Friday, September 28, 2007

Friend OK

My friend made it through surgery OK.  (Yay!)

I can't visit her yet, though.  She's only allowed family.  This, actually, did not stop another mutual friend from going tonight -- she's a bit younger than I am (she recently graduated Law School) so she sneaked on in claiming to be the patient's daughter (who is, in fact, away at college).  I'll be allowed in as soon as she's out of ICU.

Actually, she's not even in ICU yet.  She was supposed to go in there after surgery (not because she's at death's door or anything -- the surgeon just wanted her to be frequently monitored) -- but they didn't have any space in ICU so she's just spending the night in the Recovery Room.  She's the only one in there and there's tons of nurses, so she's getting really good care.  Probably too groggy to notice, but still.

They said that she'd move into ICU as soon as a bed frees up, which will probably be in the morning.

Of course, my immediate thought is that if a bed happens to free up before then -- y'know, unexpectedly -- you probably wouldn't want to take it.


In other news, just discovered that my basic nature is friendly.

Was in the grocery store, picking up a few items and I ran into (not exactly literally, but very near) the President of our Homeowners Association.  The Association I'm not really fond of right now.  And, as a matter of fact, the Board isn't particularlu fond of me now, either, as they see me as one of the homeowners who is constantly complaining about the pace (or lack thereof) of the repairs and, y'know, making their job all difficult and stuff.

And my first reaction on seeing him in the store is actually to smile at him

He's sort of distracted; on his cell phone and all.  And before I know it, I'm walking past, saying, "Hi!" in case he didn't happen to notice me smiling.

He looked right over at me ... and kept right on going with his conversation.

And I walk away, trying to figure out whatever possessed me to not only smile at this person I'm engaged in a bitter dispute with, but actually go out of my way to say "Hi," just in case he hadn't noticed.  Weird.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Still here

I haven't disappeared -- things have just gone busy on me again.

To put this in perspective, I haven't even watched The Daily Show this week.  (I've recorded it -- I just haven't gotten to it yet.) 

First, the update on the condo.  There is no update on the condo.  The HOA Board requested approval for a special assessment (to pay for all the repairs, and some future stuff, and painting the building sometime in the future) to the tune of about $6000 per unit.  And if we vote it down, they will (without the need for homeowner approval) assess us in the amount of about $2000, and kick up our monthly fees 20%.  This would make my monthly dues a whopping $565.  I am certain this is more than many normal people pay for rent -- and an insane amount to pay one's condo association (in addition to one's mortgage).  It's a sort of "I'm screwed either way" choice.  Not enough people showed up at the meeting to vote on the assessment, so we have to wait until everyone else mails in their sealed ballot before we find out exactly which way we're screwed.  In the meantime, work on my unit is again on hold, but work on the other units is proceeding (well, the promised workmen didn't come today, but we think they may actually come tomorrow) and there is at least a rational reason to hold off the work on my unit until the work on the others is finished -- although if the work on the other units drags on longer than the "week or so" that we've been promised, I may be rethinking this.

Second, and foremost in my thoughts, a very good friend of mine has some, er, cancer surgery tomorrow.  (She's a neighbor, too -- so when she's home recovering from the surgery, they'll be doing repairs to the outside of her unit.)  Please feel free to think happy thoughts in her direction. 

I can't really recall having a friend be sick before -- at least, not a close friend, and certainly not a close friend who happens to be married.  I say this because -- right now, the day before her surgery -- we're entering a world where my role in this process is a little unclear.  I mean, if my mom is in the hospital, I know what my job is (comfort mom; keep dad sane).  If it's a co-worker, I've got that down too (send basket of flowers or goodies).  But here, I'm not sure there's any ground rules for it.  I'm trying my best to make it clear to her that I'm available for anything she needs -- and of course I'll visit -- but I don't want to be in the way because I'm not, y'know, family.  Her husband is clearly the one up at bat on this -- and he's obviously very stressed by this -- and I want to be there for him, too, but he's generally a private guy and I don't want to intrude.  So, walking a bit of a fine line here.  Luckily, I think she's going to have lots of visitors and people offering to help out, so hopefully I'll figure out what my role is in this soon enough.

Roomba still not cleaning for more than 20 minutes at a shot.  Electric toothbrush, though, must have sensed that I was emailing tech support and considering replacing it, and it has returned to working perfectly.  Roomba should take the hint.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Aside to Sally Field...

... grow up.


Look, I understand being against the war, and wanting to speak out against the war, and maybe even wanting to remind people that there are military mothers at home waiting and praying that their kids come home safe.  All this, I am good with.

