Thursday, August 31, 2006

Serves Me Right

I called my friends Tony & Deb tonight.  I know I dialed correctly, because my cell phone cheerfully displayed "Tony & Deb" on the screen, because it recognized the number I dialed as the one which has, in fact, reached Tony & Deb on countless occasions.

Except it did not reach Tony & Deb this time.  It reached some dude named Steve.  Steve seemed friendly enough about the problem.  And when I redialed (the phone again telling me I was dialling Tony & Deb), I actually reached Tony & Deb.

Can you still get your wires crossed when there's no wires?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Still Not Chad

Cell phone rang around 4:30.


"Hi.  Can I talk to Chad?"

"I'm sorry.  You have the wrong number."

"Oh, OK."

Cell phone rang again at 7:30


"Can I talk to Chad?"

"I already told you.  I'm not Chad.  You have the wrong number."

Around 11:07, I took my phone out to recharge it.  Two missed calls.  11:00 and 11:01.  Both from the number of Chad's friend.  I wait with the phone next to me.  It does not disappoint.  11:10

"Look.  I'm not Chad.  Stop calling this number."

"Well who is this?"

"What did you say?"


11:12.  Phone rings again.

"Still not Chad."


11:21.  Rings again.  I'm about to go into my "Call this number again and I call the police" spiel but she hangs up upon hearing my voice.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

T.H. does not want my business

Yeah, ok, still working on the whole sell my condo/buy a house thing.  And one thing I really have to do is recarpet the condo.  I should have recarpeted when I moved in about 12 years ago -- the carpet still has paw-prints from the previous owner's dog.  Add in whatever I've done to it (not to mention the, y'know, cat barf) and this carpet is long past its useful life.

So I asked my real estate agents for a recommendation.  And my agent recommended T.H. (for reasons I don't entirely understand, I'm actually preserving his privacy here).  T.H. owns a carpet store nearby (a small, family operation), and is also a client of my agents.  They even gave me T.H.'s phone number.

Okey doke.  I wanted to go out to T.H.'s store that Saturday, but things got ahead of me and I didn't have time to go until after it had closed.  I saw my agents the next morning and mentioned that I was on my way to T.H.'s store.  They called T.H.  He said the store was closed that day, but he'd be happy to send someone over to open it.  I didn't want anyone to go out of their way to open a store just for little old me, so I told them I'd just go the next weekend.

The next Saturday, I went to the shop.  It was nice and brightly lit and there was loads of carpet in there, but the door was closed.  The little sensor rang a bell while I stood outside the store, but after about 10 minutes of making the bell ring, I left.  The store had a sign that said "Open Sundays" in the window, so I figured I'd go back the next day.

Came back on Sunday for a repeat performance of Saturday.  Stand outside door; set off bell; nothing happens.

Monday, I started regretting not making him open the store for me when he'd offered.  I figured it was time to call the guy.  I called.  Got his voice mail.  Said I'd tried to go the store over the weekend and it wasn't open and I'd really like it to be open so I could y'know, buy carpet.

Twenty minutes later, I got a voice mail back, although it wasn't from T.H.  It was from his other family business -- one that does construction.  I called them back.  They were on the other line, so asked if they could call me back in 15 minutes.  I said sure.

'bout an hour and a half later, they called back.  The receptionist-type person (who did not apologize for the delay in returning my call) said she was trying to arrange an appointment for T.H. to come to my home.  I explained that I didn't need him to come to my home -- I just wanted to get into his store.  I told her I'd tried to go on Saturday -- she said that sometimes they're so busy with construction, they don't have anyone to open the carpet store.  I said I'd tried to go on Sunday, too -- she said they're never open on Sundays and that they "really ought to take that sign down," a sentiment with which I agreed.  I asked when someone actually would be in the store.  She said Tuesday 10-6.  I explained I could not be there between 10 and 6 on Tuesday, what with my day job and all.  I asked if someone would be there on the upcoming Saturday.  She said there would.  I asked if she was sure.  She promised the store would be open on Saturday.

Today is Saturday.  I had the whole week to stew and I decided that I didn't really want to deal with T.H. -- it shouldn't take that long to buy carpeting.  I researched other carpet shops and found another decent one a couple doors down from T.H.'s.

