Sunday, December 27, 2009

Adieu to 2009

A year ago, lots of things were going my way. It was just amazing how things were falling into place and I felt like I had summited the Everest equivalent of personal and professional success. 2009 closes on a somewhat different note. Professionally, I made some changes and while I'm not happy about the chain of events that led to the decision to make a change, I realize I did the right thing; I'm much less stressed now and the travel schedule is less hectic. Once I get my computer set up, I am looking forward to getting back to some of the things I put on the back burner while dealing with the emotional stress of an environment and career that wasn't quite the right fit.

On the personal front, I have no complaints, other than the still impassable second bedroom. Moving sucks, people, there's no two ways about it. Still, like the career move, the apartment move was the right decision because of the reasons why it was required; among other things, I'm closer to work now, cutting a commute from 25 miles down to 18, which in Sweat Sock City makes a big difference. The room will be cleaned up soon and after months of just running around and major changes, life will settle into its pleasant rhythms. I'm looking forward to that very much.

2009 didn't turn out quite the way I imagined it would but it had some very high points and for that reason, I'm looking back on the year fondly.

I'll see you in 2010. Here's wishing you and yours all the best in your moves for the new year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cookies!

Here is a recipe for Star Anise Lace Cookies from Gourmet magazine (sniff, sniff). It's a super easy, kind of odd recipe, but they do come out super thin and almost lacy (in a circular lace pattern). It's not at all a typical cookie and I think it would be really good as an accompaniment with a fruity ice-cream. My one complaint is that it 'feels' very buttery and I'm tempted to reduce the amount of butter from 5 tablespoons to 4 next time around. Still, taste-wise these are fantastic cookies and probably will add a good bit of originality/creativity to a traditional cookie spread.

Friday, December 18, 2009

LotD

Top music in 2009. The article confuses me somewhat in the way it's written but eventually it gets to the point and gives a tentative placement of top albums, songs, digital albums, etc. There seem to be a lot more categories now for "top" now than back in the day when I used to really pay attention to this kind of stuff. When I was a kid, I loved listening to Casey Kasem and the Top 40. Now, it seems to be all Ryan Secrets All The Time (tm) and it's just not the same. But it was kind of neat to see the listing of music for 2009, especially since one of my faves, "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, is high up on the list.

I think it's a crime that Pink didn't make the list though. She had some great stuff this year. Also, kind of over that "I Gotta Feeling" song by the Black Eyed Peas. Miley Cyrus is okay -- I do bop in the car when "Party in the USA" comes on, but I am getting increasingly tired of Taylor Swift. Kings of Leon as well -- not a fan. Was also surprised to see Britney didn't make the list. Both "Womanizer" and "Three" are totally infectious and fall into the "I AM STILL STUCK IN TRAFFIC SO PLAY SOMETHiNG SO I WON'T LOSE MY MIND" category.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Worst nightmare

Okay, so one of them, but here it is:

Taylor Swift, the Kings of Leon, and Colbie Caillet singing that Firefly song a capella on "The Sing Off" with Jenna Wolfe from the Sunday "Today" show as one of the judges. And oh yeah, Nicole Scherzinger stays and constantly says in her monotone, "That was so hot, you were really hot..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hooray!

The extended cut pilot for "Caprica" is online at hulu.com. Apparently it's been online since April 14th. Haven't seen it yet -- maybe tomorrow -- but pretty excited as thought I'd have to wait until Jan. 22 to see what it was all about.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Things that make you go hmmm...

Dry-clean only towels.

I mean SERIOUSLY.

Who comes up with dry-clean only towels?

So now we're stuck with towels that were used in the guest bath yesterday for our company and clearly were used for hand drying but WE CANNOT WASH THEM. Granted, dry-cleaning here is quite cheap -- about $1.79 per garment -- but WHO DESIGNS DRY CLEAN ONLY HAND TOWELS????
This thing is not like that thing

This is the first weekend in 3 or 4, I think, that there has been no moving. Unpacking, yes, and that reshuffling act (which is starting to get REALLY annoying) continues. It's funny just how things don't 'fit', compared to my old place. My new closet is small and made for giants -- the top rack is at the 9 foot level. Who has the ability to easily hang clothing on 9-foot high racks? And then retrieve them in the dead of morning to get ready for work? Annoying. And then the towel rack in my bathroom, also made for giants; I have to stand on the edge of the tub in order to hang my towel back up.

I don't have a computer desk anymore either. My old apartment had a built in computer desk but this one doesn't. So my poor computer lies in a box until I get time to actually go out and buy a desk (hello, IKEA!). No built in showcase bookshelf here either so off to Crate & Barrel to buy a new bookshelf. The kitchen is also made for giants; I can only reach the bottom shelf and if I stand on my tiptoes, I can get to the second shelf. Next stop Target -- purchase of step stool imminent (btw, I'm relatively average in height, about 5 foot three; clearly this apartment was built for the 6 foot up crowd).

In the kitchen, the dishwasher won't stay open. I find this highly annoying as well as I have to stand with one foot on the door to keep it open in order to load/unload. Because of the door issue, the bottom rack also rolls back with tremendous force at random intervals and the resulting THUD! is really scary; I have this vision of all of the plates and bowls etc just SHATTERING in a big moment when the dishwasher slams shut, pushing the rack back against the wall. Yesterday I jiggered a solution -- one of my handweights looped through the bottom rack; just enough weight to keep the door from shutting and holding the rack in place.

Anyway, it's interesting getting used to a new place. I miss my old place in the sense that everything I had "fit" and everything was much more accessible for me. This place has more space and has a great layout and is fairly quiet but the little annoying things make it hard to completely feel at home. Maybe if I can get that second bedroom 'passable', I'll feel better. But in order to do that, I have to deal with that closet with its 9-ft racks. Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weird

The infomercial on right now is for a software program called Dragon (getdragon.com -- purposely not linking). It's pretty funny, actually, as you have to actually speak your punctuation and "new line" or "new paragraph". I'm just trying to imagine that oh so famous Walt Whitman poem would work. To wit, as dictated into Dragon;

Oh captain exclamation point my Captain exclamation point our fearful trip is done semicolon next line
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won semicolon next line
The port is near, the bells I hear comma the people all exulting comma next line
While follow eyes the steady keel comma the vessel grim and daring colon next line
But O heart exclamation point heart exclamation point heart exclamation point next line
O the bleeding drops of red comma next line
Where on the deck my Captain lies comma next line
Fallen cold and dead period next line


I don't know how Dragon would handle all the spelling variations (O instead of Oh), but I would think that for writing purposes, rhythm and mood could be lost when you're inserting the punctuation while speaking. I guess if I used dictation software I'd have to speak first and then go back and figure out what the punctuation and line spacing would be. But I tend to 'think' through my fingers and a lot of time stories/prose takes form while I type; I think it would be a tough change to dictate versus actually typing. Dunno. Still, I'm kind of amused by the 'comma next line exclamation point' bit of Dragon. It definitely gives a new read to Whitman.
Good Eats II

We had a great menu for the lunch this afternoon -- it went very well. Definitely more relaxing than going to a restaurant, especially since one couple had a baby and it's just easier to deal with a baby, I think, in a home environment than in a restaurant.

Appetizers were simple -- just cheese (pepper jack and chedder) and crackers (multigrain and plain). For the actual lunch, we served a green lentil soup, followed by gnocchi tossed with tomatoes, basil and garlic, and roasted asparagus with sesame seeds and balsamic vinger. For toppings, we included salt/pepper (because I always under-salt/pepper), pecorino romano grated cheese (YUM!) and fresh basil. For dessert, I made chai cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with cinnamon.

Drinks served included ye run o' the tap water, sparkling cranberry juice, Coastal Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and chocolate peppermint coffee. We had sparkling apple juice as a back-up but didn't need to use it. Incidentally, the sparkling cranberry juice is really, really good.

It was a less complicated menu than I had originally planned, but we had just enough time to pull it together and clean up the place before our guests arrived. Also, it was a simple enough menu but with enough fresh touches like the basil really made the meal. Everyone had a really good time and our lunch party was a success. We're already looking forward to the next one!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good eats

Company is coming over tomorrow for lunch and because I have Friday off, I'm going to do most of the preparation today. Keep in mind that I still have an impassable second bedroom and enough boxes stacked in the dining room/kitchen to equate an entire Northwest US forest. Clearly, a trip to the recycling center is warranted.

Anyway, I'm trying to come up with a main entree. I've been debating on quiche. I've made -- or attempted to make -- the quiche recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook a bunch of times but my last attempt was the biggest disaster ever. I'm convinced there's something about the proportion of ingredients that's just not right, and maybe a different recipe will have different results. But then if it doesn't turn out and I'm just challenged at quiche-making, then what are my other options?

