Monday, February 27, 2006

Thank You for Your Patience; Your Call Is Important to Us.

--know that you're my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
for you are the wind beneath my wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth--

Yes, ma'am. Please bear with me as my computer is slow as molasses in January and if I could just put you on hold a second...

Whatever you say
Turn on the boob tube
I'm in the mood to obey
So lead me astray by the way, now

Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changin' channels

Thank you all for your continued patience with my complete and utter failure to get the ski weekend documented and posted. But I leave for the airport in a mere six hours and right now I need to pack, do laundry, and go to the gym. In that order. (Notice "sleep" is not on the list. Again, that's what the plane is for.) If I'm really productive, you'll have the ski recap before I get on that plane. If not, perhaps entering your sixteen digit account number, followed by the pound sign, will help pass the time. Or, you know, feel free to sing along with the hold music.

(Bonus points if you can "sing" the next verse for us, without Googling for the answer. And I'll know if you cheated, so don't try it.)

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don't understand
It's just my job five days a week--

Friday, February 24, 2006

What's in a Name?

Y'all, I really debated about posting this, because in doing so I give up any remaining shred of anonymity and, worse, all plausible deniability that I am the author of this blog. Which is not something I'd recommend to any of my clients. Consider yourselves very lucky.

Yesterday I received a refresher course in one of the universe's fundamental truths. Namely, that I Am Not in Charge. (It ranks right up there with other important truths like There Is a God and Wine Is Good for You and Redheads Can Totally Wear Pink and Red, Just Pick the Right Shade, Please.) My boss's boss's boss gave a speech wherein she referred to me as Kate about four times in sixty seconds. And then the CEO of the company hosting this talk, whom I have met on many occasions and to whom I have always introduced myself as Katherine, he referred to me as Kate. From the podium. This wouldn't be so bad, except that everyone I know in my professional life knows me as Katherine. Everyone.

I've had many names (and nicknames) in my life. How you refer to me is a good indicator as to when you met me, or under what circumstances. I was Katie growing up and into college. Liz liked to call me "Katherine Anne" in a fake I'm-yelling-at-you voice, which was funny because even our parents didn't call me Katherine when I was getting yelled at. The neighbor boy across the street would use Katherine occasionally, with the same tongue-in-cheek attitude. ("Hello, Kath-er-ine..." enunciating every syllable.) Only within my family (both nuclear and extended) would anyone call me Kate.

During my first real job in college, I had to ditch Katie. I didn't mind that it was somewhat young-sounding, I was young, and that was part of my appeal. No, I got tired of receiving faxes from people who massacred my name. "Caydee" and "Ka-de" and "K.T." drove me up the wall, as did "Kathy." So I became Kate. It was a little more sophisticated, but still me. Some of my college friends made the switch, some didn't, and I was pretty indifferent. To new people in my life I introduced myself as Kate, for the rest of college and grad school.

Then it was time for a job. A real job. And that meant I had to decide on a professional name. The name that would be my brand for the next fifty years. The name under which I would run for office. The name they would print in the newspaper headlines and the history books. The name that would be synonymous with Really Smart, Tough, Sexy Person You Definitely Want Working for You. I settled on Katherine. It was professional, would be durable my entire career, is splashed across the top of my resumes, etc. I even went to the trouble of changing my voice mail message so prospective employers wouldn't be confused/tempted by Kate.

Being Katherine turned out to be more difficult than I expected. At first, it was just weird, but eventually I got used to answering to it. And, more importantly, introducing myself as such. Nothing says "I'm an idiot" like tripping over your own name. Alas, people still spell my name creatively. And the likelihood of someone calling me Kathy is much greater. Argh! I have plenty of names; please use one from the approved list! (I hate Kathy for reasons even I don't understand. My best friend is a Kathy; one of my best bosses is a Kathy; my current favorite networking connection is a Kathy. [You don't have a current favorite networking connection? What kind of cave do you live in?])

Plus, there's the whole thing of being different names to different groups of people. It wasn't much of a problem when I was one name at home and one name at work/school. But now? It's Katie for old-school friends, college friends, and people I know through the alumni association; Kate for grad school friends and my family; Katherine for work people, Junior League people, Banana Republic people, pretty much anyone I met after June 2002. Even worse is when you put all these people in the same room and everyone is confused about how to address me.

Finally, I never know what name to use with the guys I date. Katherine seems too formal for someone with whom I might have a close personal relationship and could actually be family one day. On the other hand, how do I know he's going to stick around long enough to qualify for the close personal relationship status? But then, how does one achieve a name-switch in the middle of a relationship? It's all so confusing! (I solve this dilemma by simply not dating. So much easier.)

Everyone prefers a different name. One of my friends thinks Katie is just the perfect name for me. Another said, "Katie is, like, a ditzy cheerleader name. That's totally not you." My mother, it turns out, doesn't like Katherine.

Mom: I just can't get over this Katherine thing. Why are you Katherine? It sounds so old and stuffy.
Me: Mom, you gave me this name! Since when do you not like Katherine? And why would you give me a name you don't like?
Mom: I like Katie; that's why I named you Katherine. I just figured you'd go by Kate as a grown-up.
Me: Thanks for telling me now.

As for me? I like them all, but I'm most concerned about that professional name. I just don't see myself doing the Katie Couric thing. But I can handle a Katharine/Kate Graham approach to life. I'm still introducing myself as Katherine, but it'll be interesting to see if (and how quickly) the Kate thing catches on here. Any bets? Faster than the transmission of avian bird flu? (Speaking of name changes, we are now calling it "Avian influenza." Which makes sense, since "avian bird flu" is needlessly redundant.) In the meantime, while we get this whole mess sorted out, you may address me as "Your Highness."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

DC DC DC!!!!!

