31 March 2008

Everyone Needs Motivation

In 1984, when I entered the workforce as a professional (You now have a career! Feel free to panic!), I spent a couple years working for a company that no longer exists.

My supervisor, at the time, was a pleasant but not very interesting fellow. The main thing I remember about him was he ate Tums like jelly beans. He was constantly popping Tums. Maybe this was because he worked for a real ass of a guy.

I won't use the ass' real name... let's just call him, um, Flank. I had much less interaction with Flank than the Tum-popper but once in a while I had to deal with Flank. I was smart enough, even as a naive young thing, to stay away from Flank whenever possible. It was heavily rumored that Flank, who was married, was also sleeping with the secretary. And I'm told that Flank was eventually brought up on charges for a variety of reasons. (Harassment, discrimination, embezzlement? Who remembers now. All plausible.) But, aside from that, Flank spent a lot of time showing people what a big man he was.

Flank's prized possession was his Porsche and he would talk about it at every opportunity. He was very clear about the difference between a 911 and a 944 and which one was a sports car and which one was just a wanker's version of a sports car. In Flank's office, behind Flank's desk, there was work-related stuff hanging on the wall so when you were facing Flank, he was framed by work. On the opposite wall, the one Flank faced, was a huge, framed picture of a Porsche.

Flank, ass or not, was very clear about what motivated him. He had to be at work but he chose what his work view encompassed. Well, up until they hauled his ass off to jail, anyway.

Much as I do not emulate Flank in general, his approach to office decoration is one I've adopted. With each year and each office change, I have added more and more of what motivates me to my office view. I've no interest in Porsches but I now have three walls with tropical themes. This includes: a tropical island calendar; a half-dozen tropical beach postcards of places we've traveled; a blue sarong with fish on it that I use as a wall hanging; an impressionistic painting of a beach that I did which, amazingly, got accepted into a juried art show years ago; and, opposite my desk, a matted photo of a gorgeous Belize beach scene. The fourth wall, has a framed fractal a friend did that's pretty amazing, and, technically, sort of work-related. There wasn't much room for more due to the layout of this particular office.

This week, I move offices again. This is an unwritten rule of government: you must shift offices every few years whether you shift positions or not. I can't tell you how many times I've moved offices. I am moving one office down. Hey, your tax payer's dollars at work. Don't look at me, it wasn't my idea.

The new office is marginally bigger. And the fourth wall is more viable for artistic expression than that of my current space. Hmmmm... is this a sign that I should go even more tropical? Where's that framed needlepoint I did when I was 11 of the jungle parrots? Or perhaps something monkey-related. That'd liven things up. I guess a full-up Tiki bar with lime dacquiri fixins would be too much? Sighhhh.

30 March 2008

Modern Marriage/Travel Deals

We are a modern couple. I am in the bedroom clacking on my laptop. Hubby is in the family room clacking on his laptop. Occasionally, we send each other a message. Ain't love grand? :)

Today we created a sharable Google calendar so we can both keep track of various plans as the year seems to be booking up quickly. My planner and his phone calendars simply aren't enough. Go figure. The nice thing about Google, besides the sharing aspect and the ease of set up, is that you can sync it with Outlook, which we both use at work.

Meanwhile, my surfing reveals that the travel industry is feeling the strain of the recession and the weak dollar. I am surprised at some of the deals I am seeing (pretty deep discounts) -- especially if you are willing to travel last minute or wait until after Summer which is prime family vacation time. It appears that a lot of resorts in desirable areas are offering better than usual deals. Makes me wonder where the bottom is.

27 March 2008

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named...

When you're home, sick, you spend a lot of time surfing the TV. Well, I do. I have enough fever that it makes it hard to focus on anything important but standard TV fare works fine. In fact, as I write this, "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force" is running on AMC. Okay, even I'm not that lame. But you get the idea of the fine entertainment fare I am encountering.

When I was a young'n, long before the Biography Channel existed, there would occasionally be biographies on TV. I liked them. It was always someone inspirational. Someone who had overcome adversity. Someone who had become a world leader or a legendary celebrity. Someone who had a tremendous legacy.