The thing I am not good with is the statement that (bleeped or not) if mothers ran the world, there would be no wars.

OK, two things wrong with this.

First, did you happen to notice there's a mother running for President?  You would think that by 2007, women's rights -- and the perception of women in this country -- have progressed to the point where a female candidate for the highest office in the land wouldn't even have to dignify with a response questions that would suggest that a woman lacks the cajones to be the Commander in Chief of our military.  Set aside for a moment (I know it's hard, but work with me here) your obvious opposition to the current war.  But sometimes, it is just and necessary to lead your country into war, and it would be really nice to think a female candidate for President wouldn't have to face the sort of stereotypical thinking that says a woman just isn't capable of the military mindset.  It's bad enough that women have to deal with this from some backward-thinking men, but really outrageously frustrating to get it from someone who is supposed to be supportive of women's rights.  Really, Sally, the idea that having an infant come out of your womb is somehow inconsistent with an ability to make war is simply downright insulting to women -- even if the idea is coming from a good, peace-loving place.

Second, it's pretty darned offensive to fathers, too.  Since you think that mothers would never make war, but clearly fathers do, you must be working off a premise that women -- by means, I guess, of the actual act of gestating a child and giving birth to it -- have a greater, deeper love for their children than men do.  So, go ahead, brush aside as irrelevant the fathers of soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq -- and those fathers who stand up against the war.  Because obviously you figure their pain and devotion to the cause can't possibly be as strong as those of parents of the other gender.

So maybe, just maybe, you should join the rest of us on this side of the 1970s and realize that mothers can be for a war, fathers can be against it, and that broad generalizations based on gender are hurtful and stupid -- no matter how good the intentions behind them.

International Ask A Jew A Favor Week

To alter what they say on TV this time of year, "and to our non-Jewish friends..."

... we now take a slight detour into Judaism.

Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  Like the secular New Year, it is a time of celebration, and also one where we look ahead to the new year as an opportunity to make a fresh start.  We don't really make "Rosh Hashanah Resolutions" or anything like that, but we take a look at the last year, acknowledge the stuff we did wrong, and seek opportunities for improvement.

Now, this Saturday is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  This one comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, and it's pretty much a time when we 'fess up to G-d (I don't write out the "G-word" as I was taught in Hebrew School that it's sort of related to taking the Lord's name in vain.  Which is to say, it would be somewhat wrong to write said word on a piece of paper that might find itself in a trash can.  I'm not really sure what sort of rules govern cyberspace, but I'll just go with the hyphen anyway.  I digress...)  Yom Kippur is when we 'fess up to G-d for the mistakes we've made over the past year.  And one is generally in a better position to apologize to one's divine power if one has one's ducks in a row with one's fellow humans.  So, in theory anyway, part of this week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is to be spent apologizing to -- and forgiving -- other people.

In practice, let's be real, we don't always do this.  (From a purely human-relations point of view, I kinda dig the concept.  I mean, it's like an "amnesty period" -- you KNOW that if you ask someone for forgiveness, it's their religious duty to forgive you (as long as you really mean it and all that).  It's nice, I think, that the faith provides this opportunity to clean the slate and start fresh with other people.  It may even be the case that the other people have wanted to mend fences, but haven't been able to find the way to broach the subject -- in which case this annual apologizing/forgiving thing is just giving some people a little push to say what they should be saying.  All that said, though, it is still insanely difficult to approach someone you wronged and apologize.)

Now, there's another aspect to the whole Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur thing -- and whether you want to look at it literally or as an allegory is sort of up to the reader.  The concept is that G-d writes everyone's fate for the next year on Rosh Hashanah -- but it isn't finalized until Yom Kippur.  (As we say in temple, "On Rosh Hashanah, it is written; on Yom Kippur, it is sealed.")  Now, we're not talking about G-d writing down what you're going to have for breakfast tomorrow.  We're talking about big things -- like being written "in the Book of Life" -- things that, even if you're a big believer in free will over predestination, you still think that maybe G-d or Fate (or something other than just the products of your own actions) would have a hand in.

In fact, the reason why we say that this stuff is written on Rosh Hashanah and is sealed on Yom Kippur isn't because we think, "Hey, G-d is fallible" and that he needs to take ten days to proofread his work and correct all mistakes.  Instead, we believe that OUR actions -- specifically, our actions over those intervening ten days -- can prompt G-d into CHANGING our fate.  Prayer, charity, good deeds, that sort of thing.

