Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Sam!

Friday was our dog Sam's fourth birthday. She's a black and tan miniature dachshund and she's ALL personality. We met her at her breeder's farm in New Hampshire when she was two weeks old. Her eyes hadn't quite opened yet when we met her. We were trying to decide between her and her sister who looked exactly like her (at two weeks, you can imagine). My husband and I kept passing the two puppies between us, trying to see if there was any discernible difference between them. Suddenly, while my husband was holding Sam, she stuck her little tongue out and he got a mini-lick. Decision made and sealed in stone (or more like “sealed with the peach-colored collar that her breeder gave her to identify her as our puppy.”) Never mind the fact that I am totally allergic to dogs and break out in hives when I am licked by one, we got ourselves a kisser! She came home with us when she was eight weeks old and a whopping two and a half pounds. Now she's four years old and has grown to 11 pounds. She's a lover through and through, though her bark would lead you to believe otherwise. She fits perfectly underneath the seat in front of me on 737s and she seems to make friends everywhere she goes. She's a great friend and pup. We really love her. I don't know what happened to her sister. I do hope she went to a loving home. I hope Sam really enjoyed her birthday and that wherever her sister is, that she had a great birthday too. Sam slept like a rock last night, so I'm thinking she did.

Pictures from part of her day can be viewed at Flickr.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The 10 for 30 Challenge on Flickr

Last Sunday, a fellow Twitterer, @AnnOhio posted the 10 for 30 Challenge on her blog. The 10 for 30 Challenge entails taking 10 photos during your day every day for 30 days and then uploading them to a group in Flickr. I remembered reading an article about founder Jeff Bezos a few years ago in which he mentioned that he made an effort to take one picture every day. (I think the reason why it stuck in my head is that one picture that he took was of the bird droppings on his pants that he acquired while sitting through an outdoor wedding.) I actually tried to take one picture a day back then, but it didn’t last very long. I didn’t have a camera in my phone then and was admittedly lazy about hooking my camera up to my computer for one picture per day.

Things are different now. I have a trusty iPhone with which to take pictures and post them almost immediately to my flickr account. (I love technology!) In addition, as there is a group of people doing this, I will be less likely to fall off the bus. I think it’s a great idea and have joined the 10 for 30 group on flickr.

So far, there are 36 members of this group and the pictures have been a very cool view into the lives of others. Thanks for the idea, Ann and thanks for setting up the group @banannie7. I look forward to the next month of pictures.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Privacy Revisited

I have been very careful with my personal information over the years. As I have mentioned previously, I have had to obtain a restraining order because of a stalker in my past. In addition, I have personally known people who would otherwise pass as totally normal but who have developed unexplainable one-sided attachments to other people. Experiences like that will teach you to be careful. I am aware that it is almost impossible to safeguard my whereabouts thanks to several purveyors of personal information, but I still try to make it a little more difficult when possible. I'm frankly getting really sick of having to hide behind an alias like Hooeyspewer and it's getting more difficult to do these days.

I am envious of the people who can just throw it all out there and not worry about the repercussions. They can blog under their real name, post their photos and videos for public consumption under their real name, converse with total strangers without an alias on the Internet and post their real contact information as well. I would require a P.O. Box in another city in order to give out a contact address and even that would make me nervous.

I recently joined Twitter and have become acquainted with a few people who do, in fact, not only Tweet under their real names, but blog using their real names. They use their real names as their email address and/or domain name. They're on Facebook as themselves without all of the privacy guard settings and have their contact information out there for others to see. Their real names are used on YouTube, Flickr, Pownce, Digg, LinkedIn, Mash - you name it, they're there as themselves. (Well, I'm on LinkedIn under my real name, but that's the whole point of it, right?) If you Google their names, you're met with pages and pages of entries from all over the Internet. Some of these entries include information such as current phone numbers and the location of tonight's dinner reservations. I've seen articles explaining how to make your name more Google-able. I've worked pretty hard to make sure I'm not easily Google-able under my real name. I couldn't do what these people are doing in a million years - I don't know how I'd sleep.

