Saturday, January 31, 2009

Post Modern Ridiculous

My mother is going to have a fit that I am taking pictures in the bathroom again, but I have a point:

This is the sink in the ladies' room of the new Crate & Barrel in Old Orchard. Never mind why I was there.

The picture doesn't do it justice. The stone sink descends at an angle to that dark line, which is actually the drain. Motion sensor faucets on either side of that tres chic little soap dispenser.

With the same cheap pink soap that can be found in any rest stop in the state of Illinois.

I realize that Living the Brand or whatever extends to the facilities. But I am rolling my eyes at whomever thought this was a good idea. Wait until the 7th graders find it - they'll never be able to clean up the mess.

Another McCafé

There was a McD's on my route this morning while I was running errands. I went through the drive-thru (I am pretty sure it is spelled that way in Ronald McDonaldland) window and ordered a hot chocolate (nonfat with no whipped cream).

So. Much. Faster. Than Starbucks.

And my original complaint - that it was a bit too sweet - proved untrue the second time around. So it seems they are entirely standardized yet. Either way, I am very pleased.

Virtual Classroom

While BU has a Virtual Classroom feature, I have never used it. I don’t like things that involve microphones. I can suck it up when I have a presentation, but like PowerPoint, I find them a necessary evil.

We are converting our HR/payroll system back to ADP, and I have tons of training to go through. Virtual Classroom is the alternative to going to ADP’s location and staying there all day. I don’t actually have a problem with going to ADP and staying all day, but we are on a tight schedule and it wasn’t matching up.

So. Virtual Classroom is rather like any other webinar except that the entire thing is online rather than including a telephone conference call. I guess the idea is that if you have to get online, anyway, you might as well not have to use the phone, too. Or maybe it is less expensive. ADP sent me a headset with a microphone that they say is absolutely necessary. It is not. I could hear just fine from my speakers and if I have to talk we could use text.

So we listen to the presenter and watch her run through the PowerPoint. There are buttons to raise our hands. Buttons to answer Yes and No questions. There are even buttons for Laugh and Applaud.

My opinion is that this is good for meetings, but for software training I prefer the packaged web based training. On my own time and not being held up by other participants that are late or having A/V problems.

I am selfish that way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dirty, Dirty Traitor

I was in junior high school when I discovered the wonderful, wonderful world of bath products.

Before I knew any more about skin care than benzoyl peroxide (which I am sure I could have properly spelled at the time), I was spending my daddy's money on shower gel. The Body Shop was the first of these stores. Then came Bath and Body Works.

Bath and Body Works had distinct advantages:

Longer product line. With more scents from which to choose.
All American. They are based in Ohio, and their "manufacturing" was local.
There is one in every shopping mall in the United States.
Less freaking expensive.

I have been a loyal customer for many years. Then something happened:

I have twice been told, by a professional aesthetician, that it is time to do something about the sun damage on my face. Products containing Vitamin C were recommended. Mario Tricoci tried to sell me a serum for $138. I nearly choked.

I did some homework online and found that The Body Shop has an entire line of Vitamin C products for your face. The comparable serum, used underneath the daily moisturizer, retails for $26. Sold.

While making the purchase, I was informed that The Body Shop has a membership thing. $10 per year, 10% off everything you buy and then rewards and stuff. Sold.

Then I remembered why I liked them in the first place:

No animal testing - as opposed to "The final product has not been tested on animals".
Fair trade on product ingredients - not all of them, but they're trying.
Packaging is all recyclable.

So. I tried this Vitamin C thing. And I do believe it is working. So I went back today to pick up some more stuff. And found they were doing a "Spend $25 and get this free" - like at the makeup counter:

This store is not in every mall. In fact, it is a bit of a pain to go there. And it certainly costs more. But I think I love it.

The Impeachment

Among all of impeachment material in the Chicago Tribune is a piece by John Kass. The point of the article is that Rod Blagojevitch should now get his butt into the prosecutor’s office and start talking. But he went rather literary. Talking about the former governor taking a run:

Rod will run past the Biograph Theater, site of one of the great untrue myths of Chicago, which says that a woman in red pointed out bank robber John Dillinger to the FBI. It wasn't the woman in red. It was the Chicago Outfit that tipped them. At least that's the story the wise guys tell, and I believe them, the Outfit giving up a freelancer who had no protection, no organization, a freelancer like Dillinger bringing unnecessary heat.

There's a certain Chicago logic to it: When freelancers bring heat to organizations, they become problems. But problems can be solved.

The theory here is that all of the politicians are on the take and they threw Blagojevitch under the bus to save themselves. I can stipulate there must be some truth to that theory. Just how much is a mystery to me. 10%? 90%? I don’t know.

One thing the Defenders keep saying is that no one has proven that Blagojevitch is guilty of anything. And we are all innocent until proven guilty. They are ignoring the fact that an impeachment trial is not a criminal court. He was fired from a job. The Illinois Assembly didn’t deprive him of Life and Liberty. Just the pursuit of public office in the state of Illinois.

Even if he didn’t mean to imply that the vacant Senate seat was literally for sale. Even if he didn’t shake down a children’s hospital or demand that editorial staff be fired. (All of which I believe he did.) I. Don’t. Care.

He was ineffective on a good day. Positively toxic in the last year or so. Don’t get me started on the taxpayers’ private plane and the fact that he never moved downstate. Even without a federal indictment hanging over his head. His removal was in the best interest of the state of Illinois. And that’s what it’s all about, Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice Storms

USA Today had the quote from the President:

"My children's school was canceled today, because of what ... some ice?" he said. As one of his girls pointed out, Obama added, "in Chicago, school is never canceled. ... You'd go outside for recess. You wouldn't even stay indoors."

I was at AU during the ice storm of 1994. School was shut down for an entire week. I remember hearing, at the time, that the District only owned one salt truck. And it was out of salt.

A few years ago, after my office consolidated some operations in DC, many of my colleagues moved there from Chicago. The first snow day they had, I was poking fun at the transplants. I might have used the word, "pansy". My friend John said, "It's not our fault the government shuts down! The Metro shuts down! The whole place shuts down!"

Since Chicago is in the midst of its second horrid winter in a row - and by "horrid" I mean Lake County whines that Cook County is bogarting all of the salt and Cook County has run out its budget to pay the overtime to the people that drive the salt trucks - I have a bit more sympathy for how much it freakin' costs to clean up the mess. So I can see how DC, with insane commutes on a good day, just finds it easier to shut down.