I think quesadillas are a great fallback because it's really hard to mess those up. I thought about making individual frittatas with bell peppers and tomotatoes, but it requires 12 eggs, which if you think about it is a lot of eggs. I think tofu steaks might be good with some spiced veggies, but I don't know. It just doesn't appeal to me the way a nice, fresh spinach and mushroom quiche does.

So far the menu has taken on a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavor: sangria, sGreek salad, lentil soup, and chai cupcakes for dessert. Appetizers are still up for debate -- maybe just cheese and crackers? Or breaded paneer bites? Oh the options and the lack of culinary skills!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

LotD

There are tons of stories about the White House Gate Crashers out there, but I chose this one for the LotD. Why? Because the reporter actually got the name of Michaele Sahali's outfit right. It's a lehnga, NOT a sari as people have been calling it. So kudos to the reporter for getting it right and not following every other story's lead.

... Ms. Salahi strutted onto the South Lawn in that bright red lehenga, she and her husband breached far more than a secure perimeter.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

LotD II

This is sweet story about twins separated at birth in China and adopted by two different families in the US, yet somehow they were aware of each other. This is an interesting twist on the nature versus nurture debate.
So say we all

"Battlestar Galactica" has been named the 5th best show of the decade. Very cool that the show gets some respect. And oh! On January 22, "Caprica" starts on SyFy (does the new name bug anyone else? I mean, REALlY) so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing that.

Monday, December 07, 2009

LotD

Here's a personal angle on the current health care debate: Health Care and Cancer: Reforming the Odds in a Costly System.

The enormous expense of cancer care – particularly for diagnoses with the worst prognosis – is a driving force in the relentless rise of health costs. Is this huge investment of resources a sensible approach to diseases for which there is no cure and for treatments that often extend life by only a few months? To me, of course, the answer is quite clearly yes. But my disease, though not curable, is treatable, and fortunately, new treatments are waiting in the wings. That is not the case with many other cancers.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Moooooooving, part deux

So the vast majority of the move was completed by 3 pm today, meaning I surrendered the other apartment. So all stuff was out and honestly, I turned it over cleaner than when I lived it. For example, I dusted the baseboards. Who knew baseboards could collect so much dust? Also, I found out that while dusting/cleaning my ceiling fans that the blades were made out of particle board painted white so all those fears I had of metal blades falling off a spinning fan and impaling me while I was innocently sleeping or watching television were clearly misplaced. Also, for those of you who remember this famous incident, I removed the last of the egg still stuck on the ceiling (disclaimer: I left it there as on purpose as a reminder of what shortcuts in the kitchen could end up).

The thing about moving is that you always have more stuff than you thought you did and I swear to god there's like this magic field around my old apartment, that every time I "emptied" a room, more stuff just magically appeared. It was insane. What's also true and very annoying is that when you're shifting things from one place to another, you're constantly moving things around, stumbling over them, and finding it just impossible to get stuff in the right place because you have to move thing A to make room for thing B but then thing A is blocking thing C. It's a vicious circle.

Also it got to the point that I thought that carrying groceries from the car was just like moving.

Right now I've got one bedroom that's basically impassable. The kitchen is an open plan, thank goodness, so only one entrance is impassable. The laundry room and front hall closet are now unblocked which is awesome because I was tripping over shoes and coats and also couldn't do laundry. It's a sign of progress that the living room is basically set up (including a very patriotic Christmas tree!) and that the bedroom and both bathrooms are clear and able to be used. And except for that one entry into the kitchen, the kitchen is fully functioning. Hopefully by Friday, the kitchen/foyer/dining room mess will be taken care of because company comes on Saturday.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Opinion

I think it would be a very, very bad idea fo Hillary Clinton to interfere in anyway in the Amanda Knox verdict. It's one thing to intercede on the behalf of hikers in Iran who might have been apprehended unfairly or the journalists in North Korea or the father whose son was kidnapped to Brazil, but it's another thing entirely to interfere in another's country judicial system (thoughts about that aside). There is no strategic national security involved, there's no question of apprehension under vague circumstances, and the defendent was well represented in court.
LotD

Andrew Sullivan eloquently expresses his reasons for Leaving the Right.

But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so - against the conservative degeneracy in front of us.

A manifesto of his reasoning follows and reading through it, it reminds me why I can never vote Republican, not when the standard bearers are people like Palin, Limbaugh, Glen Beck, etc. The tent is becoming increasingly small and exclusive but I suppose that also helps the echo chamber. I'm glad that people are starting to take notice and distance themselves from certain people and their whacked out, uninformed statements.

Of course all of this is a moot point as I've never claimed less than being a left of a center Democrat, but there have been times in my New England past when a Republican candidate appealed to me over the Democrat. At the risk of contradicting myself, I would prefer less government spending -- don't even get me started on the bailout! -- but I would rather spend money on health care reform than these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I can't say that I'm thrilled with Democrats either. I accept Obama's Afghanistan surge because I know it's what he needs to do. I don't like it though, but I understand it. I am mortified with the Stupak amendment included on the House version of the health care reform bill. I hate that we bailed out the car companies even though on a deep down level, I understand that too.

The point is, as much as the Democrats have done things I don't like, it seems like they're the only choice. Claiming Independence as a voter makes no sense when the differences are so stark. You can be a conservative Democrat, but it doesn't seem that there is such thing as a liberal Republican and I think the GOP is going to pay for that if they continue to hail Limbaugh and Company and/or seriously parade Sarah Palin as a contender for 2012.

Friday, December 04, 2009

LotD

Nepal holds highest cabinet meeting. Can't get any higher than Everest, I guess,though I worry about decisions made in oxygen-thin atmosphere.
Moooooooooooving!

So I'm on day 13 of The Great Move of 2009(tm). Moving sucks. Don't even let someone tell you otherwise. I lived in one place for 6-plus years and I didn't think I had so much stuff, didn't think I owned so many clothes, until it came to physically schlepping all that stuff out of the old place and into the new place. It also didn't help that the weather hasn't been that cooperative so at least two moving days were ruled out because I'm a wimp who doesn't like moving when it's raining, snowing, or below 50 degrees.

Time is running out though and I have to absolutely be out of my old place by Sunday so tomorrow is D-Day. Well, actually Sunday is, but I'm trying to be disciplined about it and gritting my teeth and just muscling through the last bit. I'll be so happy when everything is moved and cleaned and then I'm finally in the new place, able to relax and find proper places for everything.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Point and Counterpoint -- Sort of

"60 Minutes" this past week had an interesting story on The Cost of Dying.

By law, Medicare cannot reject any treatment based upon cost. It will pay $55,000 for patients with advanced breast cancer to receive the chemotherapy drug Avastin, even though it extends life only an average of a month and a half; it will pay $40,000 for a 93-year-old man with terminal cancer to get a surgically implanted defibrillator if he happens to have heart problems too.

Eugene Robinson asks in his column today "How much expensive, unnecessary, high-tech testing and treatment am I willing to have our out-of-control health system pay for to save one life, if the life in question might be mine or that of a loved one? The honest answer, I think, is: a whole bunch."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now that's service

Recently received an order from Crate & Barrel and they honestly do an amazing job of packing. Lots and lots of bubble wrap and tissue paper, usually double or triple the volume of the original object. It's actually rather comical just how well Crate & Barrel packs and just how much care they take in making sure the object gets to you in one piece.

Anyway, I was unpacking the box yesterday and it was a very nice dinner tray. Except that one corner had been cracked during shipping and then the piece fell off in my hand. Utter sadness. The packing slip that came with the shipment gave a phone number to call in case of an issues so I assumed it would be the run of the mill "Ship us the broken part back and we'll send you another one and oh yeah, you have to pay to ship it back to us." I also wondered since Sweat Sock City has a Crate & Barrel here, would I need to go to the store to exchange it for another one?

Anyway, Crate & Barrel apologized profusely for the broken tray and also for another item -- a soup bowl -- that had gotten scuffed. They said there was no reason for me to take the items to the store or to even ship it back to them. They said something along the lines of "Just throw those things away and we'll send you replacements free of charge within 3 to 7 business days." I was flabbergasted. Especially since the soup bowl is usable, it's just scratched up a bit. Crate & Barrel said it was just easier to send us a new one rather than do all the paperwork involved in reshipping/returning.

It was an amazing response and just so very helpful and very nice. Plus, I was SO glad that they didn't make me go into the store because as we all know, this might be the happiest time of the year, but certainly not in the department stores!

ps. If you are moving, I HIGHLY recommend Crate & Barrel packing materials. I'm currently in the process of moving (sniff!) and those gazillion yards of material for one itty bitty soup bowl is coming in handy as I move my frou-frou items.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm saying what I mean to say

John Mayer is so overrated. Seriously, what's the appeal? He's grungy and his songs and his voice (get some energy, already!) are annoying as heck. Seriously overrated. Right up there with U2 and Nirvana.

