Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Site Updates

How is it that whenever I want to so something online, the site is updating? When I wanted to blog from the Grand Canyon, Blogger was updating - not totally down, but slow enough as to be useless. Now I'm bored with uploading pictures so I want to upload a couple dumb videos and YouTube is doing site maintenance *right now* and won't allow uploads.

Today was less brutal than yesterday as regards staying awake at work after two weeks on the noon to 4am plan of wakefulness. Kind of funny was during the first week I got a text around 1am from an old friend who was confused about which coast I lived on. I texted right back and got an expletive filled "I'm so sorry I woke you up! I'm on the noon to 4 plan and figured you'd answer in the morning." I wrote right back saying it was no problem since I was on the same plan and the same coast. Ahh, the good old days of talking to friends at 2am.

I was asked recently how/why I stay motivated to keep blogging -
(1) I like to talk. In the absence of that I type.
(2) Friends tell me they read it.
(3) There are ideas that I need to get out of my head, but want to keep hold of. Like the laundry sorting. Or designing low median flow faucets.
(4) I'm still not sold on facebook and haven't put in the time to figure out twitter.
(5) It's my equivalent of calling a friend at 2am when I can't call a friend at 2am.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Wow. I just got routed to the TED talks and I can't break away. I've seen Adam Savage from Mythbusters discuss obsessive creativity, undersea light shows, health stats of world nations, interactive computer images, Wii hacks, and am currently listening to Jane Goodall after which I'll stop, I promise. Go to this site. Watch and listen to these talks. Be amazed at how much cool stuff exists.

My promises are no good. Go watch This talk on Bonobos. Jane Goodall is the Mother Teresa of science, but I wish we were more like bonobos than chimpanzees. More love, less jive.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

500 Miles

I tried to live blog from the rim of the Grand Canyon on J's iPhone. There was decent reception - we each took calls while on the rim - but the connection was slow and it was 4pm - the time that Blogger decided to take the system down for maintenance. So no blog entry direct from the source. After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we had the option of finding somewhere to stay and either coming back the next day or heading over to Flagstaff or Sedona and spending a couple hours there before heading back. We decided we were pictured out, full up on new stimuli, freezing (27F when we left GC), and staying longer would not get us enough bonus to make up for a late drive back. So we stopped just outside the park for pizza and caffeine, and drove directly back to my place, arriving at 5am. We slept until about 11 or 12 then got up and about. And anytime we were here, J has hijacked my cable modem, so I didn't blog. Right now, he's out on a coffee quest while I use his computer.

Quick Trip Synopsis
We were able to rent a Prius for normal rates (not "exotic vehicle") rates from Avis. We picked that up on Saturday morning, finally booked some hotel rooms, loaded stuff up and headed out into the desert. I'd seen the Mad Greek place on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. I'm always looking for good Greek food and wanted to stop. It was ok, but not worth going if you're not already going to be there. It was rather pricey too. The restaurant was over decorated with kitch and I know why - it's 'at the corner of No and Where' and there's just not that much to do out there. I wouldn't recommend against stopping there, but it's only OK, not great.

Around 6pm Saturday we pulled into the first of our 2 hotels. We were unable to get a good rate on the strip at the last minute for saturday, so we were at South Point Place. They know they're off strip so they have lovely rooms and good amenities to make up for it. Like all casino hotels, you must cross the vast expanse of blinking, beeping casino floor to get anywhere. But in Vegas, they have all sorts of people working for tips. For a modest tip, you can get bellhops to drag your bags the 3 miles to the back of the place and up to your room, after leaving you car with the valet so you don't have to cross both vast tracts of parking AND vast tracts of casino.

We went on saturday instead of friday to save a little cash, but that made our decision for shows on saturday a little more critical. I really wanted to see a good Vegas show on a Saturday night, figuring they'd have their best people working on the biggest night. We decided on the Cirque show "Ka" at MGM Grand. There were no half price tickets but we got the cheap seats at the hotel concierge desk. Turns out there are no bad seats. That show was fantastic. All kinds of people doing stuff like human plinko down the side of a 85degree vertical stage with poles sticking out from it, or jump roping on top of a spinning cage. I just kept thinking "no, no, and hell no would I ever do that". I would have liked a tour of the stage mechanics, but we didn't pursue it past asking a few people who thought they used to give that tour but not anymore. Highly recommend this show for stunning stunts. Get any seat you can.

Sunday, we started off with the Sunday Brunch Buffet. It was ok, but J's assessment was that it was trying too hard to be inoffensive to everyone and therefore not exiting for anyone. It was vast but meh. I still had a good meal out of it though. Interestingly enough, this was our last big meal of the trip. Usually when J & I get together, we enable ourselves to overeat to the point of portliness. This time, we just didn't feel like eating. Maybe all the people, lights, and sounds were enough system overload that we didn't think to eat. But by the time monday morning rolled around, we realized we'd split a cup of gelato for dinner and should probably get some breakfast before the helo flight, but weren't inspired to have anything much.

Back to Sunday, I decided I needed to figure out how to play the slot machines having never done so before but for once (free) at a friend's house. I wanted to do it at South Point because we'd checked out so if I did something really foolish, we could flee and never come back. We wandered around for a while until we saw "Lumberjack Dam Beavers" and some Monkey game next to each other. We both put in $5. J got nothing. I was up to 1800 credits but cashed out at 1000 credits (there was some posting about how 1000 credits was $3 so I didn't mind losing the 800 points... until I cashed out the 1000 credits and found out it was $20. Huh. So I could have had closer to $35 for my $5. I guess it was my $15 lesson in how slots work. Later on in the trip, we searched out animal themed slots and one gemstone one. I kept winning $20 and jacob kept losing $5 for several iterations. At some point our luck reversed and I think we quit while we were about even.