So last night, as I was hacking and snorting (which led to more hacking and repeated blowing), I paused to see what magnificently inspirational legend the Biography Channel was showcasing... Bob Saget.

I kid you not.

Now, I know it must be hard to fill 24 hours of air time with biographies. You run out of A-listers quickly. Your Maya Angelous, Louie Pasteurs, and Danny Kayes cycle through in no time.

But Bob Saget?



This is the fine story you wish to relate?

I think not, Biography Channel. I think not.

26 March 2008

Well, He's No Tom Snyder (AOL TV poll)

A poll by website AOL Television has ranked the TV hosts in a variety of categories.


Ellen Degeneres would make an ideal dinner guest.


Diane Sawyer is the morning TV host most people want to wake up to.


But was it really necessary to announce that Larry King was voted the Least Sexy host?

Cruel. Just plain cruel.

Dedicated Worker Kills Boss. Film @ 11.

I can not believe I hauled my flu-infested self to work to deliver a 9 AM presentation that I'd carefully crafted only to be bumped in the presentation order and then, in lieu of my presentation, my boss "summarized" it and took longer to do so than I would have to simply deliver it in the first place!

I should have hacked and sneezed all over him.

Bonus irritant:

Boss says to me: You don't look so good.

No s#*t!!

As Jack, from Will & Grace, said, "My ride is here. It looks like a huff. I think I'll leave in it."

24 March 2008

Flu Haiku

I am now in Day 4 of the flu with all the joy that brings. My creativity is a bit low, but for you, gentle reader, I present:

Flu Haiku

My nose, a red rose
I project true snottiness

Now, more than ever

22 March 2008

21 March 2008

I'm Finding it Harder to Call Nicolas Cage a Talentless Hack

I have seen a lot of Nicolas Cage movies. This is not because I think he's special and I seek him out in whatever vehicle I can find him. Au contraire. Cage is one of those ubiquitous actors that shows up in lots and lots of movies. He's sort of the male Renee Zellweger, a somewhat ordinary-looking person who, for some unknown reason, keeps getting cast in starring roles.

So, I've seen "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", "Peggy Sue Got Married", "Raising Arizona", "Moonstruck", "Honeymoon in Vegas", "Guarding Tess", "It Could Happen to You", "City of Angels", "The Family Man", "The Weather Man", "Matchstick Men", ... I even tried to slog through "National Treasure". And nobody would call me a "movie person" but there it is. How can you NOT see Nicolas Cage movies, as they are everywhere?

Recently we sat down to watch "Next" on Pay-Per-View. Yeah, we paid to see yet another Nicolas Cage movie but we only paid $3.99 (Do you all know the price of movies in the theater now?! OH MY GOD! But I digress...) I gotta say, Cage, who is front and center in this movie, didn't suck. His acting, or overacting, as I would have said in the past, is now a lot more nuanced. I liked "Next", the story of a man who is pursued by the government to help them stop a terrorist attack because he has the gift/curse of being able to see a few minutes into the future. This is an entertaining film with a great premise and enough action and twists to keep you engaged until the end. I give it 3 jujubees out of 4.

We also watched another movie recently that Nicolas Cage wasn't in. I know, I was shocked, too. Maybe it was because it was made before he was born.

We watched "Gaslight" on Turner Classic Movies (i.e., free. Have I mentioned the price of movies in the theater these days?!?! Oh, right. Anyhoo...) The movie was good but that's not what I want to talk about. It IS a classic and if you haven't seen it, do so, because you are now the last person on earth who hasn't seen it and, you know, that's just awkward.

What I wanted to mention was a peeve of mine that this movie exemplifies: why cast an actor with the wrong accent?! In "Gaslight", Ingrid Bergman, perhaps the most famous Swede of all time with her thick Swedish accent, is cast as a Londoner! But, wait, it gets worse. They cast Charles Boyer, the quintessential French man, as an Italian! His accent is so famous as the epitome of the French romantic that Mel Blanc based Pepe Le Pew's voice on him!