Whew.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quester

So I downloaded King's Quest 1 from yesterday's post, and have been playing for a while now. So far, I've obtained 89 out of 158 points, but have hit a dead end. The game is pretty true to the original and I think all of the riddles are the same as the original as well. Unfortunately my memory isn't as good as it used to be so I'm spending a lot of time just wandering around looking for clues. I've gotten now to the point where I'm slightly bit frustrated, especially when I was just reminded that there are two other King's Quest to go after this one. Ah well. The point of this post was to say that yes, I have tried the download from yesterday, it works, and the game is pretty true to the original. So all you adventurer, nostalgia type gamers, this might be a good one to try, especially if you're thinking about testing your patience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lotd the Second

People of a certain age will remember the King's Quest games from the mid to late 80s. I loved those games and thanks to google, I found free downloads here of all three games. I haven't tried them myself so I can't vouch for them. But when I get my new computer...
LotD

The weather is getting cooler here and today I broke out my wool pea coat, my tights, wool skirt and knee-high boots (I had a scarf and gloves too, but that might have been a wee bit overkill). In celebration of the winter season making its debut, I present a video of two of my favorite things: Bollywood and ice-skating.



and

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

LotD the second

Palin Book Fact Check. Shouldn't be surprising she plays fast and loose with facts. It'd be nice if she could go away and take Carrie Prejean with her.
LotD

Carry On Bag etiquette -- definitely a must-read prior to the holiday traveling season. It will make your life so much easier.

My tips --

1. Leave the laptop at home. It's really, really, really not worth dragging it through security and depending on airport and/or destination, there could be a possible of confistication.

2. Wear shoes that can easily slip on/off. Forget the laces. It takes too long. And oh, wear socks. Your feet will appreciate it.

3. Don't wear anything with metal on it. Seriously. This could include the belt buckle, the hairpin in your hair, the fastenings on your jeans. The list is endless and I've been pulled aside so many times for the rivets on my jeans. So now I go with plain old khakis.

4. Take out your baggy if you're carrying on your bags before you get to the security line. I used to keep my toiletry baggy in th front pocket of my carry-on suitcase, but it took too long to get out, so now I carry the baggy in my purse and it's much quicker to take out.

5. You have to take your jacket off before going through security. If there is anyway you can avoid wearing a jacket, I totally recommend it. The more things you have to take off/take out for security, the longer it's going to take to get through. So minimize.

6. On the plane, if you're carrying on, you're allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item for most airlines. If you have a suitcase, it better fit in lengthwise in the overhead bin or frequent flyers like me will glare at you for taking up more space than you're supposed to. Your personal item should fit in your seat pocket or under the seat in front of you.

7. If you're in an aisle or middle seat, don't buckle up until your entire row is seated. The sooner you can get up and out of the way, the sooner your seatmate can sit down, the better. Plus, on a personal level, I hate getting buckled up and comfortable only to get up every 10 seconds to let someone in.

8. If you're locking your bag, use a TSA-approved lock. Those are locks that have a specific marking on them and can be opened by the TSA if they need to look in your bag. If you use any other kind of lock, such as a pre-9/11 lock, they'll cut it off to look inside.

9. If you do persist on bringing your laptop on the airplane, I would suggest NOT working on anything related to your job. As someone who traveled a lot to areas where my industry had major operations, I can't even tell you how many times I looked over at a computer screen and saw confidential details on a company's workings. So if you're going to bring the laptop, at least watch a DVD or play games, and don't work on confidential things.

10. Carry some snacks in your purse. Continental will serve a snack, but it's usually not vegetarian. Other airlines will either give you peanuts or charge you. All of which is fine as long as you don't get delayed or re-routed due to weather. I've been stuck on the tarmac for hours and having a couple of granola bars helped. This is especially helpful if you are flying to any part of the country that might experience a weather delay (read: Northeast, Midwest), but in winter you can never tell.

Enjoy the holiday traveling season!
Passing on the Buck

I mentioned the Starbucks habits in yesterday's post. I don't think I know anyone who actually has a hardcore Starbucks habit, but then I run in different circles than the people described in the article. That being said, I do consume Starbucks about 4 or 5 times a year, most recently about a month or so ago because we thought they were offering free cups of their new instant coffee. Alas, we were wrong and ended up buying highly priced house coffee.

I love coffee. It makes me go in the morning, it perks me up. I don't drink a lot of coffee, maybe 2 cups a day (1 cup today), but I do enjoy a good cup. So this last visit to Starbucks, when you're forking over more than $2 for a plain ole black coffee, you expect something good. But instead, it was what I've come to expect from Starbucks -- as if someone overroasted the beans and then used the burned parts to brew the coffee. It. Was. Not. Good. The only thing more disappointing about a bad cup of coffee is one that cost more than $2.

The Starbucks wasn't giving out free tastes of their instant coffee as advertised but they did give us a packet to try later. I had it one Sunday morning instead of my usual instant Taster's Choice and again, It. Was. Not. Good. I have no idea how much that instant costs, but I definitely won't be trading in my current coffee for it. A friend tried it recently and his verdict was the same as mine. Not. Good.

I do have to give a shout out to Nescafe though. I had some really good Nescafe packs in Budapest -- they come pre-mixed with sugar and creamer and great for on the go. It could be that I was so excited about non-shot glass style expresso that I found the Nescafe (purchased at a train station kiosk) absolutely wonderful, or was it was really that good? I might try again in the future. The problem with nostalgia is when you revisit, the memory is sometimes better than the reality.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

LotD

This story in the WSJ re executives who got laid off and are still living large, even turning down job offers, seems so far removed from reality. It's hard to imagine keeping on with $130 haircuts or the Starbucks habit when you no longer have income to support it. It doesn't seem very smart to me, but then I get my hair cut at Haircuts for Less and similar ilk and I find Starbucks disgusting so my coffee habit is usually limited to Taster's Choice with the occasional splurge on McDonald's McCafe.

What's crazy is a couple of people in this article have turned down job offers. In this kind of economy, who knows when the next offer is coming? It just seems enormously irresponsible for people who are otherwise pretty smart.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

LotD

Going somewhere? Here's an article on the Best and Worst Airlines for Lost Luggage. Next thing you know, they'll be charging you a fee not to lose your bags.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Garage sale

Today we garage sale'd with some friends. Super early start to the day -- 5:30 am -- but by 11:30 am, we'd cleared about $247 and change. We then took the leftover books and CDs over to Half Price Books and got another $20. Not bad for a few hours of work for stuff we were planning to give away anyway.

Thoughts --

The minute the signs go out, it's like the people transporter beam themselves to the driveway. It's amazing. The re-sell guys were first at our sale and walked around picking out things immediately, did not haggle our prices and probably gave us the biggest bang for the buck right away. The later buyers were more haggler-prone and wanted to bargain everything down. The craziest one was the lady who insisted that she couldn't pay more than $3 for a nice end table with a lamp and then had us load it into her brand new Lincoln Navigator.

People at garage sales will seriously buy anything. It's almost ridiculously comical. As a whim, I marked an empty diffuser bottle with used reeds in it at 10 cents, not expecting anyone to buy it. It sold. A big surprise were the clothes. We put clothes out -- all brand names like Ann Taylor, Anne Klein, GAP, the Limited, etc -- and didn't actually expect anyone to buy them. My friend and I probably sold about $10 to $12 worth of clothing. My friend said that she had tried to sell clothes at previous garage sales and had not succeeded. I suppose our combination of good quality merchandise and the economic conditions came together and we sold several dresses, skirts, coats and jackets between the two of us.

We found that the furniture really attracted people and we had a lot of it. So we put some at the end of the driveway and some of the beginning and people were pulled in. Our traffic reduced quite a bit by the time we sold almost all of our furniture. By late morning, given the sparcity of items, people would just drive by. Still, we got a second wind when we least expected it -- around 10:30 or so. By then, we told people to make us and offer and take the stuff. We cleared another $15 or $20 before taking down our signs.

You have to watch out for the scammers. We almost fell victim to one today, but managed to pull it together before we really lost our shirts (literally). This guy and his wife (?) came by, made idle chitchat and then expressed interest in certain items, especially an IKEA bookshelf marked at $50. Then, without buying anything, they spun us a story about how they were starting a non-profit. We then said if they came back around lunch time, they could haul off whatever was left for free. They said they'd be back then and then offered to pay us $25 for the bookshelf when they returned (they didn't give me the money).

In the meantime, I sold the bookshelf for $35 and was holding it for the lady who bought it (and gave me the money for it). The couple returned and when they found out that the bookshelf had been sold, they left without taking any of the other stuff for their alleged non-profit. The guy told us that despite his offer of $25, he was only willing to pay $10 for the bookshelf. In retrospect, we think that he was trying to get the bookshelf for free and he wasn't really shopping around for his non-profit.