So, this morning, I happily drive over to the other carpet shop.  It's open!  I explain to the carpet guy exactly what I need.  (Since I'm reselling, it has to be reasonably inexpensive; since I have a cat, it has to have a relatively tight weave and stain resistance.)  The carpet guy then directs me to the Super Duper Platinum Plus Stain Protected Carpet, which must be, like, $50 a square yard or something.  I remind him of the whole "selling place soon" thing and ask for a cheaper carpet.  He reluctantly goes to the back of the store and comes up with the "lesser grade" stuff at $27.  I balk at that price, and he digs out a sample of $21 carpet, which he treats with such disdain you'd think I was asking him to sell me dog poo.

I leave.  On a lark, I figure I'll go to T.H.'s shop -- seeing as they'd sworn someone would be there today.

Door locked.  Bell Ringing.  Nobody Home.

.... finally went to Home Depot, where we came up with a nice mid-grade carpet for a reasonable price.

Friday, August 25, 2006

This week's homework: Where you live

For this week's homework, JLester961 asks, via Scalzi:

What is the most interesting thing about where you live? "Thing" in this case would be a famous landmark, a famous current celebrity or historical personage from your home town or county, a notable celebration or sports event -- basically, anything that makes where you're from interesting an unique.

That one is something of a no-brainer.  I live in Pasadena.  Known for the Rose Bowl game, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and home to certain Little Old Ladies.

Despite living in Pasadena for nearly 15 years, I've only attended the Rose Parade once.  And once, when I was a kid (before I even lived in Pasadena), I helped decorate the floats.

I went with a friend of mine whose local church group volunteered to help decorate a float.  (The float wasn't sponsored by the church or anything -- it was sponsored by a corporation.  I think Rand McNally, but I'm not positive.  It was a long time ago.)

The float in question had Big Bird on it, and a bunch of school supplies.  When I arrived at the float decorating tent, I was assigned to work on a giant pencil-holder cup.  It stood unobstrusively in the center of the float.  The float driver, actually, looked out of it.  It was brown in color.  This meant it had to be covered in lentils.  We just painted glue on the frame, and took handfuls of lentils and spread them on.

Some hours later, having proven my worth with lentil-spreading, I graduated to the Most Important Part of the Float -- the name of the corporate sponsor across the back.  The name was spelled out in carved letters, and we had to make the letters white.  (Someone had already used black seeds of some sort around the edging of the letters, so they'd be more visible.)  To make the letters white required carnation petals.  And you couldn't just spread those puppies on like the lentils.  They had to be applied one petal at a time.

We each were given a lid to a cardboard box, which was flipped over like a tray.  On our tray was placed row after row of carnation petals.  (I don't know who was shredding carnations for this -- it must have been going on at the other end of the tent.)  I had a bottle of glue.  My job was to put a dab of glue on each and every petal, and then hand them off to someone for application to the float.  (Then we'd switch off.)

I did a small amount of work putting feathers on Big Bird, but that required climbing the scaffolding and it was then that I learned that, while I don't have a problem with heights, I don't really like unstable heights very much.  I came down and worked on the giant paint set.

(The paint set was a problem.  It had been designed to have five little pots of paint in it, each a different color, which would just be made by filling it with a different shade of roses.  Well, it turns out the float building guy put six pots in it rather than five, and we only had five different colors of roses.  So we came up with all sorts of ideas of what to jam in that sixth pot.  I vaguely remember someone deciding on these teensy little purple flowers -- which we painstakingly beheaded and then delicately glued in place.  And the guy in charge of the Float Building Operation didn't like it, so we had to tear it all out and then put in some other long-stemmed flower.)

At the end of the day -- actually, it's the beginning of the next day -- To this day, the only all-nighter I ever pulled was working on the Rose Parade floats -- anyway, when it's the next morning and you're all loopy from exhaustion, whoever is still standing gets to do the very best part of float decorating:  the pools of roses all along the bottom of the float.  There's no design there -- it's just free-form rose-pooling.  They give everyone a bucket of roses -- each rose has already been inserted into its very own little tube with water in it (so it'll keep).  The tube is also pointy at the end, so it jams into the float surface real easily.  So you take your bucket, start at the bottom of Big Bird, and just start planting your color of roses in a nice pretty pool leading out to the edge of the float (because no surface can be un-decorated).  They have everyone do this on the left-hand side of the float first, then (when the guy in charge has commented on your work and he thinks you're up to it), you get to move on the right-hand side (a.k.a. the Television Side) of the float.

