Sunday, September 30, 2007

The new work math

It's Sunday night and I'm contemplating the upcoming work week. None of it really seems appealing right now. So, I thought about the overall ration of work versus leisure time in my life. Let's review.

If you are fortunate enough to have a highly-compensated professional position where you get four weeks off a year for vacation, ten paid holidays, and (more or less) ten sick days, that means that 60% of your waking life is non-work time. This assumes a nine and a half hour work day (which includes a lunch hour and an AVERAGE commute of 30 minutes, and a theoretically eight hours of sleep). On the flip side, that means that only 40% of your waking, not-ill, time is spent at the bigging of an employer. Why does it seem like more than half your life is spent working?

I am not sure that I have the definitive answer. However, I offer this. Maybe if you looked forward to your work time more than you do, than it wouldn't seem to take up more time than it actually does.

I know I need to work on that one myself.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


We drove up to Hillsborough, NH, this afternoon to experience their pre-Oktoberfest celebration: Schnitzelfest. There are several German restaurants in town that I think conspired to put this event on. There was a fair amount of knockwurst and bratwurst to be had. Sadly, by the time we got there they were all out of grilled schnitzel. We had some of the other two though. I had some sauerkraut and potato salad with mine. For dessert we had a plum torte and some apple streudel, with some wheat beer. I'd never had beer with dessert before. It wasn't bad.

Of course, it wouldn't have been an Oktoberfest-like event without the Um-pah band.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Someone posted a video of my cat...

OK. This really isn't Caboose, but it SO could be. The coloring is nearly an exact match for our little friend. He too has a twisted fascination with printers (though he hasn't yet ripped up any paper).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Plague boy doesn't like pink

My son called me at work today to report that he had "a bunch of red itchy dots" on his arm and stomach. I sort of figured out what it was, but I told him that we would look at them this evening after we got home. So, somehow, my 'less than outdoorsy' teenager managed to get poison ivy.

When we told him that we needed him to put this pink lotion stuff on the dots to make them stop itching and spreading he was less than thrilled. I mentioned that I thought the lotion came in a green color as well, that sounded more appealing. Too bad though, since the pharmacist said the pink was better. So, that's what my husband went with.

So, kiddo, be assured in your manliness and live with the pink!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Piggy in pink

My office mate has been amused with my affinity towards pink (especially since my back pack is so garishly pink). She recently attended a conference on information security and picked me up this great pressie!

Little did she know that I have a special affinity for piggies after certain somewhat disturbing adventures with a pig named "Smugglet" in college. One of my roommates had this little stuffed pig that she really enjoyed. Because of her affection for the poor thing, her 'friends' would play great practical jokes that involved poor Smugglet. Once, we hung him in effigy with a jerry-rigged noose from the patio drapery cords. However, my favorite all-time prank was when we put him between two slices of break and wrapped the Smugglet-sandwich in aluminum foil and placed him in the freezer.

Good times.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tennis season begins again

For most academic tennis teams, the season begins in the spring. For my son, tennis season begins at the end of September. That's when the indoor tennis clinics ramp up.

My son just started high school this year. He hopes to make the school's tennis team in the spring. He started nursing this hope nearly about three years ago.

Since we could not afford either the monetary or temporal commitment to get him into the country club lesson arena, we did the best we could with YMCA lessons initially. Last fall we found a great off-season indoor program that was both affordable and beneficial to his form.

So, virtually every Sunday from September through April, one of us will drive him thirty minutes from our house to the club where the program is hosted. Lessons last for ninety minutes. When I take him, I do school work, read, listen to audio programs, or write. Then, we drive home. Sometimes we'll run errands on the way home.

I mostly enjoy my time at the tennis club. Though, I feel like the proverbial 'soccer mom' driving my child to one commitment, or another, on the hamster wheel of middle class American family life.

At least I have a nice, warm and dry, indoor venue to hang out in while K plays tennis. He did play soccer for about five years. By the end of fall soccer season, it was dark, cold, and sometimes wet outside. Many of the practice fields didn't even have portable toilets, which usually proved pretty inconvenient after an hour or so of hanging out in the cold and damp.

Plus, I have to hand it to K, his commitment to improve his game has not been the only means he has used to increase his chances for making the school team in the spring. Last year, while he was still in middle school, he got himself introduced to the high school coach. He has even arranged to play a few matches with the coach at our local YMCA. Isn't it amazing what motivates kids to act in their own best interests?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Art or Bomb? Intelligence or Stupidity?

