31 December 2006

My First "Meet Up"

I had the pleasure of attending my first official "Meet Up" Friday night. I'm glad we went. A good evening at Cosi (1919 M Street) with nice people and a fun card game ("Oh Hell") and a post holiday regifting swap. Kudos to Julie for organizing a very pleasant experience. I think I'll check out more of these. It's a chance to do something different, meet some new folks, get out and about. Sort of like a friend of a friend's cocktail party, with a focus. Joe Bob says "Check it out!"

29 December 2006

January 2/Day of Mourning/Fed Day Off

President George W. Bush signed an executive order on January
28, 2006, stating that "all executive departments, independent establishments, and other governmental agencies shall be closed on January 2, 2007, as a mark of respect for Gerald R. Ford, the thirty-eighth President of the United States."

Is it wrong to be happy that I have a day off to honor the memory of Gerald Ford?

Gerry seemed like a likable enough fellow, whether you agreed with the whole pardon thing or not. I'd like to think he'd be pleased that I'm pleased. I'd sure be pleased if people got the day off from work in rememberence of me! Talk about passing on good karma!

Giving people the day off beats the heck out of having a highway named after you. You get a highway named after you and your name'll be used most often in conjunction with expletives, as in "There was a %$^@@! 24-mile back-up on the Cochran today." Poor Woodrow Wilson. I can only imagine how many times his name has been linked to all those special characters above the numbers. And all because they named a bridge after him.

Definitely, a day off is the way to go if at all possible. If not, then at least a park instead of a traffic route.

I wonder what will be/has been named for James Brown. Something appropriately soulful, I hope.

28 December 2006

At last the holiday season comes to an end...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas... all done and I am home again! I am grateful for my family and friends and the chance to spend time with the ones I love. I am also grateful to be done with the holiday season, the built in stress that comes with it, and the naughty cookies and cakes! Ack!! :)

What's weird about coming back to the office between Christmas and New Year's is it's kinda creepy quiet. I'm sure it's not as quiet as the day after Christmas, but still... some places I'm used to seeing open are closed and there are a lot of dark offices right now.

What's nice about coming back to the office between Christmas and New Year's is it's a somewhat acknowledged down-time. You get some work done but there aren't any meetings and mostly people check in on each other and catch up with each other in a low key way and that's quite nice.

20 December 2006

Spinning the Wheel of Fortune at the Christmas Party

Well, I lucked out this year. At the office Christmas party gift exchange, I managed to get rid of something I wasn't using nor planning to use and replace it with something I actually think I'll use . And, the thing I got rid of was highly desireable to several folks in the room. So that's good karma all around.

Curious game, this party gift exchange. Put something wrapped into the middle, then, in pre-determined order, either pick something wrapped out of the middle or steal something from someone else.

I was one of the lucky ones. I picked a relatively high number so I could scope out what others picked and steal without having to go for an unknown. That was a good thing, looking at the majority of cheesy gifts being "regifted." Felt a little sorry for the people that unwrapped hideous stuff that nobody wanted to steal from them. [Reminds me of an old comedy routine that consists of a coupla guys saying "What IS that?" "I think it's a... what the hell IS that?" etc.] But, hey, these are $10 or less items anyway so how badly can you get stuck in the exchange?

I'm not sure the message "if you're not happy with what you've got, steal somebody else's stuff" is really the moral we want to be putting forward, even in a game setting, but everybody seemed to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, with this holiday season, I have a new crop of things that will likely go into the closet for next year's gift exchange. Then, again, it might be a good time to give away some things to charity. As was clear from the game, one man's trash can truly be another man's treasure.

Happy holidays to all. And may you receive the gifts you want most!

18 December 2006

Gonna Buy 5 Copies for My Mother... (Time Magazine's Person of the Year)

Well, Time Magazine has announced that their Person of the Year is me. And you. And--to quote that cheesy So Long, Farewell song from The Sound of Music--"you and you and you."

Quoted from the cover, with a picture of a PC, "Time Person of the Year: You. Yes, you. You control the information age. Welcome to your world."

The Person of the Year is everyone. Talk about a "Long Tail!" Is this the ultimate extension of everyone in school getting medals for trying? Pardon me if I'm not thrilled about being one of the choosen millions. Sure, it'll look nice on my resume but, I mean really, where's my picture on the cover?

To quote a different song by Dr. Hook, I'd rather have "the thrill that'll get you when you get your picture on the cover of The Rolling Stone."

15 December 2006

The ballad of "Maybe Just One More"

[To the tune of "Silver Bells"]

Have a brownie
And some cheesecake
Gotta try the rum balls
Down at work there's a feeling of Christmas

Plate of cookies
Chocolate truffles
Look, there's egg nog out, too
And at every work gathering you feel...

Bulging guts,
Bulging guts,
Too many sweets looking yummy
Diet woes
Can't say "no"
Soon it will be New Year's Day

Days are shorter
Days are colder
Makes you want to eat more
And who's got the hours to work out
Getting flabby
Getting lazy
And you know I'll regret
All the yummy food items I eat

Bulging guts,
Bulging guts,
It's Christmas time at the office
Diet woes
Can't say "no"
Can't wait to see New Year's Day.

12 December 2006

To news or not to news

Having been in training all day and into the evening for close to two weeks, I got very little local/national/world news. And, you know, I haven't rushed back to it. The news is usually totally depressing (war, natural disasters, crime, ack!!) To quote Dr. Christiane Northrup:
If you spend much time watching television or reading newspapers, you are actually being barraged with the bad news from all over the world. If you have ever worked in journalism, you know the deal, "if it bleeds it leads," therefore they choose the news to have an effect on your arousal system to make you even more anxious.
I don't want to be out of the loop indefinitely but a little rest from anxiety has to be a good thing.

11 December 2006

Meet Ups--What a Great Idea!

While I was away at training, we got together in different configurations after dinner/evening class sessions to socialize and play cards. I love card games... well just about any game, really. It was such a treat to play old favorites (like Hearts) and learn some new ones (Texas Hold'em, Oh Hell, etc.) Now I'm back and feeling the card jones take hold and don't have a readily available card group. I go to the web (the font of all knowledge: right and wrong) and what do I see to my delight? www.meetup.com! This is a way for people to find like-minded enthusiasts in their community for meetings in public (read: safe) locations. How great is this?! Not just for cards either! There are wine groups and brunch groups and language groups and parenting groups and you name it, it's out there! Yowza! Ask the universe for what you want and you will find it! WHOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

03 December 2006

The real value of training

I have been in a residential training program for the last week and am about half-way through the whole thing. Because it's one of those "think abouth things and then think about what you think about things" kind of programs, I've been on the look out for revelations.

The closest I've gotten to an "a-ha" is this: it doesn't really matter what training is about. Training is a mechanism to get people out of their everyday lives, out of their complacency, out of their autopilot. Once that happens, great awareness can happen. Or not, but at least if you slow down enough to hear your own thoughts you'll notice if you have any.

Which brings to mind a few favorite quotes:

"You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself." --Galileo Galilei

"Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware." --Martin Buber

"Of magic doors there is this: You do not see them even as you are passing through."--?

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." --Mahatma Gandhi

"Be here now." --Ram Dass

21 November 2006

Murdock, OJ, Publicity: What was that all about?

So Murdock pulled OJ's book deal and interviews. They're his companies, he can. And with so many affiliates saying they wouldn't air it, it could be argued that the initial monetary gain wasn't quite there.

I wonder, though, was this all a publicity stunt from the beginning for Fox, etc. or were they really going to try to go through with it? You know how a restaurant experience is more memorable if something goes wrong and gets fixed than if it's just all pleasant to begin with? Was Murdock trying to be horrible just so he could correct? Or was he simply horrible? Or so out of touch with all his holdings that he didn't get what was going on?

Well money, publicity and more publicity, lack of common decency, negligence...whatever the reason all this went on as long as it did, I am thankful that it has now been stopped.

The awkwardness of other people's closure

Just attended a "good bye and good luck" party at work. The thing is, the guest of honor didn't want a party. She just wanted to quietly slip away and move on to her next chapter/job. No matter. She's of a level in the organization that she's made a lot of decisions and affected a lot of people. They wanted a party. And so it goes. And so I trooped over to do my part in ignoring her wishes.

As these things go, it was as good as it gets. A good turn out, from a variety of quarters. Plenty of food, drink, decorations, a cake with her picture. Even a paper crown which she obligingly wore briefly. A couple speeches and presentation of parting gifts.

Still there's this awkwardness. The guest of honor is spotlighted (isolated) and everyone faces her, already asserting that she's now in a different place... no longer part of the "us". People say all the appropriate pleasantries ("I'm happy for you but sad for us...", "Gosh, we're gonna miss you at those meetings but I know you won't miss them!", "We'll have to stay in touch!"), meanwhile scoping the table to figure out how to angle close enough to snag some shrimp off the platter.

