Friday, May 23, 2008

Keeper of the Swag: Tiny Dilemma

Like a lot of people in the same line of business as my husband, he gets a lot of swag and promo material. Other than XL t-shirts, most swag ends up in my coffers. Why mine and not his? The only things he has really ever kept for himself are the XL t-shirts that don’t fit me, some software, a couple of really nice backpacks, a wi-fi finder and USB flash drives. (Video games don’t count because technically, they’re shared.) It is my job to either find a use or a final resting place for the rest of it. These days, (thanks to new SEC rules), it’s mostly things like notebooks, bags, hats, mouse pads, key rings, water bottles, pens, etc.

The other day, he came home with yet another company-branded bag (organic & a nice size for my grocery shopping) and a little square box. It has Huanhuan on it, who is one of the mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics – and of the five Fuwa mascots, Huanhuan is clearly my favorite (<---- *snicker*). Most of the rest of the writing on the box is in Chinese. Clearly, my husband had no idea what was inside the box when he gave it to me with the bag. Though he did specifically say, “If it’s a USB drive, it’s mine.”

I looked more closely at the box while he was away. It’s a 2 GB USB drive. (Insert sigh here.) So technically, I should be giving it back to him for his use… but it’s adorable! Not at all manly. (He disagrees.) I haven’t liked a piece of swag so much since the stuffed Google fish keyring! It’s only 2 GB – so what’s that worth? $10? My husband’s response: “It’s made by Lenovo. Nothing Lenovo makes is $10.” He has a point – ha.

Well, a few dozen eyelash bats later and the little Huanhuan USB flash drive is mine. I think my husband tried to give me a hard time just for the fun of it. (The banter was kind of fun.) I’ve never been much for having a lot of stuff lying around, so he probably thought it was amusing that I actually wanted something he brought home for a change. But can you blame me?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Changing Rules Like Changing Your Shirt

As almost everyone in the U.S. knows by now, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was hospitalized over the last weekend and has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Understandably, this situation and every angle to the story has been the subject of media scrutiny. It is a horrible situation that you never want to see happen to anyone – let alone someone who has worked for the public for so long. One thing that irritated me a tad was all the talk on the day his diagnosis was made public, of the plans for his succession in the Senate. (I happened to see that on the ABC affiliate in Boston.) The family hadn’t released any information about his plans for the near or long-term and the media was discussing rules for his succession should he have to vacate his office. Clearly, it could be an issue – but it wasn’t an issue yet.

Then the real potential succession issue became very clear. In 2004, when Mitt Romney was the Republican governor of Massachusetts and Senator John Kerry (D- MA) was running for President, the Massachusetts legislature changed the over 100 year-old rule that allows the sitting governor to appoint a replacement for a Senator who leaves office before his or her term expires. Heaven forbid that Mitt Romney have the authority to appoint a replacement to the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts. They claimed a Senate vacancy was alright as long as they could arrange for a special election between 145 and 160 days after the incumbent declares his or her intention to resign. That’s 4-6 months without representation for the state if the incumbent has a sudden death. So the summer before the 2004 Presidential election, the Massachusetts legislature made sure that the sitting Republican governor couldn’t possibly appoint a replacement for Senator Kerry if he won the election. Done. They changed the old law. They were happy.

Now that there’s a Democrat in the Governor’s office, they want to change that rule back. Say what?? For them, it’s OK for a Democrat governor to appoint a replacement. All of the arguments about reaffirming the “power of the people” and cries for special elections from the State Senate President and others in 2004 have seemed to just disappear? In four years?

This makes me ill. Total political bullshit. I am not a registered member of either party. I am just a tax-paying registered voter and I am so sick of the legislature of this state ignoring the voters when it suits them. (Remember when the MA voters voted to roll-back the state income tax? What ever happened to that?) Now it looks like they change the rules when it suits them as well. The Massachusetts voters put these people in their positions – so really, it’s their fault.

I laughed when I saw this video blog post by VB Goudie of our local Fox station on the same matter where he asks, “They can’t be that stupid, can they?” My answer is a resounding, “They most certainly are!”

