Thursday, December 31, 2009

Julie and Julia

Back in my teen years, my mother grew a bit bored with the roast beef and meatloaf meals she had been cooking for decades. We were less than gracious about what we called her "gourmet cooking" but I don't recall refusing to eat what was served. I think she favored the Galloping Gourmet over Julia Child, but it was impossible to be alive in America back then and not to know who Julia Child was. Her style was as unique as William F. Buckley's.

Meryl Streep's Julia ranks right up there with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Capote and Kate Blanchett's Dylan and Hepburn. It would have been so easy to paint Julia's large personality with ridicule or farce, but that line was not crossed.

Briefly, the movie is about Julia Child's path to becoming a famous chef juxtaposed with Julie Powell's blog about cooking every recipe from Julia's first book in the course of a year. Quite frankly, I would have been happy with more of the former and less of the latter. While Julia is a cultural icon, Julie is a pop phenomenon, and a not very interesting one at that. I have to give her kudos, though, for being able to bone a duck.

Amy Adams played Julie. She is one those actresses who morph enough with each role that I don't pick up on the fact that I have seen her in other movies, including important films like "June Bug" and "Doubt". Ditto Stanley Tucci as Paul. I raked over his filmography, trying to figure out just where I've seen him before. It appears I've seen him all over the place, but not in any roles that stick in my mind.

This movie could have been the story of a great romance. I wish someone loved me the way Paul loved Julia. And I wish I loved someone like Julia loved Paul. Maybe I need to cultivate a big personality, a grating falsetto, and a love of French cooking.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


A few weeks ago, my neighbor called, wanting to foist some Mad Ants basketball tickets onto me. I told him I had other plans, but I did not elaborate, because those plans involved a butt dent in the couch and watching Bill Maher make fun of religion in "Religulous". Some people would not think that was funny.

But I did. Religion, and the people who practice it, are easy targets for ridicule. I just don't understand how an individual can reject scientific evidence that supports the concept of evolution and yet believe in talking snakes, virgin birth, and raising people from the dead, without suffering enough cognitive dissonance to make his/her head explode.

I confess that I lack the capacity (or the imagination?) to make the leap of faith that religion requires. And I have tried, I truly have. I can get excited about becoming a believer for about 15 minutes, but then it all just fades away. Consequently, while I found "Religulous" to be entertaining, it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. The movie was obviously edited for comedic effect as well, so any insight it might appear to provide should be taken with a grain of salt.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not a movie review

Not that I don't have a movie to watch from Netflix. I have a bad habit of not watching my Netflix movies in a timely fashion, a habit I was trying to break - hence, the sequence of movie reviews - but now I am back to my old wastrel tricks.

So what have I been up to? Well, I went on a business trip last week. I complain a lot about my job and I don't always agree with how I am managed, but there are very few really bad things I can say about my employer, especially when they own what amounts to a time share in private jets. And that is how found myself in this...

... eating this...

... with a view like this.

The problem is our fair city is very expensive and difficult to fly in and out of, and the company's solution is NetJets. This was my first time on board, and it puts commercial flight to shame. There is no security to pass through, none of this get-to-the-airport-hours-ahead-of-time. In fact, I was late due to an accident on the highway and THEY WAITED FOR ME. And the steward brought us coffee and breakfast when we took off and hot towels when we arrived(!!!)

The time at HQ was not very interesting. We were seated in the "basement" with the contractors, and this was our view:

Believe it or not, there is a deer in that picture. My travelling companion and I were so excited, you'd think we had never seen wildlife before. And, for me, that was the highlight of the trip. That, and getting to watch "Monday Night Football" and back-to-back-to-back reruns of "Law and Order: SVU".

The low point was getting sick from the salad bar in the cafeteria - the shrimp cooties in the mango and shrimp salad must have jumped across to the asparagus (I'm allergic to shellfish). The upside was I missed the company party, bowling followed by a meal in a shrimp-infested hibachi restaurant. By the time I felt better, it was time to go home.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Gran Torino

I like Clint Eastwood. I like most Clint Eastwood movies. "Gran Torino" is no exception.

Basically, the story involves recently widowed Walt who lives in a changing neighborhood. Walt likes to growl and complain. Estranged from his own family, he unwillingly gets involved with the Hmong family next door. There is gang violence involved, and Walt decides he has to do something about it.

Like most Clint Eastwood movies, it is best not to examine this one too closely, or you will notice that there is only one multi-dimensional character and that the rest of the cast is there to move the plot along. And don't think too much about how good-natured the Hmong are about being called a wide variety of racial epithets. And don't get caught up in wondering if your own death will have meaning.

Instead, laugh out loud when Walt decides to "man up" his teenage neighbor Thao by teaching him how men talk to each other (it involves a lot of profanity and ethnic slurs) and cry a little about the need for some to drag down the others and nod approvingly at the surprisingly satisfying ending.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Mystic River

Many years ago, I watched "Mystic Pizza" so I assumed "Mystic River" took place in a southern Connecticut port town. But no, it's Boston based. A second level of confusion resulted in the fact that one character is named "Sean" but not the character played by Sean Penn, who is "Jimmy". Just as I can't keep track of who has the ball when the Vikings play Green Bay, I had trouble keeping the names straight, except for "Dave". And I did not realize this was a Clint Eastwood-directed film until the end, when the credits rolled.

This was one long, slow-paced, dark movie. I don't think there was a moment of levity in the whole thing. And a certain amount of knowledge had to be inferred from the dialog. Fortunately, my daughter was on hand to keep me up to speed.

The basic story line is, three eleven-year-old boys are deeply affected by what happens to one of them, Dave. Flash forward 25 years, and we see that one is a cop and one is a petty thief turned local boss of his own little fiefdom, while damaged Dave acts kind of dumb but is smarter than we think. Jimmy's nineteen-year-old daughter is brutally murdered, and Sean the cop works the case. He and his partner focus on one likely candidate after another, but by the time they nab the perpetrator, one of their suspects becomes fish food.

This movie reminds me of "Unforgiven" - another Clint Eastwood movie - which I "got" but could not explain. Things are not tied up in a neat little bundle in the end. If you can stand that kind of uncertainty, this may be a movie for you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Joy

I'm a fan of Ingmar Bergman, but I found "To Joy" a bit difficult to watch. The acting seemed overwrought, even for 1950, and the story a bit disjointed. Fortunately, it was a short film.

But there were some solid themes running through it:
* What happens when we find out we are not as special as we thought?
* How do we parse out freedom and responsibility?
* Where does love go when it takes a holiday? And how do we lure it back?

I watch (read) a lot of foreign films and wonder about the nuances of the translations. And I'm not very familiar with most of the classical music that punctuated this movie. I think I would have appreciated the movie more were I better educated.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bored and boring, but it's a grand life

Falling back on memes for blog material is a telling marker that my life (and me) are rather boring. Join me in my boredom!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
If it weren't for my job, my neighbors, and other people, I would be perfectly happy. Actually, my neighbors aren't too bad, except for the one with the five (FIVE) barking dogs.

What is your greatest fear?
Being old and sick and diagnosed with dementia when all I really need is a stiff drink and a cigarette.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Gee, so many to choose from. I'll say, the eating thing. When stressed, my eating is out of control. Although last night, when I was feeling particularly weepy about city services (or the lack thereof) and discovered the makings for s'mores in the cupboard, I limited myself to two. I don't like marshmallows that much, and they are so sweet they killed my taste for more chocolate. Now, if I had had some milk in the fridge, the graham crackers would be history.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Again, so many to choose from. There are the usual - intolerance, ignorance, selfishness - but most days what I really hate is how other people drive.

On what occasion do you lie?
In general, I don't lie, except to myself, e.g. "I didn't eat THAT much today."

What is your greatest extravagance?
Define extravagance. Others might judge my yarn stash an extravagance, or the fact that I buy organic food, but even in those areas, I have my limits.

What is your current state of mind?
Boredom. (Editor's note: I wrote this at work.) I'm almost always bored. Me and Flaubert.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
I like a guy who says what he thinks. Also, is willing to make the phone calls to solidify the plans.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
I like a gal who says what she thinks. Also, is willing to make the phone calls to solidify the plans.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Asshole" and "shit". But usually they are so appropriate! Especially when on the road!

When and where were you happiest?
In college. Freedom without responsibility! And while nursing my babies.

Who are your favorite writers?
This changes all the time. Lorrie Moore and Michael Connelly come to mind, although I am reading Marilyn French right now.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Metaphors. I cannot come up with a halfway decent metaphor to save my life.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My family, as in my kids, or family, as in my siblings? My kids are perfect, and my siblings are okay. I do wish my mother had lived longer, though.