Also, I read a book last year about the Chicago Public Schools. One reason they don't shut down for snow is the huge number of kids on the hot lunch program. The fear is that if they don't go to school, some kids literally won't eat that day.

Finally - with snow you clear it away. I find ice rather scarier. I believe it is not just about the roads, but the power lines.

So I'm not making fun today. I'll leave that to the President!

Edit to add: WGN news just ran this story and added that the last time the Chicago Public Schools closed for snow was January 1999.

The School Water Cooler

Classes started back up the week before last. I am working on the fifth course of the eight I need to complete the program. There seem to be fewer HR people this time around.

While the courses are similarly structured for the online experience, the expectations of the professors differ. For example, in my first class, I was marked down on my final project for failing to properly format my bibliography according to APA standards. In my second course, taught by the head of the department, I asked about the standards in advance. He told me not to worry about it. As long as they could tell I was citing my sources, points were not held back for punctuation. Two of my four classes had a midterm exam. Two had final projects. Some had graded weekly assignments. So yes – in that respect it is like being in live classes.

The difference? The Water Cooler. The fear in online coursework is that students will not interact enough. So weekly discussions posted online are required in each course. And there is a general discussion board for chatty use. In my last class, there was an uprising from the masses after the midterm was scored. People actually insulted the professor on the Water Cooler. Excuse me while I don’t participate.

This time around, there are plenty of newbies struggling with the amount of work. I was right there in my first class. I adjusted. I considered offering up some thoughts, but then I read the other comments. They were along the lines of:

“Wait until you get to Marketing! Twice as much reading and written assignments every week!”

I am glad I didn’t hear that kind of thing when I was a newbie.

My goal has been to read ahead as soon as I receive the course materials and stay ahead of the syllabus for the duration. So far, so good. Due dates each week are Tuesday at midnight. My goal is Sunday before I go to bed. This will be easier now that football season is over.

I have now determined my best advice:

Develop your schedule and stick to it. Leave room for unexpected events and your nephew’s birthday party. Don’t let other students scare you. And for the love of all that’s Holy, do not trash the professor in public.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I was going to write something thoughtful on the impeachment trial of Governor Blagojevich, but the more I read, the harder my eyes roll and I feel a headache coming. So I am just going to reprint his schedule for Day 2 of the trial, being held in Springfield. From the Chicago Tribune:

Here's the governor's schedule in New York today:

6:45 a.m. CBS' Evening News (taped before CBS' The Early Show)
7 a.m. CBS' The Early Show (Central Park studios)
8:10 a.m. Fox & Friends (FOX)
8:45 a.m. Associated Press' TV studio (450 W. 33rd St.)
10:30 a.m. Fox Business Network (1211 Avenue of Americas)
11:15 a.m.- In Session/TruTV: Jami Floyd: Best Defense (600 3rd Avenue)
12:30 p.m.. Glenn Beck (FOX)
1:30 p.m. Campbell Brown (CNN Center)2 p.m.- Rachel Maddow (30 Rockefeller Center)
2:30 p.m Greta Van Susteren (undisclosed location)
3:30 p.m. DL Hughley (CNN Center)

On Monday, the governor appeared on the "Today Show", "Good Morning America," "The View" and the "Larry King Show." It was on "Good Morning America" that he revealed he had considered television superstar Oprah Winfrey for the open Senate seat but eventually rejected the idea because it could be seen as a "gimmick" and she likely wouldn't take the job anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, by John Scalzi

Book 5

Buying a copy of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, by John Scalzi, was an indulgence. Barnes and Noble had a limited number of signed and numbered hard cover copies, so I used a Christmas gift card. Wil Wheaton wrote the introduction.

Scalzi is a writer of many things and this book is a “best of the first 10 years” from his personal blog, called "Whatever". Sci-fi fiction seems to be where his heart is, but he is clearly a pen for hire. I like the way he writes about the business of writing. That his head might be on his next novel, but he has committed to a deadline for a client. I think he said that Oppenheimer Funds was one. He seems very level-headed about money, which I find awesome.

He is an agnostic that talks an awful lot about Christianity. I don’t have the direct quote, but his attitude is:

I don’t have a problem with Christianity. I wish more Christians practiced it.

I agree with his premise, and enjoyed hearing him talk through raising his daughter to be curious and understanding without imposing his own ideas on her. But, boy that was a lot of posts on religion.

He wrote about how sci-fi suffers by an unfair comparison to Star Wars. True. But his idea is that the two can not be compared because Star Wars is not entertaining. I would argue that I was perfectly entertained by Star Wars. I just wouldn’t call it science fiction.

He mentions both the meanness of the “childfree” movement and the way that some people turn into jerks when they become parents. I like that he has strong opinions on the subject while expressing an understanding of the alternate point of view:

Kids are kids. But:
Parents should teach kids the proper way to behave in public. But:
People that don’t have kids might show just a bit of patience. And:
“Out in Public” is not synonymous with “Adults Only”.

That said. The fact that Starbucks is overrun with screaming children has just sent me back to McDonalds. Where they have a playground.

Finally, I had a moment when I got to the September 12 post. He had a similar reaction to mine – that the most striking thing about the day was how clear the sky was and how there were no airplanes in it. For him, it was a guilty moment of seeing something beautiful and feeling badly about it. For me, there was a new definition in my psyche:

Planes in the air = Things are right in the world.

Oh, and Scalzi talks politics a lot.

I enjoyed this book and will continue to read his blog. But he won’t get me into science fiction.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Progress

When I started loading my first iPod, I was picking and choosing my music. It held only 4GB, so for the most part, everything on there had a purpose. Now I am loading the Grandaddy iPod with everything in the house. I am astonished by some of the things I found in my collection. We can discuss that when I am finished (when did I buy the Animaniacs soundtrack?). But it is all going in there.

John Scalzi had an essay in his book about his daughter discovering that old horrid tune, "The Final Countdown". He made a point of sitting her down and playing her the entire thing so as to teach her just how terrible it is. He doesn't say whether he had a copy already in the house. But that is a purpose - so I felt a bit better about this project.

The picture above represents the weekend's progress. First I thought I would start at the beginning of the alphebet. Then decided I wanted all of the soundtracks first. Then I wanted everything where I have a whole bunch of CDs from one artist. Then I decided that I don't need a pattern - it is all going in eventually.
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I have tons of reasons to like McDonald's. McCafé is one more. There isn't any information about it on the web site, so it must be a limited test in the Chicago area. The idea is that McDonald's is rolling out the espresso machines to compete with Starbucks.