[As an aside – I have to feel for Mitt Romney as the legislature battled him constantly during his time as governor here. After his departure, certain officials he had tried and failed to replace were replaced. Voila! His administration really tried to make good changes and the old guard fought them at every turn. So far, the only obvious things that the new governor has done in office are redecorate his office, upgrade the cars in which he travels, inappropriately call Robert Rubin on behalf of Ameriquest and ink a $1.35 million book deal (in NYC while missing a key vote in MA on casinos) which will include a book tour during his current (and first) term in office.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When it Rains...

Life seems to throw a lot of bad stuff at us all at once and if we make it through it all, it gives us a break for a good long while as a reward. The last couple of weeks have definitely not been part of any break for us here.

No worries for us – we’re alive and well here. Since my last blog post, we’ve had three surgeries in the family. Two of them occurred on the same day. A little time between them all might have been nice, eh? For a while there, we were waiting for lab results on all three of them. When I say “family” I mean the people with whom we spend our holidays – our closest loved ones. All three surgeries went well, thankfully. Two were breast cancer-related and one was skin cancer-related. The lab results were basically good in two cases. In one case, the pathologists and oncologists know it’s bad but are calling the case “rare” and consulting their peers. They actually presented her case at a breast cancer conference yesterday. This cancer is in someone who has already had a lumpectomy and finished aggressive chemotherapy and radiation a little more than a year ago. (It was her first bout with cancer that was the impetus for my year-long blogging hiatus from 2006-2007.) I am grateful that she has a very good group of doctors who are monitoring her condition and who have been very diligent in her case.

It’s hard to celebrate the good news when the bad news is so frightening. The timing of this all is so surreal but in a strange way, it’s given us all something for which to be thankful when we may be inclined to just be sad and worried. Even weirder for me, there have been three other pieces of family news from the same time frame that are amazing and wonderful – and of course, I am not at liberty to discuss any of it – but I am very happy and grateful for it all. It’s felt like quite the wild ride here these last few days. We’re so very, very happy and so very, very sad and worried all at the same time. Ah, but we’re human after all and every once in a while we are all too well reminded of that fact.

Chins up – we’ll just be glad for our good fortune, gear up to take care of those who need us and be grateful that we can.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fire Alarm at MicroCenter

Just got tossed out of the MicroCenter in Cambridge, MA as the fire
alarm went off. Of course, I wanted a new toy but had to put it down
for now.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Dessert for Charity

At Kingfish Hall, the proceeds from the sale of this ridiculously
yummy dessert go to fund breast cancer research at Dana-Farber. I had
one and I have to say, it was really yummy too :) Yeah - I had my arm twisted *snicker*
This is described as a Strawberry Glace: Wild Strawberry Glaze, Cinnamon Pound Cake Croutons & NYC Street Cart Pralines.
(sorry @MaxWeb as I failed to photograph the awesome lobster roll I
had for lunch too.)

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Flowers for Mother's Day?

Every year for Mother’s Day, my husband and I have a minor disagreement as to how to handle the Hallmark holiday for our loved ones. I say “minor” disagreement because, as we’ve been together for over a decade, I have conceded my position for the most part and handle Mother’s Day and Father’s Day the way that my husband wants to handle them. I gently mention the option of just sending greeting cards and then give in almost immediately upon hearing him say that he’d rather send flowers. There are other issues worth debating. If sending flowers to our closest female relatives is what he wants to do, then that works for me. I don’t really see the necessity though, as anyone who knows me well knows that if I get so much as an email from someone with a kind thought, I have received enough… but different strokes for different folks. Flowers he wants – then flowers they will all get.

The problem is that the large flower sites have failed us repeatedly in the past. We send a lot of flowers during a year and have tried different vendors. If we lived in the same state as the recipients of our flowers, it wouldn’t be so difficult. It seriously doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there is a definite chance that there will be a problem with our order. Flowers not delivered on time, flowers not delivered at all, delivery-person failing to ring doorbell and flowers spending the night in the freezing cold as a result, wrong flowers delivered – it’s ridiculous.

Our most recent bad experience was with just the other week. We wanted to send flowers to the wake of a friend’s mother. The wake was taking place on a Sunday afternoon. I placed the order on Saturday morning. On Monday morning, I received an email stating that the florist did not deliver the flowers to the wake. When I called FTD, I was told that the florist didn’t have time to complete our order on Sunday as they close mid-day. Excuse me? I thought FTD was a large group of florists – and if one florist was unavailable, there would be another to fulfill the order. Apparently not. So much for flowers from us being delivered to the funeral home. Nice notice, eh? They just issued me a credit. I was royally irked.

