Saturday, December 5, 2009

"The Onion" Commentary on Electronic Devices

Are you a fan of The Onion? If not, you're either very strict (since this fake 'news organization' does use a lot of, shall I say, 'colorful' language), or just plain crazy. If you're neither of those, check out this article "New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable". I laughed so hard at "the new device will also be available in blue." Such a sarcastic commentary on people who upgrade just for the sake of upgrading!

Pay Problem Resolved and 10 Pounds Lost!

First, I have to say "Kudos!!" to both Senator Herb Kohl and Representative Paul Ryan, both of whom took the time to contact me. Senator Kohl's office actually called me. I appreciated the care and concern very much. I don't know if it was just the idea that we had the attention of a Senator and Congressman or not, but the pay problem suddenly got solved, and we got paid on October 30th. So, I didn't have to go sign up for food stamps and the free school lunch program as I feared, and we made it through my medical leave in November without a financial hitch, thank God.

My lap-band surgery on October 27th went well. I went home the next day after surgery, and at my first follow-up appointment 9 days later, I had lost 8 pounds! At my one month follow up I had lost 2 more pounds, which is really good considering I hadn't had a fill in the band yet. Losing 10 pounds in 1 month is exciting!! A 'fill', for those of you not familiar with the lap-band, is where they inject saline into a little port under the skin. The saline goes through a tiny tube and into an inflatable ring that lines the inside of the band, making it expand. This shrinks the stomach opening and slows down food from emptying the small area of stomach just above the band. That allows me to feel full much longer, and eat much less. I had one band fill on November 30th and it's helping some. I'll probably need another fill or two before it gets to the point where it keeps food in the stomach long enough for me not to get too hungry. I have another appointment at the end of December for another fill. As I get smaller, the band might need to be tightened a bit more. That's the beauty of the lap-band--it's adjustable to meet changing needs, and it's the least invasive of the bariatric surgeries. Those are the main reasons why I chose this particular surgery. It also involves a cool device, something that always appeals to the Geek side of me! :D

If you ever have questions about the lap-band, weight loss surgery, or other weight loss issues, feel free to ask!! You can also check out the Obesity Help website and forums. I've received a lot of terrific support there.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Army Pay Issue MAY Be Resolved

Sgt. Hubby might have the issue resolved with his pay. We've gone from being told 'you won't get paid at all' to 'you'll get paid on the 30th'. Hubby assures me he's seen an LES (read, pay stub)on the Army's MyPay site.

I'm more inclined to believe we're actually going to get something, now. I'm not holding my breath, however, lest I pass out. Yeah, I have a lot of faith in the government.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

So, the Army is aware there is a pay problem

Yes, the Army is now aware, 22 days later, that there is a pay problem with some of the soldiers in my hubby's unit. They even have a list of these people. Is my husband on this list? Of course not. I was hoping to spend my day off chilling out playing a game or singing with Rock Band: Beatles. Instead, I ran around applying for food stamps and the free/reduced hot lunch program for my kids in addition to the pre-op doctor appointment I had.

On the plus side, the Star Trek skit my son and I did for his English class was a blast. Wish I got a picture of his Spock eyebrows I penciled in for him.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Open Letter to DFAS and Anyone Who Works With Military Pay

Dear DFAS and everyone else who is associated with my husband's military pay:

My husband is a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He is currently not getting paid because there have been a number of massive screw-ups. I don't care who did it. I'm not interested in blaming anyone.

I just want it fixed.


Here's what happened, because I want the people who have the power to fix it to get it corrected so it doesn't happen to others.

First, there was a delay of several days in getting my husband his new orders. Because you all delayed in getting that simple thing done, it meant he was off active duty for one day. This screwed up DFAS's pay system. My husband got paid for October 1st, and that was it. If you had written the orders in time, we wouldn't have had the gap, and this pay problem wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Second, whoever wrote his orders neglected to put the correct accounting code on some line that tells the system which accounting center his pay should come from. Without this magic code, DFAS can't do anything to process the pay. We've gone from being told my husband's pay will be delayed to the 22nd to the 30th to 'not getting paid at all because you're not in the system'.

Well, my husband has printed active duty orders. He's working for the Army, he needs to get paid for it.