If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A cat or an otter. Or a tree. Or a wiser version of me. I like to think we learn something in this life that will help us in the next, assuming there is a next. Otherwise, what is the point?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
The extra 30-40 pounds I tote around. Since it is mostly around my waist, it really gets in my way.

Where would you like to live?
I like where I live, but we could use a bit more snow in the winter. The summers have been kind of dry lately, too. And then there are those barking dogs.

What is your most treasured possession?
Well, my kids are most treasured, but they are not possessions, and any pet owner will tell you that it's the pets that own US. If the house caught on fire and the pets were safe, the only things I would grab would be my laptop and my purse, because each contains huge portions of my life.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The loss of a child, even though that goes beyond misery.

What do you most value in your friends?
I like a friend who says what s/he thinks. Also, is willing to make the phone calls to solidify the plans. (Ask me something different!)

What are your favorite names?
First American names, because they say something about the namee. Mine would probably be Grumpy Bear or Dances with Beagles.

What is it that you most dislike?
Besides the usual - intolerance, ignorance, selfishness - the way people drive.

What is your greatest regret?
Not following my dreams when I was young. I can still follow those dreams, but it is so much more difficult with a mortgage.

How would you like to die?
First, I plan to live forever - don't we all? But if I must die, let it be in my sleep. But only if the house is clean.

What is your motto?
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Moderation in all things. It's a grand life, if you don't weaken.

Friday, November 13, 2009


This Swiss film is the sweet and funny story of a boy genius who wants to be normal. Vitus is a prodigy who truly loves music, but doesn't like how people, especially his parents, treat him because of his gift. Grandpa is the exception, as are a few others who realize he is fine just the way he is.

It is telling that, after viewing one too many Hollywood movies, I kept waiting for something bad to happen - a tragedy, a molestation, a prank gone horribly wrong. But instead, the story progresses along a natural timeline. Along side the plot are questions of parentage - dad is a workaholic, mom becomes overly invested in Vitus's success - and questions about just what is "normal".

The storyline gets a bit fantastic toward the happily-ever-after conclusion, but the ending fits the story. A pleasant, intelligent movie appropriate for most ages.

P.S. All my blogs are getting spam from "anonymous" commenters. So I am going to disallow anonymous comments, to see if that eliminates this pesky problem. Not that anyone will notice.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cleanliness is next to clean-limbed (in my dictionary)

Many years (actually, decades) ago, a group of us from college developed the habit of gathering twice a year, sans children and other significant others. We started with a stolen Saturday afternoon (some of us were nursing babies), which later grew to an entire day, an overnight, and eventually a whole weekend. It gave us an opportunity to smoke, drink, eat chocolate, watch R-rated movies, play cards, and discuss whatever subjects were pressing at the time. Thirty (30?!?) years later, we smoke less and drink less and eat less, but we still gather and gab.

This past weekend, the group met up at my house, which meant I did not have to drive anywhere but I had to clean everything. I'm one of those people who cannot see the dirt in my own home except through the eyes of others, family members excluded. After executing a rapid "spring cleaning" in anticipation of this weekend, all I can say is, Oh. My. God. It was gross. It was inexcusable. It was embarrassing. My house was filth personified.

But now it is clean! And I would like to keep it that way. Occasionally, I consider hiring someone to clean, rationalizing it would take only one or two hours a week to keep things under control. Then I think, surely, SURELY, I could spend one or two hours a week doing just that. But for some reason, I don't.

Not that I don't create a cleaning schedule for myself. Living alone, if I did an abbreviated spring cleaning in one area each week, my house would always be presentable. Week 1: bedrooms. Week 2: bathrooms. Week 3: livingroom, diningroom, West Wing. Week 4: family room and kitchen. This would be beyond the weekly laundry and vacuuming and toilet swishing. This would be the mopping and the decobwebbing and the dust bunny roundup. Not everything would need to be done every time, but each area would receive a bit of individual attention, to keep things from going to hell and to forestall a cleaning marathon such as the one that occurred last week.

What usually happens, though, is when it comes time to execute the plan for week 1, I think, Well, it's still clean from the last cleaning and I'd rather do such-and-such and I'll do it next time. And that is usually the end of that.

Actually, if I could just keep the breakfast bar clear, I would be happy.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Auntie Climactic

I'm not a holiday person, and in the past, I have complained bitterly about the extortion of Halloween. But I really do get a kick out of the kids. Well, most of them. What's up with the "Happy Halloween!" greetings? What happened to "Trick or treat!"?

Ordinarily, this plastic bag adorned with a jack o' lantern face and stuffed with packing peanuts is all the further I will go re decorations. But for some reason, this year I went wild and plopped down $4 for the above window treatments. So I was stoked, in my own pathetic little way.


So where were the tricky treaters? I started with a 90-count bag of "fun-sized" Starburst and Skittles (chosen because I don't like either). At the end of the evening, I still had 72 left. (Despite my distaste for them, I ate three). Were the kids sick? Were their parents afraid of germy candy? Because it was a Saturday night, were there parties in place of canvassing the neighborhood? I don't know. At least the ones who did show up were wearing the best costumes ever.

And I have the best daughter ever, as evidenced by these birthday flowers:

(No, my birthday is not on Halloween. I'm just late in posting this pic.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Last week I watched "Doubt", starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And what a well-written, finely-directed, superbly-acted movie that was! The story of a priest of questionable character, an old crotchety nun and a young naive nun could easily have slipped into stereotype and predictability. But the priest is not so easily categorized (nor is his supposed victim), the old nun is tough but covertly caring, and the young nun turns out to be stronger than we expect, plus she reflects our own confusion about the truth.

The dialog, where delicate topics are disguised in oblique vocabulary that those of us who experienced the '50s and early '60s will recognize, contributes to our own doubts about what exactly is going on. The best scene is the conversation between the old nun and the child's mother. Deliciously complex!

Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big slice of crazy pie

This week was one of those crazy-making weeks at work. One application I support quit working for one user, but not the others. Another application I've been modifying starting generating never-before-seen errors. But later in the week, both situations resolved themselves without any apparent effort on my part. Software development used to be fun, but now it is so complex that it has become inexplicable.

My little bug turned out to be a mini-cold. It has hung around all week, making me tired and snotty but not providing enough symptoms for me to call in sick.

Otherwise, not much going on. At least, nothing I can report here. Don't you just hate it when something particularly blogworthy occurs, but you feel constrained from blabbing about it on the 'net? Maybe this particular misadventure can be reported in the future, after time recasts it as an amusing anecdote.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleepless in October

It's not that I have been having trouble falling asleep the past few days. Instead, my dreams wake me up, mostly as a result of a new home improvement project. My philosophy is that the likelihood of bad things happening is in an inverse relationship to the amount of worrying I do. In other words, the more I worry, the less likely things will go wrong. The work is supposed to be done by the end of the month, though, so it shouldn't be too bad, right?

Meanwhile, the fall-spring bug I seem partial to has returned. It strikes about once a month, during the fall until it gets wintry cold, then again in the spring until it warms up. It feels like I am coming down with a cold or the flu, but after a couple of days, it goes away. Exercising my immune system, I guess.

I have given up on the new position at work. A co-worker of mine who also applied for one of the two openings was invited to a second interview (and I was NOT). They finally offered him the job, but at a lower salary. That is giving him pause. I would be willing to earn a little less if I could have more vacation, but I don't think I will have the opportunity to bargain.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

More troublemaking, plus updates

My usual MO at work these past few years has been to keep a low profile. If they did not know who I was, what I did, or how to find me, they could not sever me. Now I have enough pension years and am old enough that technically I could retire tomorrow. There are some financial goals I'd like to meet first, like paying off my mortgage. However, I feel more willing to take risks these days.

My latest campaign is to whine about our development tools. I have no idea how the corp decides on what tools to use. I do know that the ones my team uses are archaic by technical standards. I also know that other IT teams within the corp use more modern tools. With a new, smallish project coming up, it seems like a perfect time to introduce a better development environment. And I am not afraid to say so. We'll see if it gets me anywhere.

I also asked the HR guy about the position I interviewed for (more boldness there). He says they still have not decided; check back next week. My interpretation is this means I am not on the A-list, but hiring me for the job is not out of the question, either.

As for my yoga class problems, I abandoned the Tuesday night "Yoga I" class in favor of Wednesday night "Core Yoga", which meant moving date night to Thursday night and rescheduling appointments with my hair stylist. See? I can be flexible not only in body but in psyche as well.

