Sunday, February 27, 2011

A bit of good news

I decided to sacrifice my camera in order to save it, and was far rougher trying to fix it, accepting the fact that I could break it totally... but, much to my amazement, I actually fixed it and it's now working just as it should.

And Mary sent this photo of lilacs which, like us, are ready for spring!

Some good news, more bad news

The good news is this: I have learned that it's (supposedly) easy to replace the keyboard on a laptop -- so easy, in fact, that people think I should be able to do it myself. I'm unconvinced, but glad I don't have to buy a new computer.

However, my digital camera is now broken... don't know how it happened. Was hoping it was just a battery recharge, but I had three professional photographers attempt to fix it -- no go.

Oh well... I am anxious to come home, but that doesn't happen until Monday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's always something...

Right in the middle of trying to get this daily newspaper out, my computer decided to act up and soon my keyboard was doing things as if it were drunk. Is there anything worse than a computer that has a mind of its own? And a crazy one at that?

I totally trust the IT person who works for my client, and she tried her best, and I believe that, but the keyboard is dead and this is a laptop. So now I am typing on a $12 keyboard from Walmart (thanks to Amy for making the trek for me!), looking like I have some weird hybrid computer. But it works and for now; that's all that matters.

So now a new laptop is in my future. Great! I had been trying to think of more ways to spend money (she says sarcastically), but I keep repeating, "It's only money; it's only a thing; it's only money; it's only a thing." I remember reading once that anything that money can solve isn't really a problem and that's true. But still...

We're supposed to get a big snowstorm tonight and at least I don't have to worry about that. We finished the paper ahead of deadline; it's a good job, if I do say so myself, so onward to tomorrow and whatever adventure awaits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Greetings from Reno

I'm here for a conference, and I can say this is not an easy place to get to. Left JFK to Salt Lake to Reno -- started at 9 am, got to my hotel room at 8 pm (and there's a three-hour time difference.) By the time I got here, I had just plain run out of gas.

This is a huge hotel and convention center. Here's my room and the view from my window -- you can see the mountains in the distance. Wish I had time to go visit nearby Lake Tahoe. This is a big ski area, and there is supposed to be a big snow tomorrow into Friday. This one I don't have to worry about.

I would also like to go visit Donner Pass, if you recall your history. That was the site where the party of westward pioneers got stuck in the snow (30 feet of it over time)and reverted to cannibalism to survive. I remember reading about it when I was like 4th grade -- have seen a few documentaries about it. Anyway, winter is not the time to visit!

Here's the monument at the site:

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Favorite President

I have to say I have always sort of missed the old-fashioned celebration of Washington's and Lincoln's birthday. I remember a tradition would be that we'd eat cherry pie on Washington's birthday in honor of chopping down the cherry tree. But now it's one day fits all so I'm choosing Theodore Roosevelt as my favorite president.
I always thought of him as "my" president since I grew up just minutes away from Sagamore Hill, his summer White House. I loved that house, full of animal heads from his African hunting trips (then politically correct)but moreso because it was a house full of children. You could almost feel the children's energy in that house. He was a very devoted father, and even when president, set aside a precise time each day, no matter what was happening, to talk to his children.

I like him as well because of his self-development -- he was asthmatic and a 90-pound weakling and built himself up, by rowing in Long Island Sound and having brisk walks into Oyster Bay, the nearest town. The area really hadn't changed that much so it was easy to imagine him on the side of the road as we drove by.

Of course, now he is getting more respect for being the first environmental president. In addition to creating the first national park, he established the National Park Service, as well as the National Forest Service.

He thought women who marry should retain their own last names. He is surprisingly feminist for his era. Look at this passage from his autobiography (written in 1913):

"Much can be done by law towards putting women on a footing of complete and entire equal rights with man - including the right to vote, the right to hold and use property, and the right to enter any profession she desires on the same terms as the man."..."Women should have free access to every field of labor which they care to enter, and when their work is as valuable as that of a man it should be paid as highly."

The Environmental Defense Fund lists him as one of its heroes and includes this passage:

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself," Roosevelt proclaimed. "Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." He backed up these words by protecting 150 national forests. In all, Roosevelt protected some 230 million acres of national land.

And, then, there's his humble grave in Oyster Bay. It's in a colonial-era cemetery first used in 1658. It's at the top of a hill, and there is a little wooden sign within the fenced-in grave area that reads, "Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes on the stars."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Urban Life

Maybe this isn't just urban -- but in my hallway, I have very high ceilings -- I think 11 or 12 feet, and there is one lighting fixture that I can't change without the use of a ladder. I am careful with that fixture in that I never leave it on for long in order to prolong the life of the bulb.