What is intelligence? Is it knowledge? Is it problem solving ability? Is it daily common sense?

I have encountered people who are extremely knowledgeable who can't match their own socks, remember to water their plants, or know when the milk in the fridge has gone over. I have also known people who never finished high school who could solve a Rubrics Cube in under three minutes, who can diagnose any car problem in under thirty minutes, and who could walk around 'dangerous' neighborhoods without ever being 'in danger' by comporting themselves properly.

Common sense really isn't that common, is it? Things like "Don't leave a candle burning when you go to bed," "Don't change lanes without turning your head to really see if you can do it safely," and "Don't wear wires and lighted circuit boards on the outside of your shirt at an airport" should just be common sense. This last bit comes from a story in yesterday's news about an MIT student who walked into Logan airport wearing a sweatshirt with a lighted circuit board on it, which also included the added embellishments of the battery used to light the board and some loose hanging wires.

Did Logan employees and security personnel overreact by arresting the student? No. I am very satisfied with their reaction. Should she get jail time for her actions? I don't think so. Should she get some sort of community service as punishment? You betcha! This 19 year old (knowledge) intelligent kid needs to learn and serve as an example. Your deportment in a public place matters.

Some of you may remember the prank pulled off in January publicizing the movie Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A publicity company placed amateurish cryptic lighted LED signs around the Boston area, several of them on bridges and overpasses. The devices had lots of wires and large batteries. When authorities were made aware of the devices, they did not know what they were and responded with appropriate concern and caution (in my opinion). It was highly irresponsible to place an electronic device in a public area, in the 'post-9/11' era. Turner Broadcasting, the corporate entity ultimately responsible for the marketing campaign paid a huge fine. The gentlemen who placed the devices performed community service.

Star Simpson, the MIT student with the shirt, says her shirt was 'art' not a bomb. If her shirt displayed a couple sticks of dynamite or maybe a couple of handguns, maybe she would have been smart enough to leave it home. Then again, maybe not. After all, 'knowledgeable' doesn't always mean 'smart'.

UPDATE> There have been those that have said that law enforcement should have been able to quickly ascertain that her shirt was merely an LCD display and not a bomb. Perhaps. However, I don't want our law enforcement officers to have to analyze whether or not someone is just foolishly drawing attention to herself or is a real threat. Star, dear, the last thing you want to do in a HIGHLY SECURITY-MINDED public space is draw any attention to yourself!

Friday, September 21, 2007

More drunk with power

I have the good fortune of having a mentor, of sorts, at work. The woman (L)is a dynamo, who gets things done while remaining totally friendly and likable. L has been dubbed IT's PMO (Project Management Officer). Until very recently my organization (not just IT) has not been very good about accountability or project management. My main project is one of four which is being thrust into that world.

Today, L came to have one of our mentoring/status sessions before the weekly Friday afternoon project team meeting. Before we got down to the actual business of my project, she told me that she came to deliver kudoos from the head of IT.

... Imagine me with mouth agape ... Excuse me?

Apparently, he and she were discussing the future of project management within IT, and he pointed to my project and my management/organization of my project as the example of how he wanted all future projects to be handled.

Knock me over with a feather.

OK. I am hugely proud and flattered. This really is the person that I want to be professionally.

While part of me says that a thimble of water looks fantastic to a thirty man in a desert, I also know that I really have instilled order onto chaos. L has been very supportive of my efforts as well. She wants me, along with several other like-minded individuals, to go to project management training and to serve as roll models for others (including our team leads who have never had to deal with project management before and are unsure how to navigate the new landscape).

Oh, my team lead is actually a member of my team on this project. And she is oh so good at making excuses at why she isn't producing her deliverables. IT is on the verge of a major reorganization. The new top management is very project management oriented. Where do highly skilled, but unorganized, team leads fit into a reorganization? (Senior technical leads without management or project oversight perhaps?) Where do anal-retentive deliverables-driven experienced staff fit into the future?

The future could be interesting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unstuck in geography

Currently, the church book group that I lead is reading Kurt Vonnegutt's "Slaughterhouse Five". The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is frequently 'unstuck' in time. Which means that he, at least mentally, jumps around from one part of his life to another.

In the last six months I have received at least four cold contacts from recruiters in the greater Washington, D.C., area claiming to have the perfect job for me. Each has been extremely anxious for me to contact them.