Sunday night, After transferring to the Flamingo, we dressed up and went to see Wayne Brady of "Whose Line is it Anyway" fame. He's one of the best improvisors around. The first half of the show was mostly improv and funny, although I could have stood for less audience participation. The second half was him trying to get the word out about his singing and album. I just plain dislike that genre of music. Aside from one song with a chorus containing "Thundercats Ho", I could have done without. On the plus side, he did have some fine looking dancers out there and that distracted me enough to enjoy it. All in all, if you like improv or Wayne Brady, try to get tickets cheap, otherwise you can safely miss the show. It's shown in a theater adjacent to Blue Man Group, which I saw twice in Boston and don't have a continued enthusisam for but is fun to see at leas once, at the Venetian.

After the show, we wandered through the "Grand Canal" shops which are topped with an extremely convincing ceiling of blue sky and clouds painted on an arch. It honestly feels like daylight in there. It was 11pm going on midnight and it perked me right back up. I was ready to hit the town. We wound up watching Karaoke in the bar next to the Flamingo and having a pretty late night.

We got very little sleep sunday night and had to get up "early" for our 11:30am pick up for the helo ride. They send a limo around to pick up riders. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. People feel pampered to be in the limo, and it makes sure everyone gets there early enough for the safety briefing (the most important part being to never approach a helicopter from the rear or side-rear). I had arranged for a friend's brother to be our pilot, but he got called out for an emergency charter to somewhere really cold and couldn't make it. Our actual pilot (Sonny at Sundance Helicopters) did a fine job in his place. We had a fantastic trip. I expected the ride to be super noisy, jittery, bumpy and unpleasant. It was anything but. There was some noise -we wore headphones - and some vibration, but it mostly seemed confined to the instrument panel. Our views were fabulous, it felt like it took no time at all, and we flew over Vegas, directly over the airport, over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and then over and into the Grand Canyon where we set down for a picnic lunch. The trip was expensive but worth it. I think I'll be saving my pennies for more helicopter flights. (I did have the transdermal scopalomine patch on to avoid motion sickness and it worked great. Not even a twinge of sick.) One really cool thing I noticed about the landscape was the strata of the hills between Vegas and the GC are very slanted - some vertical - which is a stark contrast to the very level horizontal strata of the canyon itself.

Monday afternoon we napped a bit then walked down to the Tropicana to see a "Vegas Showgirl" experience. We saw the early (non-topless, but barely) Folies Beregere in its last week. It was a monday show and I think a little less fluid and coordinated than a saturday show would have been, but I got the essence. There was very little jumping around due to all the moves also needing to be performed topless at the later show. I'm still not sure why "top on with G-strings" is called "family friendly" on their information sheet - it's still mostly naked women parading around and flashing a lot of skin. We sat across from a mom and her two kids - her youngest a boy around 7 years old. I wonder about some people's childrearing decisions. Anyhow, I was glad to see a "classic Vegas" show and J was willing to humor me since we got half price tickets.

Ok, so this synopsis is neither a synopsis or quick. But I need to leave off an pay some more attention to my guest who is leaving tonight. I'll upload some pictures too. In the meantime, here's the remaining synopsis.
Tuesday: Day trip to Lake Mead and Valley of Fire (red rocks are gorgeous but wasted on colorblind J.) Dressed up after to wander around some of the Casinos we hadn't yet seen and Freemont Street.

Wednesday: Checked out and headed to Hoover Dam. Seeing it up close is cool because it's all Art Deco. Too cool. From there, we continued to drive across desert, chose to take the Rte 66 path up from Kingman. Saw a few Burma Shave signs but was otherwise not much of a kick. I suspect one could get more kicks on Rte 66 back when it was still ok to drink and drive and one measured distance across the desert by 6 packs consumed. Using the magic iPhone, we were able to get a cheap room in Williams, about 60 miles south of the park. The room had a cute little booth in a kitchenette which we didn't use because we went out for two very good meals (dinner and brunch).

Thursday: Grand Canyon day. Stunning hole in the ground. Even the paved paths are pretty scary when the wind is trying to blow you to Kansas. We stayed on the rim trail - much of it was fine, but after one section that was a little less travelled and had one too many washed out or otherwise precarious cliff edge areas, we got on the shuttle busses and just got out for various spur trails with lovely safety railings. We stayed for the ranger talk about the stars at 7:30, because we were looking forward to seeing the sky sans light pollution, but with 27F weather and 50+ mph gusts of wind, even with a ground blanket and overblanket we were COLD. I had on 4 layers up top and was still shivery. I tripped on the way back to the car (love those safety rails!) and scraped my knees, right palm, and knocked my right shoulder.

As I already mentioned, we decided not to try to see a mere 2 hours of Flagstaff the next day and set out right after warming up. the drive home was almost exactly 500 miles through a vast unlit desert which was akin to driving through an abyss. J did the first 100 miles and I did the remainder while he slept. I was actually more awake for that drive than I was on the Rte66 drive the night before thanks to 3 glasses of Dr. Pepper.

Anyhow, we're back. We had a grand time, but wore ourselves out with all the stimuli and picture taking. This makes it tricky to think of what to do today (we went shopping in Ventura yesterday) since I kind of don't want to do anything. So I'm blogging, J returned with coffee a half hour ago, and I'll post more later.

went on a quest for a way to link iPods to the radio. This involved exiting the 210 3 times to look for Best Buy stores - the first was a fakeout as the sign was next to the road, but the store was still under construction. Then, the iPhone directions led us astray, but the third time worked. After all that effort and passing a couple Targets, J forgot to use my BB gift card! We lucked out though that there was an aux port so we only needed a $10 cable instead of a $50-$90 FM transmitter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blinky, Blinky, Blinky

Having a drink (muy expensive) at Caesars with friend in short skirt. Getting overloaded with people noise and lights. Took day trip to Valley of Fire today for a depopulated adventure.