Yay! I will be in DC next week. Woo-hoo! Can you tell I'm just a tad excited? No? Well, I am. Though this is nothing compared to my excitement in December, when I hadn't been to DC in four months and I thought I would spontaneously combust during my last 48 hours in California. Imagine Christmas Eve for a four-year old little boy who loves Christmas...yeah, that was me before boarding the plane. (And I have some dorky text messages sent from the gate to prove it.)

Anyway, yes, DC, the land of policy wonks and nonstop networking and daily happy hours. And me, in the midst of it all. Yay! (Confidential to you DC types: Happy Hour. Thursday. Fado. Be there.)

Official Ski Trip Update: Yes, yes, I know. Pictures, funny stories, I get it. And I will deliver, just as soon as I can. But it will be another day because Walgreens did not understand that, while having the physical pictures is nice (ready in just 90 minutes!), what I really wanted was my film developed into some kind of digital, computerable, blog-loadable format, and the physical pictures don't really accomplish this. Perhaps because I forgot to tell them. Perhaps because it didn't even occur to me until about half an hour ago.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

She's Alive!

Yes, that's right, I survived the Official Ski Trip to Tahoe and met my death on the side of a mountain neither skiing nor driving. Though I do have some darn good stories about both to share, just as soon as the pictures are developed. (We didn't risk killing the digital camera on the slopes, and instead opted for a disposable one with real live film, hence the delay in picture production.) My chin, of all things, suffered the worst of it, due to constant rubbing against the top of my ski jacket. Red, peeling chin...not sexy. But the damage was minimal and short-lived - pretty good, as far as injuries go.

Danielle's visit provided much amusement, as always, and I miss her already. *Sob.* We spent our last night carousing in my 'hood...dinner at the Czech/Italian place down the street (yes, really, Czech and Italian. The owner/chef is Czech but previously worked at an Italian restaurant, so he now cooks both cuisines. Quite well, as a matter of fact.) followed by many pints at the English pub next door. Danielle enjoyed it immensely, as it was reminiscent of the time she spent in jolly old England. I enjoyed it immensely, as it was reminiscent of the time I spent socializing with single people.

The pub's big attraction is a Sunday night trivia game. And the guy running the show was HOT. (Or hot according to my warped-by-DC standards. Or hotter than anyone else within five feet of us.) We tried to figure out how old Trivia Boy is. 24? 25? The trivia questions seemed to center on information just a little before our time, so we upped the estimate to 30. (And we wondered who the hell knows this crap...until Danielle came up with several correct answers in a row and I amazed myself by knowing the answers to some pop culture questions, which is really, really not my forte.)

The evening progressed with several Trivia Boy run-ins. When the trivia festivities were over and the place had significantly cleared out, I found myself sharing a booth with him. This was the beginning of the end. It was midnight and Trivia Boy was drinking water and having a hard time stringing words together to form complete sentences. But best of all? He proceeded to pick at his teeth during our entire conversation. You've been drinking beer for the last twelve hours, what could possibly be stuck in your teeth?!?!

And this was not an attempt at discrete teeth-picking, where you use your pinky finger and try to make it as quick as possible and hope no one notices. This was whole-mouth-open, half-his-hand-in-there, undeniable, outright teeth-picking. Thirty? I hope not.

(There was also some vague reference to not knowing where he was going to be tomorrow morning. Um, was I supposed to suggest my place here? Cuz, yeah no. Did I mention the incessant teeth-picking? Uh, pass.)

I slid out of the booth with a casual "Have a good night" (and please don't ever run into me again!). Danielle and I made our way home, very slowly, because we kept stopping to fall over laughing as I recounted the story for her. My triumphant return to nightlife, and this is what I get?

*Insert game show buzzer sound here.*
Bob, what lovely parting gifts do we have for our contestant today?
Well, Jim, it's a one-way ticket to Spinsterhood. I hear it's beautiful this time of year.

For your viewing pleasure:

Yes, that would be eight purses/handbags/totes/laptop bags. For the two of us. We have no money to carry around in these bags, but I found my perfect black purse!

We're in the process of forming a support group. If you're interested, e-mail me your membership application. Tips on where to find a really hot bag at a great price are also welcome.

OLYMPICS UPDATE: Don't look for me in the halfpipe in Vancouver, but Anja Paerson and I are going head-to-head in the Women's Slalom event.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anticipation. (Or, The Evil Safeway Part II)

If you thought I dialed it in yesterday, just wait til you read this collection of random crap. I'm killin' time here, until Danielle arrives and we get this show on the road. And, I know how sad you'd be if you didn't have anything to entertain you on a Friday. Today it's about quantity, not quality, and I'm OK with that.

First, another installment in The Evil Safeway series. My god, how much do I hate your Muzak? The sad part is, I know the lyrics to every damn song you play and find myself singing along (sometimes audibly) while wandering the aisles. Bad! And what is up with the cheap-o, knock-off version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" Was the original Elton John version not Muzak-y enough for you? You had to go get some woman to sing it veeeeery slowly with lots of echo-y flourishes from the background vocals? I had pretty much convinced myself this was the case, but lo and behold, the very next song was "Why Can't This Be Love?" by Van Halen. Van Halen! And Elton John was too rockin'??? But you just haven't lived until your average 350-pound high school checkout boy starts belting out - tunelessly and not keeping time with the Muzak - Toni Braxton's "You Mean the World to Me." Which is now stuck in my head. Thank you, oh so much, Safeway.

Official Ski Trip Update: I have chains! It took stops at three auto parts stores, but they are now safely thrown somewhere in the trunk of my car. And it was quite the experience.

Auto Part Store #1: Closed. I could tell this without even pulling into the parking lot. Almost broke down in tears due to working in crappy small town suburb where nothing is open past 5:00 p.m. and haven't we already covered the fact that I DO NOT leave work before 5:00 p.m. and WOULD A STUPID SET OF CHAINS BE TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR??? I am going to drive into snow-covered mountains and meet my snow-covered death, all because I actually go to work during the day.

