Sunday, January 27, 2008

Goodbye Catalog Clutter!

While I was in Chicago, I caught a spot of The Today Show on NBC in which they profiled the Park School in Massachusetts at which the children and their families participated in a “Catalog Canceling Challenge.” Now, this caught my attention as just before leaving for Chicago, I hauled a ridiculous amount of wasted paper in the form of catalogs that I neither wanted nor requested off to the recycling station at our town dump. It was all a total waste - I do most of my browsing and ordering online - I rarely ever look at catalogs.

I've already signed up to not receive credit card solicitations in the mail as well as to not receive your average piece of junk mail. This is all well and good but the bulk of the junk in my mailbox is in the form of catalogs. Even worse, when my in-laws changed their address temporarily to my home in-between living in Massachusetts and Illinois, we inherited their catalogs as well. My mailbox was weary and these kids and their teachers were touting a website called CatalogChoice.org that they used to cancel 4,175 catalogs. There is actually a website out there that will cancel your catalogs for you for free. Rather than sitting at your phone all day calling every single company separately, you can opt-out of all of your catalogs from one website!

Well, today, I signed up at CatalogChoice.org and canceled 28 catalogs. I would have canceled more, but I hauled every catalog in the house to recycling before I left town two weeks ago. (It's best if you have the customer ID number printed on the catalog when you request for its discontinuance.) I received 28 catalogs in the two weeks I was away and canceled every single one of them through this free service. As more catalogs show up, I can log back in to the service and add them to my list of catalogs to discontinue. Every single catalog I wanted to cancel was represented. However, if I did have a catalog to cancel that was not on their list, I could enter it as a suggestion. You don't have to cancel ALL of your catalogs - you only decline the specific catalogs that you no longer want to receive.

It went very quickly as I didn't need to re-type my name and address repeatedly and I could even add my mother in-law's name to my account in order to opt-out of all of the catalogs that we inherited from them. The site was very easy to use.

CatalogChoice has over a half-million members and according to its website, the membership has collectively opted out of over 6 million catalogs. That's a lot of trees - and a lot of other energy saved in the process of creating and delivering all of those catalogs. CatalogChoice is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council. I'm sold.

The Park School in Massachusetts has issued a challenge for other schools to participate in the “Catalog Canceling Challenge” during the month of February and the winner of this challenge will be announced on The Today Show.

We don't have any children in our home, but are participating on our own through CatalogChoice and I invite you to participate as well.


Video from the Park School. Kids and teachers doing something really great:

I'm an Apple?

I was catching up on reading some of the blogs that I follow today and read a short post by KarrieLyne in her blog in which she reported that based on a short personality test from Blogthings, she was deemed to be like a strawberry. I thought it was pretty interesting that she felt that the comparison was decent and since she was kind enough to provide a link to the test, Little Miss Curiosity here took the test as well. If you know me, feel free to comment on whether you think this is like me at all.
You Are an Apple

You are strong, powerful, and even a bit stubborn at times.
You have enough strength to help those around you in trouble.

You are adventurous and charming. Many people are drawn to you.
You love life, and you enjoy traveling the world. You enjoy fine food, art, and culture.

People have accused you of being a snob, but that's not accurate.
You do enjoy the best things in life. Unlike snobs, you truly appreciate quality... not just pretend to.

This was a little surprising to me - especially the bit about being wrongly accused of being a snob - because that seems to happen more than I would like. I really didn't expect a short test to know these kinds of things. hee hee. You may want to try the quiz out just for kicks and giggles.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Turf Wars

Look at that face! Our dog Sam is just a pill sometimes. As many of you know, I was in Chicago this week and brought Sam along with me. We stayed at my mother's house in the shrine to me also known as my old bedroom. She had a pretty full schedule while we were in Chicago and spent a lot of time with a lot of different members of our family. They all fawn over her & she gets a false sense of self-importance. Clearly.

My husband flew home to Boston on Monday so the full sized bed in the shrine was to be shared by Sam and me this week. I prefer the side of the bed next to the large night-stand with the lamp and the big alarm clock. What does the dog need a night-stand for anyway?