Which brings us to why I term this time of year, International Ask A Jew A Favor Week.  Because, even if we're not going to go so far as to hunt down people we've offended and apologize to them, even the largely-non-practicing among us won't turn down an opportunity to pick up some karma points right around now.  (On the "just in case" theory.)  It's almost like little kids a couple weeks before Christmas -- trying to be extra good because they know Santa is watching.  Except the stakes are a little higher than whether you're going to get that "Hello Kitty" CD player.

Last year at this time (I think it was last year), I was throwing groceries in my car in the store parking lot, and a woman came up to me and asked me to give her a jump start, 'cause her battery had died.  Now, I'm not a total idiot -- I did a quick evaluation of the safety of situation and calculated it to be relatively not risky -- but once that was out of the way, of course I helped her.  I even thought to myself, "Boy, lady, did YOU pick the right day to ask me for help."  Because the idea of my refrigeratables going warm in my trunk, or that I really wanted to be home to watch some TV show, sort of paled in comparison to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Being is judging me based on what I do right now.  I don't know whether I would have helped her out had it been any other day -- I like to think that I would have -- but coming across a Jew on the way home from Rosh Hashanah services ... it's like hitting the Pay It Forward jackpot.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Multiple Choice

I sometimes can't decide which topic to journal on.  So, which would you rather read?

International Ask A Jew A Favor Week


Only in Los Angeles


Monday, September 10, 2007

OK, OK, one more

I realize, with some disappointment, that the bulk of my journal entries -- especially the entries that you like to read (i.e., the ones that get comments) are one of three types:  vacation posts, me being angry at morons posts, or me being a moron posts.  I'll let you figure out which one this is.

Roomba hasn't been working lately.  Well, no, he's been working, but only for 20 minutes at a time.  He returns to his home base charging pad after only 20 minutes out, thinking he's low on battery.  He probably is.  He'll sit there charging for 20 minutes and think he's got a full charge.  He doesn't.  I can't convince him that he needs to charge for longer.

Apparently, I can.  The problem arises with Roombas often enough that the Roomba website has a method for resolving the problem.  It involves "resetting" the Roomba charging system (pulling the battery out and holding down "power" for five seconds.  Which feels pretty stupid because when there's no battery in there, what the heck good is holding down the button going to do?).  Then you plug the charger into the Roomba and let it charge for three days.  Then you run the Roomba down to no juice at all, and repeat this entire process a few times.

Note that I said "plug the charger into the Roomba."  It specifically says not to charge the Roomba via the home base.

Well, hell.  Where on earth did I leave Roomba's charger?

I'm pretty sure it's in the closet.  I kept the original box Roomba came in, and any leftover peripherals they gave me would still be in the box in the closet.  I look in the closet.  No Roomba box.

Well.  Maybe it's in my storage cage.  I make plans to go to the storage cage over the weekend.

Go to the cage on Sunday.  Before going, I check the storage box in my garage, just in case.  No Roomba box.  I go to the cage.  I get into the cage (which is surprisingly full -- I have to rearrange stuff to throw in a few more items, and it dawns on me that even if I did see Roomba's box in here, I'd never get it out).  Roomba's box is not here.


I go home.  Check the closet again.  Oh look, Roomba's box!

I open the box.  It's empty.  Insert confused face here.

OK.  I keep Roomba's remote control in my nightstand drawer.  Maybe I threw the direct charger in there.  I go to the nightstand drawer.  Various other chargers (one for digital camera batteries for a camera I haven't used in about a decade) but no Roomba charger.  Confused face gets more puzzled.  I decide to look in Roomba's manual to see a picture of the charger, in the hopes that maybe knowing what it is I'm looking for will refresh my memory.

I look at the diagram.  It shows two pictures -- one has the charger plugged directly into the Roomba, and the other has the charger plugged into the home base

Oh.  The charger has been sitting in my bedroom all along, in plain sight, attached to the home base.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

No Love for Charter

I used to totally dig my cable company -- Charter.  They were one of the few companies I dealt with that happened to be completely competent, and I would rave about them to anyone who asked.

This may have been because they had me on a "special promotion" price that was supposed to last for six months, but carried it on indefinitely.  I must have had at least three years at that price.  Since then, I've been pretty much flitting from promotion to promotion.

Recently, my promotional price expired.  I wanted to switch to the promotional price for fewer services, seeing as my previous promotion had been for all the premium pay channels, and I really only watched HBO.  So I wanted to switch to the promotion for just one pay channel.

They said I wouldn't be eligible for that promotion for another six months.

I responded by cancelling HBO.