You, the pay and order-creating people, may see us as nothing but letters and numbers on your computer screen. Let me tell you who we are. We are a family of four. We have 2 kids, a dog, and a cat. We live in a home that has a mortgage. We have to pay student loans. It's Wisconsin and it's getting cold. We have to pay our heating and electric bills or we'll get our utilities cut off. Our phone is going to get cut off. I have to have surgery in 6 days, so I can't pick up extra work days to help cover the deficit caused by the lack of attention given to my husband's orders and pay status.

Our account is now empty. Our reserves are gone.

I just got a notice that our kids' lunch money account for school is running low. I have to buy medical protein drinks for after surgery, and I don't know how I'm going to afford it with no money. I don't know where the money is coming from for the co-pays for the medications I'll need after surgery. I have enough pet food to last a couple weeks, and that's it. I have enough groceries to feed my family, if I'm creative, for a few weeks, but the milk and bread will run out in a few days. I have no idea where I'll get more. I have no idea where I'm going to get the gas money to get us all to work and school the next few weeks. Do you understand that you not working on these things properly has put us way behind in bills, and has left us without even the means to feed my family or to get my and my family's prescription medications? I want you to think about that when you pick up your pay check in a week and take your family out to dinner.

Please, someone explain to me why we need FIVE, count them, FIVE digits for cost-center pay codes. Are you telling me we have over 10,000 accounting centers from which pay is determined? Isn't that just a little excessive? Is there some reason we NEED all those accounting codes? It all comes out my taxes and the federal government--you'd think one code for "US Army" would be sufficient. Someone please explain to me the sanity in this kind of pay structure.

Please also explain when one department says 'we don't have the right code' why you think 'yes, that code is indeed correct' is an acceptable answer, when clearly it's not. If DFAS says the code is wrong, find the right code instead of passing the buck back. DFAS, how about you help the unit out and help them FIND THE CORRECT CODE? How about you tell the unit when you dump a soldier out of your system, too, so we know what's going on and can plan ahead, or at least get working on it sooner? You knew this was a problem on October 2nd, and it's just now getting seriously addressed on the 21st? Why won't you even pick up your messages and return our calls, or even answer the phone in the first place? If I provided this kind of bad customer service to my patients, I'd be thrown out of the business in a heartbeat.

If you all were in The Real World, you'd have lawyers breathing down your necks for violation of federal pay laws. You get a pass because the government can't be sued, but that doesn't mean you should allow yourself to stop caring for the people who are behind the letters and numbers on the screen. Please think of the lives you are affecting when you don't do a good job. Please take more pride in your work. Lives may literally be depending on you caring about the work you're doing for soldiers, sailors, and their families.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Have an Upper GI Test

Author: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes an...Image via Wikipedia

After approximately 8 months of dietitian appointments, psychologist chats, doctor visits, a detour to a cardiologist for cardiac clearance (happily, nothing wrong), and reams of paperwork for insurance, I've managed to (insert amazement emote here) finally get a date for lap-band surgery. Dr. Chua's going to do the surgery on October 27th for those of you who wish to pray and/or think positive thoughts on this day. For those of you who read this because you can't stand me, it's scheduled for some time in 3011, so save your evil black thoughts for that year.

Last week I had to drive up to the hospital to have the pre-op testing. I thought it was going to be just one test. It turns out I had to have a whole bunch of tests, including an EKG (despite the fact that I had just seen the cardiologist), blood tests, pre-op interview, chest x-ray, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, urinalysis and pregnancy test, investigation of my fingernail clippings, collection of any toejam (none for me, I'd showered that morning), and counting the number of wrinkles on my kneecaps. This was done in a giant hospital gown that could be used as a sheet for five queen sized beds, it was so large. Now, I know that this hospital is a bariatric center, and we big people are a normal patient base for them. However, a Volkswagon Beetle could have fit under that gown and there still would have been enough material left over for the 18 people stuffed inside the car. After pulling up on my gown because the neckline had fallen off my shoulder umpteen times, I decided to rename it a toga. I walked proudly through the hospital hallways to the various stations, one shoulder exposed for all the world to view.

One of the tests required before weight loss surgery is the famous 'Upper GI'. This is a nice way of saying "Here, we're going to make you drink a cup of liquid white chalk and irradiate you until you glow in the dark". That test description doesn't fit on insurance forms very well, however. As we all know, we must never make insurance companies do any work, or they'll charge us another 666 dollars. Per letter. Now you know why test names are so short and cryptic.

