes is a product of our media-baased society. I'm sure it is. I seriously doubt that people living 100 years ago would have shared so many predictable programmed responses to phrases and musical bits that we all do now.

Most of our "infections" can be traced back to commercials. If you are a child of the 60s, and were raised with a television, I'm sure many of the following are still easily accessible in your cultural memory banks:

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
"My bologna has a first name ..."
"You're soaking in it."
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." (Yes, Coke Licensed an actual song, but more people were exposed to the music through the commercial than the original song had an audience for)
"And she told two friends, and so on, and so on."
"He likes it. Hey, Mikey!"

So, I guess shared culture is good. But, with the globalization of the world's economy, I think many cultures are losing their individuality. Video entertainment is exported from one country to the rest of the world (typically from the U.S. to everywhere else). Consumer products, and the commercials that advertise them, travel around the globe. It saddens me to know that as more and more societies become industrialized (and westernized) cultural diversity of the human species is ever flattened. On the other hand, even if what we are all share as cohabitants of this meme-ship Earth is shallow detris, maybe having more things in common will help us treat each other better, more like neighbors instead of strangers.

So, yeah, maybe I would like to buy the world a Coke. (However, I don't know if I can afford to buy 6 billion Cokes, so some of you are just going to have to share. Sharing will make it easier for everyone to get to know one another a little better too!)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Who gets to see you naked?

Last weekend, during my marathon of shopping, I was treated to a unique dressing room experience. As I entered the dressing room area, the second room from the entry way contained a husband and wife with the door open. The husband was buckling his pants. The wife was holding a pile of clothes. Not to be a prude or anything, I backed out and checked my surroundings. The dressing room did not stipulate that it was for any particular gender. However, the area was in the midst of a women's clothing section. The couple were foreigners, so I chalked it up to some cultural difference and waltz past them to a distant dressing room and took care of my business. On the other hand, what was with the open door??? Geesh.

A few days later, I got another perspective on the title of this entry. I was working out at the gym near my office. One of the fitness instructors came in with a younger friend with a severe crew cut. The friend looked soft featured, but I thought I detected a slight trace of dark facial hair on the upper lip. So, I chalked up the soft features to youth. I finished up and went to the locker room to shower and adorn fresh clothing. As I was walking off towards the shower, the fitness instructor and her friend with the crew cut came in, who was referred to by a feminine name shortly thereafter. I mentally shrugged and focused on my business.

Yesterday, I got into an interesting conversation with an older gentleman at my local YMCA as we enjoyed the oversized hot tub near the pool. He told me the story of how
another local YMCA used to have a hot tub in the men's locker room only. This was back in the early 1960s when the Y was still pretty oriented towards it's "M" identity. Women could join, but were not catered to since there was a YWCA in town (among other reasons). A female member of the YMCA played racketball regularly with her boyfriend. The two of them were a bit frustrated that she could not enjoy the hot tub, so he eventually invited her to come on into the men's locker room and make use of the ammenities with him. Well, the men in the locker room were a bit shocked, but not too shocked to know when they, in turn, were being presented with a new ammenity (since said female was not modest, and entered the tub in the buff like the other bathers). It took several months for the young woman to encounter someone who was more interested in his own modesty than the free showing. The Y reprimanded the woman and her boyfriend and asked them to abide by the gender limitations of the club from then on.

I'm sure most of you have encountered the phenomenon of "concert rest room". I'm talking about the situation that arises during a sold out concert, when the line in the women's room is so long that some brazen women give up and just go into the much less crowded men's room. Most guys don't complain about this. Heck, some don't even take much notice of it.

So, who should get to see you naked? Should you only be naked to your spouse and your doctor? What about at the gym or in a public rest room? Why should we be concerned if a stranger of the opposite sex sees us naked? Are we concerned that they might find us attractive? Worse, are we concerned that they might NOT find us attractive? In either case, did it occur to you that some of the folks who share your gender, and your locker/rest room, might be attracted to or revolted by you as a sexual being? Big deal, they're equipped the way you are! That doesn't mean that they can't be 'warm for your form'.

Maybe the separation of genders in public low-clothing facilities is borne out of a social belief that male heterosexuals simply can't be trusted not to oggle or drool, or constantly assess, a naked (or nearly naked) female form. This oggling makes many females uncomfortable. A second factor could be that males appreciate some "down time" from females, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. (I can appreciate this particular need myself at times.)