Six months later, I called and asked for the promotion, and was given some bizarre song and dance about how I wasn't eligible for the promotion because I wasn't currently on a promotion.  I whined a bit about how this was the exact opposite of what I'd been told, and ended up with a promotional price for all the services I currently had.  (Still no HBO.)

My cable bill was about $112 per month.  That's for extended basic cable, the "family tier" (which gives me stuff like Disney and BBC America), a DVR, a second cable box, and (perhaps most importantly) my cable modem, at 3M speeds.  (Although I'm on a 5M free preview through January.)

My recent bill shot up to $125.

I called and asked why.  They said my promotion expired September 5, and I should call back around September 5 and re-enroll in the promotion.  This was about a week before that date, and I inquired why I couldn't just re-enroll then.  The customer service rep was adamant that I call back closer to September 5.

I called back yesterday.  I was watching TV, paying bills.  I'd been pausing TV a lot, so had about 45 minutes of unwatched program left in the DVR's buffer, and, additionally, was recording a program on another channel.  I paused the TV and called Charter.

The Charter rep said I wasn't eligible to continue the promotion I had (of course not) but that I could get a new promotion if I added a service.  She suggested I change my cable modem from 3M to 5M.  I pointed out that I'm getting the 5M free preview anyway, so exactly where is this good for me?  She said I'd get exactly the same services for a lower price.

I asked how low.  She said the package was $80.

This was too low.  I asked, "what about my DVR?"  "What about my second cable box?"

She said the price applies no matter how many boxes I have.

I tried again.  I said that I'm currently paying Charter to rent the DVR and the second cable box, and I'd like to know how much it my final bill would be under the new plan.  She says the plan would give me a discounted rate on the DVR rental too, so that this would only be $5.

I ask, pretty specifically, for her to tell me exactly what my new bill will be under this new plan.  Including everything.  She says $89.  I repeat this, just because I want to be perfectly clear.  I say something like, "If you do this and my bill is more than $89, I'm going to be really pissed off."  She assures me that it will be $89.  I tell her to go ahead and do it.

She puts me on hold "for two minutes" to make the change.

I return to watching TV.  About two minutes later, my TV screen goes blank and posts a message that this cable box is no longer authorized.  I've now lost the 45 minutes of TV that was in the buffer, and it has stopped recording the show it had been recording on the other channel.  I'm pretty ticked about this.  I check my other cable box, and that one is out too.  I'm thinking that maybe I should have been alerted that she was going to turn my TV off.  I could have at least saved the 45 minutes that was in the buffer -- and maybe done this change after the show I was recording had been recorded.

I am on hold an insanely long time, like 15 minutes.  During this time, I prepare to be annoyed and chide the idiot that she really ought to tell people before she turns off their TVs.

She comes back on (although my TV doesn't) and tells me she's made the changes and now my cable bill will be $105.

I can't decide what to be more pissed off about first.

I go with price, and point out that we just had a conversation where various $89 promises had been made.  I then point out that she should tell people when she's going to turn off their televisions.

She tells me that (wait for it) she didn't turn off my television.

Riiiiight.  The black screen and the "this unit is not authorized" message is a figment of my imagination.  She tells me, quite huffily, that she did not turn off my TV at all, and that she, in fact, has to go ahead and shut off my box for two minutes to "renew" it, and do I mind if she does this.

I repeat that the damn thing is off, and that she should have told me, and go ahead and refresh it, and then put your supervisor on the line.

I am put back on hold.  A lot of time passes.

During the time my TV comes back on.  My DVR features, however, have been disabled.  It won't go back to recording the show it had been recording when it had been so rudely interrupted; I can't set it to record anything else; it won't even list what has already been recorded.  I get a message about DVR features not being enabled on this box.

The supervisor comes on and rapidly spews out something about how she understands I'd been promised a promotional price of $89 and that this is going to be forwarded to the rep's actual supervisor and she'll be reprimanded and sorry about that, and the package is actually $99.

I say that, yes, while I'm annoyed about that, my first area of concern is getting my DVR back, please. 

Supervisor says, "Oh, you had a DVR, too?  That's not eligible for the $99 price."

Smoke comes out of my ears.  I tell her I had specifically asked the previous rep about the DVR, and she'd assured me it was.  Supervisor claims to go off to research promotional prices including DVRs.  I reckon she is, in fact, going back to listen to the tape of my conversation with the rep.

She comes back on and offers me a $99 price for exactly what I have now.  "Only the modem will be 3M rather than 5M."  I ask about the 5M "free preview" I'm supposed to be on through January.  "Oh yes, you'll still get that."

Well then, $99 seems like a good deal -- or, at least, a good deal compared to the $125 of my current bill.