My first helo ride yesterday was awesome. Not what I expected- much better! The transdermal scop was a lifesaver. Going to stumble back to our room shortly. Written on iPhone hence sketchy on detail. Saw some shows, threw $ at everyone - thats Vegas!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crack of Noon

My friend is here. Yesterday, we went to the beach and found a variety of vertebrae washed up onshore. We're leaving for Vegas in maybe 10 minutes. If we can get our butts out the door.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elephants from Ants

When I was studying languages, in particular Russian, I became aware of difficulties in translation, most all due to idioms. In American English if we want to say "don't make such a big deal out of a a small problem" we say "don't make a mountain out of a molehill". In Russian, you say "don't make an elephant out of an ant". So if you were to translate that phrase from one to the other, given that you knew both which is not usually a given, would you translate the words as is, or the idiom? Who is your audience? Should you footnote it? What are the pros and cons of each choice? I would be paralyzed by indecision. What you don't want is your reader to say, "It's Greek to Me", meaning it's incomprehensible.

On that topic, what's incomprehensible? A friend found this cool chart of which languages find other languages incomprehensible. Seems a lot of countries find Chinese or Greek to be the be the language they don't know.

Got any other cool language facts about how languages do the same function in different but similar ways?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back to Basics

When I'm feeling uninspired by a topic but want to post, I try to go back to basics and post three things which made me happy today, even if the day was a miserable suckfest, all told. Because who needs to hang on to that? Today wasn't a miserable suckfest, but the closest I got to a party was walking by the already full British Pub down the street after my hair appointment, which I wasted by sleeping on the couch. So. Sleep still funky since I wasn't even able to muster the oomph to stagger to a bar on St. Pattys. But good things happened.

  • Walked to and from my hairdressing appointment, and the day was gloriously nice out. Not too hot, not too cold, and many degrees warmer than the 60F afternoons we've been stuck with for the last several weeks on end. I actually hauled out capris and a short sleeve top without a long sleeved undershirt for the first time in dogs years. Spring, it maybe sorta might be here!

  • My cut and color went well. Stylist Emily is new at the shop having moved from the midwest and the northwest to follow her bf who works for Budweiser. (Turns out Budweiser has some corporate offices right around the corner from me. Who knew?) Anyhow, back to the good stuff. Teeny tiny, barely 5 foot Emily is in the process of building her clientelle. I like her. She's cheerful, cuts a good a-line, does a scalp massage, and likes to experiment with color. The (Wella) color did not burn, sting, tingle or in any way indicate that I should not use it again. The results are good, the color looks nice but a little more brown than red - which can be adjusted since she did the mix herself. Since I can pretty well afford the prices, and if given 10 minutes I can walk to the salon, Emily might be a keeper.

  • The Vegas and Grand Canyon guide books from the library are yielding information. I'll need to check in with my buddy tomorrow and book us some hotel rooms, but I have more confidence in our choices now.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I'm developing quite the to-do list for tomorrow. This weekend, I took it easy, once again sleeping almost clean through saturday. The neighboring community college has a 2 year zoo program. Today, I went to the "Spring Spectacular" themed Parrots of the Carribean show there and it was a reasonable way to kill a couple of hours outdoors. The animals seemed pretty pleased either with the 60F and overcast day (not too hot, not too cold) or were big showoffs, based on their activity levels. The primate cages are strung with old firehoses for the monkeys to swing on, and they did. The parrots and similar birds were very vocal. Not with any clear speech as such. During the little animal shows and demos they did, they were good at pointing out what is and isn't a good pet - box turtle, tarantula, bearded dragon = good pet; any non-domestic cat? bad, bad pet. Parrot? If you want to deal with a noisy, cranky, pissing bird who will live 80+ years, likely hate your spouse and kids, and in general have the temperament of a toddler, it's your call, but they don't recommend it.

Me, I'd dearly love a dog - if and only if I had a hope of it getting walked in the morning, and preferably had a yard. So for now, when I get pets, they're usually in hamster form. Right now I am pet free, but I did wind up with a plant. As a get-well gift that was "funky and colorful" from the admin at work, I have a yellow, pink, and orange bromeliad. Which is cool because it can be overwatered it every so often then let to dry out sometimes. Since that is how I water things, it should be pretty happy. Next week, though, it'll get a garbage bag terrarium treatment, if I remember, while I go see the big hole in the ground.

Friday night, though, I wanted to go out and the boy was willing. I'd been seeing commercials for Joe's Crab Shack's steampots. When I saw the commercial, I realized I hadn't had much crab in the last few years - having mostly lobster - and I wanted, wanted, wanted one. This crab pot was not cheap but not wickedly expensive at about half or a third of the price of the local seafood shack (Neptune's Net in Malibu). It was actually pretty good - the crab was well cooked in our pot for 2 and that's what I was there for. The few shrimps were pretty overdone, but I wasn't there for shrimp. The dipping butter was really salty (but not as bad as the Macaroni Grill food which I had thursday at lunch with my colleagues. Just call that place the Salt Lick and be done with it.), the corn on the cob was overcooked (it always is, in these dishes), the potatoes good, and better with the salty butter. There was also a superfluous sausage which I had for breakfast this morning.

Back to the crab. We got a couple of full leg sets with knucklemeat. I've found that eating knucklemeat first is best because it's fine when hot but kinda not so good when cooler. Then eat the small legs, working up to the bigger claws which hold the heat longer. With a lobster, I eat the tail last. If I tried to eat it first, it would be too hot and by the time I'm done with it, the small legs are frigid. The other way around saves the best for last, if you're not dining with locusts who will snatch it from you.