And my insomnia has taken a leave of absence! (Knock on wood.) One of the studies discussed in Insomniac involved the relationship between protein consumption and melatonin levels. My diet tends to drift toward vegetarianism, so in the spirit of experimentation, this past week or so I made a conscious effort to eat more animal protein other than the usual eggs and cheese. And I am sleeping much better. My question is, Is it the meat or is it something in the meat, like hormones? The book decries the dearth of studies linking insomnia with hormones, but most women will tell you that such a link exists. I guess I could further my personal experiment by switching to organically raised meat, but I have a difficult time forking over that kind of cash.

So. Is everyone getting an H1N1 flu shot? I have not had the flu for about 12 years (more knocking on wood). In that time, some years I have had flu shots, but not in the past eight or so. I am not inclined to get one this year, either. I am not in a high risk group, plus they may or may not protect me, plus I am reluctant to be a guinea pig for these rushed-to-market medical "solutions". But that's just me. What about you?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Casual business

Every year we have Breast Cancer Awareness week at work (although it boggles my mind that anyone can be UNaware these days). In recent years, this fund raising event has been dubbed "Denim Day" because we get to wear denim if we donate $5 to the cause. (Fortunately, the money does not go toward breast cancer awareness but to your choice of a research fund or a mobile mammogram unit; more about that later.)

This year the subject line of the memo announcing the event was "Denim Days start Sep. 29" and the memo ended with "Contributors are encouraged to celebrate Denim Days and Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing jeans, along with something pink, on Monday, October 5."

Well, I misinterpreted the subject line and the last sentence of the memo to mean, starting Sep. 29, we were to wear denim, and on Oct. 5, also wear something pink. Guess who the only person in the building wearing jeans today was? Well, not the only person. I saw one other who must have the same reading comprehension abilities as I have.

Re the mobile mammogram unit, I took advantage of its presence in our parking lot a year (or two?) ago. That will probably be my last mammogram. The technician managed to twist my right breast before applying tectonic pressure with the plates, and it was excruciating. It made me cry. My breast ached for a week. It seems counter-intuitive that treating breasts like this is a good thing. Plus I read (in a book the name of which I cannot remember) that, anecdotally, mammograms save lives, but statistically, NOT. For now, I will take my chances.

Almost two weeks and still no news on the position I interviewed for. I'm guessing that I am not their first choice, but if they can't find anyone better, they might give me a chance. Or they are negotiating with my boss for my release. Or they have made a decision but no one has bothered to tell me what it is. Or (fill in the blank)....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Secret Life of Words

A quiet film, "The Secret Life of Words" starts by introducing Hanna. Deaf, she works in a factory and lives in isolation, exhibiting some OC behavior. Her boss forces her to take a holiday, which she dutifully does by traveling to Ireland. There, she overhears a phone conversation and, revealing that she is a nurse, offers to tend an injured man on an oil rig.

Hanna has suffered a monstrous tragedy in her past, which is slowly revealed. Likewise, the fire on the oil rig that killed one man and injured another, carries its own tragedy, which is also slowly revealed. The sick bay, an island within the island of the oil rig, provides a safe place for both Hanna and her charge to reveal their injured selves, both physical and emotional.

The oil rig is populated by a small crew of "quirky alones". The men are drawn to Hanna despite her initial aloofness, and her interaction with them allows her to emerge from her self-imposed shell.

The movie is sad, but there is an undercurrent of joy (partially provided by the sound track) that illustrates how the human spirit can carry forward despite unspeakable horrors.

The movie is driven by dialog, hence played well on my small TV. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 25, 2009

That was quick

Shortly after our current governor took office, the BMV system became horribly broken. Not only did the online system roll belly up, we stopped receiving renewal notices; the state said it was our responsibility to magically know what we owed and to pay up or else. At the same time, wait times at the BMV offices ballooned, and the state's response was to remove the wall clocks (because, hey, we are too stoopid to carry watches or cell phones). Also, no food or drink allowed PLUS no using the restrooms, no matter how many hours it took. Equipment broke down regularly and computer data was garbled. The only bit of sunshine throughout this ordeal was the employees, who remained mysteriously upbeat despite the glitches and flaring tempers.

For several years, I gave up trying to renew my plates online because the plates would not arrive until after the old ones expired, and the police said it did not matter if you had a receipt proving you had purchased your new plates WEEKS ago, an expired plate was an expired plate. I never heard of anyone actually being cited for expired plates, but it still made me nervous.

A couple of years ago, things started to improve. The state lured people back to using the online system by offering $5 off the fees. Even though wait times had improved at my local office, I risked renewing online. And it worked!

This year I needed to renew my driver's license, which has to be done in person. There are new rules coming down the pike regarding proof of identity, but they don't go into effect until the first of the year. While double checking this info online, I noticed I could schedule an appointment at my local BMV to renew my license. Huh. So I did. But you know what? I did not need it. Either I picked the best time on the best day of the month to renew or else the BMV finally got their shit together. I was in and out of there in less than twenty minutes; the longest part of the wait was the developing of my pink (?!?) license. Even the photo looks halfway decent. And since I don't have to renew my license for six years, maybe they will have the additional identification requirements ironed out by then.

While waiting for my license, I overheard part of a conversation between two local small businessmen. In general, my state is RED but it turned BLUE in the last presidential election, probably from lack of oxygen. And these two gentlemen sounded red to me. But while they were wary of the new health care proposals, one of them stated loud and clear that he thought he would never vote for a Republican again. So while President Obama's approval ratings may be slipping, I'm guessing there is not going to be a corresponding rise in the popularity of the GOP. Yet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whatever happened to the four-day work week?

I almost took a "mental health" day today (not that such things are sanctioned where I work) because I suffered through two lousy nights sleep in a row, but since I was neither shaky nor weepy, decided to tough it out. And I'm glad I did because I made an attitude adjustment that enabled me to label myself a troublemaker instead of a victim. And I mean "troublemaker" in a good way, because in the end, the users of the app I support were well served. No awards were given, but I felt good.

Somebody else did give me an award, though: flurrious.

Not only do my readers (all two of them) of my FIVE blogs (this one, one for knitting, one for home and garden, one for the neighborhood association, and one for a non-profit) rarely comment, I have a hard time getting co-workers to respond to my emails. But even that improved today. Must be some kind of harmonic convergence.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Friday was one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

The interview Thursday started out well, but I fell down during the second half when a lot of specific and technical questions were asked about Oracle. I've never had any formal training, so I don't know the actual terminology or definitions of all things SQL, but I have always been able to figure out what needed to be done or found the information in books or online or from co-workers. I tried to stress that in the interview, but I'm not sure how it went over.

So I was already feeling a bit battered when someone did not just press my buttons on Friday but leaned on them, heavily. I won't bore you with the details, but my head exploded. I don't think I showed how upset I was, but when everyone left for lunch, I found myself pacing my 9'x9' cubicle and just had to get outside. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day. I walked around the construction site and the pond until the feeling returned to my extremities and I could breathe again. When I returned to my desk, I was calm enough to deal with the situation.

Friday night, though, the whole upset came flooding back when I tried to go to sleep. I spent half the night chewing on my work situation, plus the yoga class thing, plus several other problems in my life. And I did come up with some strategies, so the insomnia was not a total waste of time. Sometimes we are awake at 2AM for a reason.

On a separate note, I performed a little blog cleanup in the sidebar today. Despite my IT background, sometimes I am a little slow to adopt new technology. I just recently switched from IE to Chrome for my browser, and consequently to Google Reader for my blog feeds. Blogger has a "Blog List" gadget that can be populated directly from Google Reader. Easy peasy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

To sleep, perchance to sleep

A couple of months ago, I went shopping for a new mattress. Since I have a waterbed frame, I needed a waterbed insert, i.e. an odd-sized mattress, no foundation, that will fit in the frame. This limits my selection, so I did not expect to have to make much of a decision between models except for price and comfort. But at one store I was told I could get a Tempurpedic. I laid down on one and just about drifted off to sleep right then and there. So what if it is a petroleum product?

I did not make a decision right away because 1) Tempurpedics are more expensive, 2) Tempurpedics are really heavy and awkward, and 3) I was not convinced I would like it in the long run. So I did what I usually do when I can't make up my mind about something: I waited. I also talked to myself, saying things like, "You spend at least one-third of your life in bed, shouldn't you be comfortable, price be damned?"