She does that.  She gets back on the line.

She asks if there's anything else she can do to help me.  I suggest that maybe turning my DVR back on would be a step in the right direction.  She says it will take about ten minutes, and goes into her "have a nice day" speech.  I tell her to stay on the line until I've confirmed the DVR is back on.

She goes off again.  About three minutes later, DVR service returns.  She assures me the price will now be $99, and offers me a $25 credit for the mix up in the price. 

I have been on the phone with these morons for over 53 minutes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


That being the total number of bug bites I picked up in Arizona.  I'm now back at home in the loving care of a big tube of topical Benadryl so that's a final count.

Driving to the airport, the dude driving the van said that was odd and that very few of the other guests got bit.  Noted that they'd had a little rain the week before, and speculated that the mosquitos might have been attracted to some bits that hadn't dried up yet -- and then I thought, "Aha!"  Me and my dad had spent the whole trip thinking how lucky we were to have been given rooms next to this really picturesque fountain.  And they shut the fountain off at night, which means stagnant water, which means skeeters.

Coulda been worse.  Driver mentioned some people got tarantulas.

And he said the tarantulas aren't that bad, really, since they eat the scorpions.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Vacation Day the Last

This morning at 9:00, I met with the Nutritionist.  This was the same Nutritionist I saw last year, and a large part of the reason we came back in the first place.  I lost a big pile of weight on her recommendations (and kept it off for about six months) and was starting to get bored with the food plan so needed to tweak it a little bit.  She did some tweaking -- gave me some areas in which I can expand my food selections, warned me about some stuff I'm doing that's not entirely healthy (I can keep doing it, but in moderation), and gave me healthy ways to actually increase my caloric intake for those occasions that I'm more active.  She gave my dad some good advice too, so she again gets little gold stars.

Took a breathing class (which was, unfortunately, taught by the same guy who taught Guided Relaxation the either day and largely repeated his other class), attended a Coping with Chaos and Change lecture, and took a beading workshop.

The beading workshop was really more about killing an hour and making a souvenir, as far as I was concerned, although some of the ladies in there were surprisingly serious about the whole beading thing.  Maybe it's an age thing, or a left-brain/right-brain thing, but the bracelet I made came out suspiciously different from everyone else's.  I sort of wanted to line up all the bracelets made in class and ask my Dad to guess which one I made -- because I was pretty sure he could have done it.  Everyone else used great big beads strung in assymetrical patterns and kept together with decorative clasps.  Mine is relatively small dark beads alternating with smaller silver beads, with a normal little silver clasp.  Boring, straightforward, and clearly the product of a linear thinker.

Have added substantially to the bug bite collection.  (And I'm pretty sure that the one under my bra strap was purely out of spite.)  Can also report from a carefully controlled experiment that scratching at the bites relieves the itching for about an evening, but ultimately slows the healing.  I'm sure this is why they tell you not to scratch, but, dang, the momentary reduction in itching is really, really hard to pass up.

The rest of the real busy day

So.  After stripping for weight loss and checking out my psychic powers, I met dad for lunch.  After that, it was back to the gym for non-stop classes.

At 1:30, I took "Meditation Express" (stupid annoying therapist dude had said I should look into meditation for stress relief).  We lay on our yoga mats while someone guided us through various thoughts.  At one point, we were supposed to breath and count our breaths backwards from 100.  I couldn't count more than 3 or 4 in a row without my mind wandering to something else -- in an almost-dreamlike state -- although I wasn't actually asleep because I was always conscious of the fact that I should've been counting my breathing.  I would find out later in the day that this was actually a good thing.

At 2:00, I took yet another dance class.  This one was straight up jazz, to '80s music -- which was a real flashback for me as I actually took jazz dance classes in the '80s.  Impressed myself with how well my body remembered steps I hadn't actually done in 20 or so years, and was also pleased that my ankle held up to most of it.  (There were a couple of moves that were probably a bad idea -- but so much went down with my ankle yesterday, it's hard to say what was actually at fault.)  Class was a heck of a workout for me -- I wasn't only breathing heavy, but my whole face was flushed and felt hot.  I didn't have the heart rate monitor on during the class, but I imagine my widdle heart was pumping away at speeds it hadn't seen in quite some time.

At 3:00, I took "Yamuna Body Rolling."  It's sort of a stretchy thing where you take a ball -- somewhere between 4 and 8 inches in diameter -- put your weight on it (e.g., sit on it with one side of your butt) and then roll it up or down a muscle (e.g., slide yourself along the ground so the damn thing is partway down your thigh).  It's surprisingly uncomfortable (you discover tightness in your thigh muscle you weren't aware was there) but also surprisingly effective (feels all nice and loose when you're done).