I don't think I'm advocating unisex rest rooms and changing facilities. At least, not yet. As a society, I think we have a long way to go before that would ever be comfortable for the majority. But, considering how far we've come I think we either need to make public facilities unisex with full-modesty provisions (individual stalls for dressing, so it doesn't matter who is sharing the facility with you) or unisex with no-modesty provisions (as in - get over yourself, and mind your own business). It makes as much sense as anything any more.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Shopping as entertainment

Coworker S and I were having a discussion about something which devolved into a soapbox opportunity for her about American materialism. While I agree somewhat with alot that she said, she is such an extremist on so many issues that it can make me twitchy. One thing that she said did stick with me. She said that, in this country, shopping is a form of entertainment. I would have to agree with her, through personal experience. Such a mind set was a contributing factor to some credit management issues, which I recognized and got under control several years ago. I now only shop for things that we really need, or that I have wanted (and budgeted) for some time.

Since my new job pays at the end of the month, I just received my first pay check since I left my last job in mid July. My son and I were both in need of some clothing purchases. Him due to growth, me due to weight loss. It has slated to rain this entire holiday weekend. So, I decided that it was time to be entertained by some serious shopping.

The three day weekend has been great. Saturday we drove up to the outlets in Tilton, NH. Sunday, we filled in the gaps from that trip at the local Walmart and Target. Today I need to venture out alone to hunt down the last few items that couldn't be purchased at the mega-discount places. I know exactly where I can get them and how much they are going to cost me. However, just because I have budgeted the purchases and planned how they will be executed does not change the fact that I enjoy shopping. I just do it in a controlled way now.

Oddly enough, the 'control' aspect isn't just about fiscal responsibilty. I do recognize the fact that there is just way too much 'stuff' in my life. I'm not fully ready to dive head long into the voluntary simplicity movement, but I do realize that all the stuff that surrounds me does suck some of the joy and peace out of my life. That is part of the reason I am less likely to buy something that is unplanned for. But, when I plan to make a purchase, it is a guilty pleasure.

I am not sure why shopping is entertainment. Maybe I like making choices. Maybe there is a sense of freedom with having the purchasing power that I currently have. (I did grow up with very limited means, where even necessary purchases were delayed as long as possible.) Maybe I enjoy contemplating all the possibilities presented in the well lit stores. While I do enjoy shopping online for things, and finding the item I am after at a good price, I think I get more joy from a planned excursion to a brick-and-mortar store. I like the little rush I get at locating exactly what I was looking for at a price I planned to pay (or, better still, LESS).

Yes, shopping is entertainment.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I'd prefer a Friday the 13th next time, please

My husband and I took off from our jobs today in hopes of having a family day at the beach. Unfortunately, it was damp and in the 60s. So, we scrambled for a backup plan.

My car needed to go to the dealer for soome minor recall-related work, so we figured we'd drop it off before we ventured off for our day of family-bonding. On the way to the dealer, my car started acting up. At one point, I couldn't drive faster than 20 mph. This was problematic on the highway. We got it to the dealer and left them our cell number.

We decided to spend the day in Portsmouth. We wanted to see the U.S.S. Albacore (a submarine). That turned out well. Then we were going to visit the local library's used book shop, which was no longer there. So, we headed off for lunch. We planned on visiting another used book store that we'd heard of after lunch. When we located the address, the building had been torn down. We did manage to find a nice independent book store. While we were there, we got THE CALL.

Turns out that my car wasn't just acting up a little bit. Turns out that it needed about $2k in work to even be driveable. The car has 101k miles on it. We could neither afford to fix it, or to buy another vehicle at this point. Dilemma. The drive back home took about 40 minutes. By the time we got home, we decided that we might be able to swing a previously owned vehicle (for under $10k).

We arrived at the dealership at 4:30. We needed to be at our son's school for an orientation session by 7pm. With all the negotiating and paperwork, and what not (lots and lots of what not), my husband was just nearing the home-stretch on the paperwork at 6:50. (It takes 20 minutes to get to the school from the dealership.) The dealer handed me the key and slapped the temporary plates on the new (to us) vehicle, and I dashed down the road.