Last year, we entrusted with our Mother’s Day order. In general, they had been pretty decent and had handled all of our previous service issues well enough. Six flower arrangements were going to six women in three states. We even asked that they be delivered either on Saturday or on Sunday – we truly had no preference. Only two of the bouquets were delivered without a problem (our aunts – yay for them). The other four were a mess. I was on the phone with 1-800-FLOWERS at five times with five different representatives over an order that I placed over the Internet and never wanted to have to discuss again with another human. Grrrr.

My mother-in-law was living in Plymouth, MA at the time and received a milk glass with some wilted-looking tulips and other greens in it. She knew we wouldn’t send anything like that to her and told the delivery man that there must be some mistake. I called 1-800-FLOWERS and they seriously wouldn’t make it right - instead of having their local florist deliver what we actually ordered (which was a large mixed bouquet of spring flowers) – they sent their delivery man back to my mother-in-law’s house to pick up the milk glass of wilted short-stemmed tulips and issued me a credit for the flowers. No matter. We didn’t want that florist to make anything for her ever again anyway. We were just amazed that instead of just apologizing and issuing the credit for the whole fiasco, they actually sent their delivery guy back to the house to pick up the milk glass and flowers. That blew.

My mother and sister hadn’t received their flowers in Chicago for Mother’s Day by 4 pm on Sunday – Mother’s Day. My sister called to tell me that my mom hadn’t received anything and I called 1-800-FLOWERS again. They said the flowers were on the delivery truck and apologized for the delay. The flowers were to have been delivered before 4 pm on Sunday and they were clearly late. Even worse, my mother was leaving for the airport to go to Dallas at 5 pm for a last minute business trip. SO – my sister ended up going back to my mother’s house that night to find the flowers sitting on her front porch, tipped over on their side. They actually re-delivered flowers two days later to my mother as a result.

My husband’s grandmother in Michigan hadn’t received her flowers either – and as it turned out, the flower delivery person delivered her flowers to a neighbor’s house instead of hers even though she was home all day long. The neighbor showed up with them late on Sunday.

Even goofier was the way they inform you that delivery has taken place. I received emails telling me that flowers were delivered when they clearly were not and I did not receive emails for deliveries that took place successfully. Clearly, I wasn’t in the mood to send flowers again for a long time… but it seems that flower-sending is somewhat of a necessity throughout the year for us. Usually, we don’t have issues – sometimes we do. For a business as simple as floral arrangement and delivery, the number of issues we’ve personally encountered is surprisingly high.

So here we are at Mother’s Day again and my husband doesn’t think a Hallmark card does it as well as flowers. Since I’m newly irked at FTD but am generally forgiving, we thought we’d try 1-800-FLOWERS again. I’ve used them three times since last Mother’s Day without incident, so though I’m still not thrilled with them, we’re willing to give them a go again. This year we’ve made it even easier and sent out five arrangements of two-dozen yellow roses each and sent my sister a nice mixed spring bouquet. We even asked that they all be delivered today, Thursday, instead of Friday or over the weekend. Luckily, my mother-in-law no longer lives in Massachusetts and we have a new florist to try out near her new home. We shall see what happens.

If I have to call and speak to another customer service person about a floral delivery, I think I’ll have an even stronger case to do it my way next year and send out cards.

Friday Update: We have heard from all six floral recipients that they received their flowers on Thursday and their descriptions of the flowers match what we ordered, so we're happy with that. However, I only received delivery confirmations for four of the deliveries, so if nobody called us to thank us, we'd still be wondering about two of the arrangements. Go figure. My lesson learned: If I'm compelled to send flowers for Mother's Day, have them delivered early. The florists must be a disaster zone from Friday to Sunday.

Photo by tanakawho

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"The Daily Show" on Pandering

This kept me chuckling for more than a little while. It'd be funnier if it wasn't all so true.

(...and what IS up with the accent? She was raised in my old neighborhood. There's no twang in Park Ridge, IL.) LOL