So when we got our pot, I started divvying up the legs and the boy asked what to do. I said to eat the knucklemeat first. But belatedly I realized what he meant was, "how do I eat crab from the shell because I've never done it before?" How can this be? When I was a kid, my brother would try various means to get my parents to take us out for all-you-can-eat crab legs. I ate lobster before I was 2. Like swimming and using chopsticks, I don't remember learning to eat crab. I remember getting some repeat lessons along the way as our dexterity improved, and learning new tricks. My brother is a master at getting whole meat from crab legs. The boy? Never done it before. I still can't get over that. He ate a fair amount, and I gave him the plurality of overcooked shrimp, which were also in the shells and he ate the first one without peeling it until he saw me peeling mine. Gotta give him points for trying, especially since I was pretty focused on the crab and not on him.

Also, when he came over for dinner on wednesday, we made a salad and cooked mango chicken, which I think is great. I made 2 trays in the aluminum foil so we could load our respective sides with stuff we liked more (I had more mushrooms, he had more potatoes). He wasn't sure about the mango. Using the trick of "if you help prepare it, you're more likely to try it", I had him peel the mango. I've honestly never seen a mango peeled like a flower with all the strips of skin still attached at one point on the bottom, but it got the job done. And he was willing to eat it. He was also willing to try a chunk of raw cherry tomato (the only kind outside of Greece and Italy I can eat raw and like, rather than tolerate or hate), and a floret of raw cauliflower, against his personal instincts. He'd never eaten raw cauliflower before and allowed that he liked it better raw than cooked. So not only did he try at least 3 things he doesn't usually eat, he ate his whole dish even though I accidentally over spiced his side with hot sauce thinking it was mine.

When he helped me carry the bromeliad in from the car, he set it down on a trivet rather than on the bare table. Just this week, he ate 4+ foods he was unfamiliar with or leery of - all of them touching other foods to top it off - and claimed to enjoy them. This from the guy who orders double mashed potatoes with his meat from KFC and Outback. And this is part of the reason I haven't given up on him for being a flake. He hasn't dated widely, he hasn't ventured far from mom's cooking, he's more trained than I am about treating furniture nicely, and he's willing to try stuff he thinks is bizzare when I ask him to. I'm not sure if this is to make up for the Valentine's day debacle or if he would have done it anyway, but I did hammer home the fact that he needs to go to dinner with me sometimes if he wants me to stick around, and "mom already made dinner" is not an acceptable reason to flake if we have plans. And so far, so good. He seems a little surprised at liking weird food, but I hope he's also pleased.

It's a little weird to me that he's never cracked a crab leg or eaten a mango or raw cauliflower.
It makes me realize that stuff I take for granted, has maybe never crossed his path before. And so I'm cutting him a little slack. But still, I think if his house purchase goes through, he might be over there all the time and I'll need to find someone else to hang with - after I help him out on his place a little, it's only fair. I'm going to look out for someone else interesting, just in case, but flake boy seems to be learning, at least a little, and is returning to the "fun" category of ways to spend my time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Short Timers

Well, today's the day. Last day before our 2 week shutdown. I'm taking one week unpaid and I'm still not concerned about that. (Better to have one week unpaid than destabilize the business. I get that.) But dang, I really, really want this time off.

My plan for today is to present some data to release some engineering test material on hold, clean up my fab and desk area, make sure lots are held at the right stages and locations, and make a list of projects to start with when I come back.

I'll be around for most of the next week, then my friend is coming out and we're headed to Vegas and the Grand Canyon and the helo tour. Please feel free to email me or comment with suggestions about good hotels to stay in or the "must see" things in either place. I've gotten as far as pricing some hotels and tours at expedia, but I've never been and don't have a good sense of what to spend my time on. Except good food... I should email my foodie friends about their Vegas haunts.

If you were waiting for me to email you will all my free time, I've been using most of that time to sleep. It's the perpetual hope that I'll actually get through my list regularly, but so far, not yet. And I know that when I'm away from the office, I tend to be offline a lot more. Can I go home yet?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are We There Yet?

No, not there yet. Complicating the "am I still sleeping to heal?" question is the daylight savings. I really wish we stayed on Daylight savings time all year. My mental health is so much better when I leave work in the light. Still and all, the transition is brutal and I've conked out on the couch after work both yesterday and today. At least last night, I then tossed and turned a lot. We'll see if I can sleep tonight. I have hopes even though I slept clean through the new Dirty Jobs episode.

I picked up my mail today and had 3 oversized packages, two small and one medium sized. One is my regular arrival of face lotion from Amazon. Olay Total Effects with SPF15 and no scent is $14 on autobuy, mailed to my home or $17-$19 in the store and rarely on sale. The next was a free book! I recognized the town it came from, but only in that "I've heard that name before" way. I have the memory of a spastic gnat recently because it was offered last week, which I remembered as soon as I opened it up. (I like the first 20 pages.) The last and biggest package was a surprise care package from a friend for my recovery containing little stuff, a tea I like, some books, and a caramelly-hint-of-cocoa booze to use as ice cream topping. (That last thing may have contributed to the couch nap today...) It was not lost on me that 2 of these things arrived because of the now defunct book club. I can't tell you how many times I automatically typed my shortcut into the browser. Sigh. Thanks gals!

As to the healing, the throat is still itchy, but not painful as such. I'm back on all foods including citrus and hot sauce. I can still hear better than I used to, judging by the volumes I'm using. There's still a tickle in the back of my throat that feels like a wayward stitch, but there's nothing there I can see and not stitches. It's the first sensation I remember from waking up out of anesthesia, and still there. I'll ask the doc on monday at my 2nd postop, monday, if there's something we can do.