Then I also did a little online research and found a significant number of complaints about Tempurpedics, complaints like the 20-year-warranty is about 15 years too long because the mattresses wear out early on and the manufacturer won't honor the warranty, etc. I know some people with Tempurpedics, and while they love theirs, none of them have owned them for more than four years. So I decided to get a conventional mattress, which will probably need to be replaced in 10 years. At that time, I will revisit the Tempurpedic question.

The new mattress was delivered last Saturday morning. Good-bye, saggy pillow top, hello Therapedic New Castle! Already my back feels better. I also can sleep on my left side without feeling like my lungs are being compressed, something I have not done for quite some time now; I blamed my scoliosis but I guess it was just the mattress.

But one thing bothers me: When I signed the receipt, the delivery guy made a point of telling me to put it in a safe place, like under the mattress, so I would know where it was. Ever slow on the uptake, it was about 24 hours later that I wondered WHY I would be needing that receipt. Is my new mattress going to wear out prematurely? I hope not, because now that the new mattress smell has dissipated, I am liking it. A lot.

I tried researching the Therapedic online, but other than complaints about their memory foam model, could not find much. So maybe everything will be okay. Hope I don't lose sleep over that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The conference room accepted my invitation

My interview is tomorrow. It's a telephone interview. Since I work in a cube, in order to achieve more than a pretense of privacy, the interview will take place in a conference room (on a speaker phone - real private). Reserving the conference room involves "inviting" the conference room to a meeting, a meeting that is occurring at the exact same time as my interview. Fortunately, the conference room is free even though I am not.

The parking lot outside the office is now a big pile of broken asphalt and a small mountain of gravel. We have to park on the other side of the building. The guys here are suffering from Bobcat envy. I can't wait for the trees to lose their leaves - they block the view of the construction site from the second floor. A new building! It's kind of exciting.

I skipped yoga last night. Or rather, I skipped yoga class. I practiced at home instead. There I could decide which poses to do and how long to hold them. I also did some extras that my lower back really needs but that have been missing from class. And an inversion! The Tuesday night instructor is relatively new, but I thought she would have a clue by now. She seems afraid we won't like her if she makes us work and acts apologetic for putting us through a sun salutation. I have actually lost strength from her class, but hers is the only one offered by the studio that suits my weeknight schedule. What to do, what to do. Maybe it's time for a change.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sign of the times

We received notice at work that our pensions are being frozen. Actually, new hires have not had the option of participating in the pension plan for some time now. Instead, they get an extra company contribution to their 401k. Now we all will get that, plus those with frozen pensions will get an additional transitional amount. I actually like this method better, because the calculations for one's pension always seemed a bit, well, mysterious.

Re the new position I applied for at work: I had an interview scheduled for this afternoon, but "they" cancelled it at the last minute, due to a meeting conflict. I find this a bit odd, because we have software for scheduling meetings that detects such conflicts. A co-worker who is also applying for one of the open positions had his interview today, though, and from the kind of questions they asked him, I am less hopeful that I will get the job. Another co-worker questioned whether I really wanted the job, which further wobbled my leaky craft. At any rate, I don't have to worry about it again until next week, so I won't.

On a positive note, construction on the new building should start soon. Or at least, the parking lot will be carved up into construction and non-construction territories this weekend. Baby steps.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Tired of listening to myself whine about my job, I finally did something about it: applied for an open position within the company. It's an IT position, but in a business department instead of IT proper. And it is right here, in this building, on the same floor even, with people I already know. The work, however, would be something new, at least, and maybe interesting. I don't think it could be worse than my current plight. The application process is online on our intranet, so I am hoping that I have better luck than I have had with other online processes lately. We shall see, come next week.

Why the sudden motivation? Maybe it has something to do with waking up each morning, chanting "F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, F*CK!" Maybe it has something to do with the insomnia, which already seems to have become resistant to the caffeine reduction program. Maybe it's the stomach churning in the middle of the night. I need to hang in for at least another 2.5 years, but I don't think I'll make it if my stomach hurts and I can't sleep and my language skills continue to deteriorate.

And maybe some of the motivation comes from the blogs I read. Jane changed jobs a while back, and is happier than ever. Laurie decided to move and just like that, it was done. Noelle has been floundering a bit lately, but is on a new course of self-discovery that I greatly admire. If they dare, so can I.

Gee, I feel better already.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh. Hello, there

I didn't announce it, but somehow I took a summer hiatus from this blog. I'm not alone in this phenomenon, so we'll skip the guilts and just carry on like nothing ever happened. Because nothing did.

When we last saw our heroine, she was battling insomnia, trying to lose weight, beginning her summer reading, watching movies, whining about work, and otherwise engaged in mindless shitshat chitchat.

On the insomnia front, I am achieving some success with the caffeine reduction plan. Since I always make it a point to stop drinking coffee by 2pm, I did not think the beverage of champions was contributing to my insomnia. But then one day it occurred to me that I have lost my tolerance of alcohol and developed a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners and started farting more and otherwise been experiencing a variety of complaints related to aging, maybe I should cut back on the joe, just to see what happens. And guess what? I am sleeping better. Not perfectly, but better. I still have a couple of cups of coffee in the morning and one after lunch, but that's it. The trick is not to get sucked back into overconsumption after a bad night. Like last night.

Re weight loss, while I had some success with the Flat Belly Diet, the weight loss appeared to be limited to about seven pounds. I kept that off, until vacation, when I gained a pound, and until my post-vacation funk, when I gained two more pounds. Now I am back into my work-home rut, so I can return to my dieting rut as well. (Note: on vacation, we attended a celebration of my dad's 90th birthday. I dressed in my most slimming black slacks and top. Between that and the yoga, I looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. All to impress my sisters-in-law. I'm pathetic.)

The summer reading has been fun, if sporadic. Michael Connelly's The Scarecrow is not one of his best, but still a page turner. Not Becoming my Mother by Ruth Reichl is short and sweet. At first, it seemed a bit depressing because Mom at 70 was still wondering who she was. Fortunately, she later became herself, so there is hope for all of us, if we just live long enough. Still working on Insomniac - it is not only long, but densely packed. Almost gave up on Hello, Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth but I'm glad I finished it. Ready to start The Art of Travel because I like Alain de Botton's ironic insights (and he doesn't beat you over the head with them) and lately I have had the urge to visit Paris.

I don't know why I continue my subscription to Netflix. Right now there is a DVD sitting on top of the TV and I don't even know what it is. I find it difficult to sit still to watch a video (but not to knit or read - go figure), so the last video I watched, "Craft in America", was perfect. It's actually a 3-part PBS special, so I could watch one part at a time. A one hour commitment is do-able. Previously, I watched "Revolutionary Road" (excruciatingly depressing) and "The Reader". I think I'll go back to foreign films.

What can I say about work? I don't like to blog about work, so let's just say I have always found corporate politics to be baffling, it amazes me that any company is profitable, and if HR showed up at my cubicle door with a pink slip, I would take my severance and RUN.

How was your summer?

Saturday, July 25, 2009


That's my excuse for not updating this blog more often. Periodically, I suffer through bouts of insomnia, but this most recent one has been particularly relentless. Recently, I participated in an insomnia survey of sorts, a class project of my massage therapist, and she suggested I read Insomniac, by Gayle Greene.

I have never been able to discern a reason why my insomnia comes and goes, but I'm guessing it's a combination of anxiety, hormones, and stress.

Also, the rabbit died. That used to mean "I'm pregnant" but in this case, the rabbit literally died.

My pet bunny suddenly sickened and passed before I could get him to the vet. I've lost pets before but only after they have grown old and/or suffered through a long illness. HipHop was young and I expected to have him for several more years. I'm a little surprised at how much it affected me, too. I think the older we get, the more difficult loss becomes, which is unfortunate because losses large and small really start piling up as we age.

Another feature of aging is realizing we are not going to do all those things we thought we would do "someday". Like travel. And by travel, I mean really travel, and not just in herds of seniors.

From reading Where the Hell is Matt? I realize why I don't really travel: my physical comfort and safety matter more to me than visiting strange and exotic places. Is that the definition of old or what?

Speaking of old, I am also reading Somewhere Towards the End, by Diana Athill.

Liberated woman or slut? She likes to kiss and discreetly tell. She is less discreet in her opinions, and I favor candid people.

What else has been going on lately? Our all-employee summer event was postponed at the last minute because it was inadvertently scheduled the same week as a global downsizing. (My department downsized last year, so we were left relatively unscathed.) We were to go bowling. We went bowling several years ago for the all-employee event. At that time, we were gifted tee-shirts in the company color with the company logo on the front. Not bad, I thought, until I unfolded it the day of the event.