When we were all done, we got to take home one of the roses in its little container tube.  Actually, I'm not sure "got" is the right word.  It was more of a group theft sort of thing, where the people in charge just looked the other way.  (I think the woman who walked out of there with three long-stemmed orchids under her jacket might have been pushing things, but she said they wouldn't mind.)

By the time I got home, I ate breakfast and went right to bed.  Didn't watch the parade on TV -- was way too pooped.  But we had my little rose-parade rose in the center of our kitchen table to usher in the New Year.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Am A Kitchen Goddess

Lori very kindly offered me a granola recipe.

Lori does not know exactly who she's dealing with.  For me, an acceptable recipe is "just add water and bake."

In fact, just this morning, I accomplished something in the kitchen I've never done before.  It's pretty incredible.  You might want to sit down for this.

I actually ... (wait for it) ...

... hard-boiled some eggs.

(No way.)  Way.

I boiled water.  With eggs in it.  I reduced to a low simmer.  I set a timer.  I doused in cold water when done.  (I used a recipe.  That's right.  I had to look up how to boil eggs.)

But the nutritionist had recommended some protein for my afternoon snack, and I thought I might get pretty sick of string cheese, so I boiled up some eggs.  And I felt mighty empowered by the experience.  Look at me!  Cooking protein!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

There are limits...

When I did the hike in Arizona, we stopped to eat.  We opened our packs in which they had pre-packed lots of hiking eats.  Including a hard-boiled egg, some string cheese, some orange juice, a small bag of pretzels --

-- I love pretzels.  I missed pretzels more than anything else at this spa.  One might even say I went on the hike in order to get the damn pretzels --

-- and a "fruit and nut" bar.  Aka trail mix bar.  I do not like trail mix bars.  I ate this one, though.  I even commented to the guide -- between mouthfuls -- that I hate these things, but, at this point, I really didn't care.  It actually tasted almost good.

Back at the ranch, they were available in the restaurant to take away as between meal snacks, so I got one the next day to see if they were actually good or if the desert sun had been playing tricks with my taste buds.  To my surprise, I found it edible.

Bouyed by this experience, upon my return to civilization, I bought a box of chewy trail mix bars (has to be chewy -- them crunchy ones are gross) that seemed to have the same vague description as the fruit and nut bar at the resort.  I thought I'd eat them for breakfast when I was sick of yogurt but didn't have enough time for cereal. 

That would be today.  I tried one.  Got through about half of it.  Tried to convince myself that it was tasty but I just wasn't buying it.  Tasted like a bunch of peanuts held together with something sickeningly sweet.  Where I'd hoped for some tart fruit (the spa's bar had some dried cranberries in it), this was, like, 95% peanuts and you had to eat half the bar to get to a raisin.

So, ix-nay on the ail-mix-bars-tray.

Unless any of you can recommend one.  The spa's fruit and nut bar (i.e. the only trail mix bar I've ever been able to get down) was really flat.  I'd (unfairly) described it as eating tire treads.  The bulk of it was probably granola (reminded me of some breakfast cereal I had as a kid -- which may have been Quaker Granola -- hey, mom, what was that breakfast cereal we use to eat?) and there was lots of fruit in it.  It was chewy but did not taste like it was held together by some thick sugary syrup like these bars I just bought do.  Tasted sorta granola-y and fruity.

Recommendations?  Anyone?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Diet Would Be Easy ...

... if I'd get my damn food.

Last night, I went with a friend to Islands to get a burger.  No fries.  No Coke.  Just a burger.  She got a quesadilla.

So, my friend's quesadilla arrives, as does my burger.  Except my burger has the wrong sort of cheese on it.  I'd said "cheddar" twice, and the burger shows up with swiss on it.

So the dude takes my burger back and says it'll just be a minute.  By the time I get my burger, my friend is pretty much done with her quesadilla.

Dude tries to make up for it by offering us a free "Chocolate Lava" dessert -- a fudge brownie with ice cream, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream on it.  Uh, no.  The two of us do not want to share a 1440 calorie dessert.  (The burger was bad enough.)  But thanks anyway.  I guess I'll just have to settle for his apology.

Move on to today.  I go to the grocery store around 11:30 and buy a ton of groceries (nice healthy things).  I also buy a sandwich.  Fresh made at the deli counter just for me.  After I get home and unpack the groceries, I sit down to enjoy my sandwich.  Problem:  I have no sandwich.  I check my receipt -- I was charged for the sandwich.  It just never made it into my bag.