I've actually joked with a couple of them about this and they really didn't seem too worried about the prospect of having some nut job recognize them in public or stalk them across the Internet or in real life. They're not dumb or ignorant to the possibility - they're just not too concerned with it. It's part of the job for some of these people - their job requires a public presence or they need to be accessible. An example of a person who does this at least partially for professional reasons is Robert Scoble, who was recently kind enough to Tweet updates on Twitter while at the hospital awaiting the birth of his son. (Congratulations, BTW.) I do admire these people and their families for being that accessible to the masses and I also truly hope that they never have any reason to regret that they are.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Occupied Table

Well, it's been a month, and the iMac is still on the Family Room table. It has made some other friends too and they have all decided to congregate on that otherwise not unsightly table. Some of the friends that the iMac has made belong to me, actually. They say a mess begets a bigger mess. I shouldn't be surprised. I figured if I can't beat him, join him - for now. I have to admit, it's not a bad setup. I knew this is how it would end up if I let him unbox it downstairs. I hear a rumor that he may try to find a space for it in the office upstairs over the weekend. I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Talking Smack Over XBox Live

I love my XBox360 and I just had to share this video that I came across recently. It gave me a good laugh. If you're not into these games, you may still find this amusing.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Dog Can Spell

Our dog, Samantha, turns four at the end of the month. She has been a member of our family since she was eight weeks old. As a mini dachshund, she has quite an independent streak. We've always known that all her cylinders were firing in her little head, but recently, she impressed us once again.

Samantha loves cheese. We started putting shredded cheese in her bowl as a treat, but it got to the point where she would just look at us as if asking where the cheese was when we didn't give it to her. So, Samantha gets her cheese more times than not. We realized that she knew the word “cheese” and so a long time ago, we started spelling it when we didn't want her to know what we were discussing. We ended up spelling a lot of words that she knew. We spelled “cheese” and “bone” and “bed” and “play” and called her Wiggly Giggly ball (which she adores) the “W.G.” There's more, but you get the point.

I recently realized that Samantha can spell these words too now. By the time I get “C-H-E” out of my mouth, she's at my feet looking up at me. When I say “B-O-N-E” her head snaps to attention and her ears prick up - she then proceeds to watch me like a hawk. She's a smart one alright. Let's see if she learns Spanish too. Queso anyone?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Emmy for SNL "Dick in a Box"

Yesterday, the SNL spot "Dick in a Box" featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg received an Emmy for best original music and lyrics. I can't remember the last time I thought an SNL skit was just classic. In honor of their Emmy, I'm posting the video here. Congrats.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Compromised Credit Card

Once again we need to change our credit card number because some store's database has been compromised. This is the third time in four years that this has happened, but only the first time they've told us which company to thank for their crappy database security. There has been no nefarious activity on our account specifically in any of these instances. It is a royal pain though and the timing is always bad.

At least this time, the credit card company is allowing me to decide when to switch over my card to the new number. Historically, they have just shut down the old number and issued a new one regardless of my whereabouts or the timing of my automatic bill payments. We've had our credit card numbers killed while we were out of town more than once. I'm just grateful that they let us finish out our last trip before rendering our number useless. Time to memorize a new number again.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Bad Patient

I am supposed to be dropping my newly acquired 20+ lbs in preparation for drug treatment for autoimmune hepatitis. It isn't happening and it's all my fault.

When the suspicion of an illness first arose five years ago, I was within the normal weight range for a female of my height. My doctor suggested strength and conditioning training and I have been seeing a trainer twice a week when I am in town. (Mind you, I've only been home for about six months a year in recent years, but it's been better than nothing.) During this time, however, I managed to eat my way into pants that are two sizes larger.

I derive a lot of enjoyment from food. I don't have a weird attachment to it. I just genuinely enjoy eating good food. My problem is that I don't like healthy foods. I hate salads. Fruits and vegetables are not my friends. I know I need to watch not only what I eat but how much I eat. My aunt is a dietician and I have been subjected to the dietician spiel repeatedly since childhood. I never listened to her though.

It's September and I need to try to get this off by January. With my love for food and my penchant for procrastination, this weight loss thing is going to be hard to accomplish. I figured that maybe I could shame myself into losing the weight by posting my goal here. I would be happy if I lost 15 lbs. by January 1. I will be more than sad if I don't.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Shallow Consumer Post (Pls. Forgive Me)

I am a native Chicagoan and lived very happily there (other than when away for college) for the first 27 years of my life. I will have lived in Massachusetts for 10 years next month. While Massachusetts is a nice state, I do have a laundry list of complaints about it. I truly mean no disrespect to those folks that love living in Massachusetts. I am very glad for them as it is a good thing to love where you live. I just wish I felt the same way. One item that has been on my list for the last decade, right up there with “can't buy beer at a grocery store,” “last call at the bars is 12:30 am,” “No restaurants serve food after 11 pm” and “why are the income taxes twice as much here as they are in Illinois?” has been “the shopping around here is horrible - where is the Nordstrom's?” Today, that decade-old complaint has been crossed off the list as Nordstrom opened their 99th store in Natick, Massachusetts. I most definitely was there.