In the meantime, for several years, there was the carcass of a giant waterbug in the bottom of white glass globe (that is the fixture. No one would ever notice it -- you'd have to stop right underneath it and then look up, but of course that's just what I did and I hated it but it was never worth getting the super with a ladder to fix it.

Then the light bulb finally went out, and my handyman said he'd borrow a ladder. I pointed out the bug, as warning, and he took it down, dumped the bug, cleaned the globe, and I feel like a new woman.

I didn't think I'd mentioned this to anyone, but I guess I did to a friend who has just written me:

By the way, I wanted to tell you that you inspired me to figure out how to remove the frosted glass panel covering the florescent light on the back of the stove, where a large dead spider corpse has lain for many a year. Now he rests in peace and I don't have to look at his shadow anymore while I am cooking!

So glad I'm inspiring!

Signs of Spring

We went from 60+ degree weather to today in the 20s. So spring seems a long way away. Years ago, New York magazine had a piece about how it's sometimes difficult to spot the seasons changing in an urban environment and asked readers to submit signs other than sprouting crocuses or autumn leaves to how we know the seasons are changing.

Friday night I ordered dinner in from the local diner, and the delivery guy showed up in a t-shirt. Aha! Spring must be coming, I thought.

Meanwhile, back to real signs, Fran spotted these crocuses
Fran writes, "Aha, crocus are a-bloomin' in DC -- spotted Sun afternoon on Fessenden Ave bet Connecticut and Wisconsin."

About these two guys, Fran writes, "Here are two little guys pushing through. Spotted same day, same street."

Mary replied, "I have daffodils about 4 inches tall and hyacinths about an inch out of the ground in a container. I haven't seen my of my crocuses yet but any minute now!"

As for us New Yorkers, we're supposed to have snow or a "wintry mix" tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Spring

Another lovely spring day. I saw a piece on the local news, filmed in Central Park with all the kids running around and a mother saying she had a 2-year old and a 3-year old cooped up for two months. That could be maddening. I've had the window open fairly wide all day, but winter is coming back, but it's been great to have a respite from it, even for two days.

I am feeling overwhelmed by work, by personal business, by everything that needs to get done. The metaphor that feels right to me is if you've ever seen an ice machine in a hotel where there is an internal sweeper arm that sweeps the ice into this clear plastic hopper and you press a button and the ice comes out of the hopper into your ice bucket. The hopper is empty for about 2 seconds until the sweeper arm fills it again.

That's what work feels like: no matter how much I bang out, the hopper just keeps refilling. What exacerbates the situation is that I'll be going to a Conference next week and will have to work during the day with this one client so everything just seems frantic.

I was reading today about self-trust and the need to develop it and trust that you've gotten yourself this far and that you have to trust that you will keep going.

But today it was like I was on the current of a fast river -- the phone kept ringing and I'd realize I have three emails all started at once and had to say STOP... and do one of my other mantras which is "All I can do is the next thing that needs to be done."

Anything anyone says about how lucky we are -- yes, I get it. I'd rather be here than have no work, but I also envy those people who, for whatever reason, have the luxury of taking a month off. I could use one.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Hint of Spring

We're not as warm as other places, but the temp made it to the high 50s today and it was sunny and wonderful. I went out and it just felt liberating to be in the fresh air.

A friend of mine put it this way: "For the first time in a while, I didn't feel I had to brace myself as I walked out my front door."

Tomorrow is going to be warmer, then it gets cold again, but I certainly enjoyed today. It's going on 8 pm, and I still have my window open about 1/2 inch and it's so refreshing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Two Unrelated Anecdotes

Over the weekend, I caught a few minutes of Family Feud where the question was, "If animals could talk, which animal would have the most complaints about humans?"

The first two answers were dog (#1) and cat, but the third one was 'mouse.' I wasn't expecting that but I keep thinking of my still-alive mouse in the glue trap and what it would have said to me such as:

You've got to be joking!


My second anecdote was an email exchange I had today with a girl I went to kindergarten with and we were reminiscing about grade school Valentine's Days. And how we'd exchange the "dime store" Valentines and the rule was you had to give one to everyone in the class.

In second grade, there was this kid, this total outcast, this untouchable, just this total reject and how it was difficult choosing the Valentine I liked the least but I dutifully gave him a Valentine. I couldn't remember his name and only had the vaguest memory of him because he later moved away.