Fridays are jeans day and I frequently wear this shirt then, which makes the person responsible for its design happy. She does not realize I am wearing it ironically.

Speaking of work, we are getting a new building next year and the new building will have new work stations. This is my current cubicle. (Sorry about the crummy pics - had to use my cell phone camera.)

This is your standard cube, about 9' x 9', with a hutch, some shelves, some drawers, a visitor's chair, and a 5-drawer file cabinet. I also have a white board and a hook to hang my coat. The cloth walls are about 5' tall, giving one the pretense of privacy.

Here is the new work station. (If you look closely, you can see the hand of god giving it the spark of life.)

Floor space is about 5.5' x 5.5'. Walls are about 4' tall. Shelves and drawers are limited; no white boards and no coat hooks. If one rolls one's chair back from the desk a bit, one is in the aisle.

The desk can be cranked up so one may work standing up...

... just in case one wishes to remain above the fray.

"They" set up two of these 6-stall pods, one right next to my cube, so I get to hear all the complaints and carping. Once the novelty wears off, two employees are going to take up residence.

In fact, here is one of those employees now, with another co-worker who is making sure the monitor is level by using an app on his Google phone.

Is that geeky or what?

Friday, July 03, 2009

A meme about ME! ME!

I stole this from other blogs. Ordinarily, I don't do many memes because they usually require thinking, but this one isn't too challenging.

What is your current obsession?
Knitting. I knit even when I don't really feel like it. I used to obsessively read fiction, but knitting keeps me from picking at my cuticles.

What is your weirdest obsession?
Some would say the knitting, but it seems pretty normal to me.

What are you wearing today?
Still in my jammie pants and a tee shirt. And my lobster slippers.

What’s for dinner?
I'm planning to stir fry, to make up for the bag o' chips I ate last night for dinner.

What would you eat for your last meal?
I would probably be too distraught to eat, but if not, a whole rhubarb strawberry pie with real whip cream.

What’s the last thing you bought?
Yarn and groceries, in that order.

What are you listening to right now?
The refrigerator. Oops, it just stopped. Now all I hear is the passage of time. Tick. Tick. Tick.

What do you think of the person who tagged you?
Nobody tagged me. That would require that someone actually read this blog.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
The house is not the issue. I would like to live in the country if I could find a rural area that was more blue than red. And flat but with trees. And no mosquitoes.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
South Dakota, to see where my mother grew up.

Which language do you want to learn?
I watched a French movie last night and marvelled over how everything, even "SHUT UP", sounds better in French. But Spanish would be more useful. Or if I learned German, I could transfer to the Zurich office. Not that I would.

What is your favorite colour?
Red. Red, red, red.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
I hate my clothes. I hate clothes in general. I'm a jeans-and-tee-shirt kind of gal, but right now, my jeans are too tight to be something I reach for automatically.

What is your dream job?
World famous novelist.

What’s your favourite magazine?
The New Yorker. The writing is usually quite exquisite.

If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on?
I don't know how much that is, but I would probably just put it in the bank.

Describe your personal style?
Lazy day dreamer.

What are you going to do after this?

What are your favourite films?
Lately I have been quite taken with foreign films. I can't tell if they are really better than Hollywood or if they just seem better because of the languages. The acting is definitely better.

What’s your favourite fruit?

What inspires you?
I am easily inspired, but not inspired to actually do anything. See lazy day dreamer.

Do you collect anything?
Coffee mugs.

Your favourite animal?
I like most animals but I will say cats because I cannot walk past one without engaging in conversation and offering a few scritches.

What are you currently reading?
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Highly recommended.

Go to your book shelf, take down the first book with a red spine you see, turn to page 26 and type out the first line:
"Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said, 'What do you call work?'" That's from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I don't even know where this book came from or why it is on my book shelf.

By what criteria do you judge a person?
Are they fatter than me? That's always a plus.

What skill would you like to acquire immediately?
To be able to run long distances. And to smoke cigarettes without suffering the consequences.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I think my evil twin lives nearby, and she has the medical community on red alert.

Several years ago, I went to a dermatologist. (You don't need to know why.) I had never seen this doctor before, but when she entered the examining room with her nurse/assistant, the two of them stayed by the door, about 10 feet away from me. I would have said, They acted like I had leprosy, but I assume that would have piqued their interest. Instead, they tried to keep as far away as possible until professional manners forced them into my force field. The whole episode discombobulated me - do I have BO? is my breath that bad? am I so hideous that a dermatologist finds me repulsive? - but perhaps they mistook me for someone else.

Then I noticed being treated oddly at my doctor's office. I don't go there often, so it's not like I am one of those patients begging for attention, and maybe they consider me a "problem" because I am non-compliant with the statins, but still. One time the nurse yelled at me over the phone in what was to me an obvious case of mistaken identity. At least, I realized she was mistaking me for someone else; I'm not sure she did. That nurse is gone (nervous breakdown?) and the new one is friendlier, but now I have to run the gauntlet to see the doctor at all. The last time I was there, I was seeking treatment for a sinus infection. This was the very day the media reported how antibiotics were futile against sinus infections, but my doctor had not heard the news yet. When I made the appointment, I had to list all the home remedies I had already tried. When I made it to the examining room, I again had to recite all my efforts to heal myself, this time to the nurse. And when the doctor came in, I had to repeat the whole performance AGAIN, after which he grudgingly admitted I had done the right thing by trying to treat myself at home with OTC meds and vitamins and herbs and voodoo before wasting his valuable time. Do they treat everyone this way? Is it just me? Or do they have me confused with someone else?

And then there is the pharmacist at Walgreens. After a root canal, which involved a double dose of Novocaine that actually made my brain zing, I stopped at the drug store for some pain relievers. When the cashier asked if I had any questions for the pharmacist, I said yes because I wanted to ask about drug interaction. Needless to say, with my numb mouth I sounded like I was mentally challenged, but the look on the pharmacist's face was uncalled for. To put it bluntly, she was horrified and repulsed and it took all her willpower not to run down the aisle screaming. Which made me laugh, confirming I was not only retarded but crazy and probably homeless as well. Or maybe she thought I was someone else.

Recently, an acquittance commented that she knows someone with the same name as mine. I wish I could remember who that was, and I wish I had grilled her for details, because I need to talk to that woman. Face to face.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interesting but not compelling

I watched "Frost/Nixon" last night. Since it was based on a play, I figured that watching would not be as important as listening, so I knitted while it ran. That may have been a mistake because I have noticed that when I knit and "watch" a movie, I'm not really engaged in the movie. Occasionally I will pick up my knitting halfway through a movie, but that is because the movie is boring me, and I either must knit or quit watching. And I hate to leave a movie unfinished, just in case it gets better or the last ten minutes make it worthwhile.

Anyway, I have vivid memories of the 1972 election because it was the first election in which I was able to exercise my franchise. I was a hippie back in those days, and spent a sweaty day or two at the county fair, (wo)manning a booth for some liberal cause I cannot recall. I do remember the men associated with the Committee to Reelect the President, though, because they looked like mafia hit men in their dark suits. I mean, really. Who wears a suit to a county fair except goons who need to hide their gats?

Having lived through the era in question, I expected to feel a stronger sense of history from "Frost/Nixon" but did not. As much as I despised Tricky Dick back in the day, I have also harbored a secret sympathy for him, maybe because of a slight resemblance between him and my dad (specifically, the jowls). The movie did not feed my sympathy, either. Something about Langella's Nixon just did not do it for me. I think Nixon was meaner and darker and more wounded in real life. And David Frost is not all that interesting just by himself.

Would I recommend the movie? Only if there is nothing else you really want to see. If you have seen the previews, you have seen the best parts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do you hear what I don't hear?

My SO and I went to a concert last night: the Derek Trucks Band. I had never heard of them, but the SO was really excited. And I have to admit, I have never seen him enjoy a concert more. He was practically leaping out of his seat, and the whoops kept leaking out even after the music stopped.

I am the first to admit that, along with the fashion gene and the shopping gene, I am lacking the music gene. Last night was a case in point. I tried to make sense of the music, looked for layers, picked around for subtleties in the wall of sound they presented, but to me, Derek Trucks sounds like a one-layer lasagna or a casserole with too many strong flavored ingredients where every bite tastes the same. But judging by the outbursts from the crowd, I was alone in my opinion. They heard something that I did not.

