Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Think I am Over It.

Last semester, I had stockpiled a bunch of episodes of a bunch of TV shows.  When I looked at the full batch, it was pretty intimidating.  I watched the last half hour of the end of Grey's Anatomy and deleted the rest of the season.  When it started up again, I thought I might watch it on the weekend.  Then I decided it could wait until the quarter break between classes.  Then I decided I would just read it on Television Without Pity.

I tried to do that tonight.  And I got bored.  I found myself skimming through just to find out what Mark Sloan was up to. 

I am over this show.

But I will miss McSteamy. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Counting Blessings

I spent the better part of the summer complaining about my house, the mold in my house, and the cost of removing the mold in my house. Then last week, I saw some of the reports coming out of Georgia and thought it was about time that I counted my damn blessings and gave some money to the Red Cross. And then today, I saw the report about the tsunami hitting American Samoa.

The early reports are patchy and contradictory, but I am paying attention because I happen to know someone from American Samoa. Who happens to be my boss’ wife. My boss was just telling me that after he retires next month he plans to go with her for a visit, which is very exciting because he has never been there before and they have been married for 41 years. 

So I decided that my obligation just went from giving the Red Cross money to Giving the Red Cross Money and Posting about it on the Internet so that Maybe Other People Will Give Them Money, Too. Here is the link to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund.

Dental Care

This is a pretty good article on the state of dental insurance, particularly as an employee benefit.  It talks about all of the things that I tell my people, including:

  1. Dental insurance does not work the same way as health insurance.  You are going to pay more out of pocket for treatment.
  2. Employers place a much lower priority on stellar dental coverage because they are worried about how to maintain the health insurance.
  3. This is particularly true regarding orthodontics.  At my office, the philosophy is that orthodontics are something you can plan for save money ahead of time.  We would rather spend the benefits dollars on the health insurance program.
Another thing I say all the time is that dentists are not beholden to the insurance companies the same way that doctors are.  If a doctor tells BCBS of Illinois where it can stick its "negotiated fees", she might as well leave the state.  A dentist can get away with it.  So I will say again:

Dental insurance is not the same as health insurance.  But here was something that I didn't know:

"Although dental insurance premiums have remained relatively steady over the last decade, especially when compared to skyrocketing medical-insurance premiums, between 1998 and 2008 the increase in the cost of dental services exceeded that of medical care and far exceeded the overall rate of inflation." 

I wonder if that statistic will outlast the recession.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Juggernaut, by James Marcus

Book 37

I picked up eight books from the library to research my final project and Amazonia, by James Marcus, was actually interesting. Marcus was Employee #55, hired by Jeff Bezos in 1996 to be an editor on He reviewed books. Lots and lots of them.

The story is partly about the bubble-to-bust and partly a simple tale of the birth of a behemoth. Bezos, CEO and 1999 Time Magazine Person of the Year, is portrayed as a kind of mad scientist of statistics that is only interested in projects that he can “measure”.

Marcus talks about how Amazon was staffed with an editorial department filled with bookworms and writers, charged with writing what he calls the “haiku” of book reviews. The cool thing was that they were not told to make it all positive, so as to sell more books. They wrote what they thought. Over the five years that he worked there, editors were slowly replaced with customer reviews and auto recommendations. Finally, Marcus took his stock options and ran.

And speaking of those stock options..there is some mention of the ride of the “accidental millionaires”, cashing in the shares and buying new cars. Until one day it all crashed.

Of course, we all know that Amazon survived. And it seems that James Marcus grew up to be a real writer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Noodles and Mushrooms

The new marketing campaign at Noodles and Company seems to be a version of "have it your way".  The signage has all sorts of ways that you can go high-maintenance on your meals.  Including on the order number signs.

I am no stranger to the high-maintenance ordering.  In fact, it would be a rare day for me to order from a restaurant straight off the menu.  I am reminded of the day that, standing in line at Noodles, I first learned how far one could go.  A lady said:

"I'd like the mushroom stroganoff with no mushrooms."