The other lesson we took away is that we started cutting prices way too early. If someone offered us a ridiculously low price for something early in the morning -- say 7:30 am -- we took it. In retrospect, the bulk of our traffic came during 8:30 to 9:30 and we might have gotten better prices on earlier sales if we had waited. There were several moments when there were two or three people interested in a piece and invariably, the second or third person said they would have given us more for the piece than the buyer did. Who knows if they are telling the truth? After all a bird in hand is better than one in the bush.

In another case, I had a piece of furniture that garnered absolutely no interest but I wasn't aggressive in pointing out this television stand -- which was in good condition -- or in cutting the price. We were invariably successful when we chatted up a product and/or talked about the context it was used in or the value of the product in our lives. I didn't do that with the television stand or a glass end-table and the result was that these were the only two pieces of furniture left when we closed down the sale. In the end, we donated both pieces to a local charity, but I should have been more aggressive about it.

I also got frazzled because I was unpacking stuff and still pricing when people started showing up and that was just weird because in some cases, people were buying things I hadn't yet put a price on and it was just crazy that way. I wonder if people show up so early not only to get the best price but to also get those of us running the sale at a time when we're so frazzled that we just automatically quote them a price without thinking too hard about it.

Also, when you're doing a garage sale with three other people, you need to keep track of whose stuff is being sold, make sure you get the right price for it, and then get the money to the right person. It can get super confusing, but I'm glad we did it all together. It was a lot of fun and the camraderie was great. Also, pooling four people's things together created more buzz and traffic through our sale well past 11 am. Which is always a good thing. We sold more than $500 total, about $125/person. Not a bad day's work.

All in all, we think it was a success. We're thinking about doing it again in April when the weather is nice and hopefully have some more stuff to sell, especially things like roller blades or old bicycles which might do better in the spring months when demand is high. I had donated 7 bags of things to the Salvation Army about 1 month ago and I wish I'd saved it to sell instead. I figure, if you're going to donate the stuff anyway, try and sell it first either on eBay, Craigslist or at a garage sale. It's worth a shot, hard work as it is. And who couldn't use a little cash these days?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

LotD

Interesting article, or rather book review -- Flesh of Your Flesh.

How is it that Americans, so solicitous of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner? The answer cannot lie in the beasts themselves. Pigs, after all, are quite companionable, and dogs are said to be delicious.
Story time

I read Stephen King's "Premium Harmony" at the New Yorker magazine here (free to read, so go ahead, click). I discovered the story at a time when I'm having a short story renaissance. I used to love short stories -- reading and writing them -- and then I got derailed by the idea of novels and longer stories and it's been years since I've written a short story of any merit. The Stephen King story, however, has merit.

For a short story, King has managed to infuse his characters with, well, a lot of character. The conversation -- rapid fire, not bogged down with unnecessary details or action 'moments' -- sketches out the characters well. There are snatches of humor here and there, moments of poignancy, and above all, illumination of character -- something incredibly hard to do in the space of a short story. The interesting thing here is that King doesn't bother making his characters likeable; in fact, he puts so much effort in making them unlikeable, and yet, still very realistic. King also managed to draw all the little threads, all the little details, together in the final graf, which was excellent. He followed the old adage to a t: if there is a gun over the fireplace in the first act, it should be fired by the third.

While I enjoyed the story, I did find it a bit... outlandish, out of the realm of reality at moments. But it wasn't so much that I was distracted and tempted to hit the back button (and all you internet fiction readers know about the back button!).

All in all, an enjoyable story, well written, a bit on the quirky side, but if you're looking for a quick read over lunch, I recommend Premium Harmony.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

LotD the third

Happy first day of NaNoWriMo!. Good luck to all you aspiring novelists out there. I did this three years in a row, finishing the project my second and third times (eh, that's finishing the word count, not the actual novels -- which are big honking stinking piles of putrid trash on my hard drive, but hey, at least I tried!). If I didn't have so much going on in November this year, I'd give the 50k word marathon another shot, but alas, I don't think so. Maybe next year...
LotD the second

One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do. I have to say, I have been on the receiving end of many, many of these before. Especially the wobbly table thing. I hate the wobbly tables so many restaurants seem to fix with a wadded up piece of napkin. Or getting your plate taken away before your companion is finished. Or having a lunch with a good friend constantly interrupted by a bored waitstaff who wants to join in (we didn't come to catch with you, oh random waitperson who we just met for the very first time). First fifty in the linked to article, the next 50 are promised to be forthcoming.
LotD

Interesting Ed-Op in the NYTimes from a rancher's perspective: The Carnivore's Dilemma.

... there are numerous reasonable ways to reduce our individual contributions to climate change through our food choices. Because it takes more resources to produce meat and dairy than, say, fresh locally grown carrots, it’s sensible to cut back on consumption of animal-based foods. More important, all eaters can lower their global warming contribution by following these simple rules: avoid processed foods and those from industrialized farms; reduce food waste; and buy local and in season.
Hooray!

I got my hour back!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Hunt, part 3

I think the hardest part of job hunting is that when you are voluntarily looking -- i.e. you've made the decision to move on -- you're impatient to move on and put whatever it is that is causing you to leave your current employment behind you. Mentally, you've said good-bye to the company, to your colleagues, and you're already trying to wrap up projects as not to leave any loose ends behind. With that mindset, it makes the time horizon seem even longer than it really is.

While I admit to being relatively passive in the job hunt, it doesn't mean I'm immune to the impatience. The only thing I could do once I made the decision to move on is to take action and do what I could to find another job. At the same time, you have to stay engaged and committed to the current employer and energetic and enthusiastic at home to get your daily chores done as well as the job hunt. It's not easy so I don't want anyone to think I was implying it's easy. It's stressful, soul-draining, and just awful.

The two pieces of advice I would give -

* Start looking for a job before you're absolutely desperate. This is easy enough to do if you are employed and not involuntarily terminated. The problem is drawing the line of when is enough enough, when is it time to move on, and what are you willing to put up with? In one case, I decided to move on because my manager was verbally abusive not only to me but to my teammates; the day I threw up at the office because of stress was the day I realized it was time to move on. Already, I was late making the decision because I was desperate to take any job that came along. Luckily, the next job that came along came with great people who are still my friends now even though it's been several years since we worked together. I believe in being honest -- if something's not working, you need to either figure out how to make it work or leave. Evaluate what your threshold for pain is and make a decision accordingly.

* In conjunction with the above advice, even if you're relatively happy with your position and aren't really interested in looking for other jobs, take some time every couple of months to see what else is out there. There might be something you're interested in applying for -- it doesn't cost anything but time. And even if you don't see anything, at least you know what's out there and you're making an informed decision about your situation with full knowledge. I think it's always important to know what types of jobs are out there, what types of skills are being asked for in the marketplace and who is whiring; after all, in this economy, the more information you have about about your marketability, the better.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The hunt, part 2

As a follow-up to my previous post, I realized after talking to a friend that there's something else I don't do: try to circumvent the stated application process. There are all sorts of tricks and tips out there on how to get your resume to the top of the pile by doing something sneaky like calling HR to ask if they have your resume, showing up at the office and asking for an appointment, stalking other people who work at the company and asking them for help, etc. In general, my MO has been laziness, mostly because I have been a stalkee in the past and I'm not inclined to give the time of day to people whom I don't know when I'm busy. Plus, I figure if the company is interested in talking to you, they will call you. Kind of passive, but so far the passive approach -- i.e. following the process as stated in the application (if it says no calls, don't call!) -- has worked for me.

Along the same lines, I don't think I've ever followed up after an interview. If a certain amount of time has passed and I haven't heard anything, I don't bother emailing or calling to uncover the status of my application. It's the same attitude I stated above -- if the company is interested, they will call ME. If they are not interested, then me calling to find out if I got the job or not is probably not going to help me in any way.

As I said, I'm a terrible job seeker. I do everything completely backwards and in a rather solitary fashion. Maybe I would find jobs quicker if I followed the advice given by experts, but I do take a peverse delight in that I conduct a job search in all the wrong ways and somehow -- with a lot of patience -- it seems to work out for me. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The hunt

I'm a terrible job hunter. I don't follow any of the recommended rules, and I'm not necessarily proud of my not following etiquette or procedures. I like procedures and I like etiquette so my willful disobedience startles me greatly. To wit:

* I don't hire resume writers to write my resume. They are incredibly expensive so I do it myself and rely on spell-check and one or two friends to look over. I try to make sure the first word in every bullet point is the same tense and same type of word. I also try to make sure I tie activities to results.

* I don't have an objective on my resume. Many experts on resume writing say you need to have an objective on the top of your resume. If I want to be really blunt, my objective is almost always to "Find a great job with a great salary with an opportunity to grow." So I leave it off because I don't think it helps my resume in any way. After all, who doesn't have "find a great job with a great salary with an opportunity to grow" as an objective?