Speaking of docs, I had to have an office visit for my first prescription from this doc of transdermal scopalomine. This is the anti-motion sickness patch worn behind the ear. I used one (or 2, rather) for my SEAL fitness camp in 2004 (Jeez, was that 5 years ago????) and they worked great and I had no side effects. Hopefully I will continue to have no side effects (no dry mouth beyond normal, no enlarged pupils, etc...) since it's my best shot of enjoying my Grand Canyon adventure - in a helicopter! I don't remember if I mentioned it here already or not but the lead pilot for this outfit is the brother of my former diving buddy. (Was that back in 2004 also? Jeez!) That means I've been working up my nut to do this trip for about 5 years and it'll happen in a couple weeks. Whee! Beats the pants of a mule tour and steep cliff trail edges, I have no doubt.

I did want to rant a little though. My last urology appointment was only covered about 10% by my insurance, sticking me with a $400 tab to learn that while there's something wrong with me, no tests can confirm that, tell me what's wrong or how to fix it.. The policy costs about $4500 a year (total contributions), and my out of pocket costs went up 50% this year in the form of $30 copayments instead of $20. What, you couldn't have gone to $22 or $25 first? So the brief meet-n-greet with the doc was $30, and I have no clue in advance if the insurance covers it or not. Then the anti-motion-sickness patch will cost $10-$30 for 4 patches (max 12 days), unless the actual cost is less than my copay (unlikely when compared to other med purchase experiences). So that's $40-$60 and 45 minutes out from work, in addition to the cost of the helicopter trip, to get souped up dramamine without the side effects. All because I'm such a demanding person, I want to be awake for the experience.

That seems like an awfully steep opportunity cost. On the plus side, if this works for me, I can just call in a request from here on in when I feel like whale watching, and it means not wasting the cost of a helicopter trip. But damn, that's a lot of money for something that should be a trivial expense. It's more than a week's worth of lunch with a dinner out. It's a couple months of impulse buy runs to the bookstore or Amazon. It's more than I spent on most people's christmas gifts. It's more than I've spent at iTunes cumulatively. It's about what I'm willing to spend sponsoring friends who need charitable contributions, when I can't contribute time or glass for auctions. Speaking of which, it's also an hour in the glass studio - where I would like to go if my right arm tendinitis doesn't keep me from maneuvering safely. It's no wonder that, the last I read, 50% of American bankruptcies are from health care costs and 75% of those people were insured at the time of incurring crippling debt, if even stupid stuff has significant impact on the discresionary - or necessary - funds.

But still, it's a pretty good day. Not a numerically cool one like 3-3-9 or 3-6-9 or 3-9-9 like we just had, and with the additional minor aggravation of our email and document database being down for half the afternoon the day before an audit and 3 days before shutdown, but still ok. (Why the program doesn't have an "are you sure you want to mail a 60MB file to "all"? " prompt before sending if it'll crash the system, or an easy compression program, I'll never know.)
  • I got my prescription and my awesome pharmacist will have it filled tomorrow.
  • I remembered to get gas before running out of it. Could have been a baaaaad day, but wasn't. The reminder light helped. (I think it helps me more because I almost never let the tank get low enough for it to come on, so it registers more strongly as "not the same" than if I ran it that low every time.)
  • Care package! And just when I needed more "Zen". How cool is that?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cabin Fever

It turns out that even when you live in Southern California, you can get cabin fever. Today's remedy was taking a road trip to San Diego with a book club friend and mother of 4 who was ready for a soccer free afternoon. We'd considered going last weekend, but that was too optimistic. Even though I slept all day yesterday, I felt fine today. I only woke up about 20 minutes later than I'd planned to, which isn't bad considering the time change.

We've done this a couple times in the past. I start out in the AM, pick her up and then we head on down. Today, the traffic was moving so fast (I was closer to on time and we didn't linger in OC) we drove until we saw the "last exit in US before Mexican Border" sign. Oops. We managed to get turned around, then headed - via several one way streets through downtown - for Con Pane, my favorite bakery. It's over west off Rosecranz past the airport. After managing to stop short so as not to get hit by someone running a read light (why are all my close calls in San Diego?), we had some super turkey club sandwiches with sundried tomatoes and avocado on artisanal bread. I also bought a couple loaves to bring home and freeze. Love the cheese and chive bread.

The bakery was packed, so we headed up the scenic neighboring street, Canon/Canyon, which wound its way around to Point Loma, Cabrillo National Park. We parked near the exhibit and gift shop buildings, took in the view of the Pacific and all the boats cruising into the waterway between the point and Coronado, and in general had a peaceful time. Afterward we drove down on the far west side to go play in the tide pools. I managed to do it with shoes on; my friend took hers off and walked through all the slime algae and seaweed. I was impatient and was looking for big scuttling things. Due to my friend's patient observance, we managed to find all sorts of tiny little crabs tucked in rock crevices that would dart out to pick algae off the rocks and eat. She also found a hermit crab. The place was covered with anenomies which looked like patches of congolmerate shell because they grab onto scrap shells for camo. Of course, once you know they look like little shell patches, it makes them easier to find.

We had a nice soothing day and decided to head back not long after. There was pretty much no line for us when we entered, but we passed maybe 50 cars queued up to enter when we left. It wasn't a matter of parking, as there was plenty. But we couldn't figure out why so many people were entering an hour an a half before closing, with an extra hour to wait for sunset. Traffic was pretty decent headed back up as well and we made it back to her stomping grounds in time to catch the used book store. I picked up one book, she got about 5. It would have been easier if I'd brought my list. (There are some authors whose names I remember, but I can't remember if it's because I hate them or want to try them. But I took the auxilliary bag, sans list, sans passport.)

We also had a nice chat after we got back. A couple of her kids ran through to say hi on their way to dinner with dad, who had been in charge for the afternoon. Then she did some picking up while we chatted and I tried (mostly successfully) to level a pair of skewed cabinet doors. After that, we went shopping in her yard. I got to bring home a big bag of citrus, which I have healed enough to eat again. I just finished my glass of lemon-orange-ade. Yum.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

California Dreaming?