By 4:00, I was reading for a full hour of "Guided Relaxation," so I was back on the yoga mat -- this time wrapped in a warm, cozy blankie.  I ended up in the same sort of awake-but-nearly-awake mindset (the leaders was having us focus on some 61 chakras, one by one -- I was paying some vague sort of attention to him, but it was really hard to keep dragging my mind back from wherever it was over to the chakra of the moment).  At the end of this class, the leader asked if anyone fell asleep (the woman to my left!  I heard her snoring!) and a lot of us, like me, weren't entire sure if we did.  He said that if you were in that could-be-awake, could-be-asleep zone, that meant you had enhanced beta (or alpha -- I forget) little brain waves going and that's where you're supposed to go when you meditate.  Yay!  I meditated!  Go me!

At 5:00, we went to a joint pain lecture.  It actually wasn't a lecture, it was a sales pitch for their method of joint pain relief -- although the first half of the lecture talked about how traditional methods of joint pain relief (NSAIDs, immobilization, steroid injections, etc.) don't actually work in most patients.  I thought about the history of my ankle and considered that he might actually have had a point there.

After dinner (dessert was pomegranate sorbet -- totally yummy), I had an evening "Watsu."  This is a really bizarre sort of massage done in the pool.  I didn't quite know what to expect, so I showed up at the Aquatic Center wearing my swimsuit.  Your Watsu Tech (mine was a dude named Keith) takes you into a private pool.  The room actually has four private pools in it, but they're all separated by potted greenery that acts like hedges, and the new age music piped in drowns out all other sounds.  I went in the pool with Keith and he put little floaty things around my thighs.  (I told him I can float pretty good, but I didn't fight him on the floaty things too much, as I figured we were about to get in fairly friendly positions, so I might as well get used to him while I was still standing up with my eyes open.)  So then he puts his hand under my head and tells me to just lean back into his hand whenever I'm ready.  I drop back, and the rest of me starts floating.  (About a minute later, he removes the floaty things.)  From then on, it's about 45 minutes of -- yeah, words really do escape me.  It's a cross between massage, yoga, and perhaps synchronized swimming.  I kept my eyes closed during the whole thing, which was slightly disorienting in a really cool way.  Keith always kept my nose and mouth above water, so breathing was easy and I didn't have to worry about staying bouyant.  Meantime, he's pulling me in various stretches and pulling me through the water -- allowing the resistance of the water to do a lot of the work. 

It was all fairly nifty, although he kinda forgot the promise to stay the hell away from my ankle -- and by the time he was pulling on it, I figured: (a) the harm was already done; and (b) it would totally ruin the whole spiritual relaxation element of this experience if I opened my eyes and said, "Dude, stay offa the ankle."  So I really don't know who to blame for the ankle not being great today -- well, other than ME, of course.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

You May Already Know What I'm Going to Write

After "Fit Strip," I attended a lecture by the Spa's Clairvoyant.

The Number One reason why I attended this lecture was 'cause it was free.  I generally don't put much stock in clairvoyance, and wouldn't imagine coughing up actual money for a reading, but a free lecture seemed worth an hour of my time.

She started off telling us how she discovered that she had "the gift," and then told us that "ESP," psychic abilities, clairvoyance, intuition, and deductive reasoning were all the same thing.  I sorta sat up at that last one.  Deductive reasoning is when Sherlock Holmes figures out how your finances are and whether your wife still loves you by looking at your hat, picking up on the visual clues there, and understanding what they must mean.  Clairvoyance, I'd assumed, was actually figuring this stuff out from feeling your hat and picking up on sympathetic vibrations.  If deductive reasoning is the same as clairvoyance, well, that just means that clairvoyants are sneakily observant and not as hooked into the metaphysical world as they'd claimed.  It's all observational skills and smoke & mirrors.

Very interesting.

Our clairvoyant lecturer took some questions, then said we were going to run some tests to see how clairvoyant we are.  She passed out pads and papers for this purpose.  She couldn't decide which test to do -- she talked about maybe one where we've got to figure out what color she's thinking or something like that, and then she went with something else.  She asked us all to write our names on the pads of paper, and said something about how we were going to do an exercise with the people on the other side of the room.  And when I'm writing my name on the piece of paper, I think, "Julie."

She decides not to do that exercise after all.  Instead, she takes the papers in her hand, picks a few at random, and does mini-readings of a few of us.  Some people said she hit, others weren't all that impressed.