Auto Part Store #2: Open, yay! I put on my I'm-just-a-pathetic-girl-please-help-me face, which works like a charm. (And wasn't much of a stretch considering the near-breakdown I'd just had.) Michael (yes, we're on a first-name basis) asks what size tires I have. Right. See, I knew that was a critical piece of information, but when Adam (helper guy from last night) looked at my tires, he committed the size to memory without telling me. So...? Does knowing that it's a Corolla help? Michael and I go out to inspect my tires. They are 175/65/14, in case you were wondering, and I will be writing that information someplace not lose-able, like on my registration form, since I am tired of not being able to answer that question. Michael finds the appropriate chains in their inventory catalog, but does not have them in his store. Apparently I have unusually small tires. Or unusually small tires for one who is going to drive up a mountain. Again with the snow-covered death pictures flashing through my head. But! Michael's handy dandy computer tells him that another store in the area has them in stock. Jackpot.

[Danielle just arrived and can't wait to get back in the car, so I will finish this very hilarious story later. If I do not meet my death on the side of a mountain.]

Auto Part Store #3: Also open, yay! Following Michael's instructions, I go find Chris who will hook me up with some chain love. (That sounds way kinkier than it is. Contain yourselves.) Chris, on notice from Michael that a young woman in search of chains will be stopping by, takes one look at me and goes off to get the chains. When he returns, chains in hand, I inquire about windshield wiper fluid. I spotted some in Auto Part Store #2 and thought, I haven't put wiper fluid in the car since moving to California a year ago, so I'll bet it's time to start worrying about that. Chris suggests that I get a de-icer instead of regular old wiper fluid. I thank him for the thought, but no, really, I just want wiper fluid. No, he insists that I will be sad, and may possibly die a snow-covered death on the side of a mountain, without the de-icer. Ok, fine, give me the de-icer.

Chris: I'd love to, but actually we're not allowed to sell de-icer in Sacramento County.
Me: blank stare
Chris: I know.
Me: Huh?
Chris: Just stop someplace on your way up the mountain, like in Placerville, they can sell it to you.
Me: Are you kidding? Why? No, wait, don't. I don't want to know. I will just add this to my list of Things about California That Make Absolutely No Sense Whatsoever.

Hello, California legislators? Sacramento County board? Have you run out of ideas on what to make laws about? Is this what it's come to? De-icer regulations??? Have we already solved those other problems like poverty and child abuse and lackluster educational achievement? Are you worried that I will inappropriately use my de-icer on a frigid 50-degree winter day? De-icer???

Anyway, we are here now, having safely navigated the mountainous terrain without needing chains or de-icer (which is good, because we didn't stop for any). Hopefully the skiing goes just as smoothly!

By the Numbers

I know what you've been thinking: there just haven't been enough quantitative posts here. To remedy that, today we have all numbers, all the time! (You Haters of Math probably don't like me very much right now. Sorry.)

In the past thirty days, since I started spying on you – er, I mean, watching my traffic stats – there have been 759 visits, 1531 page views and 82 comments left. I'm happy with that. Really. Never mind the fact that some blogs I read have more comments left than I have visitors in a day. That doesn’t bother me in the least. *Sniff.* It's not a popularity contest, after all. Right? Right? (To be fair, those blogs have been up and running for years, so I’m not going to take it personally. Yet.)

The traffic, it will come. (Send your friends and neighbors over, they'll love it here!) But comments? We can always use more comments! Otherwise this is just a self-absorbed, narcissistic, one-sided conversation. Oh.

I've noticed that weekday traffic is pretty steady, with peaks around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST. However, site traffic plummets over the weekend. These two facts mean one thing: y'all waste a lot of time at work! Or you have more exciting weekends than I do.

Another curiosity: the day with the most visits was January 26. I don't know if you came here in search of more Pretty New Shoes or if Steve's birthday was the big draw or what. Steve, did you send all your friends over here to see the baby pic? I know you're a shameless self-promoter. No worries, I'll take the free publicity!

What intrigues me is who's behind each IP address - something I'll never know (because I'm not, well, the CIA). And how he/she ended up at this site - which I get to know some of the time. Searches within the Blogger tool are the most common referral source. In fact, "fuck" is the most popular search term from random people who end up here. Shocking, huh? But I wonder what people were hoping for when they do the search. 'Cuz I probably disappoint on that front. One visitor was more specific. He searched for "pictures of people doing sex." Forgive the poor grammar – he's from the United Arab Emirates. He was referred to this post. Quite a let-down, I'd imagine, as there are "pictures of people" and talk of "sex," but not actually "pictures of people doing sex."

Some of my other favorites include someone from Missouri searching for "Midwest" and "pregnant." Again, I probably didn't have much to offer, other than I am intimately familiar with one and not the other. Google refers a lot of people here who are looking for the Oscar Wilde quote in the masthead. (Blog traffic tip #9: First, put a really famous quote in a prominent place on your site. Then, sit back and wait for strangers to wander in unintentionally. Voila! Instant traffic!) And in the referral that made me laugh the most, someone in Sweden searched for "two tragedies vanilla Coke," so assume that he/she is not such a fan of the Vanilla Coke. I can only hope my review of Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke was of service.

Official Ski Trip Update: I think I've got all the necessary gear and accoutrements. Now I just need to locate chains/cables for the car. Apparently the chains available at the Sport Chalet were not the right size for my cute little car with its cute little tires. Yes, we are taking this cute little car up into the mountains, where it is currently snowing. Sounds safe, huh? The chains are a crucial component in my bid to avoid death on the side of a mountain, driving, so I hope some nice man at one of the local tire stores wants to sell them me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Because Apparently I Am Under the Impression that Money Grows on Trees

Ugh. I don't know where it all goes, but that loud whooshing you hear? That would be the sound of dollars being sucked - at high velocity - out of my checking account.