Anyone that knows me knows that I actually dislike shopping. Shocking, yes, but true. I get no joy from walking through endless racks of merchandise looking for something. My approach to shopping has always been the surgical strike. I always know what I want and I expect to be able to find it without too much effort. Even better, I like to call the store and have the folks at the store hold my item for me at the register. That approach doesn't work very well in Massachusetts. None of the stores that were here had very much in the way of service - with the exception of Neiman Marcus, (but the one Neiman Marcus in the state is the size of a postage stamp and has a small selection). The stores here also need a lesson in merchandising - the environment of most of the large stores is not conducive to happy browsing: the racks are too close together, there is no organization, the stores need new buyers and the sales people are nowhere to be found. (Don't get me started on Macy's - I won't set foot in one for several reasons.) I actually have been doing my Christmas shopping in Chicago and New York City because there's no joy in browsing here in Massachusetts.

Nordstrom is an amazing chain of stores. I took the stores for granted when I always had one nearby, but a decade away from them has made me really appreciate them. To me, the Nordstrom name has represented quality merchandise with a high level of customer service.

Today I only visited two departments: Individualist and, of course, Shoes. In both departments, a salesperson proactively helped me from the minute I set foot in the department. In both cases, I explained what I wanted or was hoping to find and in both cases, the salesperson found me not only what I had specifically requested, but several other items that I may want to also consider in the correct sizes. The experience is akin to having your own personal shopper. I am in the customer books of both of the sales associates now and will be notified if something that may be interesting to me shows up. The associate from Individualist (Kari, in case you're in the area and need assistance) went so far as to go downstairs into the shoe department to find a pair of shoes for me as I fell in love with the pair they let me use for my alteration measurements (which were complementary, by the way).

I can honestly say that I enjoyed my trip to Nordstrom's today and was very productive in my shopping (just check my credit card balance). Now if we could do something about the rest of the items on my list, I may just start to like it here a little.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spoiled by Technology

This week, my husband is in New York on a business trip. I would normally go with him on a trip like this one, but opted this time to stay home (for reasons to be discussed another time). When he and I find ourselves apart like this, we like to put the built-in camera in his laptop to good use and have video chats. Ours are more like video conversations. Usually, they occur while one or both of us is eating a meal. This is because the only real downtime he has when he is out of town is when he is eating or sleeping. We've done this enough and from so many places that I've come to expect these cozy dinners via web-cam when he is away. He's done this successfully with me from as far away as mainland China. Well, tonight there was some problem with the bandwidth or something on his end at his hotel in New York and our video chat didn't work. This predicament is almost inconceivable! I have been spoiled by technology.

Once in a while, it's fun to try to remember what it is was like before we had all of the tools and resources that we have today. This evening's dinner-by-phone was a painful reminder of the days before our video chats. Luckily, these days we have a package on our home phone that includes unlimited long-distance calls. A decade ago, that wasn't the case. We neither had video chat capability nor unlimited long-distance calls by phone. We paid a boat-load of cash for a phone conversation and we didn't know of anything better. Now a phone conversation is like the booby prize at the carnival.

Tonight, the technology failed me, but I had the chance to remember what it used to be like. I am thankful for the Internet, broadband, wireless, webcams, email, cable TV, cell phones (especially my iPhone), social media apps, DVRs, digital cameras, iPods and all of my computers. I'm thankful for all of the great advancements that have been made. I just don't think about how much better life is because of these things very much because I rarely have to do without. The long phone conversations were really great back then, but I really love being able to look at my husband when I talk with him after a long day apart. Once you're spoiled, I guess there's no turning back.

iPhone Early Adopters to Receive Credit

Well, you can't say that the folks at Apple Computer don't try to stay in touch with their customers. One day after announcing a $200 drop in the price of the 8GB iPhone, Steve Jobs has announced plans to reimburse early adopters (who are not receiving a rebate or any other consideration) with a $100 store credit. You can read his letter here.

Guess we will be getting a couple of Shuffles in the mail after all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Not-So-Full Full Physical

I make a point of going in for a full physical every year. I go in during the month of November as my birthday is in November and I see a check-up as a twisted birthday present to myself. “Happy Birthday - You're not dead!” Well, a few years ago, I went in for my regular physical and was declared to be totally healthy. My weight, my blood pressure, my lab results - all perfect. I was very glad to hear that I was still in good working order. In December, however, I had a medical examination for a life insurance policy that I was buying for myself. Apparently the “full physical” from my physician was not as “full” as it should have been.