I have a friend in northern Virginia who decided to wash his hands of his employer. He'd been there nearly nine years after I had had enough of the same employer, where we met, go figure. He has been exploring his employment options. Hopefully, he has had at least as many cold contacts from his geographic region as I have. Who knows, maybe he's had half a dozen cold contacts from north of Boston.

So it goes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drunk with power

My boss has been out of the office for almost two weeks. We all need her to lend a hand on our projects, and a lot has gone on in her absence. Oddly enough, I felt compelled to schedule a team meeting for us all upon her return tomorrow. Normally, our team meetings are attended by her management. In the past, they have been there to make sure that certain people's paranoia and self interest do not override the best interests of the organization. However, we have a lot of technically oriented ground to cover. So, after clearing it with my teammates that it was worth the risk in order to have the most productive technical discussion possible, I decided not to invite them.

Several hours after that was settled, one of those same managers appeared in our office and wanted input into a presentation he had to give to the Director's office in a couple of days. Initially, I was uncomfortable that he had approached the team without our team lead being involved. However, I quickly saw it for the opportunity that it was. Our team lead has been with the organization for a long time. She is very plugged in to how the organization and its management works. A lot of the time, she tells management what she thinks they want to hear, or what she thinks they'd be willing to entertain. My teammates and I suffer no such qualms. We spelled out exactly what we thought our priorities ought to be and why.

All modesty aside, I did most of the talking. My teammate who was in the room at the time totally backed me up, as did another later in the day when she was approached individually.

In an unrelated conversation, someone on another team complimented me on my organization skills and how well I managed other people's expectations (not over committing, or saying 'yes' just to look good, like so many in our organization do in the face of management requests). And, for not the first time in my career, and not even the first time in my current role, this person suggested that I would do a better job at team lead than our current lead.

While I was flattered, I have no managerial aspirations. I like solving actual technical problems. I hate going home at the end of the day without feeling like I accomplished something. Going to meetings, writing emails, and juggling budgets is not tangible enough for me. So, thanks, but no thanks.

On the other hand, it did feel really good to feel like I might have actually made an impact on our organization's thinking about my team's work today. I just won't let it go to my head. (And I hope that my historically unstable team lead doesn't see my influence today as me trying to undermine her while she was out of the office, since the repercussions of her paranoia can get pretty ugly.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Great fantasy violence movie

When it comes to movies, I have a confession to make: I like well done violent action. I particularly like violent action that is implausible and does not take itself too seriously. Some of my favorite examples of over-the-top choreographed violence include "Desperado", "Transporter", the Blade series, and "Smokin' Aces". You'll note the lack of sword-based violence here. While I like those, they're more my husband's thing than mine.

"Desperado" was may favorite for the longest time. In it's day it was the ultimate choreographed fantasy violence flick.

As a parent, I guess I am supposed to abhor violence, especially violence in the media. I guess that makes me a terrible parent (well, that and a few other things, truth be told). However, my husband and son spend hours playing extremely violent video games. My husband teaches martial arts (albeit ones that focus on defensive deflection of your opponents attacks to his own undoing); and, my son assists him in several of his classes. However, my son is a relatively mellow and peaceful individual. ... So .... um ... THERE!

I find violence in film, when done in a near comic way, to be quite cathartic and stress releasing. I used to love it in the traditional James Bond flicks when he would kill someone and then issue some witty pun regarding their demise. My first real appreciation for my own attraction for violent film came after seeing the original "Die Hard". Man, but I do love that movie!

Enter my current nominee for 'most excellent choreographed fantasy violence flick': Shoot 'Em Up. The first time I saw the commercials for this movie I knew I had to see it. The best scene from the preview is when they show Clive Owen's character flying down one of those conveyances with the little metal rods that spin as packages are pushed along (used a lot in industrial assembly areas). He's shooting people left and right and as he reaches the end of the run he lets himself fall off the end, and in slow motion, shoots at more targets who suddenly come into range from underneath the run.

The skill that Owen's character has with a gun, and his succinctness in motion, are completely unbelievable. Literally. I DON'T CARE. It is great fun to watch. Plus, much like James Bond and Die Hard's John MacLane, he often delivers a great witticism after he's nailed a few bad guys.