* I only have one resume. There are recommendations to tailor each resume per job posting, but if you're only applying to jobs you're a) qualified for and/or b) resemble your resume of skills already, then I don't see the point of tailoring a resume for every job you're applying to. I do recommend, however, tailoring the cover letter for every job, though I say this hypocritically (see below).

* I don't write cover letters for jobs I'm half-hearted about.

* I don't network. I should, but I don't. Instead, I rely on job boards and public postings. To date, I've been employed by 5 different companies, three of them with more than 100,000 employees and the other two considerably smaller (less than 2,000 employees). I found these jobs through the local newspaper, hotjobs.com, journalismjobs.com, careerbuilder.com, and jobfox.com. No networking involved. So if anyone tells you that job postings or newspaper ads don't work, remember me; all of my jobs have been found this way.

* I never send thank you notes after the interviews. I should, but I don't. Invariably I forget or I don't have the address. And this is odd because I'm a firm believer in thank you notes and yet... strangely though, it hasn't affected me actually getting the job. I don't think I sent a thank you note for any job I actually got. I should probably do better on this one though.

* Last three job interviews on, I didn't wear hose. This could be a regional okay thing -- hose melts to your legs in this part of the country -- so few women wear them. Still, if I was going to be all proper, I'd wear the hose.

I start my new job on Monday. I'm looking forward to the new experiences, meeting new people, and gaining new skills and expertise. That's always the fun part of a new job. Of course, I'm always stressed about where I should eat lunch, where is the bathroom, and how do you fill out an expense report? And usually, by the time I'm comfortable with the answers to these and other questions, it's about the time to move on.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not in my Facebook yard

I defriended a "friend" on Facebook today, the first time I've done that. And to be clear, this person was someone I went to school with and got along with, but was never close to; I think we might have gone for burritos once or twice, but that was the extent of the relationship. But I'd always thought of this person as a fairly intelligent, nice person. Well, they posted some remarks to their Facebook page that I found insulting and derogatory towards Indians (which I happen to be). My first knee-jerk reaction was to respond and point out the error of their ways. But then I thought, what's the point? He posted such a comment knowing that I was his friend and he probably has other Indians as friends and it didn't seem to bother him or filter his remarks. So I defriended him without a word.

I know ignorant people are plentiful in this world, especially online where they are not aware of the impact of their words; I learned that through the fanfic world. However, as much as one expects and to an extent, tolerates, such comments from relatively anonymous, non-flesh, non-RL contact people, it's hard to take from someone you considered a friend or acquaintance. In fact, I was so startled that I read his comments several times before I realized he was serious and not joking at all. I figure he can continue to share his ignorant opinions on Facebook; I'm just not going to read them myself. And at least, now I know where he stands so I can effectively write him off for the future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LotD

Vanity Fair on the Gosselins here. As with anything else Vanity Fair touches, a pretty insightful and revealing article on how Jon and Kate have eclipsed even Brad and Angelina in their "celebrity". Interesting, but still scary.
Vacay

I'm on vacation this week as I'm between jobs. My last day at the previous job was last Friday and I start the new job this coming Monday. It seems a little surreal to have found a job so quickly -- about 3 months from application to start date -- in this economy when there are so many stories about people who have been looking for months, who have applied to so many different jobs, etc. It's actually demoralizing to read those stories and I stopped about 2 months into the job search. Each of those stories is a data point of just how bad the economy is, but there aren't any stories on people like me -- who found a job fairly quickly considering. So for those of you who are out there looking, there is hope.

Note - I'm aware that some parts of the country are better off than others and I happen to be very lucky and living in a part of the country that while it has a 9%+ unemployment rate, it's not as bad as other places and that could have played some into my job search.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Update

After a battle o' passwords with google, I'm back. I have this weird situation with my gmail account where someone is using the account and so I get all sorts of whacky work-related email, friend requests, plane tickets, law school missives, etc. It's annoying, to say the least. What's crazy is that this person doesn't seem to realize that they have appropriated my email. Incidentally, this person recently opened a Facebook account using my email address and I promptly cancelled it; hopefully they've figured out what's going on.

But just in case they haven't noticed the missing email or the cancellation of their Facebook account, I keep changing my email password to increasingly hard and incomprehensible nonsensical words. Which is fine except for the part where I forget what crazy jumble of letters made up the password and inadvertantly get locked out of this account. So I'm back now and hopefully won't forget my password again. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, October 05, 2009

LotD

Back from another business trip and came across this article on how airline fares might be leveling off soon. I've been appreciating the lower fares lately. Even with the 2-week advance purchase for today's plane fare, it still came in under $200 and that was insane, especially on a sold-out flight. I was anticipating having to pay $400 to $500 for the ticket, but no -- paid $178 round trip two weeks out. So I guess the message here is, if you're going to go on a vacation and need airfare, buy soon!
LotD

You know that effect in black and white pictures when one element, such as a rose, is the only thing in color? In the example I suggest, it would be a black and white picture with a red rose in it. I've been wondering how to do that effect for years in Photoshop (I have version 7.0) and had tried a couple of different tutorials to no effect. And then I found this one, and it's super easy. Try it if you have the software (not sure if it works in stripped down versions of Photoshop) for really cool effects.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

LotD

Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto revolt against the Nazis, died Friday at the age of 90. You can read about the uprising in his words here. It's an amazing and tragic story.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

LotD

Planned Parenthood will connect you to your senator's office so you can leave a message asking Congress to protect women's health care. Sign up here. It's about time people started listening to us, especially since I'm convinced all the people who are blowing smoke about abortion in the health care reform debate wouldn't support any kind of reform anyway. So make the call and ask your senator to protect women's health care and vote against any amendment that would restrict our options to pick our doctors and make our own choices about our healthcare. Women deserve comprehensive health care and I, for one, am tired of my health care choices being used as a political football for other people's agendas.
LotD

Scary article from the NY Times - Driven to Distraction - At 60 M.P.H.. Honestly, I can barely flip radio stations and drive at the same time, let alone check email/voice mails etc. I suppose most people who are like me put the cell phones away while driving, while everyone else is talking on the phone or texting and thinking they're doing just fine.

It scares me I'm on the road with people who are this reckless and careless. As my earlier saga with the car illustrated this past summer, people are trying to save themselves 10 to 20 minutes but in the meantime are costing the rest of us time and as this article points out, sometimes something much worse.

The article also comes with a game to test how distracted you are while driving and texting. I failed miserably. I can't text when I'm parked and concentrating 100% on the text, let alone while driving.

However, as I said, I think people who realize the dangers have already put away their cell phones. Everyone else thinks they're invincible or better than everyone else and nothing you say will ever convince them otherwise.

Scary stuff.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Things that make me go huh

Is it just me or does the Dodge Charger remind anyone else of a shark? Seriously, every time I see one -- and I've been seeing a lot of them lately on Sweat Sock City highways -- I hear the "JAWS" theme. Please tell me it's not just me.
Oink oink

Hello world, I am back after an unintended absence. I recovered from my trip to the UK just in time to be felled by a mysterious bug, which sounds all the more exciting if I say I was stricken by swine flu. I didn't go to the doctor so I don't actually know if I had swine flu, regular flu, allergies, the cold from heck, or all of the above mixed into a nice compact one week of debilitation.

My symptoms included a low grade fever (101.6 to 101.8 F) that came and went at will, kind of like a teenager sneaking out. I had a churning stomach that made me either ravenously hungry or absolutely disgusted at the sight of food. My cough sounded like my lungs wanted to erupt out of my chest and that tickle at the base of my throat was enough to drive me to distraction. The aches and pains and chills only lasted about two days. I don't make mention of the headache because with the exception of Friday's headache, the others were just ye olde run o' the mill pain that I suffer from on a fairly regular basis, kind of like recognizing an old friend dropping by for 3-4 days. The rest of the time, I was either completely exhausted or full of energy. It was like I was on my own special kind of speed.

Anyway, I'm saying it's swine flu because that sounds a lot more dramatic than anything else, plus I'm secretly hopeful that it was because now it means I'm immune (at least for this season). And also, it wasn't really that bad (at least what I had) and it ended fairly soon, about a week, give or take a day, as the symptoms seem to be making a slow exit out of my system.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

For fangirls/fanboys

FYI -- Yahoo! is shutting down its Geocities service on Oct. 26. Read more here. If you have files etc on a Geocities site, you may want to consider moving them. I started my online adventure on Geocities so I still have minimal files there, mostly of the non-fangirl nature. Feels like the end of an era. I wouldn't be surprised if other free hosting services started closing down as well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

LotD

Calling to Follow Up? Hand Me a Fork. I always wonder if I should do this and I never do, just like I don't do the 80 million other things one is supposed to in order to get a job. I feel validated on this one now. YMMV.
Watch that S-car go

My Prius just clocked in -- get this -- at 54 miles per gallon. Just awesome.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Home sweet home

I'm back after another business trip overseas. It may take a few days to get over the jetlag. Watch this space...