The most important aspect of the school orientation meeting was finding out about our son's math placement. So, imagine my consternation when I arrived to the classroom just after the math teacher's presentation. Fortunatley, she graciously answered all our questions at the end of the meeting, including telling us our son's home room assignment (which had somehow not been communicated to us all summer, though some folks have known theirs since June).

Amid all the chaos of the afternoon, we missed eating dinner. So, I put some vegtables on to steam and a dairy-free organic lasagna in the microwave. I was so busy ranting about my day on this blog that I let the water run out on my vegtables. The whole house smells like burnt food, though the veggies were somewhat salvagable.

But, hey, I did get to see the U.S.S. Albacore and I have a cute little black hatchback now, which gets 10 more miles to the gallon than the car that died. "Always look on the bright side of life.... whistling sounds"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Convenience orafice

The english language is so versitile. We have dozens of ways to convey basically the same information. Some words or phrases are more straight forward than others. While I enjoy having a deep vocabulary at my disposal when trying to achieve an exact concept, I admit that utilizing such a vocabulary can put some people off. Not everyone has had the same broad exposure to the english language that I have. And even those who have had that exposure do not see the point in complicating one's communication with a fifty-cent word when a nickel word will do. (Then again, I admit that sometimes I misuse a word here or there.)

I for one believe that posted signage should use the most common language possible, so that the most people can grasp the meaning of the sign. Take the following sentence copied from a public rest room sign:

Please deposit adult absorbent material in the intended receptacle, located in the oversized cubicle.

Pardon my baseness here, but WTF? Why on Earth couldn't the sign simply read:

Please put adult diapers in the Diaper Genie in the large stall.


Pardon my potty mouth.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How to have a truly unpublished phone number

Last summer, we purchased our current house from some people who were on the verge of bankruptcy. We got a pretty good deal, though the house had major issues (we had to pay $4k to have the former owners’ junk removed, had to replace the toilet and floor in one bathroom, and we’ve had to replace almost every major appliance in the place, including the furnace and AC).

We thought we had finally rid ourselves of the “issues of owners past” until this summer when we started getting calls from collection agencies looking for them. I was baffled as to why we would be getting calls for these losers when our telephone number had no connection to do with them. I finally grilled one of the fell automatons as to what led them to call our phone number. They said that they used a database that linked addresses to phone numbers.

I was incensed. I thought that we had an unpublished number. If that was the case, how could we end up in one of those directory databases?

So, I called Vonage and inquired as to how this could be. Initially, the moron I spoke to at Vonage had no clue as to the existence of these address-based directories. Upon reflection, I recalled knowing of them myself from my days as a summer employee of the phone company when I was in college. I couldn’t believe that Vonage had someone working their second tier of customer service (second tier, because I totally stumped the first tier) who did not know about these types of directories. Heck, you can even make use of such a directory yourself, for free, via!!!

Upon further research, I found that our phone number was not actually “unpublished”. Since we had a directory listening under Verizon, we had one when we switched to Vonage. There had been a check box in the initial LOA with Vonage that had asked if we wanted to keep our same directory listing. I think I thought that the directory listing would go away when we lost our battle to keep our old Verizon number. Drat!

However, even if our number were “unpublished” it would not fully protect us from being listed in these address-based directories. Apparently, there are companies that pay to get phone numbers and addresses from various and sundry sources (mostly web sites that ask for your contact information). There was even some discussion regarding phone numbers harvested from retailers who ask for them on your checks when paying face-to-face.

While you can put your phone number on the “do not call” list, this will not protect you from ending up in these insipid address-based directories which can be used by the same people who are excepted from obeying the stipulations of the “do not call” registry. According to the FTC, the exceptions include “calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls”.

In our case, since the callers are trying to reach someone that they have a legitimate business relationship with (the former loser home owners), they are not in violation of the rules. And, while we have asked that they remove references to OUR phone number, the former owners were in such deep financial trouble, different companies keep calling us trying to track them down.

So, what’s a poor harassed receiver of such calls to do? How do you keep from getting such calls in the future?

We have a plan!

  1. Have Vonage change our phone number; this time as truly “unpublished”.
  2. Get a voice-mail only phone number to give out to non-personal contacts (web-sites, retailers, and other organizations that insist on having our phone number).
  3. Block our caller ID before calling any one that we don’t want to have our real phone number.