"Sideways" star, Paul Giamatti is surprisingly amusing as Owen's criminal nemesis. He is obviously much smarter than virtually everyone in the flick, and keeps his cool most of the time even after being bested by Owen again and again. He even gets maniacal in several scenes when he thinks he's finally figured out how to beat Owen.

The average rating from the professional critics was about a C+. However, Roger Ebert gave it an A-. I guess he too knew what he was supposed to be getting from this type of flick. As quoted on Yahoo (and I totally agree): ".. the most audacious, implausible, cheerfully offensive, hyperactive action picture I've seen since, oh, "Sin City,""

So, if you too find release in gun play that really doesn't take itself too seriously (ala "The Departed"), go see this one. As we left the theater, I informed my spouse that we would be purchasing this one on the date it was released on DVD.

Fall is falling

My pot of pansies is still struggling to hang on. However, in the background, you can see one of the large pots no longer really contains a tomato plant, and the other (to it's left) is about to give up on the cherry tomatoes.

I miss having a real yard with a garden sometimes. (Except of course for the impact on my chronic low back issues ... hee hee) However, right now I don't. A friend at work was whining about the amount of garden end-of-season work she was going to have to deal with in the next two weeks. For me, I just have to empty out a couple of planters.

All that being said, I really do like the Fall. I love the crisp, but not yet cold, air. I love the colors and the holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving). I love the general feeling of preparing for Winter (though I really could just skip the entire 'Winter' thing all together).

A local moving company markets heavily to the snowbirds in our area, touting their 'express service to Florida'. While I can't really see myself as one of those elder residents of the Sunshine State, I think I can appreciate the urge to flee from New England for at least January through March. It bears considering.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lie like a dog

A few hours ago, the phrase "lie like a dog" came to mind. And then I began to ponder its relevance. While dogs are pretty good at lying around, can they "lie"?

I'll admit that I am no expert on the subject. However, I have lived with, or in close proximity, to a number of dogs and cats. And I think the phrase is woefully inaccurate and misplaced. If anything it should be "lie like a cat".

First off, let's deal with the whole 'lying about' thing. While dogs may be seemingly adept at lying around, no one, and I mean NO SPECIES ON THE PLANET (not even sloths) having 'lying around' down as well as cats. Seriously. I have lived with cats who spend at least a good twenty plus hours a day snoozing, lounging, or otherwise horizontal.

Now, let's talk about the actual "lying" thing. As in "attempting to pass a falsehood off as the truth". Have you ever looked into a dog's eyes? The vast majority of dogs I have encountered cannot lie. And when I say "cannot lie" I am referring to their inability to scoff at scrutiny. If a dog has done something wrong, they are ashamed. They know it. If confronted with their crime, they will look, odd choice of words here, "sheepish".

If you want to witness a true pathological, non-human, purveyor of falsehoods, I give you The Cat. Virtually every cat I have ever lived with or known could be caught dead-to-rights in a heinous act, but will look you in the eye broadcasting the message, "What? Nah. You're mistaken. It was the dog." (Even if you've never in your life owned a dog.)

So, I hereby petition the Language Authorities. Justice must be served. Let us strike the phrase "Lie like a dog" from the record. Let us replace it with the much more appropriate and accurate phrase: "Lie like a cat"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blog list silliness

OK. There are dozens upon dozens of these. I got this one from someone else's blog that I follow. She, in turn, got it from another blog. It's been quite a while since I've done one of these. But, I'm in the mood. So here goes. (Feel free to post your own replies in a comment as you are inclined. It will, OF COURSE, amuse and interest me verily if you do.)

1. What is your first name? Sorry. No can do.

2. Were you named after anyone? No. I have the same first initial to my name as both parents. My mom's first choice for a name paid homage to my dad's name. She quickly ditched this idea considering that they were no longer a couple by the time I was born.

3. Do you wish on stars? Not so much. I used to.

4. When did you last cry? It's been many months. Though I was close to it several times this week, including today.

5. Do you like your handwriting? Not really. If I work at it, I can come up with a decent product for short bursts of time.

6. What is your favorite lunch meat? Boiled ham.

7. What is your most embarrassing CD? Milli Vanilli. I feel like I should get rid of it, but I still like the first few songs on it, whoever really did them.

8. If you were another person, would you be friends with you? Yes. But I wouldn't take what comes out of my mouth too seriously. I would just accept that I was trying to be genuine, and that my intentions were generally good.

9. Do you have a journal? In the last year, this has been it. I sometimes still put an actual pen to paper when I feel I need to be honest with myself, but do not think the world is ready for me to be honest with it.

10. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Am I breathing?

11. What are your nicknames? I'm not aware of any that anyone currently uses for me. I'm assuming that "That B*tch" doesn't count. :D

12. Would you bungee jump? Step away from the crack pipe.

13. Do you untie your shoes before you take them off? Until recently it wasn't an issue. I primarily wore slip ons. Sadly, they were falling apart. Now, I have tie-ups that really require that I do the right thing when putting them on and taking them off. Drat!

14. Do you think that you are strong? Emotionally, more than some, but not as strong as I'd like to be. Physically? Not nearly as much as I'd like to be.

15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Butter crunch (aka, butter brickle). It was my grandmother's favorite when I was a kid. I didn't used to like it. Then, she passed away. And somehow, it became my favorite.

16. Shoe size? Between an 8 and a 9, depending on how wide the shoe. I have WIDE feet. I often buy men's size 7 when I can find them, just to accommodate my wide feet.

17. Red or pink? Pink

18. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? My uncharitable and judgemental nature.

19. What do you miss most? My best friend, Brian, since he moved to California.

20. What color pants/shoes are you wearing? Black pants. Grey-ish shoes.

21. What are you listening to right now? This VERY minute? Blonde Redhead.

22. Last thing you ate? Stir fried chicken breast and baby arugula salad.

23. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Burnt sienna or maybe Plum.

24. What is the weather like right now? Low sixites. Low humidity. Wonderful!

25. Last person you talked to on the phone? My son, when I was at work and he was home sick.

26. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Voice. I love a voice with unique character. Baritone is good. An accent or graveliness is good too.

27. Favorite drink? Apple martini.

28. Favorite sport? AHL hockey. Go Monarchs!

29. Hair color? Mouse brown.

30. Eye color? Green.

31. Do you wear contacts? No. But I rely on my reading glasses. Darn it!

32. Favorite food? Cheese, in all its forms. Though, we are at war. IBS.

33. Last movie you watched? Shattered with Gerard Butler.

34. Favorite day of the year? My favorite holiday is Halloween. I love Fall and the day is within a week of my b-day. I also really like warm rainy days spent at home, alone, in my lounge wear, watching movies.

35. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings. (It used to be scary movies, but life is stressful enough now.)

36. Winter or summer? New England summers. Mid-Atlantic winters.

37. Hugs or kisses? Hugs.

38. What is your favorite dessert? Authentic, hand-made, New York style cheese cake. But, unless my lactose intolerance is under control, I go with either a key lime or strawberry rhubarb pie.

39. What books are you reading? Second reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Also, my text book for school on the U.S. Health Care system. And, I'm about to start Slaughterhouse Five for my book group.

40. What's on your mouse pad? It's just black.

41. What did you watch on TV last night? The most recent episode of The 4400.

42. Favorite smells? Cinnamon rolls baking. Lavender.

43. Favorite sound? My young cat's trills as he runs through the house.

44. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Tough call. Rolling Stones, I guess.

45. What's the furthest you've been from your home? San Francisco.

46. Do you have a special talent? I have a clarity of memory that I have not seen in very many people. As I age, this is beginning to diminish, which terrifies me.

47. What is your ring tone? The Llama Llama Duck song. Really!

48. What do you sleep in? A really ugly cheap cotton knit comfortable night shirt.

Pass the Guinea Pig

I know I just mentioned Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. However, I think this is now my favorite 'unwind' show. Tonight, I queued up his show on Ecuador while I ate my chicken breast and salad. You may wonder how one could eat while watching his show. Sometimes, I wonder too.

The most interesting aspects to the Ecuador show were guinea pigs and shamans. First, apparently guinea pigs are raised as food animals in Ecuador. Andrew went to a restaurant where you get to pick out your 'dinner'. He's a great sport about this type of thing. And, while he compared it to picking your own lobster out of the tank he did refer to his guinea pig as 'Fluffy'. However, he did thoroughly enjoy the cooked rodent.

The next most interesting piece in this episode was when he went to a shaman to have the evil spirits removed from him. The guy had him strip down to his skivies. Then, he did all sorts of weird things to him, including spitting hooch on him, beating his nearly naked body with a poisonous plant which raised hive-like welts all over Andrew's skin, and then nearly setting Andrew on fire by spitting alcohol at him while holding a candle in the stream of alcohol.