Friday, September 04, 2009

LotD

This is story about Cameron Todd Willingham prompts the horrifying question: did Texas execute an innocent man? It's a long and engrossing read, very well-written, and there's some ambiguity as to the final conclusion of what happened here, but thought provoking. There are follow-ups to this article including a rebuttal from the prosecutor here and the author's response here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mystery

I'm reading an Agatha Christie novel, "Murder at the Vicarage." I used to love Dame Agatha and own quite a few of her books. Some were a little odd like "Destination Unknown" or "Evil Under the Sun", but others like "The Murder on the Orient Express" or the tour de force that is "The Murder of Roger Ackeroyd" still thrill. The one I'm reading is Miss Marple's first outing, and it's funny going back and reading a childhood favorite, as I'm seeing things I didn't necessarily notice before. I forgot how colloquial the language is, how interesting the turn of phrase is, and how subtle she is about dropping clues. Of course, the sketching of small town life -- country village -- is something she does really well and her characters, prominently Poirot and Miss Marple, are particularly well defined with their idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. I'm having a good time revisiting and am just a few chapters away from the end. Hoping to finish this evening. Despite all these years of reading Dame Agatha, I still don't know whodunit.

Monday, August 31, 2009

LotD

The coldest, driest, and calmest place on Earth has been found. No surprise that it's in Antarctica, and apparently the views of the heavens are wonderful. Of course, you've got to brave -94 F temperatures and a 13,000+ foot hike to get to the top.
Mystery on the Bayou

Don't mind me, but I'm reading Agatha Christie again, and I've got this habit of turning everything and everyone around me into a story. On another time, I'll tell you about how I turned a simple outing to a Vietnamese sandwich shop into an undercover sting operation for a mafioso. But this mystery is closer to home, or rather two doors down. My neighbor has been evicted. Or rather, eviction papers were served a few days ago -- posted on her door, and I'm nosy so I looked -- but she moved out a couple weeks ago.

Until recently my neighbor and I had a cordial relationship. She moved in a few months before I did, so we've lived -- separated by one apartment -- on this hall for the last six years. We weren't close, but we knew each other's names and we occasionally had conversations in the hall. This was all before she went really and totally crazy.

It started with the simple shredding of menus that are annoyingly left on our doors. Then one day when I drove up in my car and parked next to hers (leaving a wide gap), she flipped out on me, using some choice four letter words. Her issue with my parking? I usually park on the first floor of our parking garage and then climb up to our floor, but due to chronic foot problems, I started parking on the same level as the apartment to avoid the impact of the stairs on my feet. The point was -- she took offense at my parking on our floor instead of my usual first floor parking, even though we don't have assigned parking in our garage (she did pay a monthly fee for an assigned spot though). She came out and apologized a few minutes later but I was spooked enough that I moved my car several parking spots away from her. We never spoke again.

Her behavior slowly escalated from shredding menus in the hallway to leaving strange post-it notes on her door with messages like "DO NOT ENTER; MY APARTMENT IS ALARMED." She then started leaving notes in the garage, some of them pretty offensive. One day she was walking around the garage in what seemed to be her underwear, but was really just a tanktop over her bikini. I found this odd because the pool is over there and not over here and most women cover-up when not around the immediate pool area. About two weeks before she moved out, she left post-it notes and flowers on my Prius; all of the notes were essentially incoherent saying things like "I've given all my stuff to the Salvation Army." I wish I had kept them now because I don't really remember anymore than that one note out of the six posted on my car. In retrospect, I wonder if there was a message there for me, some sign I should have paid more attention too.

It was alarming and I was contemplating saying something to the apartment office. I spoke to Florida Girl, who is a mental health professional in the ER, and asked what was up. She said that my neighbor's behavior sounded suspiciously like someone who was off her meds -- i.e. going from normal to crazy in no time flat. She asked if my neighbor had lost her job recently and I said I didn't know; we hadn't spoken since her four-letter word barrage. Florida Girl said she was seeing a lot of cases in the ER that were similar to what I was describing -- people had lost their jobs, couldn't afford their medications and/or were spacing the dosage out to make the medication last longer, and the results could be dangerous.

Anyway, my neighbor is gone. She has moved out and I'm not going to know what happened here. I'm assuming that she lost her job, went off medication (if she had been on medication), and then fled when she could no longer pay rent. Clearly the apartment complex didn't know she was gone if they left eviction notes on her door. I'm definitely sad because I don't like how our acquaintance ended, but at the same time, her behavior was so odd and alarming that I couldn't help but keep my distance. While I knew something was wrong, I also didn't feel like we were close enough or that I knew her well enough to ask what was up or offer any assistance. Mea culpa.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

LotD - Health Care Round-Up

Scary op-ed here about the effects of medical bills on people's marriages. I remember this kind of story being prevalent in the LTC market back when I worked for Very Big Insurance Company. Again, there's got to be a better way.

A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance, but the gaps and inadequacies left them unprotected when they were hit by devastating bills.

I find this above fact just... wow. Mind-boggling. Given the subject of this op-ed, I wonder where are the "family values" reflected when a wife chooses to divorce her husband in order to save their future together?

I also found the dichotomy in this article about Senator DeMint from South Carolina. He's fighting against health care reform, spreading lies about what the bill actually says, and yet, the average rate of uninsured people in his state is higher than the national average.

The subject of health care in Mr. DeMint’s own state rarely comes up either. But South Carolina, much of which is poor and rural, faces some particular challenges. Its unemployment rate of 11.8 percent exceeds the national rate of 9.4 percent. And 16.2 percent of the population has no insurance, more than the national average of 15.3 percent.

Rather, voters seem more interested in whether Mr. DeMint might run for president.


Reminds me a lot of that book -- "What's the Matter with Kansas?" -- which had people voting emotionally on their anti-abortion stances to their own economic disadvantage.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ready Freddy

I've upgraded my hurricane preparedness kit after last year's boondoggle. So in addition to all the things I had last year, I've added an LED lantern that allegedly lights up an entire room and will work on battery for 1 1/2 months at 5 hours a day, and also a crank cell phone charger. The LED light has actually come in handy as I don't think our electric grid was properly repaired and we lose power during storms quite often these days. It's never for long -- maybe 5 to 10 minutes, and one day, while I was at work, it was nearly the entire day (no biggy -- I was gone). Other people I know have been losing power regularly and for longer periods of time. So I guess it's always good to have these things "just in case".

Friday, August 28, 2009

RiP Ted Kennedy

He made some big mistakes in his life but he did a lot of common good and was the symbol of liberalism, not to mention this also feels like the end of the Kennedy mystique. I'm at a loss as to who has the stature to fill those shoes and be the torch bearer for the Democratic Party or for liberalism in general. While Ted Kennedy was in the Senate, there was always hope that cherished legislation -- health care reform, to name one -- would become reality. It's truly the end of an era.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The emperor has no clothes

I was reading a stat today that about 10 to 30 percent of resumes have lies in them, whether inflating or exaggerating accomplishments to lying about military experience or saying one has a degree from a school that one does not have one from*. I don't understand what's the point. The lie might get you in the door -- for instance, I could say I'm a petroleum engineer with 20 years of experience, but anyone's going to know 3 minutes into my first day on the job that that can't possibly be true.

That's what keeps me honest. I stress over things like getting the month of my graduations right (honestly cannot remember anymore if I graduated in April, May or June of a certain year). I recently took some bullet points off my resume from when I was at Very Big Insurance Company; I'm sure they were true, but it's been nearly a decade and I can't remember what projects those bullet points refer to now. If I can't talk intelligently about the things on my resume, off them come.

It's awfully tempting to put programs like SPSS or Minitab on my resume because I have used them at one point, but gosh darn if I remember how to use it. I know those are programs that are in demand in my field and I know it wouldn't take me long to learn them, but still -- something holds me back, namely conscience. I'd rather 'fess to having used them at some point, the memory has faded, but I'm confident I could re-learn in a short period of time.

It's a tough job market, but there are plenty of examples out there of people representing one thing to get the job but don't last any length of time because they're very quickly found out. Not worth it, in my opinion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

LotD

The Washington Post has an insider's view of last year's attacks in Mumbai here.

I arrived in Mumbai on the Sunday evening before these attacks and Monday mid-morning, we stood outside of the Taj Hotel and looked out across the sea from where the attackers arrived on Wednesday afternoon. It was chilling to download my photos several weeks later, in the safety of my home in Sweat Sock City, and the first two or three pictures were of the Taj Hotel -- royal, majestic, and without blemish, and no indication either of what was to come.