Wait - you can do that?  I was so shocked that I interuppted her to clarify.  I was informed that the pasta sauce still had mushrooms in it, but I could order it with no additional mushrooms on the top.  I was quite pleased.  If rather embarrassed that I actually interrupted someone trying to order her lunch.  The soup Nazi would have banished me for a year and I would have deserved it. 

I am now reminded of this every time I go to Noodles because I seem to get the same slogan on my little sign every time I go in:

Did CBS Listen to Peyton Manning's Commercials?

I've been doing my homework with the CBS early game on the TV on mute.  An hour ago, it was the third quarter of the Eagles game.  Then, at some point, it switched to the Titans and the Jets.  I can see from the ticker that the Eagles game is still on and they are winning by a lot.  Wait..Direct TV says that I should be watching the Eagles.  The Jets are only up by 7.  There would not be much local interest in either game.

Did CBS make a spontaneous switch, mid-game to the more interesting event?  That would be new.  And kinda cool.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I am not this nice.

If you haven’t heard the story, the short version is this:

A lady went in for IVF. An embryo that she had previously frozen was implanted and she became pregnant. Then she found out that the embryo actually belonged to another couple. The clinic made a mistake.

The lady, Carolyn Savage, carried the baby, gave birth on Thursday and delivered him to his natural parents. No fights, no lawsuits. No discussions of abortion or custody.

I saw the story below on the Today Show this morning. The legal and moral issues are dumbfounding, but it is so nice to see someone do the (incredibly) magnanimous thing first and worry about suing the clinic later.

Dear Google

I realize that I don't pay you a dime for the use of your awesome blogging service.  Although I have offered.  And dutifully set up some Ad Sense stuff.

But will you please, please set up some more templates?  I get tired of looking at mine, then I go to change it.  And decide I don't like the change but I can't seem to go back to what I had before because I spent hours on the color scheme and have no idea what it was that I did.

Now I have a lame one, but don't have the time or patience right this second to do anything about it.  I would appreciate your help.

Gotta Check in Once in a While

Once upon a time, I had a serious Barnes & Noble habit.  I'm going to call it $100 a month, mostly online.  Then I discovered the used book stores.  And then I started school.  And then came the cable TV and DVR in my bedroom.  Now I am down to perhaps $25 a month.  I still pay for the membership, so I still receive the 15% off coupons regularly, I just don't use them nearly as often as I once did.

I was in the Glen Town Center this morning and discovered that the Book Market finally re-opened in its new space.  It wasn't a great store, but I would make an effort to buy something from time to time.  I found a darling children's edition of Beowulf for $5, so I picked it up.  Then, wandering around, I saw Luke Skywalker's face on a book:

Scholastic book - I have the Darth Vader one and I rather enjoyed it.  Sixteen bucks.  I put it down.  Then I remembered that I have a BN coupon sitting in my inbox, so I wnt home and got online.  Those who know know that the minimum for free shipping is $25.  So when I picked up my $16 book for $11.51 I had to "fill out the order". 

I looked at DVDs for five minutes, then remembered that I don't have time for them and don't want to spend the money on a TV season right now, anyway.  Music.

You know what I found?  Trans Siberian Orchestra has an album coming out the end of next month.  I loved Beethoven's Last Night in a Stranded on an Island way - easily in the Top 10.  (Thank you to my friend Rich who doesn't even remember that I first heard it at his old apartment in Crystal Lake.)  I didn't look to see what this album is, but I pre-ordered it.  I am expecting a rock opera of some sort.  Of the not-Christmas variety.  Wait - Night Castle.  Does that suggest Halloween?  I going to go back to look.

This is why I should check in at Barnes & Noble more often.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Notes from the Road

I realized this morning, when I started to create my expense report, that I hadn’t even printed out my flight itinerary. I hadn’t even been able to check into the flight from home because the printer is buried under things in the construction zone. I left the house, went to the airport, boarded an airplane, spent a few days, boarded another airplane and came home without looking at a flight number or departure time until I was standing in the terminal.

Force. Of. Habit. Because I make this trip so often.