For Item #2 above we will be establishing a non-personal phone number with eVoice. For $4.95/month we will get a phone number that callers can leave us messages on, without disturbing the peace of our home. Each time a message is left, eVoice will then send us an email to let us know that someone has left us a message. We can then check the message at our leisure and decide if (and when) to return the call.

We hate the phone. This strategy may help us to better manage our interactions with the dreaded beast. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll execute the plan. I have some work-related reasons to want to hold onto our current phone number for a while longer. However, I may pick up the eVoice number soon, to see how the service works, since they have a 30 day free trial of the service.

I’ll gladly accept any feedback on our plan, or any horror stories dealing with similar scenarios.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to the gym!

Friday, I had an appointment with a personal trainer at my new gym. I wanted someone to help me refamiliarize myself with the equipment. Plus, much of the equipment was very new fangled, so I wasn't sure how some of it functioned.

My primary goals in returning to the gym are to strengthen my core (and hopefully combat the chronic back issues thereby) and to regain muscle tone. The trainer knew I had back problems, but she must not have realized how serious the issue is for me. She tried to get me to reverse sit-ups (where you lay across a piece of equipment on your stomach bent at the waist, and lift your torso until you are completely horizontal). This is not an exercise that my lower back takes kindly to. I did about five of them and told her I was done with those. She was a little surprised, and suggested ways to do them that would be less strain on my lower back. I nodded politely, while my brain said "when donkeys fly, you bimbo".

Still, I got a pretty good work out. And, here's the important thing to note, I went back and did it all again on my own today!

I hope to go every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Musically out of touch

I have been listening to audio books in the car for the last three or four months. In between, I've mostly been listening to favorite CDs. I feel totally out of touch with music. It makes me kind of twitchy, actually.

I guess the Fates wanted to help me out on this. My NEW CD player is acting up. It has issues with ejecting CDs. Sometimes it ignores my requests to do so. The player's been installed since May. We tried to find the receipt, but have lost track of it. Maybe we'll take it back to Best Buy tomorrow and make a fuss, all the same, since B purchased the thing on his Best Buy card.

Any way, I've been forced to listen to the radio in the car instead for the last day. I haven't found a station with tolerable new music yet. However, I do have to wonder if this is somehow meant to be.

Another way to 'catch up' is to listen to Pandora. I'll put in the names of a few new artists that I've managed to hear this weekend, and they'll play stuff by those artists and ones with similar qualities.

I also went over to Billboard and checked out the charts. They really are less-than-useful since their charts reflect sales, and high sales watermarks are usually achieved by rap, hip-hop, and dance, these days. I'm not against those genres of music. However, they're not core to my listening enjoyment.

So far, I've been intrigued by:

Panic! At the Disco
Finger Eleven
Blue October
Nina Gordon
!!! That really IS their name

Wish me luck in my pursuit of decent current music, and the repair of my CD player! Also, feel free to comment with the names of any groups that you've 'discovered' in the last year.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Web-based word processing? Writely so.

Years ago, people were talking about a future full of web-based applications. No, I don't mean all those high end pay-as-you-go business oriented tools. I'm talking about replacements for applications installed on your personal computer. I was kind of dubious about this prediction.

Not long ago, I started maintaining a couple of my email addresses fully on web-based mail accounts (and not, not just gmail and yahoo, though I have those too). One account is for professional oriented mailing lists. Having the account, and the archives of sent and received messages, available via the web just made the most sense. I can then access the account fully from home, work, or where ever I am.

About two years ago, my Palm Pilot croaked. I've been meaning to get a replacement, but I just haven't had the funds. In the interim, I've been keeping all my calendaring and contact information on Yahoo. I think there is a way that I can sync up that info with my cell phone. I just haven't gotten around to it. But, during the meanwhile, I can get my contact info and check my calendar from any where. Also, when I enter appointments in Yahoo's calendar, I can have it email me twice to multiple email addresses to remind me of the appointment.