Anyway, after hearing any number of people complain about this test, I decided that I, a woman proudly wearing a Beetle-sized blue-diamond print white toga, would not complain. I would suck it up and deal with it. When I introduced myself to the radiology techs, I was "Jae, the Toga Woman". I then politely asked if I could pick my flavor of barium. This immediately amused the technicians, who then cheerfully informed me they only had one flavor. They assured me the liquid chalk would 'taste faintly like bananas'. Now, I've made fake-banana flavor in organic chemistry, although we gave it the fancy term 'isoamyl acetate' in class because we had to show off our chemical knowledge. I was pretty sure I didn't want fake-banana flavor on an empty stomach, but I had vowed not to complain as they handed me the cup of liquid 'faintly banana-flavored' chalk. Instead, in a completely geeky manner, I noted out loud that the cup was quite heavy and asked them what the atomic weight of barium was (137.33 g·mol−1 for the truly curious). Neither of them knew, but I could tell by the pleasant surprise on their faces that they were expecting complaints, and this was something different for them. I didn't feel so bad when the radiologist couldn't remember the atomic weight, either. Normally, it would make me a tad nervous that a doctor didn't remember this trivia, especially a radiologist, but I figured as long as he knew how to do his job, we didn't have to care about something that was only required for medical boards and had no relevance to Real People Medical Care.

After the tech handed me the heavy cup, she then told me I had to first swallow a medicine cup full of white crystals, followed by 2 teaspoons of water. Mind you, I had not had anything to drink since my last sip of decaf coffee at 11:59 pm the night before, because you can't have anything after midnight the night before you have the "drink liquid white chalk and get irradiated til you glow in the dark" test. I could not begin to imagine how I was going to swallow dry crystals when my mouth was already dry as the Sahara. These crystals were described as something that would 'make an air bubble in the stomach' and would taste like 'really fizzy 7-Up'. Good thing I like 7-Up. After the tech mixed the 2 teaspoons of water into the crystals for me to immediately toss back like a shot of something that would likely have been far more tasty like, say, rum, I discovered it was not like 'really fizzy 7-Up' at all. It was more akin to drinking an entire case full of Pop-rocks poured into said 7-Up. It was a good thing I didn't try to to knock the crystals back dry. My mouth probably would have done a marvelous Mt. Vesuvius eruption.

I then discovered 'make an air bubble' was a euphemism for 'this will cause massive gas'. The staff had neglected to specify the size of the air bubble, which was quickly approaching Hindenburg proportions. Next, I followed the instruction to gulp the barium down as fast as possible. This did not help the air bubble (read, massive gas) situation one bit. Then they laid the table back and urged me not to burp. This is equivalent to gulping a 2-liter bottle of pop in 20 seconds and then being told that belching is not allowed. I did my best guppy impersonation, swallowing every quarter second to keep that air bubble from exploding. I was afraid that if I burped at that point, the force of the gas would rocket me out of the x-ray machine. I told the staff when I did finally get to burp, I was going to be able to outdo my 12 year old son. That's quite an achievement, by the way, because we all know that 12 year old boys can burp at a volume approaching heavy metal rock concert level.

An upper GI test is not your ordinary 'lie still' test, either. They asked me to do a couple log rolls to move the barium around, lie in a variety of poses, one of which I called the 'Cleopatra pose' to the further amusement of the staff, do a variety of gyrations I hadn't done since 6th grade gymnastics, and rest on my stomach. If you've ever had 'an air bubble' in your stomach, and you're not allowed to burp, the last thing you want to do is lie ON your stomach. I went back to guppy-gulping to keep the air in, knowing that I was going to pay for it when it came out the other end.