I've been searching for a nice black handbag, probably something high quality and, therefore, expensive. In an attempt to be somewhat fiscally responsible, I went to an outlet mall a couple of weeks ago. (You know you're old when your first stop is the Black & Decker store, and you walk in thinking, "Maybe I can get a good deal on a vacuum.")

I came home with thank you notes, Christmas wrapping paper, Valentine's Day gifts, new sunglasses and three black handbags. (Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!) Amazingly enough, no shoes were purchased on this trip (the Nine West store was closed for remodeling), but I did buy a handbag solely because...wait for matches my sunglasses. (Whoosh!)

I used to wonder who, exactly, spends a couple hundred dollars on a handbag.


Apparently I've developed a little bit of an obsession with Coach handbags (whoosh!), the byproduct of which is that I feel the need to refer to them as "handbags" and not the more pedestrian "purses." But, all sixteen handbags/purses still have tags on them, awaiting approval from Accessory Queen Danielle, who is visiting this weekend, yay! The winners will stay; the losers will be returned on our expedition to the outlet mall.

This weekend is also the Official Ski Trip to Tahoe Weekend. Strapping myself to two little strips of fiberglass and hurtling down the side of a mountain? Yeah, that sounds like a good time. If you like death. We'll see how it goes.

And can I just tell you? Skiing is an expensive little hobby. Particularly when the only winter outerwear your own is intended to be worn over a suit. So, yes, there has been much purchasing of ski-related equipment lately. (Whoosh!) And lift tickets, ski lessons, lodging, etc. (Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!)

Do not confuse the sound of me hemorrhaging cash with the sound of me going down the ski hill. The latter will be something like, Whose (bump) stupid (thump) fucking (thud) idea (crunch) was (gaaaaaaaah) this? You know, anything other than Whoosh! But this means I will have satisfied one of the Fundamental Requirements of Living Out West and will forever be able to look down on those Eastern ski slopes with you-call-that-a-mountain? disdain. Hopefully I'll come back with some good stories (bruises), and maybe Danielle can capture my plight on film for you.

My goals for the Official Ski Trip to Tahoe are to (a) not die; (b) spend more time upright than lying sprawled out in the snow on the side of a mountain; and (c) meet a hot French guy, fall in love, get married and move to the Alps where we can ski our little hearts out. I think (a) and (c) are totally achievable. As for (b)? I'm not holding out much hope.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

Some relationship advice from someone who has been there, done that. Or seen it on TV. Names have been omitted to protect the idiots.

[Editor's note: these may sound rather snarky, but really, they're meant to be funny. In an ironic-funny sort of way. In an I-can't-make-this-shit-up sort of way. Because, seriously, I couldn't possibly make this shit up.]

  • If, in a social scene where everyone knows everyone, all your friends are surprised the two of you are dating, all his friends are surprised the two of you are dating, and you find yourself a bit surprised the two of you are dating, perhaps there's a lesson to be learned. And that lesson is: the two of you should not be dating.
  • If you spend your time on the phone with him reading, taking notes and highlighting your history book, and subsequently score a 99% on the midterm exam, get a clue: you're just not that into him. And, the two of you should not be dating.
  • If you meet someone at a conference and you're concerned about breaching the bounds of professionalism, check to see that he's not sharing a room with a colleague. This is especially important if he works for a cost-conscious government or non-profit entity. Because there's throwing-professionalism-
    to-the-wind and then there's having-his-colleague-witness-
    the-face-sucking-and-complete-lack-of-professionalism-firsthand. And, the two of you should not be dating. The two of them maybe...
  • If you're picking him up after a weekend away wearing nothing but a negligee, stiletto heels and a trench coat, do not go speeding through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. At midnight. With no one else around. Not only will you win yourself a ticket, the Arlington County policemen will not believe you when you insist that you haven't been drinking, and will subject you to not one, but three field sobriety tests. No, this piece of advice has nothing to do with relationships, but the experience was damn funny!
  • If you pick him up from a weekend away wearing nothing but a negligee, stiletto heels and a trench coat, speeding through the airport and earning yourself a ticket from policemen who do not believe your claims of sobriety, and you still don't get any, just leave. He does not deserve you, and the two of you should not be dating.
  • If you spend the majority of your relationship trying to figure out how to set him up with your sister, dump him already. Please. The two of you should not be dating.
  • If he slips a line in an e-mail informing you that he's gotten back together with his ex-girlfriend, get one of your engineering friends to figure out a way you can reach through the DSL lines and strangle him with your own bare hands. Because that's the only thing that's going to make you feel any better. Barring that, call and leave really bitchy voice mail messages for him at 1:30 in the morning. They won't ever be returned, but that fact will conveniently escape his tiny little brain and he will swear that he always calls you back. And guess what? The two of them should not be dating.
  • If, months after you've broken up, he gives you (via a friend) a ring and a letter begging to be part of your life again, feel free to return the ring (via a friend), along with a lovely fuck-you-gram. When he trashes you to all of his friends and your mutual friends, calling you an Uppity Bitch, go ahead and laugh like the Uppity Bitch you know you are. And be glad (a) someone finally came up with a creative nickname for you and (b) the two of you are no longer dating.
  • If, on the day before Thanksgiving, the guy you've been dating exclusively for the past four months (but refuses "boyfriend-girlfriend" terminology) unabashedly states that he doesn't "feel compelled to send you flowers," do not resist the urge to (a) hit him; (b) burst into tears; (c) storm out of the house, slamming the door behind you; (d) all of the above. And for the love of Pete, do not proceed to spend Thanksgiving with him simply because you'd already extended the invitation. Because, really? No one is required to be that nice. And, the two of you should not be dating.
  • Finally, if you take a job that requires you to move 3000 miles away, spend the last few weeks locked in your home and office and do nothing but pack. Do not go to happy hour, do not meet someone, do not like him, do not start dating, and, most of all, do not – DO NOT – enter into a long-distance relationship. Not because it won't work out (it might) but because it will EAT YOU ALIVE. That is all.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mmmmm, Donuts

Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands, they just don't.