I drive back to the store.  I see a line of, like, 15 people at the deli counter and think I don't really want to wait another half hour for another sandwich, so I'd just like my money back.  I go to the cashier with the shortest line -- this happens to be the checkstand where I'd bought my groceries, but there's a different guy there now.  A supervisor.  I explain that I bought some groceries and a sandwich and I don't have the sandwich.  He immediately starts patting the top of his cash register.  "Where's my sandwich?" he asks.  He'd put the sandwich on top of the register.  Now it isn't there.

Loudspeaker over the store:  "Will the person who took the sandwich from checkstand six please return it."

No answer.

He repeats it.


He then goes on the loudspeaker and tells the service deli to call him.  We wait for the service deli to call.

At this point, another customer walks up, holding a bag of groceries.  She had the sandwich in her bag.  Bought and paid for.  She didn't even know what kind of sandwich it was, but she knew it was fresh, and someone sold it to her.  She offers it back.  The supervisor is all, "No, no, you keep that."  Tells me he'll have the deli make me a replacement sandwich. 

He gets the deli on the phone.  Tells them to make me "whatever sandwich I want, on the house."  Which is nice and all, except I don't want some big, expensive sandwich.  I just want the sandwich I'd bought for lunch.  An hour ago.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Wrapping Up the Weekend

The sleep lecture guy said that a good cure for insomnia is to relax and count your breaths from 1 to 10, then repeat until you bore yourself to sleep.  OK, no, he didn't say "bore," but I think the point was made.  (See.  I was right.  You don't have to do "alternate nostril breathing."  Any old calming breathing will do.)

He also discussed the causes of insomnia, including "environmental causes."  He listed those as things like an uncomfortable climate or the snoring of your partner.  Oddly enough, he omitted "eight-and-a-half pounds of cat that's happy to have you home," which is what awakened me several times last night.  I slept through it at first -- I was dreaming about something and that dream involved someone giving me a cat.  And I was petting the cat and thinking about how cute the cat was and then I realized, "that cat looks just like Jasmine."  And then I thought, "Hey!  That cat IS Jasmine!  And she's on my bed!"  I got back to sleep, but Jasmine was very active last night.  I think it was around 3:00 when she had a bout of what I call "Kittinsanity" -- which is when a cat goes nuts and tears around the house for no reason whatsoever.  She ran straight across me, down the hall, into the living room, and (from the sound of it) right up the cat tree -- then right back down, down the hall, and back across the bed. 

The good thing about Kittinsanity is that the cat winds down pretty quick, and she gave up and caught some sleep.

Until 4:00, when she decided to get my attention yet again.


I refuse to turn this journal into a Weight Loss Journal (although, I seem to recall, a couple years ago, AOLJournals had filed it away as one).  I will report, however, that I lost a pound or two when I was away.  (My scale isn't any more accurate than that.)  And I was a good little girl and stopped off at the store on the way to work today, acquiring: yogurt (for breakfast); apples (for morning snack); baby carrots (for afternoon snack); and a little single-cup sized tupperware container (for parsing out pretzel portions).  AND I kept my water bottle on my desk and drank tons of water.  I didn't quite do everything as directed (for one, I didn't have any protein with my afternoon snack), but, so far, I'm sort of going with the plan.

The biggest thing I'm doing with the plan ... actually, BEYOND the plan ... is I'm trying to quit my Coke habit.  (-a-cola, not the other coke.)  The nutritionist told me to start switching to Diet Coke by drinking half Coke and half Diet.  But, over the weekend at the spa, I didn't have ANY soda at all, so I started having caffeine withdrawal symptoms (wicked headaches).  I dealt with this by having some caffeinated tea -- first two cups; then down to one.  Yesterday, I didn't have any tea at all and (shock) there was no headache.  It's too early to say I've beaten this particular beast (there could definitely be another caffeine-deprived headache in my immediate future), but I'm in no hurry to pick up a Coke again.  I'm just fine drinking water -- it can be just as refreshing, and as long as I'm getting enough sleep (a BIG challenge, but it's something I need to do), I won't need the Coke.  The way my nutritionist put it is that there's no sense in "drinking your calories" -- and I think I average about 200 calories of Coke each day.

So, yeah -- seven hours of sleep each night and no Coke.  That alone should drop a pound every few weeks.  Let's see how long I can keep it up. 