After quite the photo shoot, I got to see my stomach, my reflux, and my esophageal muscles not quite doing their job correctly. The pictures would have been even more cool if they hadn't been mine. Hopefully after the surgery and weight loss, that will improve. I won't be able to entertain the staff in my Cleopatra pose once the reflux is healed, but I'll take that one for the team. Yes, I did let out a giant burp or three (or ten) when we got done. No, I didn't get blown through any walls.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Those darn short electric cords

I think that the guys who decide the length of electric cords must be a. clueless or b. sadistic. I haven't decided which quite yet. Why do I say this? Electric cords are always about a quarter inch too short. I have several surge protectors in the house, always a good thing when you have multiple computers in the house. Now, are these cords long enough? Of course not. The length is just right to force you to do your best Cirque du Soleil impression as you hang over the back edge of your desk (which is too heavy to move on carpet) trying to reach it to plug in the computer, monitor, speakers, Nintendo DS recharger cord, iPod recharger, desk lamp, phone base, and lightsaber night light.

I nearly had this conversation with my kids:
Me: Hey kids!
Kids (giggling at Mom's feet dangling off the edge of the desk): What do you need?
Me: Sit on my legs so I don't flip off the desk and get stuck doing an involuntary headstand behind the desk.
Kids: (fall over in laughter, imagining Mom getting stuck)

My biggest beef today was my coffee bean grinder. Whoever designed this a. does not know the first thing about kitchens and b. must not drink coffee. The cord, I kid you not, is 11.5 inches long. The outlet on my counter is about 8 inches above the counter top. This leaves me about 8.261 inches from the wall, give or take a few thousandths of an inch. Every try to reach across a counter at 5:30 in the morning with a scoop of coffee beans without spilling them? It's not happening for me. I have to do my finest Elastigirl impression in order to even reach the the grinder, much less use it conveniently.

Perhaps I'll plug in a surge protector by my coffee pot. That should give me about 2.23 more inches to work with.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Coupon for Kotor!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC box ...Image via Wikipedia

I received an email today with a coupon code for 25% off of Bioware's game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, at the Direct2Drive site. How do you do this? Register on the TOR forum and sign up for the TOR newsletter before September 15th. Check your email and you should find it in your inbox today. Even at the full price of $9.95 at Direct2Drive, the game is a steal, but saving a few bucks is even better. Perhaps they'll extend this for new forum members?

What I'd love to have, though, is a code for the beta of TOR. That would be seriously cool.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The 8th Anniversary of 9/11

If you're old enough to remember what happened on September 11th, 2001, and perhaps even if you don't remember it, today is a day to reflect on the best and worst of what humanity can bring. The worst: terrorists killing hundreds because they're mad about US foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel and Saudi Arabia. The best--watching New Yorkers and Washingtonians in particular, and Americans in general, bond together dealing with this crisis. The outpouring of love and support following this dark day was nothing less than stunning.

My reminiscences of the events of 9/11 : I woke up that morning to hear Spike O'Dell on WGN announcing a plane had just crashed into the WTC. I thought it must have been some bizarre kind of accident, perhaps a plane had a major structural failure or tried to avoid another plane and lost control. I turned on the TV news to see what was going on, just in time to see the second plane crash. I remember hearing Katie Couric saying "Oh my God, there's _another_ one" or something along those lines. My stomach lurched and I thought, "That was no accident". I had to get ready for work, but the images pouring in about the destruction and absolute panic were so compelling it was impossible not to watch, and the responses of citizens, police, and fire departments were amazing. It was gut-wrenching and heartening at the same time. Stories started to come in about people being rescued and some jumping to their deaths rather than burn alive. I tried to call my aunt and uncle in NYC, but the phone lines were jammed and I couldn't get through. For 3 days I wondered if they were alive or if they, too, had fallen victim to these homicide bombers. Not long after, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon. All planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport soon after. United Flight 93 was reported as missing, as was a Delta flight. Then the Delta flight landed. Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

I called my husband's unit to ask what was going to happen to their unit, because they were on active duty for two weeks in Germany and all flights had been shut down. Point Man had been on a United flight to Germany with the rest of his unit only 3 days prior. The unit administrator freaked out--he hadn't heard what had happened yet and had a lot of family in NYC.