Or Boston Dreaming? I've been trying to allow myself to sleep all I want during the surgical recovery period. I'm almost healed, I think, but not quite. The result of this is that I might be sleeping a little too much, which I know has happened because that is when I have my most vivid dreams.

When I realized this morning that I remembered my dream clearly, I also realized I remembered many similar dreams. This one, though, I can't figure out. Where it comes from, what if anything it means, no clue. If anyone can give me an interpretation, I would find it entertaining.

Not much to it, really. In the dream world, I'm looking for parking. Los Angeles has lots of bad traffic, but many places to park. This was more like parking in the Framingham shopping area outside Boston during the Christmas shopping season - very little forward movement, the roads get crowded and parking ever more elusive. So where do I find parking? _In_ a stripmall, on a hill (San Fran steep hill), next to my ENT doc's office, there is parallel parking next to the wainscoting.

In reality, my ENT is in a medical office park (offspring of the strip mall in that the individual office segments are not lined up but are staggered and rotated) on flat land, not in a strip mall on a hill with a drive-thru hallway. Nor would he have his office 3 sided (like a sitcom stage) so that when someone drives up and asks if it's really OK to park there, he'd interrupt his appointment (some guy and his son getting the son's ears checked) to turn around and let me know it was fine.

I know that I've had this dream before because I now remember having been (1) unable to find parking then drove by the office (always on the left side of the street with a left hand curve making it hard to anticipate) where I saw cars parked; (2) parked next to the one-side-open office as the only car; (3) drove around the one side office because it was already full of parking, and parked facing downhill coming back the way I came further within the mall; and (4) parked next to the one-side-open office in the last spot.

One thing about CA, I almost never parallel park anymore. In Boston, my average was once a day, maybe 1.2 times a day. I'm not sure why I'm repeatedly dreaming about having difficulty parking until I find the one unlikely place that seems reliable. At least it's better than crawling through progressively smaller holes and tunnels where there would otherwise be doors, my usual standby.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Comfortably Numb

With a Mai Tai, my first alcoholic beverage in several weeks, and the final demise of my online book club, I'm a little numb. It helped that my drinking buddy was a book club friend. But this is going to resonate for a while. Without the book club, I might not have moved to SoCal. I certainly wouldn't have the friends I have in CA, both in SoCal and NorCal without it. I might have taken a different avenue to get friends, but I don't have illusions it would have worked so well. And now?

After the fatal blow to the book club in November, it could either rise from the ashes or fade to a remnant of its former self. Or option three, fade, start to come back, then a fresh poison injection comes along and people were no longer willing to give the club owner, the moderators, or really even the members in general, any leeway for being human let alone the benefit of the doubt. And today, it imploded. C'est la vie. The book club is dead. Long live the blog.

So I'll be looking for something to do with my time. I'm going to be feeling friend challenged for a while. Maybe just acquaintance challenged really. I've been feeling friend challenged since the brouhaha. Need to figure out a new and better way to keep up with people and culture and stuff. I've been itching to reconnect with friends I haven't kept up with so well so don't be surprised if you get more email than you used to. If you expect email and don't get some, pester me. I'm still trying to figure stuff out. Let me know how your life is going, if you have good internet sites where I can meet people, or just read random interesting stuff at all hours. Drop me a line when you can.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I found you a new job

You can tell what's up with the economy by the spam received by email. 3 years ago, it was all cheap drugs, fake online degrees, and body part modification - bigger, smaller, harder, softer, depending on the part. Now the drugs have dropped to maybe 5% of the total and job search or home loan titles dominate more than half the spam I get. There are still some online degree ads, but those now seem relevant to how to get a new job and seem more real, like "get certified from home in medical records keeping."


In other commercial offerings, I take exception to the "High Fructose Corn Syrup is just corn and not bad for you" commercials. HFCS is fine in moderation, they say. What they don't say is that it's almost impossible to restrict HFCS to anything approaching moderation in a modern American diet without taking draconian measures.
  • For breakfast, your store bought orange juice, toast, peanut butter, jelly, AND cereal can all have HFCS if you don't take measures to prevent it. That's not moderation.
  • For lunch, your soda either has semi-poisonous sweetners in it or HFCS. A hamburger bun will have HFCS as will your ketchup. Maybe even your fries. Or, if you have a ham sandwich, your bread, mayo and ham may all have it. If you get a salad, your commercial salad dressing will almost certainly have HFCS. As will some yogurt. That's not moderation.
  • At dinner... I think you get the idea. Also, any dessert you have is more likely than not to have HFCS.
When 80% of the foods you eat during the day contain HFCS, unless you take special steps to prevent it, it's not moderation. And THAT is what people are saying about it - it's well nigh inescapable. Unless you buy the more expensive foods, which the people they're aiming that commercial at are least likely to be able to do. I live by myself so I can "afford" to spend $5 on jam with no HFCS instead of $1.80 on the HFCS stuff twice its size.


While I'm ranting, please ladies, if you can't move your upper lip due to implants or Botox or whathaveyou, you look sick and ill, not voluputous and sexy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Awakened by Ass Demons

I had my first post-op appointment today. The assessment is that I'm healing normally, which is to say I really shouldn't try cauliflower again until after thursday or friday. (I haven't yet tried over-steaming or over-boiling it and then pureeing it, but anything less than that seems to be akin to swallowing sandpaper.) My throat still looks "terrible" but normal. (There's white goo back there as if I had strep.)

The ENT doc was tricky. He didn't warn me that he would be vacuuming goo out of my nose until it was too late to do anything. It got rid of some 'scabby' mucous that was plugging up the works and re-stored my breathing to more what it was like the day of the surgery. (It has been progressively plugging up.) The procedure wasn't so much painful (he used a numbing spray) as awkward, invasive, and unpleasant. Still and all I squirmed like a 5 year old who won't eat anything if something green is touching his mac-n-cheese trying to escape the booster seat after an errant pea incident. Now that I can breathe so much better I wish I'd been less of a freak and let him do a better job. Good/Bad news is that he'll do the same thing in 2 weeks.