We move on to the real exercise.  We're put in groups of 2 or 3, with strangers.  We're supposed to hand them something of ours and let them feel it and see if they can't get anything about us off of it.

I'm in a group of 3.  I give my watch to the woman; she hands her glasses to the guy; and the guy hands me his watch.

I go deductive on the watch.  While I'm weighing it in my hand, I sneak a look at the face.  Has about four different dials on it -- it does tricks.  I can't examine it fully without looking suspicious, but I imagine it's a sports watch, maybe even a diving watch.  I think it is a safe bet to say the owner is "outgoing."  I ponder this, trying to think of something else, and the word, "Quiet," leaps unbidden to mind.  I tell the guy I was originally thinking, "outgoing," but ultimately went with "quiet," if that made any sense.  He thought that was fairly accurate, in that he has to be outgoing for his job, but that he's naturally more of an introvert.  I figured the same read would probably work for most people, but accepted the praise.

The woman with my watch, however, said I was a student (wrong under every interpretation I could come up with, although I thanked her for guessing I was younger than I am) and that I lived on either the East or West Coast, but not the center of the country.  I gave her points for that one, as I was born on the East Coast and currently live on the West, and the Clairvoyant was suitably impressed with our results.  (She then read the guy, saying the watch was burning with "energy! energy! energy!" (she must've thought it was a diving watch, too) and that he had a big dog.  He has a cocker spaniel.  Oh, and did I mention that earlier in the lecture, she'd asked us to raise our hands if we had pets?)

But some people in the room had much better hits, with rather more specific descriptions.  One woman read another and got a visual of a red and white tablecloth fluttering on a table with lots of people around it -- the woman she read was in the middle of planning a picnic.  Another woman read someone and came up with "cat's eyes," which is apparently the way that woman describes her sister's eyes.  Both, I thought, were substantially better hits than anything we got.

Until I found out, quite by chance, that the woman sitting on the opposite side of the room from me was named Julie.

"Fit Strip"

OK, I did it. 

I showed up for "Fit Strip" and met some of the "Gypsy Dance" alumni outside the door.  We all sorta figured that if we could survive "Gypsy Dance," we'd be able to do this.

Bwa ha ha ha ha.

Enter the class and we're told to get our props out of the closet.  Props?  Feather boas, maybe?


We each get a chair we're supposed to dance around, on, in front of, and basically give a lap dance to.  Early in the class, we're directed to "imagine someone in the chair; anyone you want."  I, of course, immediately imagine whatever movie star I'm currently crushing over -- and the look on his face when I shake my booty in his direction is enough to send me into hysterics.  I run through the mental rolodex and really can't imagine anyone who I'd like to have sitting in the chair while I'm sweating like a pig, wearing blue gym shorts and a yellow T-shirt, awkwardly trying to roll my body in his direction in a vaguely sexy manner.  (Indeed, at the end of class, she split the class in two and had each group "perform" the dance for the half.  Which was fine, except every time the audience started hooting and yelling, "Bring it, girl!" my attempt at a seductive face would be totally taken over by giggling.

The main difference between the Gypsy Dance class and this one (besides the props) was that the woman who taught the gypsy dance class had a normal body.  Meaning that when she stopped shaking her butt, some of it kept shaking.  And her revealing top didn't exactly reveal six-pack abs.  Fit Strip, on the other hand, was taught by a woman who looked like she was 19, no more than 90 pounds, and wore fishnet stockings and 3-inch spiked heels. 

Let me tell you, even if I was the best student in the room, white socks, big clunky sneakers and a black ankle brace just can't compete with fishnets and 3-inch spikes.  So there was something of an impossible ideal to live up to.

Props to the live DJ spinning sexy grooves.  He was the only guy in the room and, depending on which way we were facing, he had 30 middle-aged-and-up women leaning forward in front of him waving our butts in his direction.  (And he didn't laugh once.  Although I did sneak a glance in his direction, and he seemed oddly fascinated by the turntable in front of him.)  Good man.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Rest of Day 2

After the less-than-beneficial experience with the therapist (which did not meet my expectations, and therefore I must accept it -- you know, this really is a crock of horse manure), I met Dad for lunch (salmon burger!) and went to the gym for the afternoon.

Well, actually, I killed about an hour in the gym.  Was on the Elliptical machine for about 15 minutes, in which I Ellipticalled for about a mile.  I was wearing my heavy-duty ankle brace, and my ankle was fine with the workout, which was a really pleasant discovery.  I then poked around the gym for a bit more, trying various machines.  I'll probably be pretty sore tomorrow, but it felt great at the time.

