Almost there...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Incoming!

I can't say why exactly, but this video totally cracked me up:

As Cute Overload put it, "Listen, who hasn’t been tackled by an ecstatic four-legged goofball with zero coordination who slips on a banana peel, skids down a Slip and Slide, and regains instant composure?"

Duh!

Today's tab closing brought to you by the morpheme "Duh!"

Daylight Saving Time doesn't actually save energy. Duh!

We could all take a moment to pause and remind ourselves of some basic mobile phone/smart phone etiquette.

Some jobs really are better than others, and a lot of those take one or more college degrees.

And also, have you started reading "The Customer is Not Always Right" yet? I have to say, it both crushes my spirit, and reminds me to keep things simple, because the folks coming to my classes may not have a clue in the world. Take for example this little gem:
Customer: “Does this honey baked ham contain real honey?”

Me: “Yes, it’s a honey glaze.”

Customer: “Oh, I won’t get it then. It was for my daughter, she’s vegan. She can’t have honey, as she doesn’t believe in eating any animal products.”

'k thx bye!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Awesome Weekend

I started my weekend with errands that just couldn't get done mid-week. That's okay. It was fun to do a bit of shopping.

Next came sleeping in on Saturday and a walk to Linda's for Mexican breakfast. They have the best corn tortillas in the known universe. After breakfast came the yard work. It started simple: lay out the new soaker hose. But to do that, I had to move the stuff in the way. And to do that, I didn't want to do a half-assed job, so first I moved the pile of sand to the side yard, then moved the pavers on top of the sand. Then Erik helped me tote the weird old dog house out to the front for freecycle. Then I finally got the soaker hose laid out, but it was getting to late to take time to bury it. Meanwhile Erik weed-whacked the whole yard. Sadly, I broke the yard cart wheels with uneven ground and too much sand, so that will need to be repaired or replaced.

But we had to get going! David hosted a birthday soiree at Hanger One where we sampled a variety of their liquors and cocktails. We had:

  • Tasty Like Cheesecake
    featuring Aqua Perfecta Kirsch Eau de Vie
  • Thai Me Up
    featuring Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka
  • Pear Side Car
    featuring St. George Single Malt Whiskey
  • The Enlightened Cosmo
    featuring Qi White Tea Liqueur
  • Special - Coffee Liqueur
  • Root of All Evil
    featuring St. George Absinthe Verte

The new coffee liqueur was outstanding and the Qi White Tea Liqueur was a close second. Up til the absinthe, I wasn't feeling a thing, but the absinthe numbed my tongue and suddenly I was slurring like a drunkard. Oh well. Hooray for other drivers. We picked up the party and moved it to Forbidden Island to celebrate Elizabeth's 40th birthday just a little. When we got there, there was a bonus: Mice was sitting at the bar. I don't get to see enough of him, so that was a treat.

With something like six hours of drinking by the end of the night, we strolled back to Alex and Sherman's place for an early night and a good sleep. Sherman made pumpkin waffles in the morning for breakfast and then we headed out to tackle Sunday.

First, we braved Costco and came away with a lot of tomato sauce. They have the Classico Organic in 3-packs for $3 a jar. It's a great price for a very tasty sauce, but I don't like going to Costco often, so we got a lot. Next up, we got a push broom and a rubber mallet at Home Depot. Don't ask why a rubber mallet is so important, but all I can say is that there's been three occasions in recent memory where it would be the perfect tool for the job, and for want of a $5 mallet, other tools were abused.

Next up was the Ceili Picnic. Mackenzie came up with a brilliant idea here: lounge around with your friend in the park and get up and dance when the mood strikes. It's pretty awesome. We worked on Trip to the Cottage and some polka set figures. Erik got to learn my favorite dance and we figured out a few long lost polka figures.

The gang was breaking up and heading to Forbidden Island. Since we'd had our fill the night before, we headed homeward. En route we decided to stop at a nursery to look at things and ended up with two new fruit trees, a Fuji apple and a nectarine. We came home and I made dinner while Erik assembled a new bookcase. We finished the evening watching Night at the Museum 2 and Flash Forward while Leeloo played with the bag Fred had left on Thursday. Two huge eyes peering out of the black bag, with much pouncing and playing.

This morning, I just wanted to keep doing all that rather than returning to the far less satisfying tasks of the office, but I rousted myself from bed and headed into work. There's plenty to do, so I'm going to just keep chugging along until the next weekend. Next weekend is apparently the weekend of Steampunk with a Steampunk themed Friday Night Waltz and the Legion Fantastique PEERS Ball.

Zumba!