I forgot to go to the ATM last weekend, so I had $25 on me during this trip. I realized it Monday afternoon, when I was buying lunch. Then it became a game. Can I travel on plastic alone? Even if I forgot my Metro card in my other carry on?

The answer is yes. I went out with $25 in cash and came back with $10. For everything else, I used the credit card.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


My allergies were bugging me and my ears went insane on the airplane.  I had such a bad headache on Monday that I left the office early, canceled dinner with Holly, ordered room service and did some homework.

In front of the television.  Because there was NCIS on the USA Network.

The next night, I got on the Metro to go meet Holly and I had a moment.  Normally, when I land in Washington, I grab my luggage and get on the Metro and as soon as I board the train I think something resembling:

"Yay!  I'm in Washington!"

Tuesday night, I realized that I hadn't had that moment the day before.  That felt sucky.  I hope it was just because I didn't feel well.

Wednesday night, Joy and I had dinner at the boss' house.  Because he is retiring and his wife rocks. 

I came home to find that the bathroom isn't done, the dog has gone insane, I'm still behind on the homework and NCIS is still on the USA Network.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Video Killed the Radio Star

Check out this new theory about Internet education:

Students starting school this year may be part of the last generation for which "going to college" means packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a radical reordering. Colleges, like newspapers, will be torn apart by new ways of sharing information enabled by the Internet. The business model that sustained private U.S. colleges can't survive.

I gotta tell you: I love my online Masters program. But I can’t even much it would suck to miss the experience of going to college.

I chose to go to The American University as an undergrad because even while I was shooting for a business degree, I loved the atmosphere filled with political science and international service. Breathing the air with these kids that seriously thought that a life of some kind of public service was for them…watching election returns was like Super Bowl Sunday in the dorms. Oh, don’t get me started. Here is the point:

College taught me that I could leave Chicago, go somewhere else, start all the way over without knowing a single soul, be successful and have a great time. You don’t get that from an online program.

This article talks about the economic reality. Online courses are just less expensive to produce, and so many students say that money is the #1 barrier to completing a program. I know that isn’t the entire story, because I have also been reading a lot about people dropping out because they just can’t keep up. Oh, and may I add that my $680 per credit hour is not exactly a bargain.

Maybe this is the new reality. But if it is…what a damn shame.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I have been known to complain about how the banks have all of these great promotions for new accounts, but not much for the people that have had accounts since...(here is where my mother is rolling her eyes)...the day they built that branch in 1977!  Seriously - $100 gift cards right and left for opening accounts, but no love for the ones that have stuck with them through four mergers.  My checks still say Bank One.

Chase won some points back today when I logged on, checked my bank account and found a credit for a hundred bucks and change with the entry, "Chase Pays Your Bills Winner".  

I seem to remember a commercial for that promotion, but I thought it was just for debit payments.  I don't do debit payments, since I use credit cards for everything, but it looks like it works for online bill pay, too. 

I am most pleased.

Apple Picking with Alex

Scott and I took Alex to Oriole Springs to pick apples.  Alex has been there before, but was too young to remember.  He declared the place "cool" and went to work.  I suggested that he twist the apple before pulling and after that started to work for him, he taught his father how to do it.   Pick-your-own orchards, in my experience, have dwarf trees so that people can reach them.  But we even found some Alex's height.  See him in there?

Yeah, yeah.  His mother got him the Brady jersey.  Reminded us that he was born on the Super Bowl Sunday that the Patriots won.  Whatever.  But since we were going to an orchard across the border into Wisconsin, it may have been for the best.

Anyway, we filled up our bag and went to the retail side of the street.  Alex was not interested in the petting zoo.  Not interested in the playground.  Took a cider milkshake while I tried to stand in line for cider donuts, but the line was insane and I gave up after half  an hour. 

Heading back to the house, Alex was playing on Scott's iPhone and announced that the Bears were playing the Seahawks next.  After clarifying that he meant after the Steelers game, I asked him to cite his source.  Because school has deformed my use of language.  Scott translated:

"Alex, Aunt Anne is asking how you know that the Bears are playing the Seahawks after the Steelers?"