Part of my problem is that I am simply musically ignorant. I don't know a chord progression from a shift in tempo, let alone anything about the roots of rhythm or the evolution of a musical genre. Last night's finale was a case in point. The central theme to the piece was the melody from "My Favorite Things". Surprised, I turned to my SO and said, "That's from 'The Sound of Music'." He does not like show tunes, so I was shocked when he responded, "Yeah!" Okaaaay. Maybe it was meant to be ironic? But each time the theme reappeared, the crowd went wild. WTF? After the concert, my SO explained that the piece was from an improvisational thing John Coltrane did live at Newport. Ohhhh. Did everyone in the audience know that? Most of them were old enough, so maybe. Or maybe they just liked what they heard.

And maybe I would go to another Derek Trucks Band concert given the chance, if only to try to hear whatever it is that I don't. I did hear the bass, though, and so did my sternum. Can one suffer from cardiac arrhythmia from too much vibration? And I liked the light show; I'd love to have a set of those swiveling lamps in my front yard at xmas time.

A local group, the Todd Harrold Band, fronted. Todd Harrold I have heard of, as he is a co-host of the Burnt Toast Show, and I knew he played locally but did not know just what. I would describe their music as drum-centric funk? The guitarist moves the way I imagine Bill Gates dances, which was amusing, and they also subscribe to the wall of sound school of music. My feet liked the beat. Would I buy a CD? Probably not, but if someone invited me to another of their concerts, I would go.

So, while I spent part of the evening wishing I was home piddling in the kitchen in my jammie pants and lobster slippers, I have to admit it was an interesting event. My SO accompanies me to folk music concerts and fiber arts festivals, and this weekend's date involves signing up for a cancer prevention study, so I think I can sacrifice the occasional night of listening to music that I don't hear.

And just so I am not the only one suffering from a brain itch: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/Brown paper packages tied up with string...."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tricks I play

There is a co-worker in my office whose phone rings incessantly when he is not at his desk. For some reason, the calls don't roll over to voice mail. A ringing phone, especially one that you can't answer, is maddening. I don't really know this co-worker well, so I don't feel free to accost him in the hallway and tell him just how annoying his caller is. But I don't care to expend much emotional energy on this issue, either, so I pretend he has a relative who is mentally ill and who needs to contact him 24/7, sort of like the Laura Linney character's brother in "Love Actually". Then my quiet seething is transformed into Poor guy.

Several years ago, another co-worker spent a lot of time in our department conducting user tests on some new software. This woman tends to laugh - a lot - frequently to the point where she sounds like she is choking. It was rapidly driving me crazy. Again, I did not know her well enough to tell her to Shut the f*ck up! So instead, I pretended like she was my best friend. Oh, that Mary! There she goes again!

One more example is a contract worker who I considered a bit of a pompous asshole, but with whom I had to work on a regular basis. In order to calm my general crankiness toward this individual, I pretended his wife had cancer. Not that I wanted to wish her ill, but simply to generate a little compassion on my part. Give the guy a break.

I consider it part of my job to get along with my co-workers. Most of them are simply doing the best they can, sad as that seems sometimes. But occasionally I need to trick myself into being civil if not downright friendly, in order to get my work done.

Hey, it works for me.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dear diary

It has been a long time since we last "spoke". It's not that I don't want to write or that I don't have things to say. It's just that by the end of the day, a day spent on a computer at work, I'm not too interested in spending even more time in front of a PC. Maybe I should try for a weekly recap instead.

Let's see. Last weekend was Women's Weekend. A group of us have been getting together twice a year for over 30 years. It started as a response to our husbands' annual Memorial Day canoe trip. Our first "weekend" was just an afternoon, as many had nursing babies, but eventually we settled on a Friday-to-Sunday ritual, usually at a cabin on a nursery that the family of one of the women owns. We spend our time playing cards, watching movies, eating (but less and more healthily than in previous years), drinking (also less), smoking (cigarettes!), and talking, talking, talking. Over the years the topics have evolved, but we still have plenty to discuss. I enjoy the time spent with these friends, but I always come home exhausted and in need of detox.

Monday was Memorial Day, a paid holiday where I work. I had a massage scheduled in the morning, but got waylaid by a lost dog. I was eventually able to both reschedule the massage for noon, plus reunite dog and owner. Then, besides catching up on the usual weekend chores like laundry, I worked in the yard with the help of my SO who this year has been doing most of the "heavy lifting" - anything requiring more upper body strength than I can muster.

Tuesday it was back to work - ugh - and yoga in the evening. Wednesday, work and date night. We tried out a new place, the House of Greens - not bad, we'll be back - and went shopping for a new mattress for my bed. I have a queensize waterbed frame, but gave up the waterbed mattress about ten years ago. The current mattress has a definite valley in the center which is beginning to take its toll on my back. I was just going to replace it with something similar, but made the mistake of testing a memory foam mattress. More expensive but also more comfortable. Now I am torn. Wish I knew people who have these so I could quiz them, not only on the mattress's sleepability but also how they would grade it as a platform for sex. These things are important!

Thursday more work and new tires. I hate tire places in general - maybe it is the fumes - and they never want to make actual appointments and they don't have shuttles. I did get a lot of knitting done, though, and I am happy with the new tires. On the way home, I made the mistake of stopping at the Niagara store and wasted 'way too much time there because they are so desperate to make a sale that they did not want me to leave and I'm too polite to just walk out. By the time I got home, I was grumpy because most of the evening was shot, so I just put on jammie pants and sat down to finish Homicide My Own, by Anne Argula (if you like mysteries with strong female characters, this series is for you). My son called just to chat, which was nice and helped lift my spirits.

(One of the things we talked about was how most people live beyond their means because they cannot defer gratification, but not us. He said, I must have had good parents. And I said, I must have had good parents. And he said, And Dad turned out okay anyway. Heh.)

And then it was Friday. It has been raining for days around here and even though it looked threatening, I spent several hours out in the yard, working off the week's frustrations. Later in the evening, I started The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, but just could not keep my eyes open.

The weekend is finally here, with the usual chores but also the opportunities for R&R. Time for breakfast, yoga, and grocery shopping. Ta!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Take me out to the ball game

Last weekend we saw our newly named, newly mascotted, newly housed minor league baseball team make a rather feeble attempt at playing ball. Baseball games can be interminable, especially if the home team is playing like they are dazed and confused, but that did not stop the women in front of us from talking interminably to each other, even though they were complete strangers.

Fortunately, there were plenty of other distractions.

Unfortunately, my camera batteries died before the end of the first inning. We did have a good time, though. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the Fort.

After a wonderful, 5-day weekend, it was back to work, where I seem to have become persona non gratis with a certain group at our location. Things like this used to bother me, but now I find them amusing. While their emails to me are terse and simmering, my responses are lightly gushing, like I'm a dimwit who just does not understand that they hate my guts. I doubt the ice will ever melt, but at least I cannot be accused of fanning the flames. Unless they think I am being sarcastic. Heh.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

We're all winners

Before I forget, let me mention the refrigerator magnets I won in a contest at Thinking Some More. They were made by fellow Hoosier Christy and besides being very cute, are also extremely strong.

I am taking a few days off from the nuthouse, aka that place where I go everyday and they give me funds for kibble. Last Wednesday was nuttier than usual. I would give you a blow-by-blow description of just how nutty it was, but I have already expunged the experience from my mind. As far as I am concerned, until next Tuesday, I am retired.

So what does one do when one pretends to be retired but can't spend the days just lazing around because said pretend retirement has an expiration date? Well, there's the outside stuff like mowing and gardening and driving all over the county in search of plants. Then there is the indoor stuff like cleaning and cooking and rearranging furniture. There is the SO stuff like date night and phone calls and colonoscopies. And there's the family stuff, like power walking (which happened to involve walking through a fiber arts festival - roving!) and a Tin Caps game and a combined Cinco de Mayo/Mother's Day/May birthdays celebration complete with birthday pie.

The days are just packed.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


The other day at work, someone came to call for Jeffrey D. Jeffrey D was not at the front door to greet his visitor, so the security guard was calling around to see if anyone knew his whereabouts. When the guard called me, he had a brain fart or something and instead of asking about Jeffrey D, he asked if I worked with Jeffrey Dahmer. Surprisingly, I knew who he really meant, maybe because there are not that many Jeffreys here at work. But after the call, I could not remember Jeffrey D's real last name; I just knew it was not Dahmer, familiar though that sounded.