At well past our bedtime last night, I put her up on the bed, expecting her to walk to the far side of the bed and get hunkered down for the night. Instead, she tried to bed down on my side of the bed. Well, I put a few bags & things up on my side of the bed so she couldn't get comfortable there. I wasn't ready to physically get in bed just yet. So half of the bed was covered in bags and computer stuff and half the bed was wide open for her. She walked over to the far side of the bed and looked lost. She looked as though she was weighing her options: burrow under the covers or sleep on top of one of the pillows. I moved a pillow so it laid flat for her. She stepped up on it and looked like she had decided to make a bed on it. She walked a tight circle while smelling the pillow and began scratching at it in the way that she scratches at the place where she wants to bed down. She walked and sniffed and scratched and scratched. Then, she did something she has never done in the four years that we have had her: She urinated on the pillow!

What the heck was that about? Guess she felt the need to mark out her spot in bed in the only way really available to her. She didn't have luggage and computer stuff to throw on her side of the bed - so she peed. Um... thanks. Yeah, she showed me alright.

I jumped up, scolded her, took the pillow and tore the pillowcase off of it. She looked confused and a little sad. I scolded her again and realized the urine had already soaked through the pillowcase. Ugh. So I took it all to the laundry room and cleaned up. When I got back to the bedroom, I found that she had burrowed under the comforter and made a bed there. I got my side of the bed that night and a look at some of the feistiness that resides inside a dog that doesn't even weigh 12 pounds.

Ice Cream Translation

One of my favorite ice cream shops in the Chicago area is the Village Creamery in Niles, IL on the corner of Oakton and Waukegan. I love this place because the ice cream is made freshly on the premises and they carry some of the most wonderfully exotic ice cream flavors around. Coconut, Banana, Coco-Pina, Avocado, Mangosteen, Jackfruit, Jasmine Lychee - the list goes on and on. I highly recommend a stop here for some ice cream if you're in the area.

The owners of this ice cream establishment have a Philippine heritage. In the Philippines, all school courses are taught in English. They also speak a language called Tagalog, as well as several Filipino dialects and Spanish. My grandmother spoke Spanish in her home growing up, Tagalog in the shops to the shopkeepers and English in school. Most people from the Philippines have very good English skills - but they seem to have a very distinctive accent when they speak it. (If you've ever seen the HappySlip videos on YouTube, you will have heard her take on the accent.)

Well, my mother went into the Village Creamery to pick up a quart of Banana ice cream. I love their banana ice cream. When my mother opened the quart at home, I didn't think it looked right. Sure enough, they gave her a quart of Vanilla ice cream. I had to laugh. My mother's accent isn't very bad - she actually took speech courses in the 70's to get rid of it - but she still has a bit of one. It seems to reappear when she is speaking to another Filipino person. When she asked for Banana she probably asked for “Bah-nah-nah” - and the person taking her order heard Vanilla - “Bah-nee-lah.” What's amusing is that if she had ordered in Tagalog, we may have been eating Banana ice cream instead.

So we had Vanilla. Makes me a little sad. Though it's a great excuse to go back again!

And here's one of the HappySlip vids for your enjoyment. I have actually met people with accents as strong as these - but not all folks from the Philippines have severe accents.



Ice Cream photo via www.villagecreamery.com

Monday, January 21, 2008

My 2008 Bucket List

I've been tagged to compile my personal Bucket List for 2008 by both Jeff “zemote” O'Hara and Annie “banannie” Boccio. The idea comes from the movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, in which the two lead characters compile the list of things they want to do before they each kick the bucket. This meme was started by the ever-busy Jeff Pulver. When I was tagged originally, I gave it some thought and put it on my amazingly large back-burner for more significant thought at a later date. I wasn't going to set goals for this year and specifically made no resolutions for the new year. However, the exercise of compiling a Bucket List for the year seemed like a helpful exercise. Upon being tagged a second time today, I made it a priority for this evening. My list for 2008 consists of things I would really like to get done this year.