Oh, really? Tell that to my body. Let's take a quick poll.

Toe: Still ugly and gross and cause for concern. May have to seek actual medical attention.
Knees: Seceding from the Union. Threatening to take ankles with them.
Calves, quads and hams: Dammit, bitch, will you please stretch after you run? For reals.
Abdominal muscles: What, you want us to do something? Not just lay here and look pretty under those layers and layers of fat cells where no one can actually see us?

All this pain because of a number. THE number. The Number Above Which I Am A Slovenly Fat Cow And Nothing You Say Will Convince Me Otherwise. Also known as The Number That Shall Not Be Named because (a) I do not feel the need to share such intimate details with the Internet; and (b) knowledge of that number would compel some of you to form an army, storm my house and shove brownies down my throat. And I'd like to avoid that, if at all possible.

Yes, The Number made a surprise guest appearance on my scale this week, and I will not take this lying down! (Actually, standing is quite a painful proposition. May I take this lying down, please?) This explains why, on a recent Saturday morning (yesterday), I was up at 6:00 am to go running, do Pilates, and then spend eight hours running around helping people look beautiful at BR. Because I am a sick, sick woman. Also, a highly motivated one. Because I refuse to see The Number again. Or, in fact, anything close to it.

I was never the type to worry about my weight. As a teenager, I had plenty of other things to stress out about, thank you very much, like global warming and getting into Harvard Law and just being perfect in general. I was always the smallest one in my class, thanks to being short (these days we say "petite") and a year younger than everyone else. I played sports year-round, so my weight just kinda took care of itself.

But in college, life caught up with me. First semester freshman year I actually lost weight, thanks to my bout with meningitis and landing in the hospital for a week. I didn't even notice. But, dude, when your fourteen-year old brother comments, "You were soooo skinny when you came home at Thanksgiving," you know things are bad. Apparently in the busyness of trying to simultaneously not die and not fail out of school my body used up its excess reserves. (I was sick for a good three weeks before I made it to the hospital, during which time I went to as many classes as I could and did as much homework as I could muster, but every minute spent not asleep was a challenge. Things like "eating dinner" and "showering" were at the bottom of the priority list. I pulled down a 3.5 GPA that semester and, in retrospect, I can only say, Wow. And, Thank you, George S. Parker High School for teaching me everything I needed to know to get through that first semester, because I did not learn a single new thing. Except how to diagnose meningitis.)

It was all downhill from there. Nights of boozing, followed by pizza and Pokey stix at 2 am. And beer? Ew. So I opted for whatever wop/punch/hard-liquor-with-juice-or-soda was available. Tastes great! Has 5,000 more calories per cup than beer! (My children will be getting a much more comprehensive lecture on The Evils of Drinking than the one I got before going away to school. Family history of alcoholism and manic depression? Bah! Potential to do stupid/illegal/dangerous things with your friends/boys/strangers? We'll get to that later. First, it's time to review the Food Pyramid, kids! Alcohol = simple carbohydrates = empty calories. And that should scare the bejesus out of you.)

Many years later, when life had settled down a bit, I lost weight in a non-life-threatening way: insane amounts of exercise and militant calorie-counting. I reached a weight I hadn't seen since sometime in high school and even wore a bikini to the beach. In front of other people. I know it confused some of my friends when at happy hour I would have one beer and then switch to Diet Coke. One commented, "But you look great, you don't need to watch your weight!" Ummmm, no, I look great because I watch my weight. Causal relationship, believe me.

But lately all I've been watching are the numbers on the scale...and their slow climb upward, culminating in the appearance of The Number this week. (For the record, The Number is eight pounds more than my Record Low, and comfortably below my Record High. No one else has noticed my drift into Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Territory, it's just me.) So, we're going back to the insane amounts of exercise and militant calorie-counting for a little while. Carrots are my new best friend. For lunch? Oh look, it's a salad! For the 286th day in a row!

And the exercise half? Endorphins, here we come! And if it means I have to choose between my pretty new peep-toe shoes, which conveniently show off only the ugly part of my toe, and continued use of my expensive-but-toe-defacing running shoes...well, I suppose I can sacrifice a toe for the greater good. I know I'll be a happy, skinny, endorphin-filled version of me a couple of months from now, but in the meantime all I can say is: ow, ow, ow. Pierre-August Renior said, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains." Good god, I hope he's right.

OLYMPICS UPDATE: Michelle Kwan pulled out of the women's figureskating competition due to a groin injury. Sorry, Michelle, no How I Triumphed Over Adversity interview for you.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I ♥ Energy Efficiency. (Also, This Girl Has Issues.)

I love my house. Really, I do. It's super cute, with its high ceilings and hardwood floors and built-in china cabinet thing. Nice neighborhood, wonderful neighbors, etc. It's plenty spacious – 1000 square feet. A Thousand Square Feet! One. Thou. Sand. I'll never be able to afford that much space in DC! My best shot will be to win that contest they have every four years to see who gets to live in the pretty white mansion on Pennsylvania Ave. (I think it's put on by the people at Publisher's Clearinghouse, but I'll have to get back to you on that.) At any rate, my house is lovely. But, much of the loveliness is due to the fact that it was built in the 1940s, back in the days before "double-paned windows" and "insulation" were invented. Thus, my abode has the heat retention properties of mosquito netting.

Despite all the TV news reports about increased energy costs this winter and don't use your oven to heat the house and blah, blah, blah, that January natural gas bill came as quite a surprise. $589,236.74 and my firstborn child? What, are you going to have him shoveling coal into the furnace? Are children the alternative fuel of the future?