In my previous post, we were discussing money - or at least, I was - but I neglected to vent about my role as association treasurer and the fact that half of my neighbors cannot cough up $30 a year for our association dues without much arm twisting. These dues cover mowing of common property, private snow plowing, property taxes on common property, and postage. The postage would be unnecessary if everyone would respond to the fliers, signs, and online postings about the dues. Complicating the matter is the fact our dues are voluntary and our compliance rate is about 80%. I downplay the former because I am afraid that more would not pay, but I made the mistake of posting about the latter. Now all I get is, Why should I pay if my neighbors don't? BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO AND IT IS ONLY THIRTY BUCKS!!! I'm sure many of these people spend $30 a month (or more!) on lottery tickets (aka the stupid tax). But a few bucks to keep the neighborhood looking nice and to allow us to drive to work after an 8-inch snowfall? Wah, wah, wah.

I have a new pair of glasses. A new pair of $843 glasses which, thanks to vision insurance, cost me "only" $329. They are very light weight. They are also screwing with my depth perception - the floor looks too far a way and sometimes that makes me feel dizzy. I had not realized how fuzzy my vision had become. Everything looks crisp now. I just wish the lenses were bigger; it's difficult to find the right place to look through when one has trifocals. Consequently, I keep bobbing my head.

On the way back to work from picking up my glasses, I turned right onto a road that I thought would take me right back to the office. About a half mile down said road, nothing looked familiar. Instead of strip malls, I was passing upscale residential additions. I swear I took this same route just last week. Where was I?!? Because of the additions - which in this town should be labeled with warning signs that say "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" because they are super convoluted to discourage anyone from trying to take a shortcut through one, assuming there is more than one entrance - I could not take corrective action for several miles. And while looking for a way back without actually retracing my route, I kept trying to figure out where I went wrong. I also wondered if this was a sign of early dementia and/or a flashback. I eventually determined I had turned right too soon, and I eventually found a road that I knew would take me back to work, but whew! At least it was a nice day for a drive.

The pounds are not melting off despite the FBD, maybe because I am still struggling with the hunger thing. And at work, the boredom thing. And the sit-all-day-on-my-ass thing. My food choices were healthy before I embarked on this diet journey, but now they are even healthier, to the point where some not-so-healthy foods cause varying amounts of gastric distress. Like food from BK and the slow-churn low-fat ice cream from Baskin Robbins. At least, I think those are the culprits. Penn Station seems okay, though.

I'm up to 20 friends of Facebook! Most are blasts from the past, and it is fun to catch up with them. I also post pix of my yard and pets and knitting (geek!) So far, I have avoided joining groups or using the applications. It's addictive enough as it is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time and money

Today, in honor of Earth Day, I decided to recycle some office paper. I salvaged the paper clips and binder clips to reuse but otherwise tossed 3-4 years of my working life into the trash. The files started with 2003 and were thick with the defects I fixed for each release of the Big Fat Enterprisewide App, but by 2005 the defects were thinning and I wondered if maybe I was programming myself out of a job. In 2006 I received kudos for a task well done, that task being training our replacements, and again I wondered if I was doing too good a job. But I'm still here! Less one file drawer of paper to move to the new building, the new building that has not yet been started.

Thanks for participating in my honesty survey, although after giving it some thought, the survey may have actually been about money. Otherwise honest and noble individuals are often reduced to dunderheads when it comes to money. I'm surprised by those who cannot NOT spend every cent they earn (and then some!) or those who are well off but can't part with a single dollar for charity or those who think they are poor but can afford to send their kids to parochial school. And what we each are willing to spend money on is also very telling indeed.

I've come to the conclusion that I will never be rich, will always have to work for a living, but will also not become homeless or destitute, partially due to dumb luck but also because I try to make wise financial decisions. Somehow I have always found a job when I needed one, always made enough money to get by (although at times, things were a little tight), chose to have only two children, chose to own only one car, chose to live in a modest house (which is almost paid off!) I don't carry a balance on my credit cards, I avoid buying things I don't need, and I make an effort to share my so-called wealth with a variety of charities that are important to me.

While I am happy to buy my kids the occasional gift, they are both self-supporting adults who do not need my money (of which I am SO proud!) Several of those co-workers who thought I should keep the tax refunds that were not mine to keep subsidize the lifestyles of some of their adult relatives, presumably because they equate money with love and/or to assuage guilt. One fellow may wind up in bankruptcy because of his "generosity".

Several years ago (before the current economic downturn), my financial advisor suggested I was living too far below my means. But I look around and wonder, What else could I want? Really, the only thing I want right now is to be able to retire as soon as possible. Living below my means will help me toward that goal better than anything else. Besides, when you buy something, you have to take care of it even if you don't use it much, and also find a place to keep it. My house is small and my time is limited, so I'd rather keep my belongings to a minimum.

I know. I'm a bad consumer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Survey says

About five years ago I was accessing my checking account online and discovered two tax refunds, one from the federal government, one from the state. My initial delight changed to confusion in about two seconds because 1) I was not expecting any refunds that year, and 2) I had not yet filed my tax returns. I called my credit union to report the mistake (it turned out to be some transposed digits in the account number) and forgot about it.

The next year, the same thing happened. And the next year, too. Each time I reported the error immediately. After the third time, though, the other party was so impressed with my honesty that they rewarded me with their state tax refund, which amounted to several hundred dollars. Totally unnecessary but very nice of them indeed.

Each time these errors occurred, I related the story to my co-workers. Surprisingly (at least, to me), a couple of my co-workers berated me for reporting the error right away, suggesting I should have just kept the money and waited to see if the error was ever detected. I never considered keeping the money - someone was enthusiastically and mayby anxiously awaiting its delivery - and besides, it could easily be traced to my account. My co-workers then suggested I should have spent it, like that would have disguised the electronic audit trail.

Anyway, this seems like a good topic for a survey! Since not very many people read this blog, invite your friends and family to stop by and voice their opinion. I'm really curious to see if I am too honest for my own good.


Monday, April 13, 2009


I have not lost a single additional pound following the four-day jump-start of the Flat Belly Diet, after which I lost four pounds. This lack of progress is due to the fact that I am finding it nearly impossible to stick with 1600 calories a day because I'M HUNGRY! Instead of four 400-calorie meals, I am eating five. And while I am not losing weight, at least I have not gained any back. So, if I ever get down to my target weight, I know how many calories it takes to maintain.

My daughter is also following the FBD, more or less. I asked her if she was hungry, and she said, Yes, but she just tries to distract herself. So that is going to be my strategy, too - set hard limits on how much I eat and how often and when I feel hungry in between meals, try to find something to keep my mind off food. At home, this is relatively easy, but it would help if my job weren't so BORING.

In other news, well, there isn't any to speak of. Yesterday was Easter, but we don't really do Easter. Hell, we barely do xmas. I consider myself agnostic, my daughter is an avowed atheist, and while my son told me once that he believes in God, beyond that, things get a little fuzzy. (The only time he might have heard anything about God was during locker room prayers.) My dad had never been in a church until he married. My mom came from a long line of ministers and tried to get us to go to church once in a while, but it was a lost cause. When I found out that her brother had converted to Catholicism, I went around telling people I was "half-Catholic" as I thought it was like being half-Danish. Anyway, the closest to Easter I got this weekend was calling my dad and putting ham in the scalloped potatoes for dinner on Sunday.

No real update on last Friday's issue at work, either. Today was very quiet. Too quiet.

Friday, April 10, 2009

It was a good Friday

When I arrived at work today, it looked like having my carpets cleaned was going to be the highlight of the day, but it actually got better and better.

Several years ago, I wrote a little application that has run without fanfare or problem for a select number of users, until this week, when suddenly it began to hang after submitting a query to a database. For most users, instead of executing in a few seconds as it usually does, it was taking 5-10 minutes; for some, over an hour. Totally unacceptable.

After lunch, I found out that not only was my little app affecting its own users, it was slowing down everyone in the corporation who was trying to use our big, fat, enterprise-wide business application. Wow. I didn't know I had such power.

What's even better is, it's totally not my fault. Nothing has changed with my app for years, so it is either a database problem or a network problem. Dance, infrastructure team, dance!

I think my work here is done.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Crying at work

No, I did not get "right sized". Things were a little slow today, so I was stealth-reading an essay in the NYer by David Sedaris, trying desperately not to laugh out loud, mopping up silent tears of hilarity. Who thought a giant box of condoms in a shopping cart at Costco could be so funny?

Once the new building is built, I won't be able to do any of this - read, stifle laughter, dab my eyes - unnoticed. When we move into the greenest office building in northeast Indiana, we will trade our tall (over five foot) cubicle walls for short (three foot) ones. Ostensibly, this is so everyone will be exposed to the natural light streaming through the high tech windows. Everyone will also be exposed to everyone else. But, more importantly, everyone's monitors will be exposed to everyone else instead of just the techno geeks who monitor (heh) our Internet access behind the scenes. I predict the economy will suffer from the sudden slow-down of online shopping.