After that day of pictures, the only images of the Taj Hotel from then on were of smoke billowing out of the windows. The horror of what was happening inside could only be imagined; the WaPo article referenced above tells one out of what must have been hundreds of stories of those terrible days.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oh yeah

Big missing from the job searching spreadsheet I've been mentioning -- a separate tab for sites, username and password. Every single site -- whether it's a job board, a company career site, a search engine, etc -- requires some kind of login. And some of those passwords are just as secure, if not, more, than what would be needed for a bank account. One site, I can't remember which, doesn't allow you to have a password that resembles anything like the previous 20. All of that is fine if you're only using/logging in to one or two sites total. But when you're up to 30 or 40, it gets confusing, not to mention annoying to keep clicking on the "forgot password" link. So as of today, I've added a new tab to the ever expanding job search spreadsheet -- Passwords. My headers are: Site (URL), Username and Password. I guess security hint might be a good one too, but you don't generally need them if you know your password.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trust

I think once trust is broken, it's hard to regain it. I've been contemplating many plans of action in the last 6 weeks, including the one that would make me feel better and reduce my anxiety greatly. But at the same time, I keep coming back to a vital point that I can't let go of: I was lied to. No, correction -- I was and am being lied to. Which makes it really hard. So I could take the action described above -- basically, confrontation -- or I could not confront, do my own thing, and get out of the situation entirely.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Across the pond

Another trip coming up and I'm nervous about it for any number of reasons. I'm just not feeling it. Usually I'm super excited about going to a place I've never been to before, but this time, I just get the... I don't know. There's something that doesn't feel right to me. However, the next trip, I'm completely cool with. It's just this one that feels a little off. I think maybe if I do some research about my destination, find a guided tour that I can take over the weekend when I'm not working, I think I'll be fine. Just have to keep the anxiety to a dull roar.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The hunt

Towards the end of May of 2003, I applied for a job at Very Big Publishing Company. I started work there in August of 2003. So from time of application to interview to acceptance to first day was about 2 months. Total number of jobs applied to: 50. Number of interviews: 2. Both companies I interviewed with called me back for second interviews and one offered me the job. The other one chose someone else but then called me six months later to offer me the job; I had to decline as I'd already moved across the state for Very Big Publishing Company.

In the fall of 2003, I realized that the job at Very Big Publishing Company wasn't a fit. Yes, I was finally an editor, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be and the work environment was debilitating. I got my next job in December of 2004, but I applied to about 30 jobs over that 15 month period. I had two interviews, including one randomly weird and long-winded process; believe it or not, the job I got I only interviewed for about 45 minutes and they called and offered me the job a few weeks later.

I didn't start looking for another job until the spring of 2007. I really liked the job I took in December 2004, and I especially liked the people I worked with. But I also realized I had reached the limit of what I could do there and it was time for a new challenge. My job search was so new in the spring of 2007 that I don't even have a record of what I looked for or how many jobs I applied for. I got an interview within a couple of days of posting my resume on Careerbuilder.com and then I got that job a couple months later.

So far, I've applied to 35 jobs during the month of July and month-to-date August. I've had 5 "rejections" so far, one call-back for an interview, and the rest have been no response. Given that the conditions now are about the same as they were in the spring of 2003, I'm thinking I have another 20 or so applications to fill out to get at least one more interview.

It's mentally and emotionally exhausting. My stomach hurts more often than not these days, headaches are a constant companion, and sometimes I'm so anxious, I can't sleep. I'm trying to be upbeat and positive, but it's really not easy. Even though I've been working through the Impending Doom/punch-in-the-gut, as the saying goes, there's always something to remind me and it starts all over again. I'm just hoping that when all is said and done, I end up in a much better place.
LotD

Wow. Just. Wow. Here's a job tip NOT to follow. I am curious to know how successful this candidate is in looking for a job, i.e. does he/she get called back for a second interview or receive a job offer after pulling something like this? Just. Wow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

LotD

More on the Bush/Cheney saga here. I'm just fascinated by the dynamic. The Bush who is emerging post-term seems so foreign to me. The first hint of the nouveau!Bush is that he didn't start any more wars during his second term, but this rift with Cheney and Bush's sensitivity to public opinion is fascinating reading. I do still think Cheney is the Boogey Man though. I might be softening on Bush the person (though I still abhor his policies and his actions), but Cheney... he's a scary, scary man. To wit:

"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience. There was no sense in which he looked back and said, 'I wish I'd done something differently.' Rather, there was a sense that they hadn't gone far enough. If he'd been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they'd have been able to push further.
Disconnected

I was away from my computer all day today and it's so weird how disconnected I feel. I have no idea what has happened in the world outside since the first 20 minutes of the Today show this morning. I mean, on the one hand, I love busy days because you're just going and going, but on the other hand, every now and then it's nice to take a breather.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Darn it!

We actually tried to snag Best Buy's $9.99 52 inch Samsung television as a replacement for mine. I mean, TEN DOLLARS. What a steal. But alas, it was not to be. I shall continue onwards in life without a 52-inch television.

Monday, August 10, 2009

LotD

Writers may appreciate this blog: Mighty Red Pen; I learned the difference between comprise and compose here. And a blog dedicated to instances of apostrophe abuse here; this last one is a much needed public service.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

LotD

Worst. Idea. For. A. Show. Ever. Apparently, a new show from Fox revolves around firing people on-air. Seriously. Real life people in real life jobs and their co-workers decide who goes, who stays. I just can't even fathom how something like this would work. Not to mention, who on earth would want to participate? I can't possibly see the value of Impending Doom being broadcast across the nation. And I know there are people who'd want to watch this train wreck of a show, but don't we see enough as we watch our friends and family members lose their jobs? Ugh. Terrible idea. As much as I enjoy reality shows, I'll pass on this one.
PSA

I can't remember if I've said this before, but even so, it bears repeating: if one eats fish (seafood), one is not a vegetarian. If one eats any thing that once had a face -- whether it's a chicken or a worm or a seahorse -- one is not a vegetarian. I really, really wish this trend would stop. I can't even count how many people have said, "Oh I'm vegetarian, but I love tuna salad and eat it every day," or something to that effect. People who shun all meat except for seafood (or any other one variety) are not vegetarians. It makes so hard for REAL vegetarians because people think we eat fish, and are shocked (SHOCKED!) when they find out that's not the case. Real vegetarians don't eat anything that once had a face. Vegans don't eat anything that once had a face and also skip eggs and dairy.

Hope that clears things up.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Socialite

What I like about Facebook is that in certain applications, it bears no resemblance to real life. Everyone talks about the status updates and the whole reconnecting with people from high school and middle school, but WHAT ABOUT THE GAMES? Only on Facebook can I have a dog (I strongly dislike dogs), a farm (I like the concept of gardening, but dirt on my hands makes me a little crazy), a restaurant (just awesome), and I can also spend time as a fashionista (which I'm not in RL).

On Facebook, I also can own a house with a windmill in the front yard and I have a job in Yoville, but I'm not quite sure what it is I do there (I seem to dance and laugh and joke with various friends -- if only I could turn that into a paying gig in RL!). At various points, I get to travel abroad in something called Kidnapped! and there's also a Mafia War going on. For a while, I was deeply embroiled in a Parking War. I also have a kingdom of my own and apparently my vassals are restless for my return; I don't know what is they expect me to do.

Right now the restaurant game is my favorite. It runs slowly and it's rather high maintenance (actually, all of the virtual life games are high maintenance); not quite feasible for someone who check the site every few days or so. It's like I go and plant crops on my farm, but by the time I return to harvest them, they're all dead. So the only solution is to keep coming back and that, my friends, is the ingenuity of Facebook. After all, you'd feel guilty too if your virtual dog was pawing at you for attention because you happened to have an attack of RL along the way. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think have a war or three to fight.
LotD

It's not so much that my computer is slow, but my ISP is super slow. So much for high speed internet. I tested my connection here. I had thought about dropping down to SBC's $15 plan at lower speeds, but kept the $25 because I thought it would be too slow to stream video etc. Well, apparently according to speedtest.net, a turtle could outrun my connection. My upload speed is 0.31 mb/s and my download speed is 0.94 mb/s. Average for my ISP is 3.25 mb/s and for my region, 5.73 mb/s. Still faster than dial-up, but what's the point of high speed if it's just a smidgen faster? I'd better compare those numbers to what SBC says I'm getting for the money.

Cable is not an option as my current location only provides for DSL. But I'll be moving in a few months, so perhaps there will be another option then.

Friday, August 07, 2009

LotD

Here are some ideas on how to to expand the Cash for Clunkers program. I have a whole apartment full of stuff that I'd love the government to give me a rebate on so I can get something shiny and new. So how about it, Uncle Sam?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

LoTD

Wow -- online speak has come a long way. I'm not a texter, so I haven't seen most of these. Almost scary. I shudder to think what this is doing to our grammar and spelling skills.
Impending Doom

Remember that book from the late 90s, "Who Moved My Cheese?" These days, it seems like lots of people are moving le fromage everywhere. "I didn't see it coming," one friend lamented to me a couple of days ago. Another friend said to me that she has survived two rounds of Impending Doom(tm) but now can't sleep or eat, she's so stressed because another round is sure to come.