The boy handed me the iPhone.  Sure enough, he was on a page that showed Week Three.  On top, there was a Bears helmet and a Seahawks helmet.  He can't read, but he could surf the 'net on an iPhone and find the information on ESPN.  We declared him brilliant and I handed back the phone.  I whispered to my brother:

"You have about fours years until he is downloading porn."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Last Summer Day

My awesome employer offers an optional summer hours schedule.  We work long hours for nine days and get the tenth day off.  For years, my Summer Fridays were for going to movies and reading books and generally doing nothing.  This year..not so much.  What I did today:

  1. Got up at 6:30 to give Kiwi her medicine and bring her up to my bedroom before the contractor got to the house.
  2. Got dressed and left shortly after the contractor arrived at 7am.  Had breakfast at the Corner Bakery.  I don't recommend the oatmeal.
  3. Walked a lap around Lake Glenview.  The mind wandered to, "You know what would be really cool?  An NCIS/X-Files crossover episode."  Made a mental note to check into the fan fiction.  Because I really have time for that.
  4. Got my allergy shot.  Want to know a secret?  I read trashy magazines at the doctor's office.  I carry a tote bag around with me all day so that I am never without a book, but I insist on reading that garbage in the doctor's office.  I am now all caught up on Ted Kennedy's funeral.
  5. Hit the Carson's Goodwill Sale.  I really need new clothes.  The Christmas trees are up already.
  6. Just made it to my 11am appointment for a mammogram.  I was behind an old lady that told everyone and their dog that there were no paper towels in the ladies room.  And each person responded by telling her that the hospital doesn't use paper towels in the ladies room anymore.  Only air dryers.  Did she serioisly think she was going to get a different answer after the third time?
  7. Had lunch at Noodles.
  8. Went to work. Because I forgot to do something and I am going to be in Washington next week.
  9. Went to Costco.  I thought I could get some ice cream on the way out, but the line was snaked back for about ever.
  10. Got home to a cranky cat who has been locked up with the cranky bird.  Turned on the Doors special on VH-1.  And now I have to do some homework.
I have squandered a summer full of Fridays.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Having a Craptacular Week

I went to the doctor for my annual exam on Monday morning. Felt great until I got to work and then my throat was icky and ...bleh. I have spent two days on the super-boost allergy meds and gargling anti-bacterial mouthwash.

Side Note:

People, I am serious about the anti-bacterial mouthwash. I remember once in college I commented that I had just run out and had to go to the drugstore and get some more right that second and my boyfriend laughed his head off. Keep laughing, Buddy. Knock on something, but I haven't taken an actual sick day since I was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis (due to allergies) in 2005. Here are my secrets:
  1. Wash your hands. A lot.
  2. Get enough sleep.
  3. Anti-bacterial mouthwash.

Anyway. While I was crazy busy at work, the techies informed me that an army of Trojan soldiers were sitting around somewhere in my system drinking coffee and they had to close the gates and hunt them down with BB guns and re-build the Great Wall of China or something so I couldn't log on for half a day.

My internet was down at home for two days. I was two days behind on my homework, but I am close to caught up.

And they are still working on my mother's bathroom, and Kiwi had been gone for 2.5 weeks so when I got to the rescue tonight I couldn't just leave her there so I borrowed the travel cage again and she will just have to be locked in my room all day eating banana chips and watching soap operas.

I'm going to bed now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?, by Charles Barkley

Book 36

I came across Charles Barkley’s Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man? at Half Price Books. I’ve always rather liked Barkley (except when he was playing the Bulls) and in this book, he interviews a whole bunch of people (Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Samuel L. Jackson, George Lopez)about race relations in the U.S. Yeah, I know. He’s kind of a blowhard, but he has a brain. Can he write? He doesn’t have to write; he hooked up with journalist Mike Wilbon to edit.