My 2008 Bucket List - in no specific order:
  • Meet more of my online friends in person (I've missed every single opportunity to meet folks in Boston in 2007 because of previous obligations and travel. That's sad.)
  • Reconnect with old friends in ways more significant than exchanging holiday cards.
  • Successfully finalize two transactions that are slated for completion this year.
  • Give away or dispose of most things in our home that haven't seen activity in the last year. I want to de-clutter our home and try to be more minimalist in our approach.
  • Learn enough Mandarin Chinese to survive my time alone in Beijing in March without too much pain and refresh my conversational Japanese skills so as to run around in Tokyo as happily as I did in 2006.
  • Spend more time with my 3 year-old nephew in Chicago.
  • Finally organize all of the papers floating around my den (ok, they're not floating. They're sitting around everywhere just loafing!)
  • Plan an amazing vacation for my husband and me to take in August.
  • Be nicer to others. There's always room for more of that.
  • Cook healthier meals for us at home. I cook a lot of super-unhealthy foods for our enjoyment, which is fine and good, except that I do that a lot. I can't cook spinach without heavy cream, butter, garlic & cheese. I really should learn to cook things that clog the arteries less.
Now, I get to tag a few others to play along: HotFish, ChippyLibrarian, Alphabunny, princesscathy and JaceFuse. You're it! :)

Photo via dirtyfeet at flickr.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Date Night Meets First Date

Last Friday night was a very interesting one for my husband and me. We left our dog with my mother for the evening, and after spending most of the day with his parents downtown in Chicago, had our own date night in the city. We checked in to the Park Hyatt Hotel on Michigan Avenue and went out on the town. What we encountered that evening was a stream of couples on what were obviously their first dates. We had a bit of fun people-watching as a result. It's not something we do often at all, but for some reason, Friday was just begging for it.

It almost didn't matter where in an establishment we looked, there were people out on their first dates. It was obvious from their posture and from the bits of conversation that wafted over in our direction. We found it a little strange as usually when we are out we encounter a broad mix of groups: groups of friends, groups from work, families, groups of couples, girls nights out, etc. Last Friday night in downtown Chicago was clearly first date night.

One of our stops on Friday was Pops for Champagne on the corner of State and Erie. At a table near us was a group of four people. Two men. Two women. The couple facing us was clearly out on a first date. She was a tad overdressed. He was more than a tad nervous. In our estimation, he was blowing it as he was totally into the conversation with the couple across from them and didn't make any effort to look at the girl to his right or make direct conversation with her at all. Nerves, I suppose. The couple behind my husband was also on a first date and were making small talk about their respective jobs. Oh joy.

At Cru Cafe and Wine Bar on Delaware and Rush, we encountered more of the same. One couple was constituted of a woman who had clearly made her mind up that she wanted it to work out and a man who clearly was still deciding if he really even wanted to be there with her for dinner. She was leaning forward as she spoke to him and was putting on a full court press. He was reclined in his chair away from her and seemed to be regarding her every word with a bit of salt. I felt bad for her at that moment.

The couple directly in front of me at Cru was also on a first date and were discussing their respective jobs and families. The female was well endowed in her chest and was dressed to enhance that specific feature. She was a chatterbox and seriously didn't let her date get too many words in edgewise. As a result, I actually saw him glance down at her chest several times while she was speaking to him - and he seemed to be trying to not be too obvious - but he was. It was pretty funny. She didn't seem to mind. Guess that's why they were at a wine bar for a first date?

The couple directly next to us was also on a first date. Unlike all of the other new potential couples that we encountered on Friday, I had no idea why they were together. You know how couples usually look like couples? There's usually something that makes them compatible from a physical feature point of view. The two people sitting next to us didn't look like they belonged together at all. They were having polite conversation, but if I had to put money on their chances of success, I would have made a big bet that they would never go on another date again.

My husband and I had a really great time out that night. We had wine, champagne, sushi, pizza, chocolate fondue - we were out dabbling in food and drink and enjoying each other's company. We also had a bit of fun noticing our surroundings. It's been a very long time since either of us has been on a first date. Seeing all of those couples on Friday made me both hopeful for them and sorry for them all at the same time. None of the couples we encountered seemed to be hitting it off as well as they could have been. On the other hand, they were out there just trying and I really give them a lot of credit for that. I really wish them all well and much luck finding whatever it is that they each want.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Liver Biopsy Fun

Last Tuesday, I found myself at Massachusetts General Hospital for a scheduled liver biopsy. As I've mentioned previously, there is a possibility that I have autoimmune hepatitis. My doctors aren't sure what has been causing my liver to be in distress - on and off over the last five years. As a result, I've been subject to quarterly blood tests and a biopsy at least every five years. Well, my last biopsy was five years ago when this problem was first detected. The time had come - and I was ready for it - or so I thought.