I forgot to mention the lemon ants and the coconut larvae. And why wouldn't this be great dinner entertainment, I ask you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gross but obsessing

Anyone who knows me understands that, by nature, I am an obsessive personality type. When a stressful situation arises I can't leave it alone. If there is a train wreck, I cannot look away. If a situation arises where rational human beings would let it go when friends encouraged them to "relax" or "forget about it", I would be completely and utterly unable to move on.

This evening I got a call from my GYN. Apparently my pap came back relatively normal. However, it showed some endometrial cells. Since I haven't menstruated in months, this is a medical unexpected finding. Therefore, they want me to go in for a hystosonogram. The GYN NP told me that this is usually nothing, but that they have to check. She did not give me this statistic, but my research shows that in only about 10% of these cases is something oncological going on. Of course, my rational brain says "no problem". Ten percent? Come on! No worries.

All right. I am obsessive by nature. Figure out where my brain is.

Oh, and did I mention that I have to wait until early November for the hystosonogram? Tee hee. Should be a fun couple of months, no?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Back in the saddle/student-desk again

This semester I am taking a course on "The Emerging U.S. Health Care System". It is one of those fundamental courses for my major. I have already been exposed to the bulk of the material over the years, so it should primarily be a refresher and a chance to expand my knowledge in areas of my particular choosing.

Our two exams are take homes. However, we do have to compose a ten page research paper. Fortunately, we have a pretty free reign with the topic of said paper. This could be fun (or a royal pain in the butt considering how much I enjoy a deadline set by someone other than myself.

Still, there are only four students in the class so the instructor has to decided to run it more like a seminar than a lecture. Plus, he hopes to get us out of there by 8:30 each Monday. That would be dandy!

Speaking of which, it is time to fall over for the night.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jellied Moose Nose

One of the cable shows I've come to enjoy is Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. Andrew is a chef from New York who likes to travel, and feels that the best way to appreciate a culture is to eat the traditional local cuisine.

As part of his Alaskan adventure, Andrew experienced 'jellied moose nose'. The primary ingredient is the meat from the snout and head of the moose which is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, coriander, chilis, allspice and mustard seed. The meat is cooked with the spices and then put into loaf pans with collagen from the animal. It kind of sounds like head cheese except with a bunch of spices, and moose meat instead of pig or cow.

The first time I saw this show was about a year ago. Andrew went to a bunch of different places in Asia and highlighted some of the strangest foods I'd ever heard of. While most of the bizarre food he focuses on can be classified as 'fauna', one vegan appropriate highlight was the Durian fruit. Typically found in Malay, this stuff smells so bad that hotels have signs in the lobby prohibiting guests from bringing the fruit into the establishment.

While I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to trying new foods, the appeal of the show isn't exactly the foods. I am not likely to try to cruise the Internet to find a source for Nutria meat or deep fried bats. Then again, if someone offered me some of his fare, I would probably try at least a bite.

The appeal of Bizarre Foods is really Andrew and the places he chooses to visit. He is a very upbeat and adventurous guy. And, even if he doesn't fall in love with the food he tries, he is always gracious to those who served it to him. He also goes to a lot of places that I'll probably never visit, and thus makes the world a smaller place for me.

Another Travel Channel show we like to watch is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Like Andrew, Anthony travels around the world looking to experience foreign cultures through the food. Bourdain does not shy away from the 'bizarre' either. But to him, that's secondary. He is more interested in finding the best and most representative food of a locale. If it happens to be deep fried alligator or some animal's testicles, then he'll dig in happily. Bourdain recently did a show about his home town: NYC. Andrew, another NYC boy, joined him for a segment. They went to a kebab cafe in Queens run by an Arab immigrant where they ate heartily of "beef shank with cow's foot, sweetbreads and brains cooked with caper sauce and lemon, testicles cooked with portobello mushrooms, hibiscus tea, calf's liver and lamb hearts."

The Travel Channel isn't just for travel junkies fantasizing about the trips they might take. It offers those of us who are not fond of travel a chance to get to know other cultures and see the world through different eyes. ... And on Andrew and Anthony's shows, maybe watch him eat something's eyes (Note: Bourdain ate raw seal eyes last season. Yum).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

We like naps

The absolute best thing about weekends is that I can take a nap in the middle of the day. Today, I didn't even wait for lunch time. After we got back from the YMCA, I had an overly indulgent, carbohydrate laden, brunch. Then, I went back to bed for nearly three hours. As usual, I hadn't slept well the night before. However, I slept just great in the middle of the day.