I was jonesing for fries today, so I went to my local McDonald's and had lunch. I thought I would bring the new coffee home for my mother to try. Incidentally, my McDonald's is two doors down from the Starbucks.

I did some people watching while I ate. A couple of families eating quietly with young children. Some older folks having coffee and talking football. It was very low key. I thought that compared to Starbucks, this was a much nicer place to read a book and drink hot chocolate. If the hot chocolate is any good.

I like hot chocolate from Starbucks because it isn't as sweet as the stuff that comes from the machines. I order it with skim milk and no whipped cream. Will McDonald's let me go all high maintenance like that? The answer is Yes.

I wondered because McDonald's has made a science of reducing the "time to served". The sign on the wall of my store said Target: 34, which I presume means 34 seconds from the end of the order to the time the food is delivered. How does McCafé factor in to that?

So I ordered the drinks - a hot chocolate for me and a mocha for my mother. They took a bit longer than Starbucks to make, but not much. I wonder how that works out during the lunch rush.

Cost: The medium hot chocolate was $2.39 and the medium mocha was $2.79. Compared to $3.00 and $3.50 or so from Starbucks.

The Verdict: The mocha had more chocolate syrup than seemed necessary, but the coffee was strong. The hot chocolate was sweeter than I prefer. It occurs to me that the staff is probably still learning how to prepare this stuff. But to have a quiet place to have a drink and read...and give the business to McDonald's? I am perfectly happy.

Back at the Library

I raced home Thursday to give Eloise her meds and “baby cereal”. Then I had to change my clothes. Ate a Lean Cuisine pizza standing up at the counter talking to my mother about…something..I don’t remember – before racing off to my shift at the Library Used Book Store.

Between the holidays and Convention, I hadn’t been there since before Christmas, and you know what that means. I spent a big chunk of time poring through the shelves in case something cool came in while I was out.

I picked up a copy of the Warren Commission Report. No, I don’t actually see myself reading the whole thing for real. But I am building a library. Shouldn’t every library have a copy? Now that I think about it – I refused to even touch the Starr Report. And I don’t have the 9/11 report, either. Whatever. It was a dollar. Then I saw a beautiful copy of an early Ian McEwan novel that I haven’t read yet.

Finally, I started taking out new inventory. I only went through one box - on a good night I can go through four. And I only listed two books online. But it was nice to be back.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eloise - Round 2

I brought Eloise the Grey back home from the Refuge when I returned from San Antonio. She is still on her meds from the fungal infection and it seems that she lost weight again so she is on a supplement. Karen, our volunteer director, likened it to baby cereal. I mix it up and feed it to her from a large syringe. She laps it right up. When she isn't dribbling and wiping her beak on the counter and shaking her head and splashing it all over my shirt.

Like baby cereal. Or so I hear.

Then I started making a batch of the regular dry diet. Because when I am fostering, I go through it twice as quickly. The base is pellets, with some cereal, dried pasta and other cereal and Nutriberries. I looked at the counter full of stuff that I mix together and it hit me that this is bloody ridiculous:

That is seven things I am mixing together. And this is just for the dry food they get in the morning. While I was putting this together, Eloise was on the T-stand eating her birdie bread with an almond butter booster. Of course, Shadow the Dog was right where he could catch the crumbs and there was no way to get a picture that wasn't tragically blurry.

Kiwi sat on the refridgerator and watched:

She is kind of a ham.
Eloise will be staying until I leave for Washington again next month. Then she will have another check up with the doctor. Right now my job is to stuff her face every moment we are together.
You wouldn't believe my laundry right now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finding a Mechanic

I have talked a bit about my mechanic, Bill. This morning I came across this article in MSN about choosing one, which has way more detail than I would bother to pursue. However, it makes an interesting point about the different types of vendors:

Apparently, some people only go to the mechanic at their dealership. This isn’t a bad idea, if only to confirm that any work done maintains your vehicle warranty. I find them difficult to schedule, though.

Some people go to chains. Sears Automotive was the one mentioned in the article. I can’t really comment because I haven’t tried it. Is it better cost, or perhaps the comfort of the big name? When I was young and struggling, I did my oil changes at Jiffy Lube for a couple of years. I was never entirely comfortable because someone different was working on my car every time I went.

Independents might seem like a dicier prospect. The article says they are patronized by “community-conscious” people. I found mine because the original proprietor was my friend Susie’s dad. The current proprietor was the manager for many years when Susie’s dad was semi-retired.

I agree that getting referrals is the most important thing. If someone you know is pleased with the service, you will probably be fine. If that doesn’t work, I use Angie’s List. I also like the part about discussing your concerns with the mechanic.

Bill knows that if something on my car has to be fixed, the first thing I want to know is, “Did I do that?” Because when I was younger and my dad was paying for my repairs, it helped to know if I was in trouble. But that question helped me to understand, on an extremely low level, the operations of my car. These days, he knows that I am concerned with the beating my car takes on my commute.

The article doesn’t address being a good customer. Obviously we are paying for a good service, but I swear it helps if your vendor likes you. So my first rule is that I always call first, and do not assume that the rest of Bill’s operation stops because I need something. Second, we always drop our cars off for oil changes. I realize that not everyone can do that, but we leave a car there on Friday afternoon and pick it up on Saturday morning so that Bill can get to it when he has time and there isn’t an impatient person pacing his office when he is trying to help someone else. Finally, we are clear on the estimate rules. They are, “If it is $500 or less, just go ahead and do it. If it is more that $500, please call first.”

While I think building a relationship with vendors is always a good thing – like the snow plow guy – it is vital to me to be able to trust a mechanic. I don’t know much about cars and don’t want to know much about cars. Could I be cheated? Easily. But I am certain that is not happening.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Those Calls

As you may know, I make it very easy for the world to leave me a message and rather difficult to catch me live and in person. If I don’t recognize a caller i.d., I rarely answer the phone.

A woman calls me at work and leaves a message giving her name and saying that she is calling regarding C.N.A. (from whom we have purchased retirement annuities in the past). I don’t know this person, but I also don’t have a current contact at C.N.A., and perhaps they need something for one of my retirees. I call her back.

First, I talk with the receptionist, who wants my name and purpose. I give her my name and company, then tell her I am returning a call. I am transferred. I introduce myself and say, “You called me regarding C.N.A.”

“Yes!” she replies. “C.N.A. has been downsizing and I am working with a lot of their people and I know we have some candidates that….”