Being the control freak that I am, I decided to take matters into my own hands. First, I turned down the thermostat, which had previously been set at a very tropical 64 degrees. Then, I went to Lowe's in search of this plastic wrap for one's windows that my grandma used to have. Like in 1987. (Yes, I know. I've skipped becoming my mother and turned directly into my grandmother. Scary indeed.) Did anyone offer me assistance? No. Because I am a girl in a hardware store, so clearly I am just looking for my husband who is busy picking out whatever home improvement things we need. (Husband? Hah! Owning a home? Double hah!)

As it turns out, they still make this plastic window sheeting stuff. (It is located at the end of the insulation aisle, should you be wondering.) And all you need to install it is a hairdryer, along with the plastic sheeting and special tape that comes in the little box. I can totally handle home improvement projects whose entire tool needs are a hairdryer! And the package promises to increase the R-rating of my windows by up to 90%. Which, according to my calculations, is better than zero. I thought about purchasing every package in the display, but decided that six would do – I've got to leave a couple packages for the rest of the Northern California customers taking it up the arse from PG&E.

So, to re-cap, all by myself I (a) found the plastic window sheeting, (b) purchased said plastic window sheeting at the little "Self-Check" station, which I was going to bypass, but the lone checker appeared to be in over his head with this couple and their truckload of 2x4s, so I decided to do the dirty work by my damn self, despite the fact that I know this plastic window sheeting is marked up to cover the cost of Lowe's labor, of which I have made zero use and (c) installed said plastic window sheeting.

And the February natural gas bill? $50 cheaper, thanks to my $12 trip to Lowe's. See? I don't need you, PG&E. I don't need you, Lowe's checker-outer-boy and other non-speaking staff members. I don't need you, friends/family/Internet strangers. I don't need any of you. (Only I really do. Need each and every one fo you in such a deep and profound way that it scares teh crap out of me to think about it, so I just don't.)

(Wow, I can't believe I just said that out loud. My mom would pay good money to hear me say that. As would my therapist. Wait, maybe Mom can pay the therapist... No, I don't really have a therapist. But I probably should. But why bother, when I can prattle on about my issues to the whole Internet for free?)

(And seriously? I typed that Very Scary Sentence with my eyes squeezed shut and my head turned away from the monitor, cuz just reading the words freaks me out, so I hope there aren't any major typos.)

Anyway, back to my normal level of lunacy. According to the additional information from PG&E, my February bill would have been significantly higher than January because rates went up and the weather was colder. So, really, I have only me and my plastic window sheeting to thank. Oh, joyous day of reduced energy costs! I feel warm all over! Though it's probably because I've got six sweaters on under this sweatshirt. And I may very well blow that $50 on a new pair of shoes. But no matter, it'll keep me from noticing how blue my toes are.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


There is nothing more exciting than that one day a year when I put on my brand spankin' new running shoes. This usually happens several weeks after I actually buy them, as I have to warm up to the idea of getting dirt - ew - on my pretty, white, unblemished, still-have-the-new-shoe-smell shoes. I can keep wearing last year's shoes, right? Yeah, they're looking a little, um, beat-to-hell, but that's what gives them character. And they're all broken in and everything and fit my foot perfectly. Why replace these perfectly good shoes?

But once I'm out there...I can fly! And my knees tell me that those beat-to-hell-fit-perfectly-to-my-foot shoes also have no remaining shock absorption whatsoever. Yes, that Day of the New Running Shoes is probably my fastest run all year. Or it feels that way.

It reminds me of running track in high school, and the blessed First Day of Outdoor Practice. After weeks of running the halls, past classrooms I didn't want to think about, and workouts in the pool, which you would think would be fun, but after the first five minutes were nothing but absolute sheer torture (let me just say that the resistance properties of water are not nice to the quads), finally, finally we would get to go outside and run on the real track. You would think we'd never been outdoors before. The air - it was so fresh! The sky - it was so blue! The grass - it was so covered with snow! The wind - it was so...scented with manure. Oh. Despite the still-less-than-ideal running conditions, the First Day of Outdoor Practice made life worthwhile. And to this day, I cannot smell fresh manure on a breeze without being filled with happiness. (Please, JLo, do not use that as the name of your next fragrance. It will sell even fewer bottles than Glow.)

Anyway, on the appointed day last week, I took the new shoes out for their maiden run. Here is why I love California: at 5:00 in the morning, in January, I wore running tights and a long sleeve t-shirt. And that is all. No sweatshirt, no ear warmer/headbandy thing, no scarf, no worries about hurdling piles of snow or hitting a patch of ice and landing on the pavement in a million pieces. (Which, yes, I have done. And despite all of the fluffy warm clothes required for winter running, they do squat in the way of cushioning the fall. Jerks.) The only downside is that at 5:00 am it is still dark out. Like pitch black. (Please do not tell my mother.) It seems safe enough, I live in a nice neighborhood, and there were increasingly more Crazy Morning Worker-Outers as my run went along. So I'm sure someone would have done something if anything bad had happened. Run away, probably, but that's something.

Sobering Fact in the Midst of All This Running Fun: people do, in fact, sleep in the park overnight. I witnessed it with my very own eyes. I will not launch into some bleeding-heart-liberal tirade on homelessness here, other than to say that it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.

There was more running today, only I opted to run the trail along the river near my office. I've done this before, and of one thing I am certain: my knees hate me. But, today was a success, as I remembered where I needed to turn off the trail to get back to the office! (The last time, I swore I didn't need to cross this footbridge; the office was definitely located before that. Yeah, no. As I discovered today, the footbridge is about twenty feet down the trail from my office. Duly noted.) I had a lovely time in the 68 degree weather. (Ha ha ha, eat your heart out, DC!) (No wait, just kidding, DC, I still love you! Please take me back!)