(No wagering.)

Monday, August 7, 2006

Just when you thought it was predictable...

So, Day Four.

I think I may have understated exactly how wiped I was from my hike yesterday.  My thighs hurt so bad, I needed the grab bar to stand up from using the toilet.

This morning, out of either intelligence or extreme stupidity, I decided to go to the gym to try to warm up the muscles a little bit, and then do some stretching.  I ended up doing a half hour on the treadmill (as much as I love the Elliptical machine, the treadmill seemed the better choice for sore thighs) -- clocking a mile and a half and over 20 minutes at my target heart rate (got my cardio for the day - yay me).  Got off and stretched.  Felt real nice.

Went right to a lecture with dad that involved, y'know, sitting for an hour -- not the brightest of all moves after going to all that effort to warm up the muscles.  This was another lecture on weight loss.  Yet again, I wish this spa would have a consistent message.  This dude said that to lose weight and keep it off, you have to exercise at least five days a week and probably every day.  Contrast with the guy yesterday who'd said four is definitely preferable to three, but that adding the fifth day has a diminished return and you risk overdoing it which can lead to injury and/or quitting.  And it didn't seem like he was trying to sell me something either -- so I have no idea exactly how many days one is actually supposed to exercise.  I think I'm going to leave here not accepting the advice of any single person, but picking and choosing about a handful of things to change in my diet and exercise patterns, and sorta see what happens.

Went to "Lunch & Learn" where they cook lunch in a "demonstration kitchen" so you learn the recipe.  Learned how to cook shrimp.  Learned an easy way to deal with ginger (grate it -- peel and all -- on a small grater, then take the bits and squeeze them, using only the juice).  Ate spinach leaves for the first time (yay me for trying a new vegetable).  Discovered small bits of clear plastic (please don't be glass, please don't be glass) in my food and reported said discovery to the demonstration chef, who was suitably put out, and said complaints would be made to the responsible parties.

Went to a class on "Body Wisdom," which was largely a load of crap, but, again, gave me, like, one totally useful thing I can walk away with. 

Then went upstairs to see Footwear Guy.  I hereby apologize for all negative thoughts about footwear guy and his motives.  Footwear Guy did not, in fact, have a pair of shoes in my size.  (He'd apparently had a run on the small sizes and couldn't find anything.)  He did, however, tell me the exact model number of the shoe I need and the size I should buy.  (All totally gratis, since he didn't sell me anything.)

Found it on Zappos not five minutes later.  :)

Well, this is about the end of our journey.  We've got two more lectures tonight (one where we'll be taught the relationship between lack of sleep and increase in hunger -- I expect to pick up a "behavior to change" for that, as I know my sleep patterns, um, to put it technically, blow.  The other is yet another class on choosing the best exercise program).  And then we check out tomorrow after lunch.

And then I fly home.

And clean out the refrigerator.

Vacation with Dad -- Remainder of Day Three

After returning from the hike, I showered desert off of myself, and had my first of two meetings with my Nutritionist.  The Nutritionist was all about gathering information about what I eat and how to turn this into a healthy eating lifestyle.

She was actually pretty good.  She had asked if I wanted guidance on numbers of calories, or if I wanted direction on meals instead.  I chose the latter course.  I also said that what I really needed help on was how much I could "fall off the wagon."  I mean, it's all well and good to eat a nice balance of proteins and fruits and carbs and veggies, but I'm going to want that warm chocolate lava cake with ice cream every now and then.  So I asked if that's a once a week thing?  Or every other week?  Or what?

And she basically found a way to put the lava cake into the diet -- her philosophy being that you should incorporate this stuff in, rather than keep it out and add it in as a treat.  Basically, every day, I get 100-200 calories to screw around with -- and that can be a snack of pretzels, or popcorn, or a mini-muffin, or, yes, a small piece of lava cake with a little ice cream on top. 

(After we were done with the plan, she asked if I thought I could live with it.  In all honesty, I admitted I'd probably cheat that up to 300 calories per day.  So she picked up her mouse and replaced the "200" with "300" and told me that this would mean I'd have to, y'know, actually exercise a bit more.  Seemed like a fair trade.)