I guess it's all part of the rite of closure but I dunno. And it wasn't quite a scene out of "Office Space." Still, this is the office. Not family. Not friends. There oughtta be another way to say goodbye that's not dragged out. A quick "See ya!" for people who don't like to be the center of attention.

Humans. Go figure.

20 November 2006

Alien Nation (Looking for Chanukah cards)

It's that time of year. I needed a few Chanukah cards. Not a huge amount. Three. I needed three.

I stopped by the huge card aisle at the Kingstowne Safeway. Plenty of Christmas cards, no Chanukah cards. I found myself at the Hybla Valley Giant. Plenty of Christmas cards, no Chanukah cards. I was gift shopping at the huge mall in Pentagon City and saw an American Expressions CARD STORE. Plenty of Christmas cards, no Chanukah cards. I couldn't believe it. I asked and was informed that, no, they had no Chanukah cards.

Now I realize that there's not a huge demand for Chanukah cards. It's not a major holiday. And if people are going to send a card to someone, it's more likely at the Jewish new year A.K.A. Rosh Hashana. Still, I KNOW I've bought Chanukah cards in the past. I thought What the f...

I'm happy to report that I did spot Chanukah cards at the Papyrus store in Pentagon City and at the CVS in Greenbelt. For a minute there, I wondered if I had ceased to exist, you know?

19 November 2006

PS3, Wii... Come on people, we're talking video games

Last Thursday I went out at lunch to run some errands. There on the sidewalk between the Bed, Bath & Beyond and Circuit City were a dozen expanded tents. I thought it was odd but went on my merry way to the next stop. Outside the Target, there were also a half-dozen tents up and a group of teenage guys hanging out.

I thought, "What is this? Some sort of protest?" Nothing so altruistic. Turns out they were camped out waiting for the $600-$700 Play Station 3. Couldn't wait until it hit. Had to line up to fork over their money.

Now the same thing is happening with Nintendo Wii, that runs at about half the price of PS3.

I don't get it. We're talking video games, right?! Granted, they have the potential to be a little more entertaining than a Cabbage Patch Doll or a Tickle Me Elmo come Christmas, but really, is it worth all this?! Why the fervor? This stuff is gonna be outdated in less than six months anyway. Tsk.

16 November 2006

Lacochran's scab theory

Here's my scab theory: if it wasn't meant to be picked, it wouldn't be itchy.

The creationist version: God made the wound scab. God made the scab itch. Picking is God's will.

The evolutionist version: The scab wouldn't itch if there wasn't some evolutionary advantage to picking at the thing. Picking is nature's way of getting me to the next evolutionary step. Why I may be transmographying even as we speak.

Either way, for once the message is one we can all agree on.

That whole "If you pick at it, it'll never heal"? Clearly just some sadist getting his jollies.

15 November 2006

For a better, funnier treatment, check out this link on OJ




PS *2 On OJ (Johnny and Fox)

1) I am a Cochran but no relation to Johnny. Wish I'd been in his will, though.

2) It doesn't surprise me that Fox would want to distract from politics right now, given it's leanings, but this is a new low, even for skeevy Fox.

The Transformation Network

Here's my idea for a satellite channel:

The Transformation Network. All success stories all the time. Nothing but inspiration for people who are looking to make a change in their lives. Lots of before and after shots, emotional turning points, and so on. Dramatic weight loss, kicking drug habits, rags to riches stories. Buy up "I Lost It", a show on dramatic weight loss, from Discovery Health Channel, "VH1 Behind the Music", which always features a comeback from a drug/alcohol problem, maybe a few inspiring biographies of famous/rich people who started with nothing from the Biography Channel or A&E. It's the infomercial style extended into a full-time format, with a wee bit less selling. Then, again, why not have sponsors like Jenny Craig and Carlton Sheets? And infomercials running in the off hours? This could be huge!

OJ Simpson to discuss ex-wife's murder in TV interview

OJ Simpson to discuss ex-wife's murder in TV interview
18 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Former American football star OJ Simpson describes in a Fox television interview "how he would have carried out" the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, which he has denied committing for more than a decade, the network said.
The two-part interview with Simpson, who was acquitted of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, will broadcast November 27 and 29 in a special titled "OJ Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened."
"OJ Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," Fox said.
"In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade," it said.
Simpson has written a book published by Regan Books, titled "If I Did It" and due out November 30, that hypothetically describes how the murders would have been committed, Fox said. Publisher Judith Regan will conduct the television interview.
After his acquittal, Simpson was found liable for the deaths in a subsequent civil action brought by the victims' families.
A jury in the 1997 civil case ordered Simpson to pay 33.5 million dollars in damages but so far the former NFL running back has not paid any of the money.

Is this the most depraved, disgusting thing you've ever heard? Gotta be right up there. Every penny from this book and interview(s) should go to the families. Who would buy this book, anyway?!

14 November 2006

Rumsfeld tried in Germany for war crimes?!

Now this is an interesting twist...

"War crimes probe sought for Rumsfeld
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer

BERLIN - Lawyers for inmates of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay asked German prosecutors Tuesday to open a war crimes investigation of outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials for their alleged roles in abuse at the detention centers."

American Express Changed Policy

We discovered I can use my American Express card at Trader Joe's which wasn't the case up until a week ago. American Express Blue gives a decent rebate, particularly on food, gas and pharmacy purchases. American Express also has a history of charging merchants more than comparable cards so some merchants didn't carry it. According to Trader Joe's that's changed. At least enough so that TJ's is carrying them. Way cool! Love them TJ fako meatballs and 100 calorie cookie packs. :)

13 November 2006

A new exhibition and an old favorite (Constable and La Tosca)

We got to the Constable exhibit at the East Wing of the National Gallery Sunday and I'm pleased to say that it was better than I anticipated. Constable was big on landscapes. Literally. 6 and 7 footers. He also made full-sized "sketches" in oil which look almost as good as the final product. It creates that fun game of "what's different from image A to image B", too. :)
We also got back to La Tosca by the Verizon Center for tapas. Yum. Consistently good food and nice vegetarian selections and excellent drink/wine choices. Prices are viable if not cheap. Service is leisurely. Only one proviso: we tried the Arlington branch of this place on a Saturday night and it was packed and louder than a roller derby. Avoid Saturday night unless you're into noise.

08 November 2006

2006 Election Results

A better woman wouldn't gloat about the 2006 election results, but that ain't me. :) I've never felt like my vote counted more!

It could barely have turned out better for the Democrats especially now that Montana has turned blue and Rumsfeld is quiting (!) and Hastert won't seek the House Republican Leader post come January and George is admitting to a "thumping".

Now if we can just figure out a way out of this senseless war... we've got to bring our brave military home!

It's a shame the country isn't yet open enough to vote for same-sex marriage, except in Arizona. But kudos to Arizona! I don't begin to understand why anyone would see this as a threat to their own marriage. I certainly don't see it that way to mine. Well, I've faith that in time it will shift. Like the civil rights movement before it, gay rights will take time.

Meanwhile, we will celebrate that the message to George and his administration was sent and received in 2006!

07 November 2006

Proudly wearing the sticker

In the midsts of all this political jadedness and talk of rigged elections, it's nice to see how proudly people walk around with their "I voted" stickers prominently displayed. Whether it does any good or not, we each did our part in the process. We exercised our right.

*That's* America, Baby.

Fish, cloning, fish cloning and a bone to pick

So, let me get this straight, according to the news service, we'll likely be out of seafood in 45 years but the Australian Senate has approved human embryo cloning. Okay, so the obvious question may be why don't we clone the fish? The less obvious question is if, based on the fish situation, we can't manage the environment we have, how do we hope to manage that plus a cloned one? All this isn't to say I'm against stem cell research, which is why Australia is moving in this direction. It just makes me wonder.

06 November 2006

Quiet Waters Park, Jalapenos & Faccia Luna

Saturday, we had the pleasure of meeting friends and walking around the Quiet Waters Dog Park in Annapolis. The park let us in, even without a dog, for the $5 admittance fee and it was a great time for a walk in the woods. The leaves are peaking. A blue heron flew across the lake and settled in for some fishing. I was beginning to wonder if this admittance fee was a Virginia thing but it looks like Maryland parks are now doing it, too.

Anyway, we went to nearby Jalapenos Spanish/Mexican Restaurant and it was quite good. You wouldn't know it for the strip mall facade but the inside of the restaurant is very pretty. The food and service and value were all excellent.

Sunday we got to Faccia Luna Trattoria in Alexandria in the midsts of errands needing to be run. The wood-oven pizza was excellent! The service and value were also very good. The noise level in the place was a bit much, though. They definitely need to work the accoustics!