Our life insurance representative called me some time after the life insurance exam and told me that he was sending a nurse to my house to take a second sample of my blood as he thought there may have been a problem with one of the results. He informed me that all of the lab results were normal except for the liver enzymes and that they were very elevated. He said that he thought it could just be a false positive and wanted to re-test me. Heck, I wanted them to re-test me. The second test came back even worse.

So - I went back to my physician with the life insurance exam results in hand. I was told that during my November exam, they did not test my liver function AT ALL. How could they skip a review of my liver function during a full physical?? In the physician's estimation, I was a perfectly healthy 33 year-old woman. They claimed that they don't normally run liver function tests for women in my age group who they deem to be mostly healthy. So my physician finally ran their own liver function test on me and the enzymes were elevated again. I was referred to a specialist. I got a clean bill of health in November and was told in December that my liver was in distress.

My specialist is almost 100% sure that I have autoimmune hepatitis. It's not Hepatitis A, B or C. It's an autoimmune disease not unlike lupus. My immune system is attacking my liver as if it is a foreign object in my body. The only reason the specialist isn't 100% sure of my diagnosis is that, per my last biopsy, there hasn't been enough damage done to my liver yet. I have been going in for blood tests quarterly for the last 5 years as a result and am scheduled for another biopsy in December. I now baby my liver - with the exception of the occasional drink, which has been doctor-approved (seriously).

I tell this story now because my doctor has informed me that after my biopsy in December, he expects that I will be placed on medication - a mix of autoimmune suppressants and steroids. As a result, I need to prepare myself for the weight gain and bloating that can accompany the medication. I managed to gain a little more than 20 pounds in the last five years and have basically been told to get rid of it ASAP. Oh joy.

I thought I was being responsible with my own health by going in for the annual physical. However, if I had just had my annual physical, my condition would not have been detected and I could have been running around drinking alcohol and slugging Tylenol. (OK, so I wouldn't have been horrible to my liver - just not as good). The specialist told me that most people with this condition have no clue that they are sick until they are closer to 50 and they have serious symptoms like jaundice and lethargy. Luckily for me, I had the extra exam from the life insurance company, and am being monitored. I am thankful for that.

I didn't know that a “full” physical wasn't actually “full.” If you don't have any medical complaints, your doctor may not test for things like your liver function. Just a friendly warning to ask exactly what your doctor is and is not testing during your annual physical. If you have specific concerns as a result of family history or otherwise, definitely make sure that they are being addressed.

The Necessary Apple Post

Well, as most people who would be reading this post know, Steve Jobs made his appearance this afternoon and made yet another introduction of new Apple products. I won't re-hash the line as most everyone who is reading this post is probably well aware of the new features of the iPods and iMac. He also announced the canning of the 4GB iPhone and the reduction in price of the 8 GB iPhone from $599 to $399. If you purchased an 8 GB iPhone within the last 2 weeks, you can receive a refund of the difference in price. If you bought it on the day it was released, like we did, you get squat.

One could say that a $200 price drop from the end of June to today - or two weeks ago (thanks to the refunds) - seems like a big price drop in a short period of time. I bought two iPhones, so that's an additional $400 that could be in my pocket now if I'd waited not quite two months. Frankly, I'm OK with that. I wouldn't have bought them if I didn't think they were worth it at the time. We used our phones immediately and they were a great resource during our travels over the summer. I don't regret the purchase or the timing. We love our iPhones.

I do have a sick hope that I'll find a couple of old Shuffles in the mail one day soon though.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Curiosity and My Doctor's Wife

One result of our acquisition of iPhones in July was my sudden compulsion to populate our address book with photos of our contacts. I turned to the Internet for most of the photos. Specifically, I ran Google Image searches. When I got to one of my doctors, I found a good picture, but I also found several references to a book written by his wife. After some more digging, I found that in 2004, his wife wrote a book about the first two years of their marriage and didn't change their names in it.

Now, part of me really didn't want to read this book. I happen to adore this doctor. I respect him as a doctor and think he is a pretty cool guy. He has mentioned his wife briefly to me a few times and usually it has been in the context of her attitude towards something being similar to my own. There was something about the idea of reading this book that seemed wrong.

I ended up reading the reviews for this book on anyway. After 43 reviews, the book scored a 4 out of 5 star rating. The only real criticism of the book seemed to be of the author's personality - and since the book was a memoir, there was a lot of her personality on display in it. Most reviewers thought it was humorous and most gave it a 5 star rating. If it was funny, how bad could it be for me to read it? I usually read non-fiction books, but we were leaving for vacation in a few days, so I ordered a copy. Some light reading would be nice for a change. Curiosity was winning.