She also said some stuff which I hadn't known but which made me real happy.  Like bread.  She told me I had to eat "whole grain" bread, which I frowned at because I hate whole wheat and multi-grain and all those other healthy brown breads.  But she said that rye bread also counts, and (to my great surprise and actual glee) sourdough is equally acceptable.  I totally dig sourdough.  This is something I can work with.

So -- very useful meetings with the Nutritionist.

Had lunch with dad (a stir-fried cashew chicken thing which, again, was spicy and, again, I didn't care).  We then went to a lecture together on "Weight Loss Myths" which was pretty interesting.  The guy started off by saying you should "take with a grain of salt" anyone's weight loss advice if the advice ends with them trying to sell you something (read my book!  buy my vitamins!  go to my website!) -- which is, of course, true, but was also funny given the rest of my day.

I had the "complimentary footwear consultation" where a dude looked at my sneakers and told me that they were too small and had insufficient arch support.  Of course, he was trying to sell me new sneakers.  And later, I went to a lecture by a guy who was talking about the myths of joint pain treatment, saying things like how back and knee pain are only correctly diagnosed something like 10 percent of the time.  Of course, he was trying to sell us on this new and exciting way of treating joint pain (allegedly successful a whopping 97% of the time).  So, y'know, using the skepticism from the first lecture, I'm suspecting both of these guys may have been full of poop, considering they were both trying to sell me something.

(I may buy the shoes anyway -- but at least I'm being suitably skeptical about it.)

After a day of hike, two meetings with the Nutritionist, two lectures, and footwear consultation, I treated myself to a massage, and went right to bed.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Aside: Yes, alternate nostril breathing

I kid you not.  Alternate nostril breathing.

You take your hand, put your second and third fingers on your "third eye" (I was so impressed that my dad knew where that was without further explanation -- that spot on your forehead between your eyes where folks of certain beliefs put a dot), leaving your thumb and fourth finger free to close up one or the other of your nostrils.

Now close your left nostril.  Exhale through your right.  Inhale through your right.  Close your right nostril and open your left.  Exhale through your left.  Inhale through your left.  Repeat.

There was some sort of importance to starting on the exhale, also some sort of importance to starting and ending on the right, neither of which she explained.  Class leader also said that this was really relaxing and a good cure for insomnia.  I don't doubt it.  You get all calm when you're focussed on your breathing like that.  Of course, I expect any sort of calm, repetitive thing which has you taking nice long relaxing breaths is equally good for insomnia -- with the added bonus that you don't look like an idiot closing off your nostrils.  But there you go.

Vacation with Dad -- Morning Three

Y'know, I'm not real sure about this whole "army lowering recruitment standards" thing.  I mean, I'm 38.  I was on a 4-mile hike with a whole bunch of people who were younger than me and in way better shape.  If I was in a war with them, I couldn't very well stop, put my hands on my knees, breathe heavy, and say, "You go on ahead; I'll catch up later."

(Damn fit people on the hike.  I knew I was in trouble when I heard some people saying they were on this hike as a warm up for a level 4 hike tomorrow.  Dudes, I'm only on this level-2 hike because they don't have any level 1s scheduled.)

I'll concede it was a pretty hike.  Especially when we stopped a bit on the way down to look at the view.  The guide I was walking with (they put one guide in the front and the other in back -- guess which one I was with) suggested we stop for a second and look at the valley.  And I was, like, "Oh, pretty valley."  And it actually took a second for my eyes to really look at it -- and all these cacti just popped out of the landscape -- I mean, I'd known there were tall cacti around; I'd walked right past a few -- but I hadn't entirely focussed on the patterns that they make when you're looking from above.  It was pretty nifty.

Four miles.  One blister.  A cactus needle in my thigh.  Stepped in horse poo.  Clothes covered in sweat.  On the plus side, though, we went around the rattlesnakes. 

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Vacation With Dad -- Day Two

I am at the Stepford Spa.

Every time I pass someone walking along, they ask, "How are you?"  I return the question and get back, "Great!" in response.  And these aren't employees; these are the guests.  I get the feeling that if I don't end up answering "Great!" by the time I leave, my "program advisor" is going to be thrown into a deep dark cell somewhere.

Today began with breakfast at 8:15.  We went to the "Spa Savvy" breakfast where they seat you with people who work at the place in order to get filled in on secrets.  My dad and I were the only guests there -- so it was the two employees and the two of us at an 8 person table.  Didn't learn much.  (Well, I learned you can request salt at dinner, and they'd be happy to bring it to you, but this does not work with french fries.)