My first biopsy was performed by the same group within the hospital and it went very well. After a liver biopsy, they recommend that you take it easy for a couple of days and avoid lifting anything heavy. As the liver processes a lot of blood there is a risk of internal bleeding. In addition, you're going to be tender to sore. In the case of my first biopsy, I felt no discomfort at all after the procedure. I felt like I could have gone to the gym and worked out without a problem. I didn't do that, of course. I took it easy for a couple of days, but I didn't feel like it was really that necessary. I couldn't even see where the incision was made in my side. It was as if the biopsy never even happened. I just took a short nap on a table surrounded by doctors and nurses at the hospital and nothing happened. It was easy and relatively painless. Nothing to fear there.

This time was a little different. I was in pain right after the procedure and as I lay on the stretcher in the recovery room, it hurt every time I inhaled. There was pain in my right lower back and in the area of my oblique muscle on my right side. I stayed in recovery for three hours and was convinced that I just had muscle pain. I spoke with one of the doctors that performed the procedure and he felt that my pain was normal considering what had been done. He explained that they went between my ribs, so they expected some soreness, but I'd be fine in a day or two. My husband drove me home and I seriously spent the rest of that day and the next on the big comfy chair in our reading room with the dog. I was definitely sore.

I woke up Thursday in pain again and was so concerned that my experience was so totally different from my last biopsy that I called the hospital to discuss the situation. It hurt to inhale. I had a big dark bruise at the incision site and the pain was in my back and side even though my incision was closer to my front. I was fortunate and was able to speak with the doctor who performed the biopsy. He asked me to come to the hospital immediately to have a CT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding. He said that in young patients who are in good shape, sometimes internal bleeding can go on slowly for days without severe discomfort. I went in for the CT scan and the doctors who reviewed my scan assured me that I had no internal bleeding.

So why the pain? As they went between my ribs, soreness in my side is expected. Another doctor also suggested that if they nicked my diaphragm at all, I would definitely be feeling it for a few days. They explained that sometimes the pain is felt in places far from the site of the injury as the pain signal travels through the nerves. The other difference that I noted was that even though I was under “conscious sedation” both times I had this procedure, I fell asleep completely the first time. Last Tuesday, I wasn't asleep for most of the procedure though I know I was asleep for the gruesome stuff. I was awake while the doctor tried to determine where to cut me and what path to take for the biopsy. I remember him tapping a plastic tab into my side to mark the incision point. He was jabbing it into my side pretty roughly, so I'm not too surprised that I hurt where I hurt (I'm just surprised at how much it hurts and how long it lasted.) I wonder if I tensed a muscle when I shouldn't have. Oh well. At least whatever it was wasn't going to kill me or put me in the hospital.

I've had pain every day for five days - and today, I can still feel what remains of the soreness. So much for two days of rest before I'm ready to go. I think next time I have to do this, I'll try to fall asleep.

Cleaning Up


Tidying up after the holidays - WAY after the holidays.

Mobile post sent by Hooeyspewer using Utterz Replies.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snow Again?

Well, at least the weather forecasters have given us a couple of days to prepare for this storm that is headed right for us. At my house, we're expecting 10-12 inches of snow tomorrow and it's supposed to start to fall at midnight. We shall see what actually falls here.

Tomorrow morning, my hubby and I were supposed to be on separate airplanes at Boston's Logan International Airport headed for San Francisco and Chicago, respectively. He has to be at MacWorld in San Francisco this week. I don't really have anything that seriously requires my presence in Chicago until Friday. I was just going early in the hopes of meeting up with friends and family this week whom I haven't seen in a long time.