Yes, Bergman and Boyer were great actors and did a fine job in this film but please! Why not change the locations or cast people that can at least approximate the right accent? Hearing Ingrid's natural accent was at least preferable to hearing her perform a very bad impression of a London accent, which happens quite a bit in movies, too, and is way more distracting.

On the plus side for this film, a very young Angela Lansbury has a supporting role and displays her quite authentic London accent!

20 March 2008

"She's Come Undone"--The Guess Who

A couple years ago, I took a resiliency class, in which you tried to understand what resiliency was, how resilient you were, and how to improve your resiliency in these increasingly difficult times. At the end of the class, each participant received a multi-colored rubber band ball, as a symbol of resiliency (flexibility, bouncing back, ...you can stretch the allusion all you want [pun intended.]) Aside from tossing it in the air or against my office wall once in a blue moon, my rubber band ball sat on my lovely, faux-wood table.

Then recently I looked at it and saw this:

The ball has come undone. All on its own. It decided it could no longer be resilient and shed its outermost layer like a snake.

Is this a sign from the universe?

Are the changes and challenges in our daily lives too much?

Is it global warming?

A right- or left-wing conspiracy?

Infiltrating infidels?

I don't know. My office may no longer be a safe place. Yeah, that's the ticket--er, I mean, I'm monitoring this situation carefully... from a safe distance, of course, before it's too late.

Stay low and God Bless the United States of America.

19 March 2008

Fall in to the Gap

I haven't shopped in a GAP store in years but this weekend I found myself with extra time and a GAP gift credit burning a hole in my wallet so I went to the GAP in Fair Oaks Mall and decided to see if I could spend that credit.

I picked out a few things to try on and headed to the dressing room where I found a brilliant idea inside:

There, on the wall, was a call button that read "another size? different color? press here".

I was flabbergasted!

You mean I didn't have to get totally dressed again, gather up all my stuff and hike back to the racks to change my Small sweater to a Medium?

You mean as soon as I had my top half-way pulled up over my head, I didn't have to hear a saleswoman bang on the door and demand to know "How's it going in there?!?" with all the charm of an INS agent about to do a raid?

You mean I didn't have to get into discussions on style with a seventeen-year-old sales girl who'd rather keep texting her friends than help me? How many times have I experienced the following:

"Hello? ...HelloOOoo?"
"Did you need something?"
"Hi. Can I get this in a larger size, please?"
"That looks good on you. Great color." She says, looking at her nails.
"Um, it spans across here."
"Um, can you get me a larger size, please? This really doesn't look good."
"Um, I wear them like that."

Well, maybe the button won't solve that problem.

But it will get you salesperson attention only when you request it. Such a simple and wonderful thing! Kudos to the GAP!

Why isn't this button in every dressing room in America? Inquiring minds want to know!

18 March 2008

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (Iron Gate Restaurant)

For my birthday, hubby took me to one of my favorite restaurants: The Iron Gate (1734 N Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036). The service is always warm and gracious. (Think about it: how many restaurants can you say that about?) The food is quite good from beginning--warm, crusty bread served with an olive chickpea spread --to the end--their lemon cheesecake was the lightest, freshest cheesecake I've ever had. They have live, unobtrusive jazz: the kind you notice as a pleasant sensation somewhere deep in you brain.

Most inviting of all... the atmosphere is very cozy. It's not that any particular spot in this place is so fine--although dining by the fireplace is special-- it's that all these little spots put together create a very enticing experience. There's more nooks and crannies than a Thomas' English Muffin. So even though there's lots of people around you, you have an intimate experience.

Go, enjoy.

A Trip to the National Portrait Gallery

I've taken a few days off from work (and from most things) in honor of my birthday. The goal: no stress. The result: Yeah... it's been pretty effective. :)

In the process, I've had a number of wonderful experiences. This included taking myself down to the National Portrait Gallery to see "RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture." This exhibit seems to have created some controversy but, then, what is art for if not to challenge you in new ways? I liked it... particularly Kehinde Wiley's portraits and one of the Jefferson Pinder videos. If you haven't seen this exhibit, check it out.

And while you're there, check out the Katherine Hepburn exhibit. Great photos and you can get within a foot or two of her four Academy Awards. Well, I thought it was cool. That's as close as I'll ever get to one.