I run alone, but do not worry - I have NPR to keep me company! And it's light out. And there are other people on the trail. And the riverbank is nearby. As is the freeway. And I discovered the perfect culvert into which someone can dump my dead body after he attacks me for the walkman I bought at Target for $49.99 in 2001. See? Totally safe! (This again falls under the category of Things We Are Not Telling My Mother.) And if you were really concerned about my safety, you'd get out there and run with me. Riiight.

In other news, my big-ass-huge-the-whole-reason-for-my-existence-in-
California-indefinitely project landed on my desk this afternoon. Yay! Which means that I am officially overwhelmed with work for the next, oh, decade or so. Just thought I'd warn you.

UPDATE: The pretty new running shoes did something mean and bad and decidedly Not Pretty to my big toe. I'd show you, but I'm not sure the Internet can handle that kind of graphic display. Wah.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Snow! And Ice! And TV Ratings!

I heard a piece on NPR's Talk of the Nation today about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. (Yes, much of my news from the world of sports comes from NPR. Shut it.) My first thought was "Huh, what? Olympics? Already?" I hardly remember the last ones, but OK. NPR wouldn't lie to me. (Except for that time they told me Al Gore won Florida. Jerks.)

Then my superior math skills kicked in and reminded me that the last round of Winter Olympics was indeed four years ago, and the reason I don't remember them is because I was working my ass off in grad school, and among going to class, writing papers, teaching a class and looking for a job, I didn't have time for laundry or getting my hair cut, let alone some frivolous display of worldwide goodwill and sportsmanship and blah, blah, blah. They were in the United States, right? Somewhere with snow maybe?

My next thought was, "People I do not have time to watch all of the bazillion hours of Olympic programming I'm sure you have in store for me." I love sports. LOVE. All of them. Even the wacky ones like curling and hockey. But unless there's some way to condense all the really important moments into a nice two-hour time slot on Sunday afternoon (and I don't mean the photo-montage-with-cheesy-background-music-just-before-the-closing-ceremony), then I'm going to have to rely on NPR's coverage. Yes, sporting events lose a little something when reported on the radio, but I'll get over it. can fill in the gaps with some pretty pictures.

The real disappointment, though, will be missing out on those pieces where athletes share their How I Triumphed Over Adversity stories with Bob Costas and the rest of the nation (also with cheesy background music). But that's ok. While the rest of you are blubbering about how Hot New Figure Skater's mom drove him to the ice rink every morning until she was diagnosed with a rare circulatory condition that prevents her from being in air-conditioned buildings and now she is relegated to watching him on TV from their home in Houston, where it is never below 98 degrees, I can just tap my memories of Nike's 1995 ad campaign touting the benefits to young women of participating in organized sports. "If you let me play, I am more likely to..." resist drugs, graduate high school, leave an abusive partner, be elected President, etc. I teared up when I saw it the first time. And the eighty millionth. Clearly these were so moving that eleven - e-lev-en - years later I still remember them. (But can't remember the 2002 Winter Olympics. Nice.) Stupid Nike marketing geniuses, I don't even like your shoes, just your commercials.

Anyway, the opening ceremony will be broadcast Friday, February 10 at 8pm. I assume that's EST, but advise you to check your local listings. And go team!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Winter Getaway

As promised, your photo montage of how I spent my weekend. Ladies, don't worry, you all look beautiful. No blackmail pictures here! Nope, those are all still safely stored on my camera. Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to say I love, love, love my digital camera. Take pictures, show pictures off, re-take pictures, post pictures to the Internet. No waiting! Instant gratification! Huzzah! (OK, I lied. The posting-to-the-Internet part takes approximately two years, five months and sixteen hours and, Blogger, it's way past my bedtime and I hate you for it. But it's still faster than developing real live film.)

I flew to Indianapolis for two-hour meeting of the alumni board of my grad program (of which I am a member) and spent the rest of the time running around Indy and Cincy seeing as many people as possible. It was cold and gray and overcast and everything was dead and brown. It was exactly what a Midwestern winter should be, and it was beautiful.

And then it snowed! (That would be Lori, at the door, oblivious to the snowball Christal just threw at her.)

First stop: Heather M. Heather and I spent a lot of quality time together, me waiting in the reception area for a professor who was routinely running behind schedule. Like, by a week or two. Heather, the lucky girl, was his secretary at the time, so she saw me several times a week, often for an hour a pop, before I gave up or had to go to class. Good times. Heather later got back at me, in her capacity as the Alumni Coordinator, by roping me into doing this alumni board thing.

We hadn't even gotten to dinner Thursday night when Heather dropped the f-bomb for the second time. (She usually sticks to four-letter words like "darn.") Naturally, she blamed me, despite the fact that I hadn't used any foul language in her presence. I must just give off some kind of "Fuck Vibe." (Not to be confused with a "Fuck Me Vibe," nor a "Fuck You Vibe," both of which are entirely different creatures.) We spent Friday gettin' ourselves some culture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Yes, there really is culture to be had in Indy, and not just of the NASCAR variety. (Though, yes, I do know that NASCAR is an acronym and therefore comprised of all capital letters. Ahem.)

My time in Cincinnati was spent mainly with Lori, who lives there, and Christal, who was visiting from the Dallas area. We got ourselves some culture as well, only this time it was at the Hustler store, which reminds you to "Relax, it's just sex." This catchphrase, in addition to being painted on a wall, was proclaimed over the P.A. system several times during the course of our visit, by a woman who did not sound at all comfortable with the fact that she was telling us to "Relax, it's just sex." Perhaps she would benefit from an instructional video.

Anyway, onto the good stuff: t-shirts to die for and Christal's favorite stripper shoes. And for the record, no, no purchases were made. But you can pretend.