Then Senate-Candidate Barack Obama was interviewed (published in 2005, the interview happened during the campaign). Barkley did nod to the fact that Obama broke through in part because of a Republican sex scandal that didn’t even involve any sex. (As much as I like the President, I am still ticked at the Illinois Republican Party for being so stupid.) And this was after the speech at the Democratic National Convention. Interestingly enough, even while Barkley was saying that this guy could lead "our people", he also said that there would never be an African American president. Not "not in my lifetime". But never.

There were several themes in this book, and Obama hit a few of them. First, that while racism still exists in this country, the problems we have are much more about economics than about race. Second, that “white people” don’t “wish black folks ill”. They’re just taking care of their own business. Another variation of that was something like “white people are not thinking about black people as much as black people are thinking about white people”. Many of those interviewed talked about the idiocy of the concept of “acting white”. Pointing to something in the African American culture that thinks it is selling out to read books and educate one’s children. And then there were the discussions of Cosby.

Barkley didn’t actually interview Bill Cosby, but this was right around the time that Cosby began to talk, openly and loudly, about African Americans taking responsibility for their own families. His main points were about raising one’s children and getting an education. Barkley asked many people about it. Some said that Cosby is right on. Some said that he had a very good point, but could have communicated it better/more gently/in a different context. But no one said he was wrong.

One of my favorite interviews was with Jesse Jackson. I’ve never much liked the guy partly because to me, he has always been a politician. Barkley makes that point – that to younger people, that’s all he has been. But Barkley calls him “one of the last really prominent links to the civil rights movement”. But of all that Jackson said, the stuff about sports struck me the most. He said that the reason African Americans are successful in sports is that in that type of competition, the rules are clear. There is no subjectivity. (Well, of course there is subjectivity. But I like his point.) When the rules are clear, African Americans can compete.

Barkley took on this project in an attempt to start some dialogue. He said that the big takeaway for him is that people – successful people – are willing to talk about race issues in this country. It’s just that no one is asking them to talk.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Went to Seattle and It Was OK

Although whoever designed the Convention Center was nuts. Six story building and the first three or four floors are public space. Each year we invite the President to speak (and each year since Bush41 we have been turned down), and this year we were told not to expect him because the Secret Service hates the Seattle Convention Center. Difficult to secure or something.

We did go on a lovely dinner cruise on Lake Washington. Like the Lake Michigan cruises, the food was lame but we had a great time. My boss was the guest of honor because he is retiring next month. In his speech, he declared that retirement dinners were "just this side of waterboarding". Before he got up to speak, a lady to whom I was just introduced demanded to know if I was going to cry. I gave her my honest answer, "Not unless they try to make me speak."

Then we saw Bill Gates' house. It was very pretty. I refused to take a picture; it seemed impolite.

Speaking of not looking like a tourist, I was asked directions while in town. Twice.

There were three coffee shops on every block and only one McDonald's in the entire downtown area. And check this out:

I realize this is a terrible picture, but what is that big thing? A coffee bean roaster? It's huge! Oh, and here is the required waterfront pic:

I had forgotten that half the world's Alaskan cruises leave from Seattle.

I had breakfast at The Crumpet Shop. Twice. That was good stuff, and the funny part was that their Happy Hour is something like 7-8:30 am, when the lattes are $1.80. I had skim milk with my crumpet, thank you.

So. I will be back in January and then again in April. I hope I will remember to take better pictures. At least I will be done with school by then. I hope.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I am just beginning the heavy travel season again with a trip to Seattle for a pre-conference planning meeting. Here is the requisite photo from the hotel room window:

I have never been to the area before and I must say that my midwestern sensibilities are rather struck by the hippies.

I went down Pike Street to the market where I found a darling little book store. At least I thought it was darling until I saw the selection of books. There was an entire section for extreme feminist writing. One for sexuality. The people behind the counter were all face-pierced and the one other customer in the store was dreadlocked. It was not attractive. I looked for a section on local authors but was turned off before I found anything.

I did find the fish-throwing place. Wait, there must be a video somewhere...

There was quite a crowd when I went by. Then I picked up Jimmy John's and went back to my room to do my homework. I had to turn the heat on.