She is a recruiter.

Then the dance begins. I am not hiring. I do not need help. My turnover is extremely low.

We know you aren’t hiring now. We just want to meet with you to build a relationship for when you are hiring.

I have a smidgen of sympathy, because recruiters have a difficult job. Horrid HR people like me do not return their calls, so they become tricksy. But they do not take “No” for an answer, which makes me avoid engaging in the conversation. Now I have a meeting booked with some stranger trying to sell me something that I don’t need. And I resent it.

So did she win, because I agreed to a time? Even assuming that I don’t cancel, she does not win. Strike One – You basically tricked me into calling you. Strike Two – You railroaded me into a meeting. Strike Three – I do. Not. Require your services.

So then, the question is “What is a recruiter to do?” Well. Everyone is different. But in my file of 10,000 cards from recruiting firms, there are two or three that are likely to get a call if I have a recruiting need. I get the occasional e-mail or note from them, so that I know they are still around. But otherwise they leave me alone. I appreciate them.

Radar Bait

I love statistics from the car insurance companies. They taught me never to buy a Jaguar. MSN just published the most likely to get ticketed for traffic violations. One of my co-workers has rules for not getting ticketed for speeding (she is on the highway a lot):

1. Stay in the right-hand lane whenever you can.
2. You can drive faster than other cars, just not conspicuously.
3. Drive a sedan. Buicks are best.
4. It helps to be a middle-aged lady.

It looks like she is correct about the Buicks. Hummers are ticketed the most, then Scions, then a Mercedes and a Toyota Solara. Hard to tell if it is a prejudice of the cops or the “profile” of the drivers.

The other thing the insurance companies tell us:

Insurance claims data generally back up ISO Quality Planning's findings. Ratings information from State Farm, for instance, advises Hummer owners to expect to pay significantly higher than standard premiums for liability. Likewise, Scion owners typically face much higher than standard rates for comprehensive and collision insurance.

You can read the entire article (and check some statistics) here. I am liking my Saturn today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Online Job Searches

Career advice is everywhere lately and you don't really need more from me. However.

Rachel from I Hate HR blogged a bit about her pet peeves from online applications. The big one was using someone else's e-mail address. So. True. If you are looking for a job, the first thing you should do is get a personal e-mail address that is not cutesy or profane or kitschy or otherwise lame. Or belonging to a spouse or roommate.

HR professionals are all different in what impresses or irritates. For example, Rachel doesn't want anyone to send her a cover letter without a résumé. I do not want anyone to send me a résumé without a cover letter. For what position are you applying and who or what referred you to me? And personally, I prefer that cover letter be in the body of the e-mail, as opposed to an attachment. If your résumé is an attachment, I have to open two documents. For a hundred or so applicants. But nevermind that.

Just get a respectable e-mail address.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hotel Values

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about how much trouble the hotel industry is in these days. As if we couldn’t guess.

"The first-class traveler is traveling coach. The suite buyer is scaling back to a standard room." Says The Four Seasons hotel. Yeah.

But check this out:

Many hotels traded hands during the boom years and, like many homes, are no longer worth as much as their outstanding mortgage debt.

Whoa. I understand that staying in hotels is the first thing we ditch when money is tight. But I hadn’t thought of the hotel industry in terms of its own credit crisis.

Except for Galena, Illinois and the occasional trip to New Orleans (oh, and that spa in South Dakota), I stay in chain hotels. Marriott when I can manage it. I am a sucker for rewards programs, but mostly I just like to know what to expect. I like seeing different cities, but I also like to sleep someplace familiar.

I have seen chain hotels change hands over the last few years. I remember when we were in Charlotte a decade ago, we stayed at the Westin adjacent to the convention center. A few years ago, when we returned, the Westin was something else. That pink hotel in St. Pete’s was independent until Loew’s bought it a few years ago. I imagine there are franchises that change hands. I imagine that the historic Bed and Breakfasts are bought and sold as people retire. I just hadn’t considered that hotels could have the same debt-to-property value issue that homeowners have. And that their one source of income has decided on a stay-cation this year.

I am going to plan my summer jaunt now.

Monday, January 19, 2009


About five minutes after I posted that I had no use for electronic books, it was Christmas morning and my brother gifted me with a Kindle. I took it with me to San Antonio and here are some early thoughts:

First. $9.99 is more than I pay for books. Generally, I pay a dollar for a book. Browsing on Amazon, I found Bill Ayers’ Fugitive Days. This has been on my wish list for a couple of years and since I had not seen it in my usual Used Book haunts, I downloaded it.

Then I discovered that if a book is out of copyright, it can be had for pennies. Specifically, I bought the complete works of Shakespeare for 99 cents. My mother called that a waste of digital space – as if I am really going to read sonnets on the airplane. I might. And anyway: it’s cool.
There were a few books that can be downloaded from Amazon free of charge. So I picked two that sounded vaguely interesting and went for it. My bargain method is to search for “Kindle Books” and sort by price from lowest to highest.

Oh, but you wanted to hear about actually using the Kindle.

My friend, Brandon, is a gadgety-tech sort of guy and he wrote a detailed review that does a far better job than I could. You can read it here. Following is my whiny, non-technical analysis:


It can lay flat on the table. So when I am at lunch I do not need to keep a hand free to hold it up.


The device costs a fortune. Am I really going to carry it around to lunch? At my meeting last week, where I tend to leave my bag lying around rooms in the convention center, I was afraid to take it out of the hotel room.


You can always download a book on the fly. Very convenient if I am stuck in an airport all day.


Lack of page numbers. And no good way to know how close you are to the end of a chapter. And the clock isn’t where I want it to be.


The pages are easy enough on the eyes. Turning pages is easy, although the “Back” and “Previous Page” buttons messed me up.


There is some lag time between screens. But I became pretty adept at hitting the “Next” button with a couple of lines to go so that the page turned in sync with my brain.

Overall, this is a nice toy. But I am not giving up my used books.

I Wasn't Kidding

There is no good way to get this picture, all jammed in with my pretend desk, but that bookcase is my "to be read" pile. I also have two more books to read on the Kindle. I took the picture because Library Thing once had a way to upload them, but I couldn't find it this morning.

School has started again, so my pace will be drastically reduced until May. Again.
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This Weekend

Saturday morning was the first morning where I could sleep in two weeks. At 6am, Spooky the Cat started yowling and climbing on me and wouldn't shut up. I scooped him up, tossed him back to his space at the foot of my bed and lay back down. He came over and sat down right on my bladder. What do you think I am going to do to him right now?