My friend didn't know who I meant, and I responded that I remember him always with crud around his mouth -- like dried oatmeal.

She instantly responded with this kid's name, then Googled him, and we believe he is today a poet! We looked at his books on Amazon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Complaint of the Day

This isn't a big one, but hell, that doesn't stop me.

I got an email from American Express saying that I could get five free songs from iTunes if I first bought them with my American Express card, then I would be "instantly" credited with them.

OK, I thought, fair enough. I believed them. (stupid me)

So I click "register for this promotion" -- put in my card number and then have to OK the fine print. One of the conditions was that even though I will be "instantly" credited for the five songs, it "may take up to two billing periods" to show the credit.


That just turned me off. And then to add insult to injury, the iTunes Store was "unavailable."

Saturday Thoughts

When Barbara and I were having lunch on Thursday, we somehow started talking about being a physically abused wife/girlfriend, which neither of us has been. When I got up on Friday morning and took off my nightgown, I saw this bad bruise on my forearm that looks like someone's fingertrips caused the bruise.

You know that feeling when you see a bruise but you don't remember getting it? Well, I had taken a cab over to lunch, and the cab was tiny -- I joked to myself at the time that I felt like I was riding in a circus clown car -- my head literally rubbed against the ceiling of the car.

When I got out (or tried to), the driver had pulled up against a bank of ice/snow/snirt so I was starting out low and having to get up higher. He couldn't back up as there were cars behind him and he couldn't move forward. So I was stuck and really heaved myself out of this cab. I believe the strap of my purse caused the bruise.

My handyman was back today and I felt as if I had to explain the bruise, but I didn't. I thought about how it must be to have to hide bruises from your family and colleagues. This sounds crazy, but I forget I have the bruise and it catches my eye and I have to remind myself it was the clown car that did it, not some angry jerk.

So my handyman was here, my angel of a blessing of a handyman. He had been very sick, a bad outcome from an operation where his wound wouldn't heal. He's had a tough road. He does a beautiful job, and charges such low prices that I find myself trying to pay him more. The person who recommended him said he just enjoys doing the work and said that he told her that I was too busy to spend much time with him while he worked. That surprised me, so today I talked to him for about two hours while he worked.

This is gross, but he got a ladder to change a hallway light that's about 12 feet up and somehow over the years one of those big water bugs/beatles had crawled in the glass sphere and I was the only one who knew about it or would even notice it. When he changed the bulb, he really cleaned the globe and I am thrilled that I will no longer have to look up and see that bug.

Then he fixed a kitchen cabinet, fixed the drawer pull of this antique sideboard I have. This is how smart he is: he saved the old screw. He taped it to a paper and put a note in it. He used a new screw, but said that it's important to keep all the original pieces.

Then he was supposed to just change the washer in a bathtub faucet, but, of course, nothing is that easy. Whoever did work there last (before I moved in) used cement as a last resort to fix something and so he had to remove all the cement first inside the wall. He also regrouted my kitchen floor.

Because of his illness, he lost his job and is involved now in a number of programs to get a job. He interviewed this past week for a job as a maintenance man for Norwegian cruises which I thought sounded like fun, but he didn't. I realized, and he confirmed it, that all he wants is to have a normal life back -- a place of his own (he's been living with various friends), a paycheck and a normal day. I get that. He has such a tremendously positive attitude -- he is going to take this course where you get some sort of certification on furnaces and he said cheerfully, "It's just 28 Saturdays" and I thought that sounded like a lot, but he didn't.

Back to the cab -- of course, I think I'm the only one who would have trouble getting in and out of that tiny cab, but coming home, I got the cab style that's bigger, with more leg room, and I said so to the driver and he said he used to drive a smaller car, but he couldn't take all the complaints of people -- constant complaining about how tiny and uncomfortable the cab is -- Hmmm... guess I'm not that unusual after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Expiration Dates

Of course, I depend on the expiration dates on food to make sure what I'm eating remains wholesome -- but recently I've seen two expiration dates that make me scratch my head.

The first date was on the bottom of a roll-on deoderant. Since I don't stockpile deoderant or buy it by the case, I know this deoderant (mainstream brand) was about as new as could be.

And I was wrong.

The expiration date was February 10, 2010 -- more than a year ago! I didn't notice it not working (Hmmm... a good thing!) so I continue to use it in its espired form. I wonder what the shelflife of a deoderant is.