Still, two yummy restaurants in one weekend. Who can complain?

02 November 2006

Over 1 million fugitives in the United States

According to a news article today, there are "at least 1 million fugitives in the United States." The mind, she boggles.

The foxes blink and stare and so do I

In "When Fall Comes To New England", Cheryl Wheeler sings

"The sun slants in so fine
And the air's so clear
You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine"

"The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean"

and then later

"The squirrels are on to something
And they're working overtime
The foxes blink and stare and so do I"

It's a great song, worth a whole listen, not just the quoted parts here. And even though this isn't New England, I know what Cheryl (who's a Timonium, Maryland gal by birth) means. There's something different about the light and the air at this time of year. The sun does slant in so fine.

If you get the chance to see Cheryl, do. She's a fantastic musician, singer and songwriter.

Either way, I recommend getting out in the slanting sunshine! Enjoy!

31 October 2006

Blogging for Attention but Not All Snoop Dog and Reese Witherspoon

It's interesting to watch the blogging world vie for attention in a constantly changing world. Like the Michael McDonald character, Stewart, on Mad TV, there are now millions of people calling out "Look what I can do!" and often offering something about as impressive as Stewart's goofy side jump. Bloggers are seeking ways to get more traffic, more listings, more links. And because this is a medium born of geekitude, there are plenty of ways to rack and stack blog rank.

I'm thinking the people that really master riding the wave of the next big thing and the next big thing and the next big thing really ought to be leading advertising companies. Maybe blogging IS the future of advertising. Or is advertising the future of blogging?

They say the recent airplane hit in New York, that turned out NOT to be a terrorist hit, got communicated very quickly thanks to the internet, and in particular, blogs! So it's not ALL Snoop Dog and Reese Witherspoon. But we do love to dish the dirt, don't we?!

30 October 2006

My Family/BBC America

BBC America has been showing "My Family", a clever comedy staring
Robert Lindsay (G.B.H, Oliver Twist) and Zoe Wanamaker (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Gormenghast) as well as Kris Marshall, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Gabriel Thomson. It's by acclaimed U.S. sitcom writer Fred Barron, whose credits include Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, and Caroline in the City. Great stuff. JoeBob says "Check it out!"

Finn & Porter--An elegant place to have a cocktail

Finn & Porter in Alexandria has a very nice space for sipping a Rob Roy or such. Plus they have a sushi bar as part of the bar and there's even vegetarian sushi options. The restaurant proper has a lovely view of the fall leafery out the back, which is viewable from the bar, too. The service is solicitous and knowledgeable.

27 October 2006

Ick! The growing Dada trend as protest to the Iraq war

According to http://www.dadaboom.com/dada.html 's "Brief History of Dadaism"

The movement was devoted to the negation of all traditional values in philosophy and the arts. Its form was a protest against what its leaders felt was the insane destruction of civilized life and thought during World War I. The Dada review proclaimed it's intention to replace logic and reason with deliberate madness and to substitute intentionally discordant chaos for established notions of beauty or harmony in the arts.

ANOTHER Dada exhibit has hit town. This time hosted by the District of Columbia Arts Center. Was the sizable exhibit at the National Gallery just a few months ago, with it's horribly depressing, discordant and disturbing "art" not enough?

All I can think is that this must be a form of protest against the current horribly depressing, discordant and disturbing war.


26 October 2006

You traveled WHERE?? I HATED that place!!!

I tend to couch my opinions as just that: "Well, I thought it was good" or "We really liked it" because tastes vary and I hate to set expectations only to have it come back to haunt me.

Reminds me of the time my sister wanted a recommendation for a restaurant in Little Italy (Baltimore). I'd been to Sabatino's and heartily recommended it. She went and hated it. Completely different experience. From her description, I'd wondered if it was somehow possible that she'd been in a completely different restaurant. But, no. Well, even great restaurants have an off night. That's why critics go back several times before they write their review.

Recently, a work colleague (is that redundant?? do you have non-work colleagues? hmmm) went to Sandals. Not likely because I recommended it but I'd been to three of them and raved about them in conversations. I worried that she wouldn't like it. Crazy, I know. What's it to me if she disagrees with my assessment. Still, I'd feel a little guilty raving about some place to someone and then they go and hate it. She didn't. She went to Sandals Negril (Jamaica), one I haven't been to, by the way, and loved it. Yay! Rediculously, I feel pleased. Pleased for her. Pleased for Sandals. Pleased for me. Go figure.

You mean you just watched?!/The art and blunder of mass mail fund raising

I received two different solicitations for money in today's mail. They were both from animal welfare organizations. Generally, I'm a soft touch when it comes to animals. Not today.

One letter begins with such graphic details that I got no further than the second sentence. To me, this is almost as bad as graphic photos. I understand why they do it but I don't support organizations that use this tactic.

The other lettter begins: "Tired and thin, she walked hesitantly down the alleyway. In the weeks since she had been thrown out of the car, Maggie had searched for food and a safe, warm place to give birth. Barely more than a kitten herself she found life alone on the streets to be hard. She had been chased away from the little food she did find by other cats who claimed it for themselves. And trying to find a place to sleep that was protected from the cold night air was just about impossible."

So, wait, ... you watched this happen?! You saw a cat being thrown out of a vehicle and then tracked its progress for weeks without offering it any assistance --because how else would you know this!?--but you want me to send you money to improve this situation? Um, right. Um, pass.

25 October 2006

When Worlds Collide

So I'm listening to Penn's radio program yesterday and it's Tuesday. That means on the program it's "Monkey Tuesday". It's an entertaining, strange weekly event where people call in with a variety of monkey-related stories.

As I pull into my court, I see the line up of parked cars because my neighbor has bible study every Tuesday.

And in that moment worlds collide--Monkey Tuesday, Bible Tuesday. Inherit the Wind (a long, very boring movie) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053946/ flashes to mind.

24 October 2006

"I'm somebody now!"--The Jerk, Part II: Another blog linked to my blog

It's true! I was updating my ping on Technorati (who says I can't GeekSpeak?!) and I noticed there were four links to my blog. Three are alter-ego's on different blogging sites (non-Blogger.com) to allow me to comment on sites that demand an account in their own universe. But then there was another one:

"Thumb drives and oven clocks
3 days ago in Thumb drives and oven clocks by thegrue · 43 blogs link here
I do what I want. Still, Jessa Crispin got everyone talking about the book again, and people are comparing their scores like high schoolers on SAT
day , and lest you think I'm an intellectual party pooper denying you assurance of my well-grounded authority on the subject of literature, I..."

What I was to come to realize was that Darby, the site owner, referenced my blog on "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die". And okay, it wasn't exactly complimentary, but, hey, like they say in Hollywood "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

Now that I've referenced his web-site, is the blogging universe going to collapse on itself in a horrible circular reference?


Well isn't this creepy/Top-Earning Dead Celebrities

Top-Earning Dead Celebrities
By Lacey Rose, Louis Hau and Amanda Schupak 10.24.06, 12:00 PM ET

Kurt Cobain
Elvis Presley
Charles M. Schulz
John Lennon
Albert Einstein
Andy Warhol
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)
Ray Charles
Marilyn Monroe
Johnny Cash
J.R.R. Tolkien
George Harrison
Bob Marley

Two new studies on the benefits of drinking

Yesterday was a good health news day for those of us who like to imbibe now and again...

Red Wine May Cut Risk of Colorectal Cancer
By Ed EdelsonHealthDay Reporter Mon Oct 23, 7:03 PM ET

MONDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking more than three glasses of red wine a week reduced the incidence of abnormal growths and cancers of the intestinal tract by two-thirds, a new study found.
White wine did not have the same protective effect, said study author Dr. Joseph C. Anderson, an assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
"I generally advise against drinking, but if you're going to drink, drink red wine," Anderson said.
The findings were expected to be presented Monday at the American College of Gastroenterology's annual meeting, in Las Vegas.
Anderson's study included 1,741 people seen in his office -- 245 red wine drinkers, 115 white wine drinkers, and 1,381 wine abstainers. Of the red wine drinkers, 176 had three or more glasses a week, as did 68 of the white wine drinkers.
The incidence of colorectal neoplasia -- cancers and polyps that can become cancerous -- was 9.9 percent in the abstainers, 8.8 percent in the three-glass-or-more white wine drinkers, and 3.4 percent in the three-glass-or more red wine drinkers, a 68 percent reduction for that group, Anderson reported.
His is the latest in a series of studies that have found red wine consumption associated with a reduced risk of various forms of cancer -- leukemia, breast and prostate among them -- in animal studies or real life. Like many of the other researchers, Anderson attributes the beneficial effect to the compound resveratrol, which is found under the skin of grapes.
Resveratrol content is higher in red than white wine because the grape skins are removed early in the fermentation process for white wines, Anderson said. The skins stay on longer when red wine is made, allowing resveratrol to enter the wine.
But that might not be the whole story, said Gopi Paliyath, a plant agriculture professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, who has done studies that found a protective effect from red wine against breast cancer.
Resveratrol is a member of the chemical family called polyphenols, many of which are found in red wine, Paliyath said. "It may be a combined action, not only one particular component doing something," he said.
And a study done by one of his students added a potentially different element to the mix -- chemicals found in the oak barrels in which wine is made. They may leak out of the oak into the wine and act in conjunction with the polyphenols, he said.
Whatever the cause of the protective effect, Anderson said he advises people against taking up the wine habit for health reasons.
"People are better off going out exercising than hoping that a glass of wine will help them," he said. "My bias is more toward other things, like running or biking."
But, Anderson noted, his observation is that "wine drinkers are more likely to do those things."
More information
For more on red wine and cancer prevention, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Daily Drink or Two Cuts Healthy Men's Heart Attack Risk
10.23.06, 12:00 AM ET

MONDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Research has shown that a drink or two per day can reduce the odds of heart attack in people at risk.
Now, a new study suggests this benefit also extends to healthier men who eat right and exercise.
The finding may help doctors feel a bit better about recommending moderate drinking to a wider range of patients, experts say.
"Most of the discussion about moderate drinking has tended to say that there are better ways to lower one's heart disease risk than drinking alcohol," said lead author Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. "But what about men who are already doing those other things?" he said.
His team published their findings in the Oct. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the study, Mukamal's team collected data on alcohol and heart attacks among nearly 9,000 healthy men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. During the study, the men completed questionnaires about their diet and alcohol use. All these men were nonsmokers, ate a healthful diet, exercised at least 30 minutes a day and were not overweight.
From 1986 to 2002, 106 of the men had heart attacks. Of these men, eight were among the 1,282 who drank about two drinks a day, nine were among the 714 who had over two drinks a day, and 28 were among the 1,889 men who did not drink at all.
The men who had two drinks a day had the lowest risk for heart attack, while those who didn't drink had the highest risk, the researchers found. Twenty-five percent of the heart attacks were among men who drank less than 5 grams of alcohol a day.
Given these findings, Mukamal thinks that guidelines about drinking and heart disease need to be rethought to take into account the benefit of alcohol on healthy men. He also believes the same benefit will be seen among healthy women.
Still, Mukamal is cautious about recommending that nondrinkers start drinking.
"I don't think people should begin drinking based on a finding like ours," he said. "Heart disease is only one of the diseases that people can develop. This study doesn't take into account cancer or any other illness," he said.
Two other experts say they have begun recommending moderate alcohol use to their patients, however.
"Physicians have been leery about suggesting to people that they drink," said Dr. Richard A. Stein, a clinical professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City. "What I ask patients is: 'Do you drink routinely?' If so, then I would continue to drink the equivalent of two drinks for a man and one drink for a smaller woman."
Stein does, however, routinely recommend a drink a day to people who have already had a heart attack. "Generally, I have begun to do that because the studies have been very powerful in suggesting that alcohol reduces risk of heart attack," he added.
"There now have been numerous convincing studies showing that alcohol consumption lowers the risk of having a heart attack," added Dr. Byron K. Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Cardiology.
However, doctors are reluctant to recommend it to their patients, Lee said. "Nevertheless, patients should be informed of the facts. I tell all my patients that, in terms of preventing heart attacks, a moderate amount of alcohol is probably good," he said.
More information
There's more on drinking and heart attack at the
American Heart Association.

23 October 2006

The update on Andale

From Tom's on-line chat from August 2 (okay, so I'm a little behind the times)

Tom Sietsema: NEWS TO CHEW ON: Andale, the Mexican-inspired restaurant in Penn Quarter, closed earlier this week, after a run of almost six years. The reason? One of its three business partners "decided he didn't want to be in the restaurant business anymore," according to chef Alison Swope, who has "no idea" what the future holds for her. Does she want to keep cooking? "Of course!," she told me yesterday afternoon. "What else am I going to do after 27 years?" Attention, area restaurants: As I type, Swope is trying to find jobs for her cooks, waiters and busboys, some of whom have been with her since before she even opened Andale.

"Just Friends"/Movie Review [no spoilers]

Saw "Just Friends" last night, since HBO was having a free preview weekend.

But first an aside... How sad is it that all weekend, there's only 1 movie that looks like it could be okay and that we bother to watch out of 8 free HBO channels! Okay, so we went to two parties and ran errands and weren't sitting around all day and night over the weekend... but still... maybe we're just not HBO movie people. Also, not sure what it says about me that I like "Curb Your Enthusiasm"--not enough to invest in HBO, not even sure I want the DVDs but if it's there, that I will watch. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

We saw "Just Friends" and walked in with low to moderate expectations of a light, romantic comedy. There really wasn't all that much romance but plenty of comedy. We wound up laughing a lot at the goofy, high-schooly, sibling-rivalry shtick we all do and the considerable slapstick that was very well executed.

Ryan Reynolds, probably better known for "Van Wilder" and "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place", did a very good job at being sincere and ridiculous at the same time. [Obscure tidbit tangent: according to IMDb, Ryan and Alanis Morissette, fellow Canadian, were engaged for two years--until this past June.] Amy Smart does alright as the love interest. Anna Faris, as a Courtney Love-type with even less talent, often steals the show. And the scenes between Reynolds and his brother, played by Chris Marquette, just get better and better as the movie goes on.

Bottom line: I was much more entertained than I thought I would be. I give it 3 out of 4 Jujubees, especially if you can view it for free or a few bucks on pay-per-view.

20 October 2006

Post Script on Wesley (he's right where he was supposed to be)

By way of Google News I found this:

Wesley Snipes found in Namibia
Actor is shooting a horror film in Africa
By Zap2It.com

Wesley Snipes
The warrant for Wesley Snipes' arrest has led authorities to the land of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt's birth.
The "Blade" actor, who's been indicted for tax fraud, is currently shooting a film in Namibia, which has no extradition treaty with Washington, reports Reuters.
"It is confirmed. He is definitely here," says Edwin Kanguatjivi, chief executive officer of the Namibia Film Commission. "He has been in Namibia since the end of August."
Snipes is filming "Gallowwalker," a horror-western in which he plays a gunman whose victims return from the dead. The project is shooting in the Namibian desert close to where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were hiding out for the birth of their child in May.
The actor is wanted on an indictment that alleges he filed false refund claims of about $12 million and failed to file tax returns for six years. He faces a maximum of 16 years in prison if he's convicted on all counts.
It's not certain what the United States will do in this situation regarding the lack of formal extradition treaty with Namibia. In an unrelated case, U.S. officials are going to request Namibia for the extradition of another man, fugitive U.S. software millionaire Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, to face charges of manipulating stock options.

If you agree that you shouldn't check this box, check this box []

I enter sweepstakes. It's a hobby. Go on--check my profile, it's there. I run hot and cold on it. I'll sweep heavily for a month or so and then leave it alone for six months or so. I enter a huge variety of sweepstakes when I'm active.

Two MAJOR plugs:

1) online-sweepstakes.com is pure genius. It's almost every sweepstakes imaginable (certainly enough for me), with usable links, extremely well organized, and the basic level is free!

2) Roboform is also pure genius. You fill in your basic information once and then you let Roboform auto-populate the forms you want to submit. A pleasure!

This makes sweeping much easier and more enjoyable than the olden days. Remember that blog on the joys of long-hand versus electronic? It doesn't apply to sweeping.

And I've won. Everything from token things like a "mini-Sharpie", t-shirt, baseball cap, etc. to bigger things like a color printer, a basket full of groceries, $25 gift cards, $100 cash, etc. The universe has been very good to me and I'm grateful.

What I don't like: When you dutifully enter your information and they try to trip you up with the check boxes. It looks something like this:


Check here,
If you would like to receive a free 2 month trial subscription [*] Yes [ ] No
If you would like to receive valuable offers from our associates [ ] Yes [*] No
If you don't want to forever be on our mailing list of trivial, useless info [*] Yes [ ] No

So if you're not careful in checking and deciphering the wording and/or toggling/untoggling radio buttons, you wind up with something you never wanted. I don't mind them asking... I get the whole idea that the sweepstakes entry is a lure to get you to look at their advertising. What bothers me is the intentionally goofy way some check box lists are set up to trip you up. Or the way they "bury" a pre-checked box way down so that you have to scroll all the way down to see it, even though the submit button is only half-way down the page. This leads me to another plus for online-sweepstakes.com: users catch these things and warn others about them in the "Notes" section! Strong community there. Really a model of abundance thinking!