Also, there was a shirt that stated, "Will Fuck for Shoes." I thought it was a bit, well, vulgar. I mean, shoes deserve a little more respect than that.

Saturday was our big night out. We had The World's Greatest Ribs at the Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse. Once stuffed with ribs, our waitress tied us down and force-fed us some of the most delicious ice cream I've had outside of Wisconsin. You, too, can share in the creamy goodness that is Graeter's. I highly recommend the Black Raspberry Chip. Or Chocolate Almond. Or Vanilla. Hell, I'm sure they're all good. And calorie-free, of course. Here we are, unable to get up from the table.

But, thoughts of alcohol, loud music and a bunch of nineteen-year olds with fake IDs motivated us to move along. The Blue Note played host to the rest of our evening. Margaret eventually joined in the Grad School Reunion Fun, having opted to do her taxes instead of gorging herself at dinner like the rest of us. Stupid grown-up responsibility-ness. What was she thinking?

Lori's friend knows one of the night's early performers and the end of the lineup featured a wonderful Power-Pop Hair Punk Rock band from Madison, Wisconsin called Sunspot. I resisted the urge to throw myself at the lead singer, because (a) I had not consumed nearly enough alcohol for that kind of behavior and (b) he's probably 19. And I? Am so not. Also because they didn't show up until shortly before they went onstage, so my opportunities were quite limited. But if they make it big...well, let's just say nothing's off the table.

Finally, back to Indianapolis for another Heather encounter. This time, it was Heather R., whose fertility never ceases to amaze me. She gets pregnant just thinking about having another kid! (Sorry Jeremy, your services are no longer needed.) Baby #2 is a girl and I'm not sure what's more likely – that she hates all things pink and girly and instead plays in the dirt and cusses like a sailor (like her Mommy) or that she turns out to be a girly girl. That second scenario will be far more entertaining, that's for sure. I would pay actual cash money to see Heather dragged around the city searching for the perfect Homecoming dress. And shoes. And purse. And makeup.

Heather: I don't see what the big deal is, it's just a dance. Wear something you already own.
Daughter: But Mo-om!
Heather: I wore a dress once, it was called my wedding. Maybe you can wait until then, huh?

And then Heather's mom will take the poor girl shopping, 'cuz lord knows she's got thirty years of pent-up girly-girlness to expend on this child that Heather never appreciated.

So, that's that. Five fun-filled days in "flyover country." (Can I tell you how much I hate that expression? Despite having lived on both coasts?) Not the warmest winter getaway imaginable, and no beach in sight, but you gotta go where the people are. And for me, that's the Midwest.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

SOTU Follow-Up

Warning: Political Soapbox Ahead

Mr. President, it is lovely that you are taking such an interest in our nation's energy policy, particularly those objectives of weaning us off of our oil addiction (Catchy, by the way. I think the NRDC has been talking about an addiction for several years now. Like since the 1980s.) and promoting renewable energy sources. But, it's unfortunate that you've just now come to this position. I mean, it's the sixth year of your presidency and your approval ratings are almost at their historical low. Your political clout is limited, as is the time you have to start a new initiative. Where was this sentiment back in 2000, as your administration was crafting its National Energy Policy? Where was this sentiment in 2005, as Congress passed - and you signed - the most sweeping legislative changes to energy policy in more than a decade? Where was this sentiment last fall, as Congress wrangled with the budget bill you sent them? And why, why do you continue to let the American people think the majority of our oil comes from the Middle East? Why didn't you mention that our petroleum imports come from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria, in that order? Because you don't want them to know, that's why. Yes, I think that paragraph or two in the State of the Union was nothing more than window dressing. Because if you cared deeply about these issues, you had ample opportunity to do something about it. And you did not.

I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I've got to catch a plane. Talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I Am a Web Design Goddesse

No, not "goddess." Goddesse (gah-DESS). You know, how Charlie/ Timothy Hutton describes his new girlfriend to Kate/Meg Ryan in French Kiss. Not that I've seen that movie more times than I can count on my fingers and toes.

Anyway, behold the New Website Trick thingy I learned today!!! It's been a couple of weeks since I learned a New Website Trick and I was getting bored. And my visions of what this blog should look like (and be able to do) are getting increasingly complicated. So, off I went, in search of something to teach me a New Website Trick. (This blog is dual-purpose - I can hone my writing skills and develop some web design skills. 'Cuz you just never know when you might need them.) Yes, I know the pretty new overlay screws up the pretty rounded corners on all my boxes, but that is just going to have to wait. It took me more than two hours (yes, two hours in which I could have been typing funny stories for you, but was not) to figure this tiled overlay thing out. I tried everything I could think of. Quit trying. Twice. Nearly died of low blood sugar. Had a snack. Did some actual, bona fide work. Thought about calling it a day. And then! My genius brain had an idea, so I messed around with it some more. Upload this file here, type that there, carry the one, and TA-DA!!! A properly-functioning pretty overlay thing. I then had to tweak some of the colors, since the overlay changes the whole composition. Naturally.

For someone who doesn't consider herself very artistic nor technologically savvy, I think I'm doing quite well today! (If you're wondering if I created the pretty overlay thingy, I have this to say: hahahahahahahahahaha. No. But this nice lady did.)

Random Public Service Announcement: do not attempt the new Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke. Not only is it waaaay too many flavors hitting one's tongue all at once, it is quite possibly the most "sugary" thing I have ever consumed. And it doesn't even have sugar in it! It's almost like a hot fudge sundae in a bottle. Only less chocolatey, more Diet Cokey. Seriously. If you are looking for a zero-calorie-dessert-replacement-drink, go for it. If you're looking for some delicious, caffeinated refreshment, stick with something classic, like Diet Coke with Lime.

Oooh, also, going right now to send an e-mail to the Notify List. Or they will stone me.