Subtle message here: Perhaps she's really a vampire? Nah. Couldn't be. I am way too fond of garlic for that to be the case. Maybe there is a vampire somewhere in my family tree? (It would explain the nocturnal insomnia and the proclivity towards battiness.)

Then again, my insomnia isn't purely nocturnal. While I do enjoy a good nap during the day, I can't always fall asleep when presented with the opportunity (even when largely sleep-deprived and utterly exhausted). But sometimes, as the saying goes, the magic works. And, it is a beautiful thing.

Really. I had to have a very stern discussion with myself about not wasting my entire weekend asleep in order to claw my way out of the bed. I mean really, three hours of napping in the middle of the day? And, I could have gone for longer.

Then again, here it is, past eleven. I should be in bed right now. But, the lovely nap probably put a damper on my ability to fall asleep this evening.

However, since tomorrow is Sunday, I can continue this game anew then. I see another nap in my future after I get home from church. Hopefully, I won't let that one go on for three hours though.

Fool me once

What do you think? Are we really making progress in Iraq?

Friday, September 07, 2007

The "un" crowd

We all know that putting "un" in front of a word usually makes it mean the opposite of the original word. Like cool vs uncool. But, have you ever noticed all the words out there that begin with "un" which are underutilized in the naked form, would never be used on the their own at all, or don't really mean the opposite of the "un" word. Here are some of the examples I came up with. While most of the naked words do mean close to what one would expect, you almost never run across them in normal conversation or (non-Victorian) literature.

Marshall gave the press unfettered access to his staff. The church gave the media only fettered access to alter boys.
Tiffany's unbridled passion for cheesecake led to the broadening of her bottom. Chuck's bridled attraction for Tiffany led him to Amber's door.
Her love for him was unrequited, while his loathing of her sister was requited.
Ryan's unconscionable treatment of his secretary led to her law suit against the company. Theresa's conscionable treatment of her fellow human led to her beautification.
Chef Bob's unmitigated loathing for maple syrup led to the removal of all batter-based products from the menu. His mitigated appreciation for the wholesomeness of beets led to their being featured in each day's chef's choice item.
The story was an unflinching look at the seedier side of candy consumption. The report was a flinching view of clerical pedophilia.
Roderick's behavior put him in an untenable position with his wife. Mattie's saint-like behavior provided her with a tenable position going into the divorce.
His cruelty was unmatched, while her kindness was easily matched.
In the end, his lies undid him. So, like would the truth do him?
She was such an unassuming person, while her sister was such an assuming person.
The rain from the hurricane was unrelenting. The media's relenting coverage of JFK's extramarital activities would have been welcomed by the Clinton administration.

Can you think of others? Maybe even better one's where the 'un' word is more comfortable to you than it's naked counterpart? After all, most of us are more comfortable with the clothed over the unclothed.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If only I could get by on less sleep

There are so many things I want to do and never enough time to do them in. There are books to read, movies to watch, and blogs to post to. There are all those unfinished craft projects that I start and, well, never finish. There are all sorts of topics that I want to research and learn about (currently I'm brushing up on my French while I commute). Plus, there are tons of sources of information for my profession, which I just don't get around to looking into due to lack of time.

My body has long encouraged me to figure out how to get by on less sleep. I have been an insomniac of sorts most of my adult life. My chronic back pain has just exacerbated my inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. And, over the last three years, I have been flirting with a new enabler: night sweats.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, check out Wikipedia's entry on hot flashes. While I rarely have an episode during the day, the last week has been a virtual overnight carnival of perspiration and lack of sleep.

Amusingly enough, one of the pharmaceuticals that I have taken for years to help with my general insomnia, Neurontin is sometimes prescribed to assist with hot flashes. I think I've grown somewhat resistant to the influence of Neurontin, since I've been taking it for about three years now. I have taken it before bed every night in the last week, and have been woken around 3 a.m. thrashing around in soaked covers.

When I wake, I use the bathroom, drink some water, and try to get back to sleep. Usually, I get another 30-45 minutes worth of sleep before I wake up again. Not very restful, folks.

So, I pine for an existence where I can fully function on four to five hours of sleep. That really would be convenient and optimum for me.