I was still tired today, but felt better than last week. I still get the shakes a little and need more layers to keep warm than usual. Might just need to eat more, so I picked up some snack foods after work, just in case. My dinner was mostly snack stuff: fresh snap peas (iffy on throat), fresh papaya (ok), Doritoes (totally fine on the throat :), yoplait yogurts (fruit mixed in), deli ham, and a tortilla with PB&J. I washed it down with a juice high in omega 3s. Go me.

Then I proceeded to fall asleep about 4 times during Heroes, and slept similarly fitfully halfway into the Daily Show. I finally got up, staggered to the bathroom and felt certain I could do my bedtime routine without awakening until the ass demons came back. They had previously attacked after getting home from work which I thought would satisfy them, and threatened earlier in the day but not mounted a concerted attack. But no, after 11 days of corkage, the drainage system is asserting itself. And in the process, waking me up. The consequence is this TMI post. Sorry bout that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Plan

Sleep all day. Got a text from the boy this morning saying he wanted to cancel today's outing after our "big night" last night. Can't say I was sorry because I pretty much slept all day. The only tricks with doing this are (1) going back to bed now and (2) not beating myself up for losing a day. This time at least, #2 should be easier because I am recovering from surgery and pretty much planned to take it easy this weekend. If I ever wanted a good reason to not have a boob job (aside from my not wanting bigger boobs!), the fact that recovering from mere tonsil removal is kicking my ass to the curb would provide enough impetus to avoid something like that at all costs.

I did wake up enough to answer a phone call today from my high school friend who just had the new baby and his name is:


There's a blog link for Odin's Adventures in my sidebar, but it turns out to be invite only and I keep it there for my convenience. Otherwise you could see my other high school friend's baby named Odin. I've now gotten myself into a situation where if I ever wind up having a boy, he's going to be a Odin too. I don't really want kids though so don't hold your breath.

I'm looking forward to caring about stuff that isn't my health again. Being sick is soooo tiresome because it's so hard to focus on anyone but yourself. When you feel good, you have energy for so many more inputs and activities.

Freak Like Me

Current reading, recommended: Nudge and Freakonomics. Both very readable for a wide audience. Nudge is more thematic and could have been shorter in that skipping some of the redundant and verbose examples in the middle will not lose the message. Freakonomics left some things unanswered that I was expecting answers for (but didn't write down and will probably never remember). But those were non-fatal flaws in books that are (or should be) popular for a good reason. They both talk about conventional wisdom: when it's good and when it should be turned on its head. They are both fun and playful reads. I highly recommend both for anyone with a curiosity about why people do stuff.

In Nudge, "choice architects" are people who set up decisions for other people. These would be the people who design cafeterias, organ donation programs, health care plans, mortgage lenders, etc... The authors contention is that these choice presentations are almost never neutral so the presenters, the "choice architects" should set them up so the default is the most beneficial for the person making the choice. But equally important, allow a different choice and make sure that choice doesn't have a significantly higher cost. And the less often someone makes this decision, the more work the experts should put into making the 'best' choice the easiest choice. For example, when people get jobs offering 401Ks with matching funds (aka, free money), instead of waiting for employees to sign up and choose funds, sign them up automatically for the withholding to the match limit AND put their funds in a managed fund like "Fidelity 2040". However, have a box on the intake form where if they choose, they can opt out, and then make changing the default investments easy. (That's Fidelity's job, really, and it's easy to change, if not choose, 401K investments.)

Nudge also talks about how people make decisions and the importance of Anchoring and Framing. For anchoring, if you ask your child if they want pizza or chicken noodle soup for dinner, they will likely just choose one unless they had their heart set on sausages or something. But with those Anchoring referents, they are unlikely to insist instead on Cheetos or Red Lobster, which they might have said if you just asked what they wanted for dinner. Framing is about whether you sell whole milk as 4% milkfat or 96% fat free!

Then there's the loss aversion. People hate losing roughly twice as much as they like gaining. I think I'm worse than that. So to balance a $5K loss, you need a $10K gain. Me, I'd probably need $15K. In my case, it makes it twice or thrice as hard to throw or give away things I know I don't need, or even want, than to not bring them home in the first place because I tend to be extremely loss averse. My brother is not. I have a salaried engineering job, he's a commission only salesman. Guess who earned more last year? Guess who is happy with their choice? Both of us.

Freakonomics. Love the slight twist to everything. Thought there were places where they didn't connect all the dots presented as well as they could have. (Leave the extraneous bits out or integrate them better is my advice.) But still. The chapter talking about the klan made my heart clench in my throat, even to think about it. And I'm a little concerned at how gung ho they were about long prison sentences. I really think we need to stop sending so many people to prison for shit they do to themselves without involving other people. I've got more to say on that topic, but not here. But on the whole, there was lots of wacky stuff people do, according to the data, presented in an easily relate-able format.

Current reading, recommended with reservations:

Jessica Andersen's 2nd "Final Prophesy" book, Dawn Keepers. Contemporary paranormal with Mayan mythos, kind of a romance, more SF/Fantasy tradition though in that sense of: and now you are playing level two!

This one had a little too much infodump, a lot of it about the previous Nightkeepers book, for my taste. She still hasn't explained why the people who run a dojo aren't in charge of physical training. And she almost lost me on the heroine being worth anything around page 100, but she recovered the fumble. There are a lot of secondary characters and I'm trying to decide whether I like how their inclusion was handled. I don't need everything (meaning secondary plot lines) tied neatly in a bow at the end of each book, but stuff needs to be stable; I think she mostly accomplished that.