19 October 2006

Second Life

I first heard about Second Life on Marketplace (National Public Radio). Now you know, if reading a bunch of books is too onerous a task for me, the last thing I want is a second life to maintain. I haven't been out there to the site but it has the whiff of D&D. If you build it, geeks will come. I'm probably offending people here, sorry. Reread the paragraph--I freely admit I know not of what I speak. Here's someone that at least took a look:


1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Oh great. More nagging. That's what I need. A list of 1001 books that I "must" read before I die. That's right. Somebody has put a list together and it's blazing through the blogging world like wildfire. So, okay, I'll fan the flame but in a different way.

I admit it. I heard of this and I looked at the list. I compared myself to it. I didn't actually print it out and tick off the ones I've read or tried to read (yeah, there's definitely some of those on the list) but I looked. What's the point?! Should I feel inadequate? Should I rush to the library and start working my way through this to meet some bogus standard? Should I feel smug that I haven't been "gammoned" entirely? What does it mean? Nothing.

Why do they do it? Why do we care?? But we do.

That's why I'm not providing a link to the list. I know you. You couldn't stop yourself. You'd look.

Yes, you would.

Oh, fine. Here:


18 October 2006

Wesley... say it ain't so!

Wesley Snipes... tax fraud?? a warrant for his arrest?! indicted??! possible 30 years in prison?!?!!

It just makes no sense.


Makes me wonder if there'll be Wesley sightings in far off places... far from the long arm of the law.

Tap... tap... tap...

It doesn't surprise me that electronic books haven't taken off, no matter how many times they're pitched. They are cool in concept but lacking in implementation. Reading a book is an intimate, tactile experience with specific visual cues (white space proportions, etc). Try to translate that to a monitor and you lose those things that make reading a book special.

Same goes for writing. Blogging and other electronic forms have clear benefits regarding sharing and distribution and back-ups and mass storage and such. And I am a much more efficient writer because I can type quicker than write long-hand, edit without blotches, cut and paste my or others' photos and quotes, and notice inaccuracies when I bother to turn the spell check on.

Still, there's a different quality to holding a pen and scritching out one's message in one's own handwriting on that white (or non-white) page. In fact, watch some time as your handwriting changes depending on what you are conveying and the emotion connected to it. Joyous looks different from angry looks different from sad looks different from bored looks different from curious. As holistic beings, we can't divorce the writer from the message... unless we go electronic. Maybe this is why so many people feel they can say things in e-mail that they wouldn't say to a person's face.

Today, I purchased a new journal for work and I'm kinda psyched to use it. What can I say? Scritch... scritch... scritch.

17 October 2006

One experience can make or break

I just got an add from TravelZoo (a GREAT organization) advertising a travel special. This one happens to be for a Lufthansa flight sale. I had an immediate, visceral reaction: No way am I ever flying Lufthansa again! I was on a Lufthansa flight for business many years ago (probably about 15 years by now) and as we taxied down the runway and took off, water began to run from along the ceiling molding onto me. I was shocked and uselessly tried to catch the water in my hands and deflect it! It was at that moment that my focus shifted to the stewardess who was strapped in facing me. She was laughing! How very helpful.

One experience. Many years ago. That's enough to ruin the whole organization's reputation for me. I wonder if clods like this woman have any idea how they affect the bottom line. Well, if she treated others the way she treated me, she's probably (hopefully) long gone. Still, fair or not, the damage is done.

Storing up our nuts for the winter

Something about this season... time seems to warp and shift.

There seems to be a lot of activity as the days get shorter. A need to pack it all in before we pack it all in. The flurry of holidays. The piling on of layers of clothes and layers of fat. The forced cheerful bluster in the midsts of the impending wintry bluster.

I look at my neighbors decorating their houses with all sorts of fall/Halloween paraphernalia. Sure, it's cheerful. Still, I have no desire to join in. Eat the chocolate, yes, but put out skeletons and such? Nah. If anything, it makes me want to divest myself of some of the stuff I already have.

I can't deny my feelings but I can't help the nagging sense that I'm not being a good, consumptive American.

16 October 2006

The National Folk Festival and two wineries as we wind our way home

Saturday was a lovely day to check out the National Folk Festival in Richmond. Blue sky, light breeze, beeyootiful. An impressive event, considering there was no cover charge. Lots of decent music on five or six stages and plenty of carny food. Couldn't bring myself to try the deep fried Twinkies. Hey, I'm a purist. I like mine straight up. The vegetarian options were not fabulous but they were okay and I was glad to see and support them. James River had a booth for wine there. They were okay but not as tasty as I remembered. Maybe it was the plastic cup that messed up the flavor.

On the way back we stopped at Hartwood Winery (www.hartwoodwinery.com) and Rogers Ford Farm Winery (www.rogersfordwine.com). Why is it that the second winery always has tastier wine? ;) Both wineries were welcoming, knowledgable, had pleasant atmospheres. We wound up buying more at Rogers Ford, though. Maybe it was the fact that we were in a place called Summerduck. Maybe it was the presence of all those winery dogs. Happy dogs make happy wineries. Or something like that. Speaking of which, there's actually a book about winery dogs out now! Blew me away but it makes a lot of sense. If you get to Rogers Ford, definitely try their variety of whites but also check out that funky Rose thingy they've got. It's not what you would expect.

The King of Queens...???

Where is "The King of Queens"? I search the internet and there's no definitive answer. It appears that the stars are asking for more money and the execs are making them sweat.

Is it so much to ask to have a little levity after a hard day's work? A little comedy? A chuckle here or there? A break from the all-pervasive (pseudo-) reality shows? I say give 'em the money. Well worth it, by gum. If Charlie Sheen, who is the least funny of the cast of Two and a Half Men, can command more money, surely Kevin James, who is easily 10 times funnier, can do the same.

13 October 2006

John Muir

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. "

The creative process/Dewitt Jones

Heard Dewitt Jones speak today and, of course, revelled in his amazing imagery. He said that at National Geographic he'd shoot 400 rolls of film per assignment. 400 rolls of film. Talk about "more than one right answer." Talk about "permission to make mistakes and try again." Powerful.

10 October 2006

Barats and Bereta on You Tube

Funny stuff. JoeBob says "Check it out."


The Royal Drummers of Burundi

The drummers of Burundi are pretty dang amazing. Great precision and focus. Complex rhythms. And such endurance! To be in constant motion for so long--drumming and stamping--and still be able to leap high in the air! Most impressive and a most enjoyable evening. Kudos to George Mason University for providing a venue for this spectacular group.

06 October 2006

Foley's Folly/Gilliam/Andale/Chophouse

I'd smirk at the hubris of Foley and his party comrades if it all weren't so pathetic and sad.

So I'll write about something else...

Didn't get in to see Terry Gilliam, as planned, at the Hirshorn. The line wrapped double the lobby by the time we got there (which was way before tickets went on sale.) Perhaps its just as well as the Hirshorn description said this was Gilliam's "most intense work to date."

So we strolled up to Andale to get some of their yummy food and drink instead only to find they were closed up! Ack. I've sent e-mail to Tom Sietsema hoping he can shed some light on this horrible turn of events.

So we kept strolling up 7th and wound up at the remarkably crowded and rather mediocre for the money District Chophouse & Brewery. I will say that their Octoberfest beer was quite tasty and the service was good. And the space is interesting. But--call me crazy--I look for more than that in a restaurant.

Here's something I don't get. What's the point of having music piping in when all you can vaguely hear is the bass line of something nondescript to begin with? Meanwhile, in the basement where the rest rooms and the banquet room are, you could quite well enjoy the standards piped in. I don't get it.

02 October 2006

So That's Cool/National Book Festival/Brad Meltzer

So cool! Got to the National Book Festival on Saturday on the mall. Even though it was drizzly and sometimes more than drizzly, I was still pleased to be there. Got to hear Brad Meltzer speak (very entertaining even in his answers to audience questions), shake his hand, and got his autograph on a copy of his latest, "The Book of Fate."

Curious thing number 1: I think he said he writes and edits a whole book about 7 times, page by page. Seven detailed passes on a 500 page manuscript. Yowza. That's dedication. He's earned the right to be a best-selling author! Well, that and he's a great writer. :)

Curious thing number 2: I wonder how many times he gets asked an original question from the audience. I'm thinking not too often.

Curious thing number 3: Despite meeting hundreds, maybe thousands of people, he took time with each one, was happy to personalize the autograph, take pictures, shake hands, chat, etc. Yeah, I know these are his customers. Still, a lot of people would get it over with as quickly as possible. Meltzer was very gracious and thanked everybody warmly.