So I had my first Zumba class at lunch today. It was awesome. Sure, there's the basic, "You want my hips to do what? While my arms do what? Ha!" but overall, there was only one move I never really got by the end of the song. The class went by very quickly and by the end I was a sweaty mess, so I'll count that a big win.

So that brings the weekly tally of planned exercise/dance for the next few weeks to include:
- Zumba Monday and Wednesday at noon
- Ceili Monday at 9
- Tango Tuesday at 8
- Friday Night Waltz
- Ceili Picnic
- plus morning sit-ups and blog-reading weights

So, even if I don't climb on the elliptical during an episode of tv, I'm still doing pretty well most of the time (though I should shoot for two hours a week of that). Here's hoping I can wear my pretty burgandy vintage gown to the June Gaskell Ball.

Cute Wild Animals

Okay, I can't help it. Even with the goofy country music, the video of the two baby moose and their mama playing in a backyard sprinkler is just too adorable.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Science News: The Body

So I've been arguing with my body a bit. It seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to what I weigh. Back in 2006, I randomly dropped a bunch of weight. Since then, I've put it back not gradually, but in fits and starts where I suddenly gain 5-8 pounds in a month. I don't get it, because usually it's not like anything has radically changed over that month. The calories in/calories out equation just doesn't seem to balance.

It's looking like that though exercising 20-30 minutes a day, 3 days a week will give you a lot of basic health benefits, it won't necessarily keep you lean unless you go for calorie restriction. I'm not good at being hungry all the time, so I need more exercise. This article was a bit disheartening though: an hour a day, 7 days a week will keep you even IF you are already a normal weight. If you need to lose, it needs to be more than that. Ugh. So, I did 150 sit-ups, 20 minutes of hand weights (up to five pounds now!), and climbed the Clark Center today. Almost an hour. Oy.

Meanwhile, it appears our expectations for what makes a decent meal have continued to upsize over history, and not just in the last 20 years. The depictions of the Last Supper have ever increasing amounts of food on the table the later the painting was made.

The human body is a seriously weird thing. Research shows that we are actually less capable of learning during puberty. Our brains are too busy coping with hormones.

Speaking of hormones, turns out there's a hormone that controls why we aren't thirsty at night when we're sleeping (and are hopefully peeing less!).

In other weird body news, it turns out our tummies may like a nice French Roast better than other coffee. Our tummies like N-methylpyridinium, a chemical created in the roasting process. The darker the roast, the less acid our tummies produce.

Mmm... coffee.

Read to Kids

There's a mountain of research showing that one of the greatest predictors of literacy is the number of books in the home. Kids with 0-10 books in the home score far lower on reading comprehension tests than kids with more than 200 books in the home. In surveys, low-income, inner-city families often report an average of less than 1 book in the home. (Frequently the sole book in the house is the Bible, not exactly kid-friendly reading.) In fact, the number of words you hear in the first few years of life are a huge predictor of whether or not you'll make it out there in the world. This can be taught to anyone, regardless of income. The Harlem Children's Zone is producing AMAZING results. The This American Life story on it is inspiring.

Knowing all of this, knowing how important on so many levels reading to your kids is, this story of a father and daughter with a nine-year bedtime story streak just socked me in the gut. That is one seriously awesome dad.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Never Invest with LSW

My second year teaching in L.A., a salesman came in to talk to me about options for a 403b. I had one set up, but I let him talk me into an alternate one. This was the worst financial decision I've ever made.

The investment was crap. Whatever. Bad investments are what they are, and luckily, I left LAUSD less than a year later and never put anything else into it. I figured I'd get it out at some point.

But when I started working with Dorothy (my finance consultant) a few years ago, she worked on getting a bunch of stuff consolidated and rolled into accounts that could be centrally managed. We got through everything with a bit of fax this here, sign this there, save for this one thing from LSW. They gave her the run around. She asked me to try to run it around. I tried. I failed. She tried again the following summer. We both gave up on it for a while. She reminded me of it again when I went to check in with her a year later and we tried again. Total failure. There would be a half dozen forms to fill out, then a long wait period, followed by a denial for some reason that made no sense whatsoever. After the third time, I really gave up on it, and then let the hate boil each quarter as I got their statement and decided each time whether or not I was ready to fight this fight to conclusion.

But in November, I said, "I will get this done before the end of 2009!" So I started chasing paperwork. By early December it was all turned in. Then they said they needed an additional form from Dorothy, who was taking the rollover. Sigh. So, I got that form. Then they said they needed the signature from LAUSD again. Really? Really? Okay, so I got LAUSD to send their fax again. Then I heard nothing. Then I get a letter from them saying they needed the original paperwork filled out again because there was something unchecked. GAH!!!