In other events, I went downstairs to feed the birds and found this:

Clearly the work of Shadow the Dog. But..he left the bag alive. Normally, (well, not normally, because this is not a regular occurrence) there would be pieces of empty bag all over the room. What does it say about the chips if Shadow won't eat them?

Garden Salsa Sun Chips.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How Cool is this Guy?

Let me just add my voice to the chorus. Chelsey Sullenberger is the coolest guy ever.

He didn’t just save all of the people on U.S. Airways flight 1549. He saved the people on the ground that had no idea they were in harm’s way. And no one is digging fuselage out of his living room right now.

But let me add this:

When I was a kid, I listened to all of the airline procedures. Learned them backward and forward. But I believed in my heart that if a plane went down, that was it. A hard landing was one thing. Your engine exploding three minutes into flight? Forget about it.

What Captain Sullenberger did in thinking quickly and putting that plane down in the river showed me – a frequent enough flyer – that not every incident is a tragedy if the guy at the helm knows what he is doing.

And. The passengers and crew on board seemed to perform a very orderly emergency exit. Rather gives me hope for humanity.

This article talks about how Captain Sullenberger has been a serious student of Crisis Management. It is not all about madmen with guns and bombs. He also works as a consultant, applying safety concepts from the airlines to other businesses.

The airline industry has gotten a lot of bad press over the last few years. But today, Captain Sullenberger is a credit to his profession. God Bless.

P.S. It seems he already has a Facebook Fan Club

Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist, by Bill Ayers

Book 4

Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist, by Bill Ayers, has been on my wish list for something like two years. It hasn’t shown up in my Used Book Store, so I decided it was a good pick for the new Kindle (more on that later).

Ayers, a leader of the Weather Underground, wrote this book before 9/11. It was published about five minutes before 9/11. Ayers talks about that in the new Afterward, published in 2008 – right around the time the President Elect was hammered in the press for even knowing him. You know I enjoy that kind of historical perspective.

I was interested in hearing about how the Peace Movement splintered and people justified bombing things. I was interested in reading about how one lived going “underground” (because Running on Empty is my only basis for understanding) and the process of coming back to the “real world”. That isn’t quite the tale Ayers was telling.

In the mid-1960’s Ayers participated in some really great community action projects. He was literally building alternative schools for low-income neighborhoods that were not properly supported by the state. I was cheering for him. And then.

The pontificating about the Movement. I am so bored with it. At least Ayers admits to the arrogance of his crowd.

I am still vague on how anyone came to the conclusion that building bombs was a good idea. Ayers makes a point to say that except for the accident that killed three of his own group, no people were injured in any of the Weather bombings. They were only “symbolic”. I might see that about the police statue in Chicago. But not the ladies room in the Pentagon. And by the time Ayers reached this point in the story, he seemed to be rushing it so I never bought in to the concept.

He talked a bit about living underground. Safe houses and changing identities. He had two children before “surfacing” in the early 1980’s. And then the book ended.

Ayers told a good story here. There were, however, plenty of places where I wished he would expand on the details and several parts where I wanted him to shut up, already. I think I might be one of the people Ayers can’t stand – that are inclined to appreciate his principles but don’t approve the methods.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Download for a Good Cause

I can't figure out how to post an audio file, but I can at least give you the video. This artist is making a donation to Best Friends Animal Society for each person that downloads her new song and posts it on a blog. You can get the free download here.

I am Not Complaining About the Weather

The headline on the Chicago Tribune’s page is about the U.S. Air flight landing in the Hudson River. This is the second set of stories:

Chicago windchills plunge to dangerous levelsWhy do you live here? Winter weather photos • Weather: Skilling Forecast, conditions Wind chill warning • Watch and listen: The lakefront at sunrise • Commute: Latest CTA Metra Traffic Flights-->• Impact: Hundreds of schools closed Frozen pipes
-->• How to survive: Advice from Fargo Tips from doormen • But don't do this: Indiana boy licks light pole, gets stuck • How cold is it? It's Sarah-Palin-thinks-it's-cold cold
-->• Show and tell: Your photos Your comments • -->

16 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds since Chicago's temperature dropped below 0

I like the "Why do you live here?" part. A co-worker from DC asked me that last night. "You get used to it," I replied disdainfully.

Also, I heard a DJ say, "There is a whole generation of Americans that have not seen A Christmas Story!"

And now I know why.

Back from San Antonio

And I have decided that the Blackberry is good for the quick shots, but I just can't use it for real.

For example, the Convention Center has a big hallway with a bunch of statues of distinguished Texans. I learned that Eisenhower was pretty short. By comparison. Every time I walked down the hallway, I looked at President Johnson because he appeared so sad. While I understand that he was not in a good place when he left office, I don't think of him as sad in general. And I am surprised that Texas has portrayed him that way. So I took a picture

Indoor shot and still all grainy. And then this:

I was outside the Convention Center, trying to get a shot of Hemisfair Park. This looks like I took it through a window. How does one turn the flash off this thing? This one was better (somewhat):

This is the Tower of the Americas. I later found out, because I had dinner there last night, that it has a revolving restaurant up there:

And then there is the Alamo:

I am sure there is nothing wrong with the device itself. I am worse than an amateur. But I was totally doing better with the old digital thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Taxi

I have been a loyal patron of American Taxi for years. They are an unbelievably reliable company that serves suburban Chicago with flat rates to the airports and the city.

And finally. They are online.

American Taxi has been using automated ordering for about ever. They have my home phone number in the database. All I have to do is call them and punch in my phone number and they know where to find me.

The website asked me to set up an account. By entering my phone number. My information popped right up, so I just I verified my e-mail and ordered the cab.

Then I clicked around the site a bit. "Past Orders" was on the menu. Every cab ride I have taken in the last two years was listed. Down to the time of day and the cab number. It was a bit eerie.

Anyway - American Taxi isn't cheap, but they run a great service. And online ordering only makes it better.

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

MSN has an article, “Secrets of Women Who Never Get Sick”, which is right up my alley. I am pretty serious about not getting sick. The last time I took a full sick day for an illness was..nevermind, I don’t want to jinx it – but I was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis. It is caused by my allergies and I attacked it. Until then, I hadn’t really thought about being pro-active in preventing the everyday bugs. But really – deep winter is miserable enough without being sick.