Curious thing number 4: Is there anything better than a cone of those glazed almonds? Sooooooooooooo good. If I had any sense this would be the business I'd go into. The cinnamon smell alone sells the product.

29 September 2006

The maddening number of passwords

This week was the close of a required action for everyone in my organization to log onto system X and input some information. System X pointed to the same username and password file as system Y, a system that we know all these folks are using every two weeks. So you'd think it would be easy for people to log into system X. Not so much. Turns out that many of the 3000 people here are letting their browsers automatically fill in their password on system Y. So many folks had no idea what their password was anymore or only thought they did.

I raise this because we are living in an impossible era. I, personally, have over 50 user IDs and password combinations. And I'm just talking computer systems/websites. Where I try to limit the variability to make it easy on myself, different systems have different criteria. Some allow no more than 8 characters. Some allow no less than 8 characters. Some require special symbols. Some don't accept special symbols. Some you can keep forever, others require updates every 60 days. And the beat goes on...

The human brain is not meant to be able to store all these permutations. I'm amazed that I can remember my ATM pin number, my credit union's phone access code, my stock broker account access code, my work and home phone passwords, and so on. Plus, all the phone numbers I call on a regular basis. Heck, some days I'm glad I can remember where I live.

I think I'm doing pretty good. But still, there's all those system passwords. The problem with not remembering passwords is that you have to record them somewhere which defeats the whole purpose of having a secure password. I have a method of encoding for a little extra protection but most people don't. It's not surprising that identity theft is so rampant. Sigh. We're doing this to ourselves!

Time to get away from all this technology and go for a walk in the woods.

27 September 2006

"Be vewwy quiet. I'm hunting speeders! Hahahahah!"--E. Fudd

I don't really get the point of obvious, consistent speedtraps. If you travel Rte 295 between the south and north sections of the Washington Beltway you will see a speedtrap. There's one on the southbound side and there's one of the northbound side in close proximity to each other. On both sides, there's a vehicle and an obvious radar/camera set up to snap license plates of speeders.

I could tell you where it is but there's really no reason to--you'll know. It's there every day. All day. Every commuter knows it's there. And if you are not a commuter but you find yourself in commuter traffic, you'll know something's up long before you get to it. People slow down to the required 55, or sometimes even 45-50 mph, a good two miles before the trap.

Now it would be different if this was not a well-used road. But the only time this isn't a heavily populated route is at 3 am. So how much revenue could they possibly be pulling in? I do prefer the obvious speed traps to the sneaky ones but I just don't see the point of slowing up traffic when you get no revenue in return.

Yeah, I know. Safetyblahblahblahsavinglivesblahblahblah. Nobody's buying that.

Odd, that's what it is.

26 September 2006

The CSI Channel: All CSI, All the Time

You've watched CSI: SVU, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and CSI: Las Vegas. And, if you're like me, you've said to yourself "If only there were more CSI shows!"

Now your dreams are coming true! All CSI, all the time! For only $29.99 per month you can subscribe to the CSI channel and get such great shows as:

CSI: The Wonder Years--a lighthearted yet poignant tale told from the view of investigators when they were children...

CSI: The Simple Life--follow the hilarious antics of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as they try their hands at crime scene investigation...

CSI: Jericho--investigators continue to look into crimes after the apocalypse...

and so much more! Order before midnight tonight and we'll upgrade you to the CSI "Two for One" package that includes a SECOND CSI channel consisting of blooper shows gathered from episodes on the first channel! DON'T DELAY!! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!!!

25 September 2006

The blur of the weekend (Michael Moore, Capitol City Brewery, H Street Festival, Veridian)

Saw "Bowling for Columbine" for the first time (yeah, yeah, I'm a little behind the times). I don't disagree with anything Michael Moore showed/said from a philosophical point of view but I can see why he makes so many enemies on the right. He's as subtle as a jackhammer. The older I get, the more I value presenting an argument in a way that honors both sides and still makes your point.

Capitol City Brewery is always a nice way to go. Excellent pretzels and horsradish dipping sauce, an okay hummus plate (what it lacked in umph it made up for in volume) and excellent beer.

H Street Festival was nice, if small. The people were very friendly and there's a martini bar down there with an excellent selection and more friendly people (somewhere on H St NE between 12th and 14th) that was offering 2 for 1 coupons. Yum!

Went with friends to Veridian for dinner Sunday. Food was quite good but not extraordinary. Two vegetarian options were tasty. Prices were up there. We opted not to pay $10 for the pleasure of parking in the restaurant's lot. We parked on the street for nothing. Service was pleasant but not totally knowledgable (we asked questions about wines and the server knew some of the wines but others he wasn't clear on.) Ambiance was okay--large space with black and pale tan furnishings. Interesting art on display. Overall, I'd give it a 21/30.

22 September 2006

Oh and... L'shana Tova

To all those who know the code :) and even those who don't...

L'shana Tova!!

Wishing everyone all that is good in the coming year.

OK GO/Don't try this at home

The OK GO video "Here It Goes Again" is truly inspired and very catchy. A word to the wise, don't watch it while on a treadmill.

21 September 2006

The death of intellectual jazz

I don't know why other people go to conferences. I go with the hope that at least one speaker will jazz me intellectually. This is no different from my standard for school. In the midsts of a second masters, when I wasn't even getting one intriguing idea per semester, I stopped. Give me the jazz or go home. [Insert Ben Stein's monotone "Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller?" here]

This conference had exactly one such speaker but, hey, one counts. You know the kind of speaker that is thinking way beyond the required level... who's jazzed himself about the large problem he can solve and is ready to propose a new way of approaching it. Who's energy is so infectious he's practically giving off sparks. Who's escaped the weight of the bureaucracy and the Dilbert reality enough to still be alive inside and out.

Here's the thing, in the past I used to love this sort of thing and it would inspire me to do research on the topic or take classes or at least become a groupie. This time, even though I got that jazzed feeling, I also got that tired and intimidated feeling. Me? I don't intimidate easily. But suddenly I felt so far behind the curve that I didn't even want to try to make the effort to get brighter. This troubles me and I'm not sure I know what to do with it. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's something more.

On a way tangential note I wonder if other organizations are experiencing the same symptoms as ours. We have a very talented, very large pool of folks in our organization. Bright, creative people. Even the slouches are above the norm. But we've reached a point of ...dispersement, I guess I'll call it. There's so many bright people scattered so far that want to solve any problem presented to them or even just one that they notice (whether it's in their official domain or not) that at any given time we have at least a dozen different people/groups across the country working exactly the same problem in different ways. They don't talk to each other. When they're presented with a "Hey, Bob, you know what? Andy here is doing the same thing!" they rarely care. It's duplication of effort on such a huge scale and there doesn't seem to be a clear way to stop it.

I get that sometimes (read: often) it's easier to just do something in a low key way for you and your buds. That by raising it officially, you lose control. Maybe it goes to committee. Maybe it never gets done. Maybe you don't recognize it when it is done.

I get that boldness can drive change or at least plant the seed.

But this seems to be reaching virus-like proportions. We are less and less efficient.

If the rules are so onerous that we do anything to work around them, it's time to fight the fight to change the rules.

If the trust is so low or the dispersement so extreme as to not be overcome-able, it's time to start over.

Or maybe I need a reframe. Maybe this is the organic model. Does nature bubble up its inventions in a dozen places before the change takes hold?

I think I need a glass of wine...

Well, that's my soapbox moment. I'll return now to the usual inane complaining about stupid commercials and such.

20 September 2006

Quick scenes from a conference I'm attending...

I swear I was in the ladies room stall when the woman in the next stall took a business call. Complete with "Yes, sir, I'll look into that. Let me get a piece of paper and get the number from you..." One can only imagine what "sir" thought of the flushing sounds in the background. Bizarre.

What is it about free food that makes it taste so good? Why do we eat double what we'd eat at home, simply because someone else is paying for it and it's there?? Wish I knew. And how Pavlovian are we? It takes a day to establish a pattern: It's 2:00. Yesterday at 2:00 there were cookies. Right here on this table, they were. I know it was this table. Where are the cookies? *slobber*panic*slobber* Cookies?!?!!

Not sure which type of speaker is worse: the one that looks painfully bored with his own presentation (and probably is because heaven knows we were) or the one who posits questions just to be able to answer them.

Hm, at least the cookies were yummy.

And look at the free pad and pen I got! :) :)

15 September 2006

The changing of the seasons

The temperature has dropped in the DC metro area. After months of temps in the 80s and 90s, now it's in the 60s. Sigh. I'll miss Summer. No more sun dresses and sandals. Time to get out the heavy, dark clothes and adjust to the shorter, colder days, the lack of flowers, the lack of energy. Yeech.