Okay, okay, it's 2010. I can do this. So help me, I'm going to finish this.

So, I call them up, ask EXACTLY what they need from me. I make a list. The guy on the other end says, "Or I could have it sent directly to me, and I'd have 60 days to get it to my other person to do the rollover." This sounds perfect! It kills off at least 2 forms. Let's do that! So we fill out the slightly smaller set of paperwork, get a new signature from LAUSD, get everything faxed. And wait. And wait. I finally get a check, with 20% withheld for Federal taxes. Wait, what?!?

Dorothy says to call them back and see if they can send the whole amount, or send the withholding. I call them, and they say no, I have to send them back the check, and we have to do a whole other paperwork mambo, with signatures and forms from four different folks to go back to the original plan A. The thought of sending them the money back is not acceptable. Sure, the Feds have 20% of my money, but since the rest of this is getting rolled over, I can just put it in the retirement account and I won't have made that income, and I'll get that back at the end of the year. Worst case scenario, they keep the 20%, but at least I got 80% of my money back from the evil freaks at LSW. And frankly, as long as they don't have my money, I count this a win.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

PGP Causes Ammy to Whimper

My coworker walked in and asked, "What's your favorite grunge song of the 1980's?" I looked at her as though a tree had sprouted out of her forehead. I said, "Um, there's no such thing per se. Grunge sort of hit the music scene as a thing back in 1991. Why do you ask?" And she said, "Because it's one of the default security questions for the new version of PGP. I surely thought you'd be able to come up with this one." I was dumbfounded. No, really, grunge wasn't really a thing before 1991, unless you lived in Seattle. There were little outliers - you could technically class things like Soundgarden as grunge, but the term wasn't in the common parlance yet. It took Nirvana and Pearl Jam to do that. It's not really possible to have a favorite grunge song from the 80's. Why the heck is PGP asking an unanswerable question?

Meanwhile, I'm still staring at Linda. I cross-check to Wikipedia to make sure I'm not totally cracked, but really, I know this one. I graduated from high school in 1992, so this was one of the last shifts in pop music I actually paid much attention to.

I ask if there are other questions. She says she's trying to use the default first question that comes up for the documentation, but "Yeah, there are things like "The name of someone you used to go skateboarding with" or "The second person you ever held hands with."" Now I'm just agog. This is going to be awesome for Stanford. I'm sure President Hennessey will be able to wax fondly over his skateboarding days. WTF PGP? Seriously?

So after a few minutes debate, I tell her that the answer is None, or No Such Thing. She says, "Hey, that works. None is totally the truth for me."

Security questions have gone beyond stupid.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Body Fail

Today is made of body fail. I went to bed with a headache brewing last night. Took some ibuprofen before bed, but it didn't kill it. It didn't feel like a sinus headache at the time, so I didn't take any Sudafed. Bad choice. Today all the tell-tale signs of a sinus headache are present - burning eyes, desire to put pressure on various parts of my face, and huge desire to floss my teeth because clearly something is wedged where it doesn't belong. Taking Sudafed now. Harumph.

Meanwhile, I went to donate blood at lunchtime. The Blood Center was not keeping up today and seemed terribly understaffed. Though Erik and I had appointments, we sat waiting in the lobby after our appointment time, then had to wait for a chair to become open after initial processing, then had to wait to get someone to clean and prep, then had to wait to get stabbed. The whole thing took way longer than normal. I warned the tech of my vein's tendency to leap out of the way at the last second. She got it, but I noticed almost immediately that it seemed to be not flowing as normal. Sure enough, it mostly filled the mini-bag, and when she transferred the now non-existent flow to the main bag, nothing came out. Then comes my least favorite part ever - where they wiggle the needle around a bunch trying to get it restarted. Back and forth in in a bit more and out a bit. Argh and ouch! Now with sweaty feet and palms, we give up. I go sit and wait for Erik to finish up, annoyed and defeated. And I have a headache, which I've now realized is definitely a sinus headache since all I want to do when I get back to the office is to floss my teeth. Sheesh.

Out of 11 donations, that's twice they've utterly failed. One more chance and then I think I'll keep my blood to myself for a while.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Patrick's Day!

Every year I take St. Patrick's Day off. It's the one time of year when other people care about Irish dancing, so we gather and dance our legs off.