How can a company lay off 10% of its work force and still erect a new building, you ask? Funny accounting. My employer won't own the building; instead, they will sign a 12-year lease while someone else owns it. Still, closing an office in South America while erecting a building in the Midwest looks bad. I for one would gladly sacrifice my new (short) cubicle walls in favor of keeping my current (tall) ones if it will save someone's job.

For a while there, I was obsessed with doomsday scenarios (besides unemployment), to the point where I started collecting two-liter pop bottles to store water. I don't drink much pop, let alone from two-liter bottles, so I asked a co-worker to save me his. I was too embarrassed to tell him why, so I made up a story about building a cold frame and wanting to fill the pop bottles with water and use them as a heat sink. Now he periodically asks how my cold frame is coming along. I tell him I am still accumulating building materials for it, which is sort of true.

And, speaking of doomsday, I finally finished listening to Collapse on CD. Or I should say, CDS - there were 22 of them. A very interesting book, but I was disappointed in the ending. Jared Diamond sounded like he was going to make some suggestions about what we as individuals could do, but then he didn't. I think I will focus on reforestation (this from someone who last summer cut down four silver maples in her backyard) and population control. I hereby pledge to have no more children.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Our turn

Thursday morning, as I was walking into the building at work, I mused that things had been awfully quiet lately - no announcements, no town halls - and wondered what was up with that? Upon opening my email, I found out: 10% reduction in staff in the coming 12 months, by retirement, attrition, and "redundancies". Shit.

My department reorganized last year, and at that time, trimmed about 10% of the IT staff worldwide. So the general feeling, as expressed by my line managers, is we have already done our part. But I am sure they have a list of potential lambs to sacrifice.

I feel relatively safe because I support several esoteric but high-profile applications. One is being phased out over the next year or so. Another is slated to go as well, but the end date is TBD. The third actually generates income, and I am the last programmer standing on that project.

After revealing just how much money the company lost last year, the CEO and chairman of the board resigned a month or so ago. These were the two guys who kept reassuring us that everything was fine. Were they asked to leave or are they rats deserting a sinking ship?

Later Thursday, they announced some office consolidations and shifting business. We are supposed to get a whole new building in the coming year, but they have not broken ground yet. I will feel a whole lot better when the heavy equipment shows up.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Every hour is Earth Hour

Did you participate in Earth Hour? I wasn't going to because it seems the only ones who do are the ones who are already aware. My daughter shamed me into it, though. I spent the time taking a leisurely bath by candlelight. Shaving my legs in the semi-dark went okay, but don't try to clip toenails when you can't really see what you are doing. I peaked out the windows occasionally and determined I was the only one in my neighborhood who had turned off any lights.

Tonight is the end of the four-day jump-start for the Flat Belly Diet. I stuck with it, more or less. Saturday night I got hungry late in the evening and cheated by nibbling an extra tablespoon of pumpkin seeds. By suppertime Sunday evening, I was starving, so cheated again, by having 3.75 oz. of chicken instead of 3 and adding a teaspoon of butter to my potatoes. Then I ate so fast I gave myself heartburn, which is one way to kill one's appetite. Tonight I celebrated my relative success with a bite of dark chocolate, but I can tell I will need something more before bedtime. If I had to remain on 1200 calories a day, I would be miserable.

My analog scales say I lost several pounds. You know and I know that the weight loss is mostly water, but I will take what I can get. I don't feel lighter, but my face looks thinner, now that it is not all bloated with fluid.

Tomorrow I get to up my calorie intake to 1600 calories a day - four meals of 400 calories each. Whoo-hoo!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mad as hell

The other day I stopped by Kohl's to buy some slacks. The two pairs I have been wearing all winter are "winter weight" and I wanted some light weight ones for warmer weather (which I still believe in my heart of hearts WILL arrive someday soon). But while pawing through the size 16 "comfort fit" Lee's, I grew angrier and angrier because, once again, I am looking for "fat clothes" when I have a closet full of apparel I could wear if I lost 10-15 pounds. I left the store in a self-directed huff.

A co-worker of mine recently lost weight, after reading Mindless Eating but when I read the book, I gained ten pounds. The holidays might have had something to do with it, but still. All diet books I have read have been less than helpful. For one thing, they don't tell me anything I don't already know. Eat fruit instead of donuts? Duh. Avoid fried food? Double duh. Eat less and exercise more? Triple duh. And their recipes are either too difficult and/or time consuming to prepare or contain exotic ingredients not readily available in these here parts of the Midwest (although that is improving) or become tiresome after a while (Atkins - never thought I would get sick of bacon). And they don't tell you what to do when you feel HUNGRY.

And yet hope springs eternal. After I left Kohl's, I stopped at the library to pick up a book I had placed on hold: Flat Belly Diet. My expectations were low, but after perusing the menus, I thought, Hey, I think I can do this. For one thing, the foods are ones I eat already. Except for the occasional Peanut Buster Parfait (which are currently ON SALE), I make healthy food choices. I just eat too much of those healthy choices. And this book's gimmick are MUFA's - monounsaturated fats - which may help me with that hunger thing.

The FBD has a four-day jump-start phase, for which they even supply a shopping list, so Thursday I shopped up a storm at the Co-op and Krogers. Already I hit a hitch - some of the items on the shopping list are not available, like unsweetened corn flakes (or did they mean unfrosted?) and cream of wheat in individual servings. I'm not much of a cereal person, so I decided the Rice Krispies could substitute for all the cereals. I wish I had paid more attention to the jump-start menus, too, as I thought two "bunches" of mint would be like two bunches of parsley (i.e. HUGE). I could not find any bunches of mint, though, so I bought two little packages of fresh mint plus a box of mint tea. The mint is for their "Sassy" water and it turns out you need only 12 leaves of mint for each day's worth, so I have plenty.

Anyway, about $100 later (a lot of what I bought was organic) I was on my way. Yesterday was day 1. The Sassy water (flavored with grated ginger, cucumber, lemon, and that mint) is actually quite good. I'm not very hungry when I get up, so I decided I would have the snack for breakfast: one blueberry smoothie and two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds. Lunch was deli turkey, string cheese, and a whole pint of grape tomatoes (with NO SALT). I ate breakfast for my afternoon snack: Rice Krispies, skim milk, and applesauce; I ate the allowed quarter-cup of sunflower seeds midmorning. I'm not much of a fish eater, so I substituted chicken for tilapia for supper, which I ate with green beans and a measly half-cup of potatoes.

And you know what? I didn't really feel hungry all day, just vaguely dissatisfied. There is a journal to keep along with the FBD where you can rate your hunger, mood, etc. Since I became more disciplined about morning meditation, my nervous/emotional eating has decreased, so I'm not too concerned with my mood, so as long as I don't feel hungry, I should be okay.

Except for that no-coffee thing. The FBD is about avoiding anything that might cause bloating or water retention. I question the science behind some of their contentions, but decided I would take a hiatus from coffee. Or try to. I drank less than my usual yesterday and went to bed with a slight headache that turned into a major cranial meltdown by this morning. One cup of coffee and two Advil later, I was functioning, albeit in a bit of a fog. An afternoon nap and another cup cleared things up. Tomorrow I will try to get by with just one cup. Maybe. We'll see. I really like coffee. That and swearing are my final two vices.

Anyway, the jump-start part of the diet is 1200 calories a day, which I think is very low, so I am surprised I do not feel hungry. I tend to eat less on weekends, so I'm hoping I can stick with the plan. The regular days of FBD consist of 1600 calories, which will not cause rapid weight loss but should be doable. I would be more than satisfied with a 4-5 pound weight loss per month.

Which brings me to the before-and-after pictures in the book. One aspect of the FBD is to flatten your belly by reducing bloating and water retention. The other aspect is to flatten your belly by weight reduction. The photos represent one month of progress for each person profiled. Not a lot of weight was lost in one month by anyone, but some of those photos look fake, like the subject is either sticking her belly out in the before photo and/or sucking it in for the after photo. I am not taking any before pictures, but I did record my weight and a cluster of measurements for comparison purposes.

Every time I feed the dog, I think, This is what I need: a pre-measured amount of food, twice a day, to keep me slim. The FBD is kind of like that, because it says eat this and this and this, in these amounts, and no more. I am cautiously optimistic. But if I never blog about the FBD again, you will know it was a FAIL.