I was just now drinking a can of Diet Dr Pepper, somehow looked at the bottom of the can and this can -- which I bought in the grocery store a week ago is set to expire in two weeks.

What's the shelflife of soda? I wonder if this particular soda was sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

To continue my ramblings -- I had gone out today and when I returned home and took off my coat I had terrible static cling -- and I've had this can of Static Guard for years, leftover from the days where you'd wear slips and pantyhose and everything rubbed together. I see that lowly can of Static Guard and it's got to be 15 years old, really, but I haven't been able to dump it for the "I'm sure it's fine" reason. When you need Static Guard, you really need it.

So maybe I should practice what I preach and give it the heave ho.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Lunchroom behavior and expectations"

I'm currently writing an article about how to navigate your first few days on a new job. One of the things I talk about is all the customs around lunch, the company refrigerator, coffee, etc. I've seen so many arguments over this -- ranging from signs that say "Your mother doesn't work here -- clean up after yourself" to angry notices about one's coworkers.

One of the people I interviewed is partner in an HR consulting firm and he backed up my own personal experience with this quote:

“More difficulties have been caused by disagreements and real or perceived ‘bad behavior’ in the lunchroom than by most any other relationship with co-workers. See, observe and make sure you know and follow the written and often unwritten rules of lunchroom behaviors and expectations.”

Mary has had her stored lunch eaten -- I believe more than once -- and I just shake my head -- can't imagine the circumstances under which you tell yourself it's ok to steal a coworker's food.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Random Thoughts of O's and Snirt

About a week ago, I turned on my computer, started to type and saw that the O key somehow wasn't working. Overnight, something happened by which I had to really pound the O to have it appear. Of course, it couldn't be the K key or the Q or X -- had to be a letter we use a lot.

Well, today, out of the blue, the O key started working totally normally again. Of course I am thrilled, but an event like this only encourages my belief that machines will somehow heal themselves.

In the meantime, my hallway light fixture has gone out and I can't change the lightbulb without a ladder, and the faucet of my one bathtub has gone from a drip to a stream. A drawer pull came off in my hand the other day -- you know how it goes -- always something.

Today I heard the word SNIRT -- it's a combination of snow and dirt. New York is full of ugly piles of snow that have turned brown and black. So just for today I'll give thanks that I can type moon, loon, google, cool, fool without pounding the keyboard and be grateful that the 40 degree temps have worked to melt away at least some of the snirt.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I'm reading

This past week, I was trying unsuccessfully to convince someone I was supposed to write a profile on that he should cooperate. "But I'm so boring," he finally said and I knew I was getting closer to the reason he was reluctant.

I laughed and said that I had interviewed so many boring people that that condition on its own would not stop me. This feature must be half on his work life and half on his personal life. He said he has no wife, no kids, no hobbies, doesn't follow sports and I took a guess and said, "But I bet you read" and he said yes. "And do crossword puzzles," and he said yes.

I asked him what he reads and it's mostly espionage novels, and he said he is going back to read all the Ian Flemming books. Those are the James Bond books. He was a bit embarrassed about that, but I thought it was interesting.

"Hey," I said. "I'm so boring that I just bought a biography of Bess Truman!" It made me laugh, but it's true. I'm not sure what attracted me, but a few chapters in, what has surprised me is that she was an avid tennis player, which goes against her image of uptight 1950s wife with hat and gloves. Next, she had such a low profile that eight months into President Truman's term she was so unrecognizable that she went into the DC department stores to do her own Christmas shopping.

That's almost impossible to believe today with 24-hour news cycles and every move of the First Family chronicled.

When I mentioned this book to a friend in his late 70s, he said, "She had big shoes to fill." And that's one of the ironies of the book. Eleanor Roosevelt was so public and Bess didn't even like being photographed. I think Bess may have saved the day as my boring man, who really is not, agreed to be interviewed on Monday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Groundhog May Have Been Right!

Fran spotted an extremely hearty (hardy?) pansy. She writes, "Can spring be far behind? This blooming pansy, spotted in a planter on Connecticut Ave and Tilden today, survived the harsh weather. Go, pansy!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

With an ice storm last night and more snow on the way over the weekend, it's tough to believe we'll soon be opening the windows or turning on the air conditioner to cool off.

Mary tried to usher in Spring a bit early -- after all, Puxatawney Phil predicted an early Spring -- by buying these tulips at Trader Joe's. Maybe we should all go find us some daffodils!