This year, we're planning to hit Oakland City Center at noon for dancing with Driving with Fergus. We always follow that with lunch at Le Cheval. Then Joreth has kindly invited us back to Nona's for corned beef and ceili. This should be yummy.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cleaning

Last week I was in Target and looking for some Bon Ami, which they didn't seem to have with the rest of the cleaners. Okay, so looking for some toilet cleaner. Maybe something different. I had some hard water stains that had built up and browned over time, and the usual Comet with bleach wasn't tackling it properly. So I took a close look at the options. There was a Lysol Power Toilet Cleaner on sale. There was an off-brand next to it called The Works. They had the same active ingredient, but The Works had it in a much higher concentration, and cost 4 cents more, and well less than the regular price of the Lysol. Let's try that, methinks.

I sprayed it under the toilet rim and brushed a bit and the stains just melted away. One flush and poof, it was all gone. Blink. Blink. Blink. Wow.

I mumble that this stuff is probably pretty toxic, but it sure does work. Erik, ever the chemist, says, "Oh it's probably not that bad." Then he reads the bottle. It's actually pretty darned strong acid. But man does it get things CLEAN! But seriously, wearing rubber gloves is required. One splatter on my hand stung almost immediately.

So I'm reading Gimundo and there's an article about using ionized water for cleaning. I suspect that might be a tad less harsh. I'm afraid my mother trained me too well to prefer a clean bathroom, clean kitchen, and generally clean house. When cleaning, her frequent refrain was, "Don't do a half-assed job of it!" So I learned to clean well. It's good, but I do find that my standards of clean are higher than most other folks ('cept maybe Alexandria whose mother I suspect had standards similar to mine). Still, clean isn't a bad thing. Research shows that people in a clean environment tend to behave better.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Taking Offense

There's a weird psuedo-Thai cafe on campus that sells cheap food, but you order off the menu, no substitutions, and you'd better darned well know what you want when you get to the front of the queue, even though you can't really see the menu until you're right there. I went once or twice, but frankly, it was insufficiently good food/price to deal with the pressure of the situation. It always felt like a stressful way to get lunch out, and if I'm leaving my desk, I'm seeking a relaxing experience.

It has been closed for a while. I'm not sure why. Someone posted to the Staffers list (an opt-in mailing list on campus intended for university staff):
Anyone know if the Thai Nazi is open? It was closed during the fall semester to re-open in a different location....please help?

Thanks!

The almost immediate reply was:
As a Thai who works here at Stanford, I am very offended by your “Thai Nazi” comment. While I understand why you call the people who run the café with those terms, I have two problems with your remarks. One – they are not Thai. Two – calling anyone a Nazi is highly derogatory.

I am surprised to receive this from someone in our community and especially that someone who works closely with our students.

Holy cow! So I write back, thinking yikes, big misunderstanding, saying:
Please don't take too much offense. I believe Shannon meant it as a humorous pop culture reference to the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, not as a direct referent to the Nazi party of Germany. She's referring to the food, not the nation or its people and the brusque attitude of the staff.

So here's the thing - assuming you know the Soup Nazi reference, why is it that you can willfully ignore the intended reference of the person and take offense for something that is clearly not their intention? It's a tricky thing, because there are plenty of backhanded ways to do things, but in this case, it's hardly the first time that I'd heard this referred to as the Thai Nazi. (Poor Shannon likely had no idea of the flame war she was about to start when she randomly repeated something that was common parlance around her office.) But to play the devil's advocate, I still hear schoolkids refer to things they don't like by saying, "That's so gay!" They don't actually really mean it as a slur against the homosexual community, but it does promote homophobia as a norm, and LGBT kids still struggle with harassment and violence in school. But is using something like "Soup Nazi" equivalent (or it's derivative "Thai Nazi")? Should Seinfeld have not been allowed to make that joke? Is referencing that joke the equivalent of calling someone a Nazi, and what does that mean exactly? And is it a reasonable expectation to assume that any use of the word Nazi is like using nigger or kike? And if so, must it be equally expunged from language the way those terms have been? And finally, what is the value of being offended? Just because someone takes offense at what you're doing or saying, does it make it wrong? I'm quite certain I offend lots of people worldwide with my uncovered hair and form-fitting clothing choices, but by the standards around me, I dress quite conservatively, so does it matter that I do offend some people? Is there a difference between controlling speech and controlling fashion?

Meaty stuff for a Monday morning...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Interesting Quiz

The Five Love Languages

My primary love language is probably
Acts of Service
with a secondary love language being
Quality Time.

Complete set of results

Acts of Service: 11
Quality Time: 7
Physical Touch: 4
Receiving Gifts: 4
Words of Affirmation: 4


Information

Unhappiness in relationships, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. Sometimes we don't understand our partner's requirements, or even our own. We all have a "love tank" that needs to be filled in order for us to express love to others, but there are different means by which our tank can be filled, and there are different ways that we can express love to others.