Starbucks helps in the morning, somewhat. A new variable comes into play, however. If I stop at the store closer to my house, I will definitely need a rest room before I get to work. However, I am less likely to nod off before I actually make it too work.

Menopause is tough. Next up, lets tackle parenting a teenager while getting little sleep due to massive hormone fluctuations, and actual mood swings also due to said fluctuations. (Maybe Henry VIII had it right ... kill the women off relatively young, after they've lost the majority of their appeal and before they become a royal pain in the ass.)

Alligator Season on the Nashua River

Global warming has odd residents turning up in all sorts of unexpected places. Perhaps we'll have manatees next?

It's alligator season on the Nashua River

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is it wrong to use spyware to monitor potential terrorists?

In the most recent issue of SANS NewsBites (vol. 9, no. 70), there was a piece on how the German government wants permission to infect the computers of potential terrorists with spyware. The government wants to send targeted emails to suspects that would infect their computers with spyware, reporting specific data back to authorities. Opponents of the strategy say that spyware cannot be targeted specifically enough to avoid infecting unintended computers. In addition, some argue that it would be illegal for the German government to send email misrepresenting who the real sender is.

Interesting dilemma, no?

With a court order, can government tap a phone and inadvertently record the conversations between two non-suspects? Yes.

Can government tap the phones of thousands of people who might potentially be terrorists, without having a court order? Well ... in the U.S. the answer was 'Yes'.

I don't feel strongly about this, but I am leaning towards supporting the German government. If they can obtain a court order which allows them to use any means necessary to monitor the activities of specific individuals, I think the technology is there to target the spyware to specific users.

Is there potential that unintended victims will be monitored as well? Yes. With apologies to the ACLU, I think there are acceptable ways to respectfully handle the data of the unintended victims.

Is it ironic, perhaps even ludicrous, that the German government should use spyware as a weapon against potential terrorists when it is well known that German government computers have been the successful target of malware attacks? Is it eyebrow raising that there is pending legislation in Germany that would make it illegal to possess the hacking tools required for them to execute their strategy? Of course it is!

Think of it this way. If a police officer is shot at, he has the right to shoot back. Hopefully, his aim is as good or better than the criminal who shot at him. On the second front, there are countries where it is illegal for private citizens to own handguns, but the police carry them.

On the false identity front, can government officials disguise themselves or assume false identities in order to more closely monitor criminals, spies, and terrorists? Yes, indeed. Governments do it all the time. Misrepresenting the sender information of an email is trivial in comparison to having someone pretend to be someone else in order to become an intimate part of the daily operations of a criminal enterprise. And, that is a fully accepted law enforcement tactic.

Bottom line, is it wrong to employ the strategies of your enemy in order to defeat him? What if those strategies are completely counter to the principals you swear you represent and defend?

Tough call. Guess I know why I don't have an ACLU card. Good luck Germany.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Best weekend of the summer

This is probably the best weekend I've had in a very long while. We had no commitments to be anywhere or to do anything.

Saturday, I splurged and had a massage. On the way home, I picked up a pizza (a rare treat for me, since it's digestively risky - lactose intolerance). After, my son and I did some clothes shopping (mostly for him, but I picked up a couple of humorous t-shirts and some socks for myself). In the evening, my husband and I watched a rented movie. Sunday, was a very lazy day. In the early evening we went out to the movies (B & K saw "Balls of Fury" - which they both said was a waste of time. I saw "Hairspray" which I enjoyed.) We picked up "Wild Hogs" from Blockbuster on the way home, which we all really enjoyed. Today has also been pretty lazy. I made pancakes from scratch for breakfast. K and I had a brief visit to the YMCA pool. I baked pumpkin-oat muffins that I'll take for breakfast this week. Later on I took a nap.

I decided to grill some fish for dinner. While I was on the patio, I noticed that I had a bit of light green company on the back of one of our plastic chairs. He'd been there for a long while before I noticed him. He seemed like a pretty laid back guy.

We'll probably watch another movie together this evening, probably something we recorded on TiVo.

Work looks tolerable this week. My big project has slowed down to a manageable pace. Plus, my boss leaves Thursday for a week and a half.

Life can sometimes be very good. Just ask the frog.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

8601 diamonds

That's how many diamonds cover this jewel-encrusted skull. The shiny cranium sold for $100 million dollars, the most paid for a piece by a living artist.

Even if I were a billionaire, I don't know if I'd pay that much for any one thing. Still, it is pretty cool looking.