Anyway. I already do several of these things – washing hands often (although I am sure it is not 12 times a day) and jumping all over the first signs of a cold. And notably absent on the list was getting a flu shot.

I was interested to see this about getting a regular massage:

“Most studies show that massage can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate—and lowering these is likely to cause your stress level to drop, one key to building immunity. "Decreasing stress increases your immune cells," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute of the Univer­sity of Miami School of Medicine.”

I don’t think of massages as “stress reducing”, but as “pounding out all of the knots in my muscles”. And I certainly don’t do it once a month. But what was really interesting was the “what doesn’t work”. I read it as, “People really try this stuff?”

“Don't put a topical drug up your nose

Some frequent travelers report that this simple trick is germ-killing genius. Not so, says Neil Schachter, M.D., director of respiratory care at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Neosporin treats only topical bacteria, not the ones that cause airway infections. Plus, it's powerless against viruses and may irritate your sensitive nasal lining.”

The article missed a good one, I think. Get enough sleep is a no-brainer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At the Refuge - The Mural

The construction is finally done at the Refuge, and while our director has been on vacation, Megan did this for our entryway:

My mother wants one for our kitchen. But I want a portrait of Kiwi the Grey and she wants a landscape and who can afford a mural in the kitchen, anyway?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Demographics of the 401(k)

A few days ago I read an article over at MSNBC about McDonald’s 401(k) plan. Apparently, participants contributing 5% of salary are matched at 11% of salary. That’s pretty damn good. But something struck me so hard I actually e-mailed it to my boss:

Skepticism about investing runs especially high among African Americans, who make up 15 percent of the company's manager pool. Research shows that blacks, in the aggregate, are reluctant to save. According to a 2008 study by Ariel Investments and Charles Schwab, blacks save an average of $169 a month for retirement, while comparable whites (in terms of household income) contribute about $249 a month. Race and ethnicity trump gender — and even salary — in the factors that predict whether a person will save for retirement.

Preparing for the future Why don't blacks save more? The reasons are complex, but the underlying theme is cultural. "African Americans are distrustful of the financial system because it has excluded them for generations," says Andrés Tapia, chief diversity officer at Hewitt Associates, the benefits-consulting giant. Hewitt's research shows that African Americans consistently put home ownership and college ahead of retirement goals. Owning a home and educating children become a huge priority, explains Tapia, "if you are the first person in your family to do it."

I will argue with some of the reasoning here. Distrust of the system I understand. But owning a home and educating children are put ahead of retirement savings in plenty of families – particularly young ones – regardless of race.

The statistics, though. Wow. $80 per month difference for people of comparable incomes. How do we get past that?

You can read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Learning New Things

Thursday night, I took Eloise the Foster Grey back to the Refuge. My mother said she would be missed and we talked about bringing her back after her check up with the doctor, when I return to town.

Eloise has settled down a whole lot in the last week. Once we figured out that she hated being in Kiwi's flight path, we adjusted play time and she was much happier. Her feathers are even starting to grow back in.

As I put Eloise in the carrier, Kiwi said, "You're o.k. Good girl."

I mentioned that Eloise whistles Bridge on the River Kwai, and that I wondered if Kiwi was trying to pick it up. When I returned home, Mom said that Kiwi did the first few bars while I was gone.

I. Was. Right.

Later, I brought her upstairs while I was packing. She did it again! She doesn't have the whole thing, but it is unmistakeable.

Eloise is so coming back here next week.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pleasant Surprises

The other night my mechanic called. Left a message to call him back.

What? I am at least a month from my next oil change and there were no pending things with my car - as far as I knew. I called him right back. He said that I won the raffle he ran last month for Dinner for Two and that I should come by and pick up my prize.

While running my about-to-leave town errands, I stopped at the shop. He said, "Do you mind if I just write you a check? That way I don't have to guess about where you like to go and you can do whatever you'd like."

It occurred to me to suggest that he just put a credit on my account (and I don't mean that sarcastically), but that didn't seem in the spirit. Or even polite. I told him I was happy either way.

We were talking as he was writing, so I didn't look at the check as he handed it to me. I figured it would be 40 or 50 dollars and went to the bank to cash it for travel money. It was $100!

Clearly I do not have gourmet tastes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inauguration Day reported that the bridges into and out of Washington DC are going to be closed to traffic on Inauguration Day.

Rumor has it that if the expected crowd shows up, there will be one toilet for every 6,000 people in town.

Yesterday, my travel agent told me that Washington is so out of hotel rooms, that Amtrak is going to park its train in Union Station, rent out the sleeping cars and keep the dining cars open.

Supposedly, every business that is not in hospitality (or profits from it) is going to be closed.

You couldn’t pay me to attend that event. I shall be perfectly happy huddling in the lunchroom and watching it on TV with my co-workers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Conventions and Meetings

I am leaving tomorrow for our big annual meeting. This is my 12th year working this event. That number pretty much puts me at the grown ups table.

“What was your first Annual Meeting?” is a common question among our veterans.

I remember the question being posed to my friend Jeff in IT. “Charlotte” was his answer. I narrowed my eyes and looked at him. Then figured it out:

“Oh, you must mean Charlotte 2. Charlotte 1 was my first Meeting.” And I realized that I sound like one of those people. That require the acknowledgement of seven additional years of meetings for the maintenance of my own self-worth.

I have noticed that at some point, these meetings that only happen for one week out of the year, start to run together. And the old people will sit around and say something like, “I remember a really great steakhouse in the Hilton. That had to have been in Houston. No, it was Albuquerque. What year was that?”

And I have joined them. Here are a few more:

“That was the year the lady fell down the escalator and had to go to the ER. We learned a lot about ‘traffic control’ that night.”

“No, I don’t remember the keynote speaker, but I remember the prostitutes sneaking into the Convention Center. Marsha figured out they were wearing fake badges and threw them out herself!”

“Brad was coordinating security, but he had a family emergency. We asked Cody to step in and his first question was, ‘Do I get to carry a gun?’”

“So Don dragged us 10 blocks out of our way because he had to have a ‘Mothers sandwich’. Swore it was the best lunch in New Orleans, as we stood outside this dive, waiting in line. Dude was right!”

Not long ago my friend Rolland (whose first Meeting was when I was in Kindergarten) and I noted that some of the stories have become legend. In the “I’m not sure which part is actually true” way.