At 10:00, I met with a fitness physiologist who talked with me about my exercise goals (lose weight, build up endurance), my limitations (ankle injury, whatever is up with my knees), and my current workout (uh... does petting the cat count?) -- and then she tried to put together a plan for me that may actually work.  (She also checked my heart rate so found out the number I should be aiming for -- rather than just going by the flashing lights on the elliptical machine.)  She even gave me some ideas for strengthening my ankle so I can skate again without freaking out about the ligament, which is good.  She does think that, for cardio, I should consider purchasing an elliptical machine.  (Sure, I can't like a stationary bike or a treadmill -- I have to like the most expensive cardio machine.)  She recommended looking for a used one as "lots of people buy these things and don't use them."  I checked on eBay.  She's right.  In the last couple minutes, she said I should look into "tubing" if I want to do some strength training.  It's resistance training you can do at home using long stretchy tubes--kinda like big rubber bands (except they're hollow).

Was going to go to an "Aqua Shape" class after that, but I was too late getting over there, so I went to a nearby pool and walked a half mile on the underwater treadmill.  (Yes, electricity and water together -- who knew?)  Then I sat around, getting some sun, reading a book.

After meeting dad for lunch -- at which time we compared schedules and realized we were going to take two classes together later -- I went off to a class on tubing.  Forty-five minutes later, I was drenched in sweat and staggering down the stairs.  (And a little cautious about investing in a set of tubes.  Two reasons for this.  First, a fellow class member said she bought some a couple years ago and they're collecting dust under her bed.  Second, I asked the guy leading the class, "Hey, do these things ever break and hit someone in the face?" and he said, "Yes.  I'm not gonna lie to you.")

After the tubing class, I met Dad for a class called "Breathing."  Props to Dad for going to this.  He isn't much of a touchy-feely guy to begin with, but I dared him to take one class in meditation or something like that, so he signed up for "Breathing," (which is offered by the "Mind and Body Department").  We pretty much sat around and learned to slow our breathing.  Teacher said this was good for all sorts of yogic things.  I'm pretty sure she lost my dad when she started talking about "alternate nostril breathing," but the whole idea of taking nice, deep, relaxing breaths is nice.

We then went to "Stretch & Relaxation," which was taught by the same guy who'd tortured me with the tubes a couple hours before.  Much stretching (which was good after what was, for me, a hard workout) and some lying there visualizing your "Happy Place."

Had no idea what my "Happy Place" was, so I improvised being curled up on my featherbed with my cat.  But then a picture of snorkelling at Lizard Island immediately came into view.  Unable to choose between the two, I mentally relocated my bed (with cat) to Lizard Island.  Hey, my happy place, I can do whatever I damn well please.  (I also spent some time being proud of the creation -- relaxing with the comforts of home while being on the verge of doing something adventurous.  Sounds like a happy place to me.)

Had a little time before dinner, so went to the spa itself and spent some quality time in the whirlpool and some more in the sauna.  I feel totally beat and intend to sleep well tonight.

Lord I hope so -- I'm getting up at 5:00 for that hike tomorrow.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Vacation With Dad

Now here's something new.  I'm on a long weekend vacation with my dad.

I've been on vacations with my mom before -- mom likes going to the theatre and dad doesn't; so mom and I sometimes go on whirlwind theatre trips together.  And I've been on some trips with the both of them together.  But travelling just with dad is a new one.

But, right now, my father and I have a common interest -- he can't seem to lose that "last seven pounds" and I have a big fat butt.  So dad booked us into this health spa/resorty sort of place for the weekend.  (Not a "fat farm."  A whole "lifestyle" sorta thing.)

We drove out this morning.  Took about 2 1/2 hours.  I think we're both somewhat proud of ourselves that we managed the entire drive out without turning on the radio to fill awkward silences.  Don't get me wrong -- it isn't like I'm estranged from my dad or anything -- it's just that, normally, mom is in charge of phone calls and late-night conversations (and she just passes on all relevant info to dad).  But we had a nice drive out and did some of that "bonding" stuff so I'm sure mom will be all smiley when she reads this.

We checked in, got a tour of the premises, and had lunch.  (Healthy food.  I had a salad.  It was quite tasty but I made the tactical error of eating a protein-free meal.  Not good.)  We're in Tucson so it's toasty (although not triple digits) and I drank, like, three glasses of water at lunch.