I Know My Car

For the past few weeks, I have thought I noticed a weird noise in my car. Actually, it wasn't a noise, it was more like a vibration under the foot pedals. I was half sure I was imagining things until I took my nephew out and he said (with all of a four year old boy's authority) that my car sounded like a boat.

So then I was paranoid. But I was about due for an oil change, and my mother was leaving town for the weekend and I left for Seattle this morning so we took my car to the mechanic last Friday and I told him the story. He changed the oil, said he couldn't see anything going on under the pedals, but he was going to have someone go drive it to see if they could systematically prove that I am insane.

Not so much.

Something about a ball bearing and my tire could have fallen off and $600. Is $600 a good price for validation?

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Had the House to Myself

For three and a half days. Want to know what I did?

Played Wii Tennis
Read a book
Did my homework

So. Exactly what I would have done if I hadn't had the house to myself. Except that I was also responsible for giving the dog his pills.

How lame.

Gordon Salon and Spa

Friday, after I dropped my mother off at work, I went to get my allergy shot. The office is in Highland Park and I arrived before the office opened, so I took a walk around the block. The Gordon Salon and Spa was open, so I went in to take a look. A nice man asked if he could help me and I asked for a menu of the services. He handed it to me and said the Express Facial was 50% off.

I have only had Express Facials twice before. The idea, I think, is to clear the palette of your skin with none of the fancy stuff.

How convenient. I was just thinking that I had about..nevermind how many break outs that I can’t seem to get under control. My skin has been making me crazy this summer. The aesthetician said she could take me in an hour, so I made the appointment.

Gordon Salon & Spa is much more salon than spa. I think I only saw two treatment rooms, but they looked fine to me. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the bathroom, though.

Sitting in the allergist’s office, I read the list of services. The Express Facial is regularly $50, which is pretty darned expensive. The standard one is $80, which is comparable to Mario Tricoci.

At the appointed time, I arrived and the aesthetician was ready for me. She had me fill out the information form, which may be intended to get to know you better, and may be to have in writing what you had disclosed. Whatever. I told her about the mold and how I couldn’t seem to find a moisturizer with any SPF that my skin doesn’t hate. She looked at my skin and said that it was really very healthy, and suggested that my skin might be pissed at me because I keep changing up the products.

Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

She did everything right. The appointment was 45 minutes, which explains why it is more expensive. Also, they are with Aveda, which means the aromatherapy is a big deal. Would you believe that my blind pick for a scent was sandalwood? (The other choices involved cloves and tea tree oil, so perhaps not.) Nothing felt rushed and there was no hard sell on the products, which I appreciate. And three days later, my skin is much better. That’s what it’s all about, Charlie Brown.

I could go back.

Marley on TV

Somehow I missed that Rich Weiner, the Executive Director at the Refuge, was on WGN News. Dina Baird interviewed him. And it seems that Marley the Macaw pooped on her.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Things I Learned about My Dad (in therapy), edited by Heather Armstrong

Book 35

I had a Barnes & Noble gift card, so I found a copy of Things I Learned About My Dad (in therapy) from an Ohio library’s used book store. Heather Armstrong (aka Dooce) edited this series of essays from a variety of bloggers on the subject of fatherhood.

The themes were of understanding and forgiveness of the “Now I get it” variety. There were chuckly moments and teary moments. I liked Heather’s piece the best, but that is probably because I read her blog and know some back story about her old man. I would say that he is my favorite character in her blog but that might be revealing my own daddy issues. Again. Anyway, I really like Chuck the Dog best.

That was a funny piece, now that I am thinking about it. In Sarah Brown’s “The Best Man” she suggests that we all have daddy issues and hers is that she thinks her father is the most perfect man in the whole universe.

Overall, this was a pretty light read, and a pretty good mix of some of the better writers on the Internet. On this particular subject, anyway. How is it I have read Wheaton’s books yet?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School

I am watching too much NCIS. (damn USA Network)
Playing too much Wii. (dumb brother)
Spending too much money. (stupid mold)

It's football season.

And school starts tomorrow.