Plus, up on the top floor is a very striking modern art/color block exhibit which I liked a lot, too.

Take the metro to Gallery Place/Chinatown and you're there. Needless to say, lots of good restaurants in the area, too.

JoeBob says "Check it Out!"

13 March 2008

Ode to My Sister-in-Law

Today I am grateful to my sister-in-law.

She, who holds down a full-time job in addition to the full-time job of being a minister's wife. She, who is closest to the nursing home that Mom is in and often has to deal with the frustration of that situation. She, who has had a number of her own health challenges over the last few years. She, who has always made me feel welcome in her home and her family.

I just got a birthday card from her and her husband as well as one from Mom that I'm sure my sister-in-law picked up and brought Mom to sign. A few days early, no less.

In these days of "meant to call" and "e-greetings"--which I am WAY guilty of, it's really nice to get an honest to goodness snail-mail card or two, beyond the "Happy Birthday and here's $3 in bonus bucks" card I got from CVS. Oh, sure, that was nice, too, but it lacked the personal touch. :)

It's lovely that my sister-in-law, who has every valid excuse not to remember, remembered my birthday. Thanks, Sis!

Talents That Nobody Pays You For

I have discovered that I have two talents that may be somewhat unique but are worthless as money-makers:

1) I can often identify celebrity voices when I hear them. In fact, I often identify someone by their voice long before I recognize them by their appearance. This is not something I brag about to friends because invariably I get tested and fail miserably. I do not know every celebrity or singer in the world, people! The ones I know, I can identify more often than not, and certainly more often than other people. That's all I'm saying, so back off.

2) I have been developing a knack for identifying makes of booze by viewing the bottles lined up on shelves across the room based on their shape/color. I don't think this is an extraordinary gift so much as just that I've spent perhaps a wee bit too much time in bars. Yeah, that might be it.

So far, neither of these talents seem to be leading to the end of world hunger or anything equally useful. So perhaps I should focus on entertainment value.

How about a little soft shoe...

11 March 2008

Collaborative Collage

And now for something completely different:


10 March 2008

An Open Letter to John Howard

To: John Howard, proprietor, The Redneck Shop, Laurens, SC

RE: Related story @ Redneck Shop

Mr. Howard:

After reading about your store which sells KKK robes and T-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs, I am writing to let you know that A) you are an embarrassment to this country and to white people everywhere, B) your store should be shut down immediately, and C) reading about you inspired me to give to the United Negro College Fund today, in an effort to bring about something positive from something so horribly evil. I hope others follow my example. And I hope it is YOU who receives a much needed education.

I look forward to the day when bigotry like yours is no longer tolerated by anyone.


A New Warning Re: Passports

Good information from the Washington Post's Post Points:

Everyone knows how critical a valid U.S. passport is for traveling abroad, but a passport is not always enough. Many countries and/or airlines now require that travelers’ passports be valid until six months after the planned return date for your trip, a requirement that left one of us on the staff scrambling to renew his passport at the last minute. (If you find yourself in a similar situation and have a confirmed airline ticket, call the passport office at 877-487-2778 and schedule an emergency appointment for renewal. Under certain conditions, you can get your passport renewed in just a few days. Further information is available at www.travel.state.gov/passport.)
And don’t assume that the country you’re traveling to won’t require a visa. Since 9/11, the United States is requiring travelers from more and more countries to have visas to enter the U.S. In response, many of these countries, quite understandably, are requiring Americans to have visas to enter their countries. To find the requirements of the country you’re traveling to, make sure you check the Web site of the country in question well in advance of your departure date, as visas often take time.
Finally, make sure you request the correct kind of visa. Processing times often vary depending upon whether you’re looking for a tourist or business visa.

— Scott Vogel, Travel section

We Always Suspected (It's the Water, Stupid!)

Well, this might explain the results of the last two presidential elections:

AP probe finds drugs in drinking water

Not Brushing Elbows

Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, and Danny Glover were all in DC this weekend. Despite going into the city Friday, I ran in to none of them. Go figure. Hmph.