Getting a good story out of it is the entire point, I think. Except now that I have stories, what I really want is no surprises at all. And that’s how I really know I am getting old.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

70 is the New 50

MSNBC reported another bleak retail story that I remember hearing on the news recently. It seems that back in the day, “50% off” was when we all thought we were finding a really good deal. Apparently, that number is now 70 or 75%.

What I learned is that stores order merchandise four to seven months in advance. So the September meltdown (should that be in quotes? Or at least capitalized? I think it is an official title now.) came too late for retailers to adjust.

But the story is that spring also looks bleak, in part because we are all expecting great deals to continue. If you accept that many things involving money (and most everything about the spending of it) are emotional rather than logical, you will believe the expert:

“It will be years before shoppers are going to be enticed by discounts of less than 50 percent”, said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.

I am not a serious bargain hunter. Compared with Thrifty Chicks, I am a rank amateur. With clothes, where I only wear one color, I am willing to pay more for something I really like. And since the shoe industry has figured out that not so many ladies wear a size 6 these days, I am often out of luck there, too. Clothes and shoes are not things I buy second hand. However. There are several stores where I won’t even walk in the door without an extra discount of some kind. That was true before the Meltdown. I have been mentally programmed that finding deals is good. And fun – like a game.

What I really need to do is reprogram so that I don’t start shopping in the first place.

What I have been hoping is that this is not a market crash phenomenon, but Americans coming to the conclusion that we don’t need everything that we want. And that financial independence feels better than shopping.

I’m not even there myself.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Secret Life on the McJob, by Jerry Freeman

Book 3

I read My Secret Life on the McJob, by SUNY management professor Jerry Freeman. His sabbatical project was to work around the country at different fast food restaurants and observe the management techniques. This book is the final product.

The interesting conclusion he came to was that the procedures for making sandwiches are extremely rigid, but the management of people was entirely up to the location.

An observation he made is that those procedures are made so that people don’t need to think, they simply react. This may be helpful during the lunch rush, but the consequence is that since crew members are not required to think, managers tend to think they are not able to think for themselves.

There was discussion of turnover, which I found interesting. He noted that most of us white collar HR types would panic at the sight of a 25% turnover. True. In fast food the standard is between 200 and 250%. The manager that Freeman called the “best” was extremely proud of her turnover rate – 111%.

I liked that Freeman made a point to say that his favorite manager – the most personable and caring – was not quite the “best”. The “best” had high expectations for performance and played by the book, which was not always accommodating.

He discussed the use of “more hours” as a reward for good work. In fast food, financial rewards are not easy to come by, and promotions can only go a couple of grades before someone has to retire for the next one. Hours are reduced for employees not measuring up.

Socio-economic point. Freeman noted that one fast food place was paying a much lower hourly rate than a competitor store a mile down the road. Why would anyone work for a dollar less per hour? Because not everyone has the transportation to get himself down the road reliably.

The chapter on Diversity was great. Freeman notes that fast food is the best integrated industry around. No one cares about gender or religion or ethnicity if the job is done. However. He noted that women are generally at the register (because they are more friendly and approachable or something) and are never asked to help unload a truck. Also (I wish I had the book handy to quote it), he made a point about “critical mass”:

When you have a diverse group, people work together and get along out of necessity. Everyone needs each other to get the job done well. When the job is done well, you start to like each other. However, at the “critical mass”, whatever the number may be, people don’t need to work en masse and will congregate with their “own” group.

Is that a universal truth? Maybe that is Freeman’s next book.

"Mandatory Volunteering"

Someone was blogging about someone blogging about the concept of “mandatory volunteering”. I think the original post linked to a London Times columnist talking about how the government (British) should require everyone between the ages of 12 and 85 to perform 12 days of “volunteering” each year.

A different link went to an interesting L.A. Times article. Columnist Jonah Goldberg started by noting (back in July) Barack Obama said in a campaign speech that as president he would:

"set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year."

He then cited the following:

“Americans are vastly more generous with their time and their money than Europeans. According to social demographer Arthur C. Brooks, in 1995 (the last year international comparative data on giving was available), Americans gave 3 1/2 times as much money to charities and causes as the French, seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians.In 1998, Americans also volunteered 21% more than the Swiss and 32% more than Germans -- two countries with compulsory national service. And yet we're continually told we should emulate them so that America too can have a "culture of service."”

His point was that if the government starts to make these things mandatory, the government will mess it up. Not to mention spending a fortune on the bureaucracy to enforce it. Or else require schools to enforce it, as if they don’t have enough to do. And any way, college kids?

I’m not saying that I didn’t personally have the time. I had the time and wasted it like many kids away from home for the first time. But my roommate was an athlete. There were plenty of students like her that did not have scholarships, but participated in other activities. It required careful scheduling. Plenty of kids are required to work part-time (full-time in the summer) just to meet their expenses. Some even do both jobs and activities. A hundred hours of community service on top of that? I don’t think so.

Goldberg, and a whole lot of British Internet commenters, likened “mandatory volunteering” with slavery. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do think that unwilling “volunteers” are more trouble than they are worth for an organization. And besides, it would suck all of the joy out of it.

You can read the L.A. Times article here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Target Markets

MSN has a link that says, “11 Reasons to Save Detoit”. I think it is going to be a socio-economic argument in favor of the bailout, with statistics on how many people they employ and how many suppliers they offer business. So I click.

No. It is talking about the “terrific cars”.

I drive a Saturn. You don’t have to talk me into American manufacturers. But I don’t need to hear about how the $100,000 Corvette ZR1 can go 205 miles an hour, “sleek as a gazelle”.

Clearly, I am not the target audience.

Lovely Green Eyes, by Arnost Lustig

Book 2

My freshman year in college, I took a survey course in Cinema. The professor was Arnost Lustig, a Holocaust survivor from Prague. He was sent to the camps at age 16 – Auschwitz and then Buchenwald. If I remember the story correctly, he escaped with a guy he knew during transport to another location. We read one of his books that semester, and I have read a couple since then.

He made a big impression on me. I remember that semester he was gone for a week while he participated in a group that went back to Auschwitz to gather artifacts for the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The last time I Googled his name, he had retired and returned to Prague. God Bless.

Lovely Green Eyes was written in 2000, after I graduated. It popped up at the Library Used Book Store last month and I jumped on it.

The main character is a 15-year old Jewish girl who managed to get out of Auschwitz by pretending to be an Aryan, lying about her age and getting assigned to a brothel that served army soldiers. The first person narrative is actually told post-war by her husband. “Lovely Green Eyes” is her nickname at the brothel. “Skinny” is her nickname after the War.