She kept me hooked until near the end when I kind of fizzled in my interest at the climax. If doing simple magic almost drains a character, they can't then go superpower and save the world. They have to start off at least a *little* fresh! Yes, they got the energy from expected places. It was not Deus ex Machina batteries. But for pages and pages, they were on their last gasp of power and somehow still pulled it off. Start 'em off fresh, drain them a bit, *then* throw the big guns in and have them call up the big reserves.

All in all, the main cohort of protagonists were not on top of their game in this book. While I think that was kind of the point - they're new at this and still getting their grounding - it really made me wonder why some of the antagonists were so competent (we didn't quite find out) and just why are we rooting for these guys again? I find as I grow older I'm less interested in superheroes, I think.

Still, It's still refreshing to see a world built around an uncommon mythology, especially when she gets a lot of stuff right. (If you're overly squeamish about blood, beware that the mayans were big into bloodletting.) Plus there are tattoos. The story is mostly engaging. The characters are mostly likeable and somewhat relate-able though it's hard to tell whether you ought to like some of the characters and then they surprise you. I'll read the next one. I recommend the two books, if read in order, and caution that there's a lot of terminology, but don't need to get stuck on it to enjoy the book. I think she's still feeling her way as a fiction writer so I'm inclined to be charitable and hope some of the draging bits improve in future books. I don't mean to damn it with faint praise. It's good but not great, but the series could wind up being a fun ride.

Back on the Sauce

I went to work, a little late, thursday and friday. I kind of made it through, but it tore up my throat more than I expected and I spent most of my time thinking about myself, not other people or my work. Fortunately my main job was to wade through the emails from while I was gone, reply to those, take a couple routine training tests (ESD: ElectroStatic Discharge, the unseen damage!), and update some documentation. All do-able. Also, I had to follow up on only 2 adverse events. My tools were mostly well behaved in my absence and one only really acted up
toward the end and my backup took good care with it.

In a weird quirk of fate, I wound up eating with our general manager (actually, I'm not really sure what his title is, but he reports to the CEO and is the top guy at our site). While I hear he's a republican, that hasn't gotten in the way of me respecting his work and attitude at work a great deal. He was in line at Wendy's just in front of me, with another manager who clearly hadn't ever eaten at Wendy's and was befuddled by the menu. I just went because it's close, they have a 99 cent chicken sandwhich which is cheap fuel, edible french fries which my throat tolerates, and Frosties which my throat seemed to require. All for less than $3.50. I wound up sitting with the GM and Mgr. What did we talk about? Tonsils and curly fries. Sheesh. I did try not to talk too much, plus my throat hurt. Besides what do you say when the response to saying you got your tonsils out is that they knew an adult who almost died from tonsil removal? That's a conversation killer right there.

At one point, the GM was doublefisting the phone text messaging and his Crackberry so I brought up my lesson never to invite my brother on a vacation at the end of a fiscal quarter due to similar behaviors. Finally, I just said, "hey, I need some state secrets here!" and we talked a little (a very little) about work and what his big priority is. I mentioned that if I learned one thing in organization and planning classes it's that almost invariably, the longer it takes to do something, the more it will cost. If you have a deadline it's better to pay more up front to meet the deadline than "stick to budget" and take longer because the second option almost always costs more and the first usually winds up saving money and/or opportunity cost. He came back with a super sarcastic, "Gee, I wouldn't know anyone who thinks that way" then when we laughed, a, "well, now the choir is preaching to the preacher". It was kind of fun.

Anyhow, I lived through work, but not well. I got the shakes and spent a lot of time wearing a jacket and freezing indoors. I came home and cracked open the Tylenol with Codeine and to hell with my bad attitude problem that it exacerbates.

You might notice that I'm posting this pretty late. That's because my sleep is all screwed up. I do hope that in the long run this will help. But in the short run, I'm just a dopey mess. I crashed, hard, on the couch last night despite knowing I should just go to bed. I slept through a couple of phone calls but roused enough to know they were happening. Finally, I dragged myself over to bed. Where I was suddenly AWAKE! I started reading Freakonomics. I like their blog and always intended to read more of it than the few pages I browsed at the bookstore. I did not intend to read it in its entirety last night. But I did. Then still couldn't sleep for two hours. I really could have used a good slap on the ass to while the time away but that didn't happen either.

So I finally got up around noon, cleaned and scrubbed the kitchen (hrm, except the floor. I should go do that.), hit the Codeine, read some stuff online, stretched a bit, then went out with flake boy. Flake boy? you ask. yeah. We had a big ol' conversation last week where I explained what I wanted in a relationship with him and told him to think about what he wanted and planned get back together after I recovered and see if there was enough overlap to keep this going. Then my mom insisted we invite him to dinner while I was on drugs and I agreed. He came and was pleasant while my mom nattered about any and everything that came into her head because I couldn't talk and he didn't talk much and she couldn't take the silence, I guess, so now he knows about family stories dating from the depression to when I was about two and a half and that my mom cannot handle more than 2 consecutive days of the same meal. (So that's where I get it from!) On the plus side, we did go out for dinner (Outback) and a movie (Taken) tonight, so he listened when I said that I need real dates on weekends.

Tomorrow, if I wake up, we plan to go to Griffith Park Observatory. (I had planned to drive to San Diego with a friend but I'm so not ready yet. My friend, who is a mom, was smart enough to figure that out for me.) Tomorrow, need to go early to get parking though. He's a morning person, I'm not. We'll see how that works out. Maybe I'll hear the doorbell and phone tomorrow morning, maybe not. I *do* need to get to bed and actually sleep soon. I would get to it if I had more of a sense that I would be able to actually sleep. (I have Predictably Irrational cued up next and ready to read.) In the meantime, I've been saving up "clever" things to blog about that aren't so much about me. You'll know I'm feeling better when the blog is more about things external to me and my personal grievances.