When we woke this morning and re-checked the forecast, we determined that we had to change our plans asap. First priority was to get him to San Francisco today. At 8:30 this morning, we got him on an 11:35 am flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth and he caught a connection successfully there for San Francisco. He managed to secure his hotel for an extra night on the front end of his stay too. I drove him to the airport myself. The house was a flurry of packing and prep this morning but if we didn't get him out of town today, the chances of him being at MacWorld on Tuesday were slim. His company had purchased a full fare ticket for him, so changing it wasn't a problem at all. I am happy to report that as I type this he's all tucked in at his hotel near the Moscone Center. Success! His 7:30 am flight for tomorrow was canceled before 2 pm today. We lost a day together this weekend, but he's where he has to be this week safely and without any airport delays.

My ticket was not a full fare ticket to Chicago. So, under these circumstances, I would have to either wait for the airline to announce that they were going to reschedule travelers for free as a result of the snow storm or pay to have my ticket changed. I am traveling with our dog, Samantha, so I really can't risk any long delays at the airport. If her drugs wore off while we waited for a plane, it wouldn't be pretty - and I hate to give her any more of the medication in a day. SO - when I called about my ticket this morning, I was told by an American Airlines representative that no announcement had been made by the airline about rescheduling passengers as a result of the snow storm yet. It was going to cost me $550 to change my ticket to Wednesday morning from Monday morning if I wanted to reschedule. After nicely explaining that I was more than happy to take a seat on the Wednesday morning flight rather than a flight today or Tuesday when the rest of the people who were going to be bumped off of their canceled flights were going to want to fly, the agent put me on hold to consult a manager. When he came back on the line, he said they would switch me without charge. Success! My flight tomorrow morning was also canceled before 2 pm today.

I don't usually mind the snow. In fact, I really like snow. I just don't like it when it messes with our oh so nicely thought out plans. Then again, it's a reminder that you don't control everything in your world and to think that you have control is delusional. The world's much bigger than we are and all we can do is go with the flow and adjust when necessary.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thanks to Hubby, My Personal Nurse

This morning, I had to go to the hospital for some semi-invasive testing. Nothing too horrible, so no worries please. I'm just a little sore. My husband took today and tomorrow off of work to take care of me as a result and I have to say, he's doing an awesome job.

I don't take this lightly. I don't usually get sick or have need for him to play nurse for me. He doesn't have a lot of experience waiting on me hand and foot. He also hasn't had to navigate a lot in our kitchen by himself. Today, he was my hand-holder, my driver, my cook and my ridiculously hot cabana-man. I spent the whole afternoon tucked in on the big cushy chair in our reading room in front of the tv with my laptop and our dog, Sam. As he worked from home, he checked in on us enough that I never was in need of anything for more than a few minutes. He brought me food, drinks, books and even the mail. Even Sam got the princess treatment. A girl could get used to this! Fortunately for him, I don't take this for granted at all and I really appreciate his efforts. I've always felt like a very lucky person and a lot of that is because I have him in my life.

Thanks, Hubby! You're the best!

David Lynch & Movies on Your Phone



Hmmm. How do you really feel, David? Found this clip to be very amusing, mostly for its honesty. I see his point though.

As an artist, it has to seem like people who watch his films on an iPhone are getting a lesser version of the fruits of his labor. There's a big difference between viewing an original painting and viewing a poster print of it. There are films that I know that I need to see at a theater to fully appreciate. That being said, there are some movies that can be watched on an iPhone without a lot being lost because of the medium. You know those movies - you can probably name a lot of them (and the ones that come to my mind first seem to all involve Ben Stiller or Vince Vaughn. tee hee)

My two cents on this? To each his own. It's good to have choices... and we're all entitled to our opinion.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

My Dog's Back & Why I Suck

I haven't been around the online world much at all since last Thursday, when my dog started acting strangely. She's a miniature dachshund with a long spine. On Thursday night, she started acting strangely when we'd pick her up - she'd wheeze like she was experiencing discomfort. She also was walking around with her tail down all of the time. This was one of those times I wished my dog could talk. Just that morning, she and I were running around upstairs playing tag with one of her toys in tow. In the evening, when she was exhibiting the strange behavior, my husband and I determined that whatever was wrong with her wasn't so bad that it affected her appetite, bowel movements or her ability to walk around - but I was going to have to take her to see the vet the next day.