There are several stories told here, going back and forth in the chronology between the War and the year or so after it ended. Two pieces stood out: the seriously deranged German officer, whose story is too violently ugly for me to revisit, and the rabbi who went into hiding and later found that his wife and daughter died in the camps.

Lustig’s books rely heavily on the theme of survival, but this one shifted the focus a bit to Survivor’s Guilt. Or rather, Survivor’s Guilt as a piece of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An interesting scene was Skinny arriving back in her old neighborhood to see how it hadn’t changed.
Lustig’s language and style makes an easier read than you would think of the subject matter. Interestingly, while he was a literature professor at The American University, he writes in his native Czech and then has someone else translate them into English.

I should Google him again and find out if he is still writing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It Has Come to This

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a charger station. I had so many cords and plugging and unplugging and the Blackberry can't last the weekend without some juice so I picked this up at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Pictured are the Kindle my brother gave me for Christmas, my iPod, my work Blackberry and then my personal cell phone down in front. That I haven't turned on in months.

The store had three models. I picked the mid-range one that included a power strip. I actually had to swap out powerstrips because the cord on this one didn't reach down to my outlet.

I was hoping for some extra space to store batteries and thing. The little drawer barely holds my spare cords, let alone anything for my camera:

This was #2 on the List of things I must buy to keep up with the gadgets my family buys me. #1 is an external hard drive, which I haven't bought yet. When my mother gave me the big iPod I determined that it was time to put the entire music collection down and back it up. As opposed to the 3 gigs I have on the old Nano. But the task seems overwhelming right now.

I want it noted for the record that I am doing my part for the economy.

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

Book 1

I mentioned that I first read And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie, in high school. It was assigned reading to my freshman English class. I wasn't a mystery reader, so I skipped to the end the first time I had a guess and was totally astonished by Whodunnit.

I had picked up a lovely copy at least a year ago at one used book store or another. Because it was a re-read, it sat on the bookcase until I started playing the computer game. I read behind the game so as not to spoil anything.

What struck me this time around was how often this premise is used in popular culture. The horror film genre depends on one person dying at a time, and no one quite knows why until the end. But horror films generally don't have the "one of us did it" element. But Remington Steele sure did.

I forget who made the observation, but I think it was online. Every once in awhile, when watching a classic film for the first time, one might find yourself thinking, "So that's where the Simpsons got it!" That is a really good reason to read this book.

Also, there is the study of how people behave as fear starts to take over. Distrust, paranoia, hysteria. How they turn on each other.

There is a reason why this is "the bestselling mystery novel of all time".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Making Comparisons

Last year, with all of the snow, I ran out of windshield wiper fluid twice. Between oil changes. This had never happened before. It occurred to me a week or so ago that I should really pick up a gallon to keep in my garage, because it looks like it might be that kind of winter again. Of course, who remembers to pick up windshield wiper fluid?

My friendly neighborhood Jewel Osco grocery store had displays built up to the ceiling, in the front and back of the store, filled with gallons of wiper fluid. This is why I love them.

Standing in line to check out, I looked at the label. Will work to -20 degrees.

My boots are better than that!

And Then There Were None - The Video Game

The other night at my friend Noah's house, we were talking video games. I haven't played them in a long time. He was showing us Oblivion. It gives me a headache. I told him I liked the old games where you pick up the clues and solve the little mysteries. He sneered:

"The old Sierra games?!"


As it happens, I was at Half Price Books and found a game based on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I read it in high school and it was on my shelf to read again. For 5 bucks, I picked it up and took a couple of days to play.

It originally came out a couple of years ago and the reviews were mixed. Apparently the graphics weren't good enough for the serious gamers. There are also differeing opinions on the things you "must accomplish" and the "side quests". The interesting thing is that is has recently come out in a version for the Wii. Here is the trailer:

The other reason I like these older games? Somewhere on the Internet there are always Cheater Notes. The game doesn't follow the book exactly, as the PC is the 11th person. Thus the ending is also different. Anyway, I had fun. Now I am going to go back and finish the book.

Eloise and Shadow

I mentioned that Eloise, an African Grey from the Refuge, is spending a couple of weeks at my house. She is a rather nervous bird - a feather picker, even. Kiwi the Grey makes her nervous, because she is always going airborne and Eloise has had her flight feathers clipped (I have confirmed with our director that they will be grown out). So I can't really let her out to play in any place that Kiwi is likely to want to be. Mostly, she hangs out on or about her cage, and I give her lots of snacks because her weight is still low. Which attracts the dog. So Eloise spends most of her play time like this:

She is eating an almond butter sandwich. She is interested in the almond butter, but not the bread. So she is doing a weird sort of foraging and dropping the crumbs to the dog. You'd think it would make a nervous bird more...nervous. Not so much. She is practically aiming for his mouth.
The picture, from the Blackberry again, still has this blue shade going on. I'm not sure if that is the sunlight or the device.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Taking Pictures with the Blackberry

My pictures are all coming out blurry. I just cannot hold the thing steady enough. The other night, in my car, I was stopped at a light next to the forest preserve. There was a natural phenomena: the place flooded, then froze over. Have you ever seen a frozen swamp? Weird. I tried to take a picture, but that was a joke.
This is a picture of the Legos on my desk. It was the best of three that I snapped. I am thinking it is hopeless.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reflections and the New Year

This is what I said last January 1:

I think New Year's Resolutions are crap, but since pretending to have a game plan is good, here is what I expect 2008 to look like:

  • Working Full Time
  • Volunteering once a week at the parrot rescue
  • Volunteering once a week at the library
  • Complete at least two (four if I can stand it) courses down toward the master's degree
  • Complete the 50 Book Challenge
  • Excercise regularly
  • I am going to go away on an actual vacation - haven't figured out where yet
  • I could say I plan to eat better, but we know that isn't going to happen.

I didn't do too badly. I stayed active volunteering. I completed four courses toward the degree. Just barely finished the 50 BooksChallenge. Exercise wasn't great, but not a total disaster. And I took the fabulous road trip to Mt. Rushmore.

Last night, hanging out with some friends, I realized that I hadn't seen most of them since last New Years. I ought to do something about that. But really, when classes are in session, they take an awful lot of time and what I have left I generally reserve for my nephew. Over the summer, though, there is really no excuse. So. Here is the pretend game plan for 2009:

  1. Finish the Master's program
  2. Keep up with work, reading, and volunteering
  3. Step up the exercise
  4. Make my friends a priority again