I think waiting is the hard part. Anticipating kind of sucks too. I think the thing to recognize is that the cheese is going to move, whether you want it to or not. You need to always be thinking which way is which, and hopefully stay in front of the cheese.

Or something.

My point is, what's the plan? In situations of Impending Doom, it's rare that you as an individual have any control over what's happening or any influence whatsoever. So the only thing to do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And keep a stiff upper lip.

In my case, I made a plan which I hopefully will not have to implement. The plan, in broad strokes, goes something like this:

1) How will I handle myself? What questions do I need to ask?
2) What is my exit strategy?
3) What is next? How will I cope with extra time?

In the first case, I wrote out Things I Need to Know(tm). That way I don't miss anything important. This is the category for things like severance, insurance coverage, confidentiality agreements, non-compete clauses, etc. YMMV, but these are just some of the things to think about.

Second, how did you exit? I visualized what my vision of a dignified departure in the face of bad news would look like. I decided I wanted to be gracious and that I wanted to be sincere in my efforts. I wanted to feel like if I did indeed fall prey to Impending Doom (tm) that I had done everything I could to make myself and my company successful. I didn't ever want to look back and say, "I wish I had done that," or "If only I had done that." So I think about every day, "what can I do to be successful today? What can I do to make the company money today?" That way I don't have to be regretful about anything.

In the third case, I needed a plan for the extra time I might have on my hands. I can't possibly sit around and play word games on Facebook all day long. So I thought about what would I want to do? Do I want to write? Do I want to get back into web design? What about going back to school and acquiring additional skills? Honestly, all of those things sound like fun and I'm at a loss at focusing on just one of them.

Underlying all of this is the budgetary plan. This is the hardest part, and it's scary when you sit down and try to figure out how much your lifestyle costs on a monthly basis. Then you have to think that it could be 6 to 9 months before you find another job. I have friends who were out of work for a couple of years before finding something. YMMV. The point is, you take that Scary Monthly Lifestyle Cost and multiply it by 9. That's what you need to keep going.

Impending Doom, unfortunately, is broadening its reach. People who were safe through the first several rounds of layoffs aren't safe anymore. People talk about how to make yourself invaluable, etc., during this time -- how to keep the job you have. But at the end of the day, that decision isn't really yours, is it? I mean, to an extent you can make an effort, but roles and requirements change in a tight economy. So the idea is to have a plan of some kind so whatever happens, you can deal with it.

And honestly, it's better to plan now and not wait. There's a sense of security in knowing you know what's going to happen if the worst ever happens. Plus, if you've prepared and know how you want to deal with the situation, then you at least have the chance of being dignified and gracious. And remember -- the cheese is being moved because it's a business decision; it's not personal. The crummy part is, I think we understand the business decision part; it's the latter that's just so hard to accept and understand.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Look what I found!

X-Files 3! Okay, so it's just speculation and rumor at this point but a fangirl can always dream of a moose and squirrel reunion. Though I can say that XF2 was kind of a bummer of a film, it did have its super cute moments and just fun to be spending time with Mulder and Scully again (funny -- I almost typed in 'Skinner' instead of Scully -- Freudian finger slip, you think?). Here's a debunked rumor and here's a placeholder for a film due in 2012. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'd watch Mulder and Scully read a phone book, though honestly I'd hope Chris Carter and company do better than that.
Ick factor

No matter how often I read variations of this story, I still can't get over Ryan O'Neal hitting on his own daughter at Farrah Fawcett's funeral. I mean really, how out of touch do you have to be, how out of it do you have to be, to not even recognize your own child? So messed up.
Vewy intevesting

"Impending Doom" has taken an interesting twist. I can't figure out what to make of it. If my deliberate vagueness confuses you, it's because I'm being purposeful. The Internets have eyes, y'know. Just not sure what to do, but am keeping the guard up and the focus on moving forward. Because even if "Impending Doom" has been averted, I still have to look at the situation with a) mixture of relief but also that b) I learned something I didn't need/want to know and c) that makes me uneasy and unwanted. The ego is still recovering from its sucker punch and I've come too far in the last 30 days to relax now. Onward ho!
LotD

More workplace linkage. This time, meet Evil HR Lady. Interesting reading.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

LotD

What happens when you're juggling two cell phones while driving? Apparently you end up in a swimming pool.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Resolution Almost

So after nearly 4 weeks, I finally have an appointment to get my car fixed. For those of you not in the know, I had a minor fender bender in my new car about a month ago. I was hit from behind IN A PARKING GARAGE BY A WOMAN WHO WAS TEXTING HER LAWYER. I felt bad for her because she was clearly distraught, in the process of getting a divorce, and for some reason, felt that A PARKING GARAGE WAS AN APPROPRIATE VENUE TO COMMUNICATE VIA TEXT MESSAGE WITH HER LAWYER.

There are so many things wrong with this incident on so many levels. Texting while driving at any time is super dangerous and distracting. I don't care how dexterous one is with their thumbs, you're not that good. Second, it's a PARKING GARAGE. A RESIDENTIAL PARKING GARAGE. Meaning, there are people backing in and out of spots all the live long day and people walking across the parking garage all the live long day. So it's not even the best place to TALK on your cell phone (especially when you consider it's a two-way garage, not a one way, and with tight corners; I affectionately call it "The Garage of Death.").

The point is, I had stopped and because she was texting, she did not see I was at a full stop and she hit me. Luckily, she owned up and now the insurance company is going to pay my claim. Anyway, she's off the hook now. She gave me her insurance information, but in return for her inability to make good decisions, I have had to do or will do the following:

1) I had to file a claim with Very Big Insurance Company. I used to work at Very Big Insurance Company for four years, so I know how they work and so I thought I was prepared. HA HA HA.

2) I had to go to the doctor because I had back pain from the incident. Doctor verified back pain and sent me to the pharmacist. I was out $40 from the incident, not to mention the 30 minutes at the doctor's office and the one hour at the pharmacy waiting for the prescriptions to be filled.

3) The claim rep called to let me know he got my claim, but then never called me again. So I then made a follow-up call but the claim rep had gone on vacation and they still had not contacted the woman who had hit me to verify the incident. They promised to call me.

4) They never called, so I called again. This time they agreed that my claim was valid, the woman verified it, and so now I can get it fixed, but to wait for the official letter.

5) I've received the official letter so now I made an appointment at the dealer to get it fixed. I'm taking it on Monday. In the meantime, I have to be without my shiny new car that I've owned less than 2 months. Luckily, I can drive my beloved Corolla instead of going to a rental. I find rental cars seriously annoying.

I feel very grateful that the accident wasn't worse than it was. I'm aggravated that my dream car has already been marred and in such a stupid fashion as well; I'm probably going to need an entirely new bumper (in addition to the dent, it also came loose from the frame of the car). And this accident was entirely avoidable in every way possible. She felt she needed to text her lawyer at that very moment in order to get something done, and those 30 seconds have caused a whole lot of aggravation on my end -- something that, with everything else going on in my life right now, I don't need.

Don't text and drive!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

By the Power of Grayskull (or something)

Episodes of "She-Ra" are available on Hulu! Would totally watch except for the fact my computer is so slooooooow that pictures and sounds move at different rates, causing a rather psychedelically annoying visual and auditory experience. But still, for those of you not similarly, constrained, "SHE-RA"! On Hulu! What are you waiting for?
LotD

Interesting blog, especially in this employment environment - Ask a Manager. Some good advice/insight there.
3,777

So many post ideas, so little time.

The news is claiming the recession is over and that we're officially in a new bull market that is going to last until mid spring 2010. That's "Kudlow and Company," by the way, who said that. You can catch them on MSNBC. I don't know what Kool-Aid they're drinking, but I got an email from a friend today asking to go to lunch next week to blow off steam; second round of layoffs at her company yesterday and now she's super stressed about her job. Not a lot of fat left, and the unemployment numbers are steady. A job cut here, a job cut there. Sure doesn't feel like the recession is over or that the bulls are running.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In you I see God

I'm addicted to this particular song from "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi." We actually did a dance to "Dance pe Chance" from the same movie in our Bollywood/Bhangra class. Later when we watched the film to get the context of the dance, I was instead instantly attracted to this song. The lyrics of this particular song -- "Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai" -- were just really beautiful. This particular version of the song has subtitles so of course I have to post and share it with the rest of the world. Seriously, one of the most romantic (if not a little sad-- but it's a Bollywood movie; sadness doesn't last long) songs ever.



The movie is really very cute and probably one of the best Shah Rukh Khan movies I've seen. The plot is a little out there, but all the same, very fun. And I think the music is fantastic.

To get the subtitles, click on the little triangle in the right hand side of the menu bar on the bottom of the video screen. A little "cc" option will pop up. Click that and you'll get the subtitles.