Today, I found out about a new product in beta from Google. Writely is a web-based word processing and collaboration tool. You can create and store documents using their interface, or you can upload MS Word compatible documents and edit them using their interface as well. In addition, if you would like to work on a document collaboratively with one or more people, you can grant edit access to any document to any number of people. What's more, you can 'publish' your document so that limited people can see or, or you can make it available to the world. There are other features as well. It is definitely worth checking out. I might find it handy to have some key personal documents available through the site, since I can't connect my personal USB thumb drive into my workstation at my new job (due to security policies).

It sounds like Writely is the first of several planned desktop-replacement applications coming from Google in the coming year. Check out the intriguing story from Techcrunch. I'm definitely going to keep my eye on them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Food Oxymoron

I was in a store last night purchasing lottery tickets (or, as someone I
know likes to say "tax receipts for people who can't do math"). The
clerk and I were engaged in a friendly discussion regarding his age and
how he wouldn't know what to do with all the money if he actually
managed to win. While he gave a list of a few things that he likes to
do that he can no longer do, he did mention his motorcycle. Then, he
lamented that his daughter was worried for his safety on the thing so
she bought him a sidecar in hopes of making it more safe, less likely to
tip. (According to my husband, sidecars actually increase the
likelihood of tipping. Silly woman) Anyway, some other customers
joined the increasingly jovial conversation, as the man told a few more
stories about his daughter's efforts to try to "help" him.
The best one was that she was worried about the quality of he food
he ate so she made him a tofu meatloaf. This stopped me dead in my tracks as I was about to leave. And I said, "Isn't that an oxymoron? Tofu meatloaf?!?!
That's like saying 'jumbo shrimp'." Everyone enjoyed that, and I was
on my way with a smile and a brief story to blog about.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dietary busy bodies

This afternoon, a coworker and I were discussing nutrition and eating habits. She related how two friends had invited her over for dinner and how she felt obliged to eat what they offered her, even though she keeps herself on a pretty restricted diet. Several days later, one of the friends remarked at how glad they were that she ate the dessert in particular since they worry that she is "too thin".

While I must admit that I think S is too thin (and that her dietary restrictions are extreme), I joined her in being a bit outraged that her friends would say this too her. Then it suddenly struck me. Really. This was a revelation.

Why is it that we, as a society, think that it is perfectly acceptable to foist food upon people while making overt comments to them that we think they are too thin? Conversely, as a society, we would never dream of trying to keep someone from eating something bad for them, or from having a second helping, while telling them that we are concerned that they are too fat.

Once we got to discussing this particular topic, S went off on one of her tangents about our materialistic American culture, and how wasteful and environmentally unconscious we all are. I'll leave all of that for a later discussion.

However, think about it, would you try to discourage a friend from having a second helping when you know they are at least 25% overweight and can hardly walk up a flight of stairs without turning beet red and breathing heavily? Maybe you're not the type to encourage someone thin to eat, because you think they may be too thin (in your non-medical opinion). Then again, maybe you have, even if only by subtly offering that person more food even when they appear sated.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Need for approval satisfied

I have been at my new job for three weeks. I have gotten a few minor thank you's from my boss (and hers). But today, I got a BIG thank you, since I provided some examples of why something needed to change (something that my boss had been trying to get changed for a while).

It's very very sad, but I live for that kind of approval. I know exactly where it comes from. (I could easily lie down on the couch and tell you about my mother - yes, really.) And, while I've known this about myself for several decades it doesn't stop me from hungering for the approval of others, particularly others who are in some sort of position of authority over me.

I wonder what neurosis I'm nurturing in my son.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I am officially down fifty pounds since the beginning of the year! This means that I weigh less now than I have in over 13 years. I also weigh less than my husband for the first time in that span. He's put on about ten pounds since our son was born. (big deal) My ultimate goal is to lose about another twenty. That'd put me slightly below where I was before getting pregnant, which would still be a good fifteen pounds over the recommended weight for my height I think. However, I know what's workable for me, and that's about as far as I can go and maintain it.

On Friday, I have an appointment with one of the personal trainers at the gym. I am ready to start working on my abs, pecs, glutes, and triceps. I am hoping that working on my core strength will help alleviate my chronic back pain, as well as help with my ultimate weight loss goal.

I bought myself a new bathing suit this week. Most women would not be proud to parade around in a one-piece size 16 swimsuit. I, however, am thrilled. Only time will tell, but maybe next summer I'll be willing to pour myself into a bikini! (Doubt it, but stranger things have happened.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My son, the chef?