Last week I saw Florida cousins at a family gathering in Jersey. They were saying how'd they'd like to move north to retire as they miss the changing of the seasons. I can't relate. Not at all. Give me tropical 365 days a year. Give me a chance to get bored with the weather.

Ah, Summer, we hardly knew ye. See you next year...

13 September 2006

National Folk Festival in Richmond

The National Folk Festival is in Richmond, VA on October 13-15 and it's free.


06 September 2006

Sandals Royal Bahamian/The Sandals experience

I like Sandals. They do adults only all-inclusive well. This is not an "adults only" resort like Hedonism. This really is simply no kids. They used to be just heterosexual couples but now they are open to all couples, and I applaud the change.

Sandals Royal Bahamian was our third Sandals--Sandals Halcyon on St. Lucia and Sandals Ocho Rios in Jamaica rounding out our experience. I was pleased at all three but I believe Royal Bahamian had even better service than the other two, which is pretty amazing.

From the moment we arrived and were served champagne and cool cloths during check-in to the time we left, we got the royal treatment. Staff went out of their way to meet any request. An example: a waitress in one of the eight restaurants asked if we would like more bread and in the course of his response my husband mentioned that he didn't like olive bread, which was the default. She insisted on going to the bakery, beyond the restaurant, and getting him a kind of bread he enjoyed, which she promptly did. Any problem was quickly fixable. One exception: we had to wait two hour for maintenance one evening but it was a holiday so I expect they were short staffed and he did apologize for the delay and fixed the problem completely.

Every thing was clean and well kept and beautifully appointed. The food and drink were both good and plentiful.

If I had to complain (and don't I always have to complain about something?) it would be that the scheduled entertainment was weak. We wound up going to the piano bar quite a lot because the other entertainment was so lame. Who books the same band every night? On the flip side, the pianist was a gifted musician and a good entertainer so, really, even in this area we suffered not at all. To their credit, when we were at Sandals Ocho Rios, there was a lot of different entertainment (steel drum band, dancers, fire eater, etc.)

What's strange about Sandals is that it is couples only so it's very artificial to be around nothing but couples (tables for two everywhere except in the Japanese restaurant where table of 12 sit around the chef, etc.). But, hey, that's what we paid for so we could truly get some peace and quiet time for just the two of us and it was worth it. No shrieking tots. Amazing what a difference it makes. We socialized with a lot of nice people there.

Bottom line: I'd heartily recommend this resort. If you go, do it right and get an ocean view room. World of difference.


My new office is so quiet I can actually hear the clock ticking. Ahhh...

Maybe I can find a quieter clock. :)

30 August 2006

I'm grown to really hate my inspirational calendar

Early in the year, someone I was working for at the time gave me (and others) a "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" daily calendar. I propped it on my desk and now dutifully tear off to the current date each morning and read the quote that is supposed to give me perspective.

Here's today's message, which is typical of the messages it offers: "I've found that being more open and diverse has reduced my feelings of stress because it has helped me reinforce the fact that life is so much bigger than the things I sometimes worry about."

At the start of today when I looked at this I was also looking at 15 To Do's and 2 meetings. Turned out those 2 meetings turned into 4 meetings that entirely took up my day. No lunch. No time to address the 15 tasks, some of them quite complex and urgent, much less process and respond to the 6 voicemail and 27 e-mail requests that came in during the meetings.

So I began to work through what I could at 5:30 pm, knowing that there were a number of key pieces I couldn't get to because contacts were already gone. In the midsts of this my eyes strayed to the calendar and I thought, how does this help me? I'm open. I'm diverse. I'm still stressed.

Aside from providing me with something to hurl across the room, I'm not at all sure this calendar is useful to me.

It's like when people say "Don't worry." Oh, thanks. I was gonna worry but since you said that I'm calm and cool.

Perhaps these calendars should be repackaged as "Absurd platitudes to laugh at while you're getting through your ridiculous day"? Just a thought.

And what is the obligation when one receives a "gift" like this? I gave it a try. Can I pitch it now? Hmmmm, I'm about to move offices (yeah, no extra stress there), maybe the calendar will get "lost" in transition.

29 August 2006

Celebrity Fit Club addiction

It's true. I have a problem. I am addicted to Celebrity Fit Club on VH1. Heaven knows there is precious little to keep my attention on TV these days (probably not a bad thing when you think of the time suck TV is) but I am a regular viewer on Sunday night. Out of an hour, there's probably 10-15 minutes of actual information. Mostly it's "last week on CFC..." followed by "this week on CFC, you'll see celebrity X have a meltdown..." followed by "watch as X has meltdown after the break..." followed by "look! celebrity X has meltdown..." followed by two minutes of video showing bickering and acting out of said celebrity followed by "reactions by the rest of the celebrities to X's meltdown..." and so on. They are expert at turning the mundane into DRAMA. It's entertaining just for that.

I also actually find it amazing AND IMPRESSIVE that people are willing to show their flabbiness on television and step on a giant scale.

Plus, when they say "celebrity" they're really stretching the definition. Most of these folks are lower than Kathy Griffin's "D List" category. It's more like "Oh... yeah... I think I remember him... vaguely... wasn't he on blahblahblah way back when?" So it becomes something of a "where are they now?" show.

Joe Bob says "Check it out."

23 August 2006

Reentry and signs on planes

It's true. We spent 11 glorious days in Nassau for our five year anniversary. Incredibly beautiful water and fishies. Lovely people. No worries. Just sun, fun, lots of food and booze and repeat. Very relaxing. Biggest decision was do we take the Bacardi tour today or the city tour or just laze by the pool? And now I am back. Back to work. Back to traffic. Back to dreaming. Sigh. Got to plan the next trip...

Meanwhile, I got to thinking about those little signs in airplane bathrooms that say something like "Please wipe sink basin in consideration of the next passenger" and it struck me that this is an odd request. Where else do they ask you to do something like this?? They don't. Am I missing something? Of all the places in a bathroom the next passenger might consider icky, is the sink basin really the top priority?

I don't get it. Maybe it's just a small way to improve the karma on the plane.

So, yeah, I wipe the basin with the paper towel after I wash my hands even though it makes me wonder. In this respect, I leave things a little better for the next person. So, with regard to karmic balance, as Bill Murray says in Caddyshack, "So I got that going for me."

21 August 2006

Bahamas... The views from our room

To the left...

To the right...

06 August 2006

Oh, no! Not again!!

DATE :5 -8-2006


It is with trust and believe that I write to you, although I don't know you neither have I seen you before, but my confidence was reposed On you as a good sent person to deal with.

I am Barrister Richard Williams,a solicitor and personal attorney to an American Expatriate Engr.Micheal Cochran.He was a Contractor and Oil Consultant with Agip Oil Company and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) here in Nigeria.On the 26th of December 2004,my client died with his wife and only son and daughter during their x-mass holiday in Phuket tourist resort in the tsunami flood disaster that happened in Thailand, Asia.

My proposal is in respect of a certain fixed deposit made by my late client with Access Finanace & Securit Conmpany Nig Ltd here for a period of one year and eight month,The sum is deposited by my client on the August 1st 2002.This deposit is a total sum at ($15.350,000,00 USD)...

Oh no!! First Uncle Devis and now Cousin Micheal. Not a good month for the Cochrans.

Hm... you don't suppose there's something fishy going on here, do you? Perhaps these deaths aren't accidents at all! Is someone gunning for the Cochrans? This could be tied to the vast right-wing conspiracy. Or the vast left-wing conspiracy. Or to the Oliver Stone conspiracy. Or the Olive Garden conspiracy. Wait maybe it's those yummy pickled olives at Jaleo! Oh god. I had them twice last month. Is it a sign? Am I next? ACK! I better get outta town! You didn't see me. I wasn't here. I ate no olives. ACK!!!

04 August 2006

Blowhards in the cafeteria

Is there anything worse than a person who is not a member of the X community expounding on what Xers believe? Fill in the X with any affiliation you like: Muslims, redheads, dog lovers, conservatives, Japanese, you name it. As if any given group of people believe something without variation or exception. Oh sure, you can speak in generalities: Christians believe that Christ is the Lord, for example. (And I'm sure some expert debater could give an argument why that doesn't always hold true, if pressed.) But beyond that kind of generality, you're just asking for trouble.

I'm all for exploring beliefs and asking questions and trying to get an understanding of folks who are different from you. But why not ask someone from the group your discussing to explain their viewpoint (which at least speaks for them--not the whole group) versus assuming you know the skinny?

I know I speak for everyone on the planet when I say that. ;)


01 August 2006

This could take a while / Mel Gibson's call for help

You'll forgive me if I disappear for a while from this blog. Mel Gibson has sent out a general request to the Jewish community for help. So, you see, I have no choice but to help someone so desperately sincere and in need of "discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing."


This could take a while.

A long while.

