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!