My son, K, has shown an interest in cooking over the years. We had a pumpkin festival at our church last year, and he made pumpkin bread from SCRATCH. He enjoyed the experience so much, that he has made the bread a couple of times since for various events.

K and I have spent a good deal of time over the last few months watching cooking shows together. Some of our mutual favorites have been Bravo's Top Chef, Fox's Hell's Kitchen, and the Food Network's Good Eats with Alton Brown. K and I have been talking about possibly doing some sort of culinary summer camp. I found one in VT that might be worthwhile.

However, a couple of nights ago we watched and episode of the Food Network's Unwrapped entitled Cooking with Kids. The show focused on kids who cook. The first story was about a teenage boy who began his love of cooking when he was about three years old. They mentioned that he had honed his skills with professional chefs over four summers at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. K and I did some research and found that JWU offers week-long half-day camps for kids 9-12 and for teenagers. K is VERY interested in this program. In addition, JWU offers and actual Bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts.

We stopped by Borders this evening and picked up Becoming a Chef. K started reading it in the store and more so in the car. The book got him even more interested in JWU. It turns out that one of the chef's that K admires, Emeril Lagasse is an alumni of JWU's CA program.

While it's highly likely that K will change his life direction half a dozen times before he graduates from high school, it is very gratifying to see him think about his future and to research the possibilities.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Got IM?

I never used to be a huge fan of instant messaging (IM) technology. However, in my last job, it was both professionally useful (asking for and getting assistance from other engineers who were also on the phone with customers) and personally necessary (relieve stress by goofing around with other people sereptitiously over IM).

My new shop is not quite as 'free wheeling' when it comes to personal use of corporate technology. Plus, since I am in the network security group, I think it might be poor form to engage in a behavior that I have concerns about from a corporate perspective.

Thankfully, I can engage in IM without installing actual IM software on my corporate computer. If you haven't heard of this site, jump on board the web-based IM train. Using a web interface, Meebo lets you sign on to Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and ICQ IM servers. No software to install!

I don't abuse the technology. I typically only sign on for 15-20 minutes later in the day for a mental break. Half the time, the folks I IM with are actually working and can't have a conversation. Still, it's nice to have the option to use IM without installing software on the corporate workstation (and thus violating many corporate edicts ... even though about half my organization seems to have some form of IM running).

UPDATE: Just to show how really cool this technology is Time Magazine listed Meebo as one of the 50 coolest web sites of 2006!!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Getting wet over a grocery store?

Yes. I meant that in the crassest way possible.

Since entering into the Ultrametabolism life style, I've been finding it difficult to acquire a wide enough variety of wholesome food. I know me. If I get bored eating the healthy stuff, I will be more inclined to fall off the wagon. So to speak.

A couple of the regional chain grocery stores have a fair sized health food section. Shaws and Hannaford complement each other's selection pretty well. Hannaford is actually a little bit better on produce, but Shaw's has a wider variety of some varieties of pantry foods.

That said, I usually make a trek to Trader Joes once every other week. Then, when I happen to be in Manchester, I go to A Market Natural Foods. And, when I'm in Nashua I hit up this little hole-in-the-wall store that is more about supplements than food, but it does have some things that the chains don't carry.

I had heard that there was a Whole Foods near my new job. I'd been meaning to swing by on my way home, but I've been so focused on just getting home that I haven't wanted to take the side trip. Until ... today!

Whole Foods is easily as large as some of the conventional chain grocery stores. However, they pride themselves on focusing their selection on healthier products. Most of their produce is either locally grown conventional stuff or organic (sometimes both organic and locally grown). They have a huge butcher case full of healthily raised meats (no hormones or antibiotics in anything and free range poultry). Excellent looking seafood. Boatloads of healthy varieties of snacks. A fantastic smelling bakery. Great prepared foods for the busy, albeit spoiled, gourmet consumer.

I was low on cash, so I limited myself to a couple of things I just HAD to have. I picked up three bags of Guiltless Gourmet Baked Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. Those suckers are hard to find. I've only seen them at Trader Joe's. I also got some organic mission figs, and some organic salsa (to go with the chips, of course).

I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Strange metaphor at this point, considering that candy is (pretty much) out of my life for good. :)