Friday morning, after examining Samantha, the vet determined that it was, in fact, Sam's spine that was causing her pain. We have ramps for Sam in the house so she can run up into the window seat when she wants and run back down when she's done. Dachshunds aren't supposed to jump up and down on furniture nor are they supposed to walk up and down stairways. Sam doesn't do stairs at all, but on occasion she will jump up on a couch if nobody is around and will jump off of it when she wants. We tried putting ramps up to the couches, but she just jumps off of the couches instead even if the ramp is there. The vet said that she's seen dachshunds with Sam's issues who never require emergency spine surgery in their lifetimes, but she's also seen dachshunds like Sam who do require the surgery in the end. She did note, though, that she's never seen a lean dachshund that needed spine surgery.

Luckily, the damage to her spine is not so bad as to require emergency back surgery, but Sam isn't in good shape. Vet's orders include a diet (Sam weighs in at a beefy post-holiday 11.6 lbs. when she is ideally a 10 lb. dog), an anti-inflammatory pill twice a day and for Sam to get physical rest. Of those three things, the physical rest seems to be the one that is most difficult to achieve. Sam was already on a weight-control dog food - but we're in the process of switching her to Prescription W/D which is supposed to be even more of a weight-control food than what she's been eating. She's eating it just fine and the change in diet isn't affecting her adversely at all. The vet and I discussed possibly crating her, but since Sam freaks out in a crate and will spend her energy trying to break out, the vet agreed that a crate may not be conducive to physical rest. The vet and I determined that it may be best to block off a part of our kitchen for Sam and confine her to that space when my husband and I are not around to play “dog sofa.” Normally, Sam has free reign of the main floor of our house when nobody else is home - but that won't work while she's recovering. When we take her out to do her business, we have to carry her outside and put her down in a place where we expect her to find an appropriate spot quickly and then pick her up and walk her back into the house and place her in her rest area.

As I write this, I am sitting lengthwise on our couch one way, my husband is sitting lengthwise the other way and Samantha is resting on my calves. I've spent the whole day on this couch with her to make sure she isn't moving around much. I suspect tomorrow will be more of the same. I didn't think there was a whole lot of improvement throughout the morning, but recently she's showing signs of feeling better (yay!). Now, it'll be even more of a challenge to keep her from moving around too much since she's feeling better thanks to the drugs. I'm going to have to break the news to her that the vet said she is supposed to be resting for at least the next week - possibly two. I may have to talk to the vet about maybe prescribing something to make her a tad drowsy or re-think the crate idea if Sam tries to move around too much.

I've been miserable worrying about Samantha since Thursday night. I feel like the majority of her problems are my fault. I didn't stop people from giving her extra treats at the holidays. I'm guilty of giving her bully knots and dried chicken breasts to chew. I didn't monitor her weight closely enough to realize my mini-dachshund was starting to resemble a sausage. Granted, some of her other caretakers are guilty of fattening her up while she was in their care for weeks at a time, even though they were left with specific diet instructions. In the end, though, she's our responsibility. We tried to get her to stop jumping up on the couches - but we obviously didn't try hard enough. Now, we have a pup with a major pain in her back. So you may not see me online on Twitter, Seesmic or Utterz much until Sam's medical issues clear up. I'm just not in the best of moods and I feel like a complete ass. We let our pup down. Hopefully, she'll recover from her injury and we can make it up to her by slimming her down. She may not enjoy the process, but at least she'll have a shot at being around a lot longer than if she doesn't go through it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Goodbye 2007, I Barely Knew You!

As I get older, time seems to go by faster and faster. I think this is a phenomenon that is shared by many other people as well. In many ways, 2007 just flew by and part of me is in disbelief that today is the first day of 2008. Some things that happened in the last year seem like they happened yesterday (well, some DID - but you know what I mean), but other things seem like they happened a very long time ago. Many bad things happened in 2007 and many good things happened as well. On the whole, I tend to think that any year that we survive is a good year. I guess it's just best to suck it up and raise a glass to the year that was and to the promise of the year ahead of us.

Hope you all have a wonderful 2008!