Take the quiz


EDITED TO ADD:
I took it again this morning to see how consistent my results were. After a decent night's sleep (a little too decent actually), I got a slightly different set:

The Five Love Languages

My primary love language is probably
Acts of Service
with a secondary love language being
Quality Time.

Complete set of results

Acts of Service: 10
Quality Time: 8
Physical Touch: 6
Words of Affirmation: 4
Receiving Gifts: 2


Information

Unhappiness in relationships, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. Sometimes we don't understand our partner's requirements, or even our own. We all have a "love tank" that needs to be filled in order for us to express love to others, but there are different means by which our tank can be filled, and there are different ways that we can express love to others.

Take the quiz

Hypocricy and the Religious Right

Why does this story happen again and again? Why do those who are loudest fighting for family values end up getting busted doing the very thing they rail so hard against? Why are they so very interested in controlling everyone else's behavior when they can't even control themselves?

And seriously, drunk driving nowadays? Really? How have you avoided the MADD lobbyists? Ugh. If you're going to do something you'd be embarrassed to be caught doing (like taking a guy home from the gay club), at least take a taxi. Or are you cheap, in addition to being a hypocritical asshole?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I Love Trader Joe's: Reason #427

Crispy Crunchy Apple Clusters.

The ingredients are: dried apples, apple juice, potato starch, sucrose, citric acid, and sulfur dioxide. They are formed into little balls of extremely crunchy splendor. Crunching into them is deeply satisfying. There's no fat, and one bag is 2.5 servings with 160 calories and 7 grams of fiber per serving. I shall have to get more. In fact, I think others must know about the happy crunchy goodness, so I'll bring some to Tank tonight.

Getting Back On Track

So the grand experiment to skip ceili and get to bed at a reasonable hour to get to work on Tuesdays on time is a failure. I didn't end up going to bed much earlier on Mondays, and I did manage to gain nearly five pounds in six weeks. Harumph. So, back to ceili I go. It was a hoot and I danced my legs off this week. Between Friday Night Waltz on Friday, Gaskell on Saturday, and ceili on Monday, I felt well exercised. I've also gotten back on the morning crunch routine.

But knowing that I really need more exercise, and especially something for my flabtastic arms, and being moderately inspired by the article Mackenzie posted about the perilous creep of desk-butt, I tried something new this week. I've got little three-pound hand weights at work. I've had them for a couple of years now, and I use them intermittently. But I've made a new deal with myself. While reading the morning posts (LJ, Facebook, etc.), I'll be exercising one arm at a time. I get one arm to drive the mouse, and one arm to exercise. When that arm gets tired, switch to the other. I can only read my morning fluff as long as I'm exercising. So far, it's working really well. Turns out I waste a good chunk of time in the morning reading this stuff, so it required switching back and forth several times until both arms are now a bit fatigued and better yet, I'm warm. This is a good thing. I spend most mornings freezing at the office. If I warm up my muscles, they'll be happier in the long run, and I'll be happier in the short term. This looks like an epic win. The only downside is my roommate wondering what the heck I'm doing and random passer-bys wondering if I'm waving my arms at them. I've explained to my roommate and she's all for it. The random passer-bys, well, they'll just have to deal.

Anyhow, suffice to say, I'd like to pry those five pounds off my butt post-haste, and follow them with the other ten that crept on last year. No more ice cream or pie for the near term. If it's not protein or veggies, I'm probably going to try to give it a miss for the moment, with little exceptions here and there so that I don't go completely daffy.

Also, playing Wii is far more vigorous than watching Lost. We played Toy Story Madness for the first time last night and I was amazed at the amount of flapping about that was required. A Wii Fit may be in my future. I am now curious.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Ross-Fu

It's that time of year again when Ross gets in it's spring dress collection and I go treasure hunting. I filled a basket full of dresses and tried on four batches. With the buffer of my recent tax return, I came home with a half dozen dresses. Sure, I only spent about a hundred bucks, but oh so very worth it. I got a cute dress that just screams "I fell off the set of Pushing Daisies!" so I must wear it with big sunglasses and a fabulous hat or scarf. I narrowly passed on a silk Evan Picone dress that was fabulously fifties, but was just a tad long in the waist. I got a great dancing dress and a couple of little jumpers that will work well on their own or with a shirt underneath. All in all, I was thoroughly pleased with an afternoon well spent.

So if anyone else has that itch - the I need a cute little sundress itch - now is the moment to go forth to Ross and fill your closet.