Did get to see some very different art at the P&C Gallery in Tysons and had a very tasty, if somewhat noisy, dinner at Da Domenico. If you've never been, it's worth the trip to get yummy Italian and hear the a capella crooner.

Russell, Tom, Danny... next time, don't be a stranger! *insert hand gesture for 'call me' here*

07 March 2008

Another DC Commute: A Play in Three Acts

Act I:
I am on the BW Parkway entering the district in heavy traffic during evening rush hour. Here's what it looks like:

I am in the fast lane --yeahyeahwhatever-- behind a van. There are vehicles all around us and we are going about 60 MPH. I see out of the corner of my eye that the far right lane, the merge lane, is disappearing and people are working the merge.

In other locations people merge. Here people "work the merge." If you drive around DC, you know what I'm talking about. It's like when they went to driver's ed, the instructor defined merging as "stay in the merge lane until the last possible second and then plow on over because you have the right of way." But I digress...

So a reasonable driver (clearly one who took Drivers Ed in the mid-west somewhere), at the front of the line of mergers, puts his signal on and merges into the logical gap, like so:

Act II:
I see the jerk in the truck who is next in line to merge, who I'll affectionately call Truck Jerk, decide to speed up and get in front of Reasonable Driver, despite two facts: 1) there is plenty of room to merge a few cars back and 2) there is no room to merge in front of Reasonable Driver. This forces Reasonable Driver, and several cars behind him, to slam on their brakes to make room. At this point I ease off the accelerator.

Sure enough, he's not done. Truck Jerk proceeds to, then, badly --like within inches-- cut off the van in front of me, represented thusly:

Act III:
Van Guy transmogrifies instantly into Road Rage Guy and tailgates Truck Jerk for MILES on the constructiony, two laney BW Parkway. I back the heck up and give them room to have their joust and they do. They whip around each other, gesticulating wildly, swerving close to each other, cutting each other off, all in the midsts of heavy traffic.

It is another DC commute.

The end.

06 March 2008

Great Link


Funny in a fatal attraction sort of way.

JoeBob says "Check it out!"

05 March 2008

"I AM an Animal"/Focusing

There are people that walk down my hall at work and keep their eyes focused ahead of them, presumably staying trained on wherever they are headed. There are people that walk down my hall at work and peer into every office they pass. What's up with that?! Makes me feel like an exhibit at the zoo!

If you're going to stare at me, at least throw me some peanuts or popcorn. I may be inspired to do something entertaining. You know, beyond the usual butt scratching and feces throwing. Ook, ook.

Speaking of eye focusing, I went to the neighborhood eye doctor for a check up yesterday.

The bad news: she gave me a serving of "of course your vision is beginning to deteriorate, you're in your 40s" topped off with "it'll only get worse from here."

The good news: I can still see 20/20 even though the words aren't as crisp as I'd like them to be.

More good news: I don't have glaucoma.

Extra special bonus: She didn't dilate my eyes. Apparently, that's not always the standard these days. The equipment and the doctors have gotten better at peering into your eyes without dilating them. So that was way cool.

03 March 2008

"Trails & Traminettes"?

The weather was so nice this weekend (50s!) that we consulted our Day Hikes Near DC book. We took a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain (in Maryland) and hiked up to the top for a picnic. We took the quickest and steepest way up so we were a little huffy-puffy on the way up but we got there and we were glad we did. Gorgeous views, not at all represented by my limited photography skills, greeted us.

Trivia: Sugarloaf is a monadnock.

What we didn't know until we were in the general area of Sugarloaf Mountain was that the Sugarloaf Mountain Winery was right there, too! Although it's a young winery, it's already winning awards. The folks there are very friendly and we enjoyed the tasting on the way to the mountain enough to stop in to enjoy a glass on the way back from the mountain. Look for the tasting tent--it's small but very popular.

Which leads to my next million dollar idea: a guide book that provides listings for nearby hikes with wineries in close proximity. What better incentive to get healthy, than a nice glass of wine at the end of the trail? We tossed around a variety of titles for this pivotal tome (Hiking & Hoisting, Wilderness & Wine, etc.) and the one we liked the best was: Trails and Traminettes.