We had some time to kill before our rooms were ready so we went over to the gym.  Dad went for the treadmill and I went for the Elliptical machine and we worked out our respective hearts.  I hadn't been to the gym in, like, prolly at least a year -- and I remember when I'd started I was doing 12 minutes of cardio and had worked my way up to 20.  I figured I'd see if I could do 20 today, which I could, but I had to totally slow down my pace because about 4 minutes in, the little light indicating my heart rate was blipping at the very top of the "acceptable cardio workout" range, and I had to keep adjusting the pace to keep it this side of the "don't go there" line.  (I know my heartrate is too high when the machine can't count it.  It'll be telling me my heart rate is 151 or 153 ... and then the next thing you know it thinks my heart rate is 77.  Um, dude ... you're counting every other beat there.)  So, 20 minutes of cardio and then I reintroduced myself to the abdominal crunch and back stretch machines. 

(And then I started going to the bathroom every half hour because this is what happens when you drink all that damn water.)

Then we met with our counselor-type people who made sure we were signed up for the right classes and wouldn't kill ourselves.  (The very nice nurse lady said I could take any of the classes at "Level 1."  And she thinks I could do a hike at level 1 or level 2.  Don't be that impressed; the fitness classes only go up to 3, but the hikes are from 1 to 6.)

We then checked in all official-like and got settled in our rooms.  (My dad ended up with a room really close to the main building.  I ended up with a room much further away (wasn't sure I'd ever find it again), but, um, way better room.  I was a little ashamed to tell my dad about the flat-screen TV.)

Met dad for dinner.  A grilled chicken breast marinated with lemon-grass.  (With bamboo rice and wok-cooked carrots.)  It was really good.  Actually, it was really good excepting for it being spicy.  Now, normally, I don't eat spicy food.  (Normally, I probably wouldn't give a second thought to bamboo rice either.)  But, y'know, it's all about trying new things and being open to new lifestyle changes and, hey, if the only thing I get out of this weekend is an ability to enjoy spicy foods without, er, having my digestive system rebel, it will totally have been worth it. 

That's about the day.  I signed up for a hike on Sunday morning -- level 2, but only "low to moderate intensity."  (Don't want to hold the group back or anything.)  The one big huge major downside to the hikes is that they leave at 5:30 in the morning.  This because you don't really want to be hiking in the Arizona sun during the day, but still.  So, hopefully, I'll be able to get to sleep a little bit earlier tonight and tomorrow night, so I don't feel like committing murder when I get up for that hike.

:::Yawn, stretch:::


Tip o' the Hat to AOL

... and as a counterpoint to the "wag of the finger" to MSN, I applaud AOL's decision to go free.  Because I've had broadband access for years and the only reason I've continued to pay for AOL was inertia, which is a damn stupid reason to keep coughing up $14.95 a month.  But all I use AOL for is email and my journal (and the occasional IM), and paying for that seemed ridiculous.  (Especially since I have eight email address -- six of which are still spam-free -- thanks to my broadband supplier.)  So I've been asking myself, pretty much every month, if it's worth it to stay with AOL just to save myself the trouble of sending out "change of email" messages to everyone, and to keep my journal here. 

And it has been looking less and less worth staying -- what with the banner ads showing up on our journals, and (I recently noticed) ads showing up when reading mail on  I mean, what's up with all the ads if I'm paying for this experience?  I could get ads with free email tons of places.

And the answer now seems to be that this was AOL just putting all those ads in place for when it inevitably went free.  So, yay.  I'm glad I don't have to pay anymore, and can still keep my journal and email addresses (which enables AOL to keep using me to get its advertising out there).  Everybody wins. 

I hope.

I Blame Microsoft

I have a couple of email accounts that are, or -- more precisely -- have been spam-free.  This because I don't let them out on the internet.  Actually, I let them out on the internet quite a lot, but only when I'm buying stuff from reputable companies.  Companies that don't sell their customer lists to people who want me to buy their penny stocks or penis enlargers.

The other day, I was playing Bespelled over at, and I stupidly wanted it to save my high score so that I'd have a record of it.  (Idiot.  Should've just written it down if was that important.)  So I registered with msn using one of those spam-free address.

Two or three days later, and I've got spam coming out of my ears.  There's nobody else I can blame for this -- nowhere else that the address has been so that one of those annoying bots could get to it.  This was totally because I registered with msn.  Weasels.