Every day they have a class called "Let's Dance," in which you try to get all fit while learning a new kind of dance.  Today, in honor of it being Sprituality Week (who knew?), we had "Gypsy Dance."  I totally had to take that.  The first five or ten minutes was taken up by the teacher (in full gypsy dancer regalia) wrapping each of us (about 15 women and one really brave guy) in a large piece of fabric (about three-and-a-half-yards) that was to be our skirt.  Actually, later in the course, it also doubled as a veil.  Here's what I learned:  I can shake my hips in time with the music and I can shimmy my chest with the best of them -- but doing both at the same time requires a level of physical multi-tasking that is beyond my current abilities. 

The class was pretty amusing -- and ultimately fun and a decent workout -- once we all stopped rolling our eyes at how ridiculous we were and just enjoyed it.  OK, sure, there was that one bit when were supposed to throw our veils in the air in front of us and catch them behind -- and I missed, and ended up with the veil falling right over my head like a burqa.  Happily, nobody yelled, "Smooth move, Salome!" at me, although I was thinking it.  Besides that, the only time I actually giggled was when she told us to move forward "like a tigress stalking her prey" and I had a Little Miss Sunshine flashback.

Tomorrow morning, I may take a class called "Fit Strip" (which is exactly what it sounds like), purely for the entertainment value.  (The things I do for you people.)

After "Gypsy Dance," I headed for the showers, spenta little time in the sauna, and made it out in time for a "stretch and relaxation" class before meeting Dad for dinner.  (A "surf and turf" special -- a small medallion of beef and a coupla grilled shrimp.  And a real live chocolate brownie for dessert.)

That's about it.  We attended an after-dinner lecture on Chinese Mind-Body Philosophies, and now I've come back to my room and am trying to do everything but scratch at those damn bug bites on my wrist.  ("Living in the present moment" my butt!)


First, a shout out to my commenting pals.  Thanks for leaving notes every once in awhile -- nice to know I'm not just writing this for myself (although that probably wouldn't be so bad either -- just to have a record of what's going on in my life).

Today's Stepford Spa experience was an hour long session with a therapist who was supposed to teach me Stress Management.

I think I hurt his feeling when, at the end of the session, he asked me if I thought anything he taught me would be helpful and I said, "I don't know."  He sorta stared at me for a few minutes.  That can't be good.  But I figured, hey, these sessions are all about honesty, right?

Reducing 50 minutes of not-entirely-psychobabble to the bare minimum, here's what he gave me:

1.  Stress is not caused by outside stressors.  It is caused by you yourself having expectations that the world is not living up to.

2.  The way around this is to accept the present situation.

3.  OK, sure, do every action within your power to move the situation more in line with your expectations, but when that fails, accept the situation.

4.  You don't have to like it or approve of it, just accept that it is.

5.  Live in the present moment.  Like, right now, I should be paying attention to the words I'm typing, the sound of the keys clicking, and the way the laptop feels under my wrist.  When I'm doing this, I'm living in the present and can't be thinking about why the repairs in my living room still haven't been completed.  It's kinda zen, I think.

6.  To help with living in the present, try some "mindful breathing."  Basically, close your eyes and breathe, and pay attention to the breathing.  If your mind starts wondering, bring it back to the process of breathing.

7.  He said that when this happens, you get a better understanding of what's going on in your head.  I disappointed him in that no thoughts came into my head as I was being a good girl and concentrating on my breathing.

8.  Well, OK, the thought "I already took a breathing class here last year; how much of this session are we going to waste with me sitting here breathing?" came to mind, but I decided to be a good girl and accept that I was just going to do the breathing exercise.

9.  Diversion is good.  At least, this whole "accept the stressor and live in the present" sort of diversion thing.  There's a point when diversion becomes unhelpful, but diversion in reasonable amounts is acceptable.

10.  I think this means that "Project Buy Happiness" is still a go.  Although I didn't raise it directly with him, it seems like it's "putting myself into a happier present," so he'd be good with it.

11.  Actually, what was damn frustrating (but not at all stressful, because, y'know, I'm all about acceptance) about the session is that it was largely covering stuff I already know.  I'm already pretty good at identifying the source of the problem, doing what I can to fix it, and then trying to otherwise make myself happy.  OK, sure, I haven't used the terminology of acceptance and living in the present, but I'm largely on that page.  What I needed from this guy were techniques to put myself into a happier present -- and even when I asked him point blank for ideas, he didn't come up with anything (other than noting that exercise or hobbies or other pursuits we can throw ourselves into are good things).

Perhaps I need an "Advanced Stress Management" course.