I read most of the book on the airplane and finished it on the deck of our hotel room. It was a really fast read and was humorous on the whole. When I finished the book, I felt like I knew a little too much about their relationship. I also felt a little bad for my doctor. I could see how the criticisms about his wife's personality were formed. Then I remembered some of our previous conversations and the way he looked at me after I said certain things. In hindsight, I wonder if he was wondering if I read his wife's book!

On the whole, she portrayed him positively, so he shouldn't be embarrassed. Though, I may feel a little embarrassed the next time I see him for an appointment. I feel like I've been eavesdropping at their window. Hopefully, that won't show. Curiosity is not your friend.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Free iPhone

My husband and I each got an iPhone on the release date. We actually did camp out in front of the Apple Store for the afternoon. If it were just me, I would have strolled into the Apple Store on Saturday morning and picked one up - but since it's not just me, we had to do the camp. We showed up right after noon and were greeted with a line of only around 20 people. The time there wasn't bad, actually, and we were in and out of the Store in a flash after they re-opened that evening. We made it home and activated our two phones without a problem.

On Saturday morning, we actually went back to the Apple Store to check out the necessary accessories. I ended up buying a case that day and I recognized the cashier from the previous evening. She was chatty and after I signed for the goods, she handed my husband the bag. As he and I made it up the escalator to our next stop, my husband looked inside the bag and noticed that she had thrown the iPhone case in a bag that also contained an 8GB iPhone. Apparently, they had pre-stuffed a bunch of bags with iPhones and she gave us one accidentally.

When we got to the top of the escalator, we turned around and went back down the escalator. Mind you, we did have a brief conversation while on our way up the escalator about what to do with this iPhone. Tempting as it may have been, neither of us wanted to keep it. We walked into the Apple Store and made our way back to the cashier. I handed her the iPhone and told her what happened. She took it back, said “thanks” and went on to help the next person in line. It didn't phase her. She didn't look thankful that we returned the iPhone - or that we didn't go to her manager instead. She didn't even look like she was wondering how many other phones she had inadvertently handed out for free. Her reaction really didn't matter to us - we just knew that we couldn't keep the iPhone with a clear conscience.

If we didn't both already have one, our reaction would have been the same. If we had kept the ill-gotten iPhone, we would have definitely given it away - probably to my husband's parents or to one of our friends. As my husband's father just bought an iPhone this week, I was reminded of the free phone that we took back. I'm still not sorry that we did.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reclaiming the Table

My husband is my favorite person on the planet. That being said, there are a few things that would probably drive other men's wives crazy that I totally accept as perfectly fine. He and I are almost too similar in a lot of ways; we have similar bad habits. That either makes each other's habits not seem so bad or amplifies how bad the habits seem because we recognize them in ourselves. That may be the case this weekend with the newest addition to our computing arsenal: his new iMac.

This computer was purchased on the evening that we landed back in Boston from our vacation. That was August 18. We literally got out of the limo, walked into the house to deposit our luggage, and jumped into our car to go out and purchase this computer. He set it up on the dining table that sits at the rear of our family room “temporarily.” This decision was totally understandable, as he has several other computers and monitors on his side of the desk in our office that need to be moved around to accommodate his new purchase. In addition, he needed to fire it up to see if it worked properly sooner than later. We had extra ethernet ports installed in the family room and the wi-fi works well there, so it seemed like a no-brainer. I was totally fine with the idea. I told him it had to be out of the family room by the end of the next weekend. He agreed.

His first week back from our vacation was a busy one and he never found the time to get his side of the office in any condition for the new computer to be moved there. Mind you, he did use the new computer a lot that week in the family room. It helped that he had a direct view of our wide-screen HD TV from that table, I'm sure, but we have laptops to use in the family room when necessary. When Friday rolled around, I had already prepared myself for the inevitable request for an extension of his deadline. I didn't even make him ask. I could tell he was going to ask. When I heard “I was thinking...” come out of his mouth, I interrupted him by saying,”Yes, it's OK if you leave the computer there - just get it out of there by Labor Day.” He agreed and thought that was a reasonable deadline, especially since he would be traveling again the week after the holiday.

Well, today is the Saturday before Labor Day and he hasn't made any progress at all in the office upstairs. In fact, we've been spending a lot of time down in the family room this past week. He's been tweaking out his new computer. It dual-boots OSX and Vista. It runs Ubuntu via VMware and runs XP via Parallels. He's installed all of the software that he wants to install on the computer and has even gone so far as to hook up and populate a monster external hard drive for his media. He's actually working on it right now as we watch college football.

Care to lay odds on the date of the move of the new computer to our office?