31 July 2006

Movie Logic (much like Cartoon Logic)

Okay, let's assume that one could dodge a bullet by doing a backflip. You see it all the time in action movies. Instead of just, say, a "drop and roll" evasive maneuver, the hero or heroine goes into a backflip. Or leaps over the bullet in a slow motion front flip. I could maybe accept this. But what grates my cheese is it's never one flip. It's always a series. Three or four flips. During which time, said action hero/heroine couldn't possibly have a good scope on where the bad guy/gal is. Sure they're moving and a body in motion is harder to hit. But it's gotta take the wind out of them just when they ought to be conserving their energy.

Just keep repeating, LA, "It's only a movie."

26 July 2006

Overheard in a women's dressing room

Overheard two women in the next dressing room. If I had to guess I'd say African-American.

"You don't need that."
"Oh, yeah, I have to wear something to cover my back. Look at that. Look how fat my back is."

20 minutes later, I am back in the same dressing room. This time it sounds like Indian women next door.

"Oh, god, look how fat I am!"
"You think that's bad..."

Speaking of overhearing things... check out the Overheardintheoffice link in my links list.

Poor Uncle Devis

Well, now that I got the below e-mail, I guess I can take it in to my boss and quit. *cough*

I'm sure that's the way Uncle... what was his name? oh, yeah,... Devis would have wanted it.

Nope, nothing suspicious here. La, la, la.








24 July 2006

Restaurant Review: The Bombay Club, Washington, DC

Had the wonderful experience of Sunday brunch at The Bombay Club in Washington.

Ambiance: Gloriously elegant without being stuffy (no dress code). From the gorgeous appointments (potted palms, beautiful place settings, silver tureens) to the pianist playing familiar tunes at a level that still allows conversation, you "sit nice", as my cousin would say. Very nice, indeed. (Check out there website: http://www.bombayclubdc.com/ for good photos of the space.) 29.

Service: Excellent! We were warmly welcomed when we arrived and the service stayed impeccable despite the fact that this was a buffet. We were immediately brought the (included and tasty) champagne as well as hot naan. Friendly and attentive service without being intrusive. 29.

Vegetarian Options: Enough to choose from on the buffet. Of the seven or eight main dishes to partake of, four or five were vegetarian. Plus they had a lovely field greens and veggies salad, fruit salad, raita, and rice pudding. 25.

Food: The food was consistently good if not the layers of seasoning flavor one might crave. There was a small amount of heat, no doubt toned down for American palates. The seasoned eggs and the dal were both quite tasty while the potato/peas dish and the spinach/cheese dish were good but pretty standard. 24.

Cost: The all-you-can-eat buffet with champagne and naan and parking (see below) was $20 per person. That may well be the best deal in town! 29

Additional Plusses: Complementary valet parking included with brunch! No little thing in DC! +1

Overall Score: 28.

My opinion. Mine alone.

"Who will not wear the ribbon?!" --Seinfeld episode/The end of the ribbon epidemic?

This weekend I saw the usual gobs and gobs of magnetic car ribbons imprinted with cheesy, patriotic slogans. Some vehicles have three or more different ribbons.

I also saw one on the back of a pick-up truck that said "Support Strippers". I'm thinking when it gets to parody level, maybe the time has come for the trend to be over. IhopeIhopeIhope. This one is soooooooooooooooo played out.

It seems like people can't wait to hurl their money at the next insipid craze.

21 July 2006

Buzzbuzzbuzz went the Treo/Noise pollution/Rudeness line

I know I'm old but I can remember the day when the strangest sounds you could expect while sitting in a meeting were those associated with bodily functions. Okay, so those aren't great... or desireable. At least you can expect an "excuse me" muttered or a sheepish grin.

These days, it's cell phones playing tunes and Treos buzzing like bumble bees every time a message comes in and no awareness that this is inappropriate. Is it any wonder we are a nation of attention deficit folks when we are constantly bombarded by interrupting noises--and we feel we must respond to them? All of them??!

I don't know if this is a case of "Look how important I am" or if its just the condition of work life these days.

Me? I set my little Palm planner's noise to OFF so everbody doesn't have to hear me clicking away. And my phone? (She looks left and right for the culture police before whispering:) I turn my phone off.

The rudeness line is shifting dramatically. I don't know what to do about it but I sure don't want to be a part of it.

20 July 2006

Go ahead, try it. Ask the universe for what you want!

About a month ago, I wrote in "It's awful nice... it's paradise... (where to retire : tropical paradise)" :

"What's up with that? Where are the venture capitalist entrepreneur types to build the dream retirement community options for the average Joe and Jane Yuppie Boomer and cash in big time?

"Perhaps now that I've stated my wish to the blogging universe it will become reality."

Well, this week, while perusing the latest copy of Caribbean Travel & Life I came across an ad for islandhome.info. Not a Caribbean community but a Caribbean community finder service, of sorts. Huh.

Thank you, Universe!

18 July 2006

The Long Tail/Chris Anderson's view of the evolving marketplace

Been hearing about the "long tail" lately. Interesting concept. Does it spell the death of Top 40 stations?

Here's an article about the book...


17 July 2006

"World Trade Center" movie/Only in America would we be so insensitive

Where else but in America would we take a horrendous tragedy and turn it into "entertainment"?

This morning I saw an ad for "World Trade Center". Perhaps it was a minute that the movie trailer played. In that brief time, I flashed back on that horrible time and all the terror and sadness that went with it.

No doubt, the producers would say that the film is already doing its job if I remembered 9-11. I hadn't ever forgotten 9-11. Reliving the trauma with visual cues certainly won't help in any way that I can see. It's much like raising the alert level without providing information on how to respond differently. What is the value of reliving trauma if you feel powerless to change it?

I was lucky--I lost no one I knew in 9-11. I can only imagine the pain that family members must endure on a daily basis without this crass, disgusting attempt to capitalize off this disaster in our country's very recent history.

14 July 2006

Movie Review: Firewall (no spoilers)

We saw Firewall on Pay-Per-View last night. The plot: A security specialist is forced into robbing the bank that he's protecting, as a bid to pay off his family's ransom. Interesting premise but not all that interesting a delivery. Harrison Ford played Harrison Ford (think of him in Airforce One yelling "GET OFF MY PLANE!") Either you like that sort of thing or you don't. The lead villain was played by Bill Cox, doing his best pale imitation of Alan Rickman.

Have you noticed how all the villains used to have Russian accents and now they have steely British accents? When did our only international ally because the source of our movie angst?

Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Ford's secretary, out-acts both Ford and Cox. She's interesting and compelling. The rest of the cast, considerably less so. This is a problem in a movie that hinges on you rooting for the survival of Ford's family members. I really didn't care if they survived or not. The storyline, though action-packed right from the get-go, sometimes reads like a serial mystery for kids (everything mentioned is used later) and sometimes like a McGyver episode.

Kudos to the animal handlers for placing what appears to be a very dumb dog in this film--must be hard for him to get work. The dog seems to want to run away from Ford, his supposedly beloved master, even as Ford is "rescuing" him. Then, again, I'm not sure I blame him on this one.

Still, it had a few plot twists (the last half-hour was better than the rest of the film.) On the whole, I give it two out of four Jujubees.

13 July 2006

Creepy Burger King "King" ad campaign

Clearly, I am not Burger King's target demographic. Still, I have to wonder who the heck is?

Who responds well to the silent, plastic-masked icon they've had showing up in strange places in their very creepy ad campaign? I haven't seen it recently so I'm hoping the King is dead.

It's reminiscent of those 1970's horror movies that always feature a scene of the villian chasing the heroine in an amusement park, where they swing the camera in for close-ups of the horse heads from the carousel.

Just bizarre. Memorable, but I gotta think, not in a way that's good for business.

12 July 2006

Not biting the hand that feeds me or any hand (veg blog with meat ads)

Okay, so I'm new to blogging and new to having ads on my blog. And, hey, it costs me nothing and potentially earns me buckeroos. Still, it's interesting to see what gets generated in the ad space. In theory it's linked to what I write about. Yet, here I am, an avowed vegetarian, talking about vegetarian things now and again, and the ad du moment is for Hormel lunch meats. Kinda amusing. Makes me wonder if the software is picking up on the right words to successfully reach the demographic for their ads.

If I don't have working e-mail, do I really exist?

Sigh, my work e-mail account is so messed up that I can't get into it. And so we wait for the techie. Apparently he is like Elvis, they think he is in the building but (due to pager trouble) they're not sure. What does it say about techies when they can't get their technology to work for them? I don't want to think about it.

I am not my e-mail.
I am not my e-mail.
I am not my e-mail.

Am I?

Well, at least I have my non-work account. Only half invisible. All the strangeness and none of the benefits of full invisibility.