Then the news came that one of the towers collapsed. I was driving to work by then. I nearly had to pull over, the shock was overwhelming. I knew hundreds had just died in one horrific moment. When I arrived at work, we listened to the radio until one of the staffers brought in her portable TV. We watched the second tower plummet to the ground, taking hundreds more to their deaths. All we could do was watch in stunned silence as the remaining firefighters frantically dug through the WTC rubble to rescue any survivors and fought the fires raging at the Pentagon. Tears streamed down our faces as we watched the agony of a city under attack--OUR city, the city that represents America to so many around the world. We were powerless to do anything but pray--pray for the people who died, pray for the firemen, pray for the paramedics, pray for the police officers, pray for the injured, pray for the families who mourned their lost loved ones or rejoiced when learning their loved ones had made it out of the WTC and Pentagon alive. We could not tear ourselves way from the TV as the networks replayed the crashes and the collapses over and over again, trying to make sense of the senseless violence, trying to give us news, sometimes conflicting about what was happening and why. It was heart-breaking, confusing, chaotic, and frightening.

I was filled with dread and hope at the same time--dread because I knew that the actions of these homicide bombers meant war. It was inevitable. I was filled with hope as the entire country rallied around the people of NYC and the Pentagon to help them in any way they could. I cheered along with everyone whenever someone was rescued from the rubble alive, and cried with everyone whenever we heard the too-many sad stories of those who did not come out alive--their final calls to their wives or husbands or parents to tell them that they loved them, the 911 tapes of panicked victims. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my sister called me to let me know my aunt, uncle, and cousins were OK. When my husband came home 10 days later, I hugged him tight. So many lost loved ones that day, and I wept for their loss. I was blessed because I had not lost anyone I knew.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to pack geeky for a vacation

We left this morning for our trip to Disney World. This was the culmination of a week of frenzied activity, including, but not limited to, untold loads of dishes because I cleaned out the rotter drawer in the bottom of the fridge, arcing the microwave into electrical oblivion, and doing so many loads of wash that we broke the belt on our dryer and blew 2 fuses. In addition, it involved two meetings with doctors and driving an hour one way to see my 83 year old grandma. It also meant packing enough for four people for a week.

This is no mere task for the faint of geeky heart.

Normal people make a packing list that starts with the following: shirts, shorts, socks, underwear, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, brush, medications, sunglasses, sunscreen (but only in a 3 oz package or less, and it must fit into a 1 quart ziploc bag), hat, makeup, deodorant, shoes, swimsuit, and flipflops. Throw in a snack or two for the trip so that you don't have to eat the gawdawful crap that gets passed off as 'food' on airplanes. Plain unsalted rice cakes taste like gourmet meals in comparison, for heaven's sake. We did lose a jar of peanut butter and a small container of cheese spread. It was over the 3 oz. mark, despite the fact that they'd never been opened. Apparently these 2 items fell under the 'gels, aerosols, and liquids' category as determined by the TSA. I'm not entirely sure how you could blow up a plane with an 8 oz. jar of Jif peanut butter and a 4 oz. container of Bucky Badger Bacon Cheddar spread, but I'm sure some creative chemist could come up with something. Never underestimate American ingenuity--we are the people who brought Desperate Housewives to the airwaves, after all.

Anyway, the Geeky Packing List ends with the items listed above, almost as if they're afterthoughts to The Really Important Things, which are, of course, electronic devices. Our packing list started with these items:
All 3 Nintendo DS lites, including carrying cases, earbuds, games (LOTS of games), rechargers, and extra styluses
Laptop, charger, mouse, and mouse pad
Power strip because the outlet is always about 2.2 mm farther away than the regular cord will reach
An extra extension cord because we have to recharge all 3 DS's played on the flight
All 4 iPods, earbuds, and cords to plug into the wall or laptop to recharge
Both cell phones and chargers
Laptop case with extra batteries and two Terry Goodkind novels in case I managed to use up the battery in the DS.
My notepad for my fanny pack so that I can jot down notes for my fantasy novel that I'm working on, The Dragonfighters.
Digital camera
Extra digital card in case something happens to the first one
Extra batteries
Extra batteries
Extra batteries
3 sets of binoculars, because we like birding. If fact, they came in handy tonight for viewing the sandhill cranes and fish crows from our balcony while it poured outside.
Enriched Rice Dream rice milk in the juice box size for my daughter, who has a dairy allergy.

My shopping list for the week included a DS charger because we couldn't find the third one (it's in the house. Somewhere.) When you have a kid in middle school and another in elementary school, these things have a tendancy to 'disappear', although likely that third charger will show up under someone's bed the day we return home. My shopping list also included an extra stylus pack. Those things evaporate faster than strawberry shortcake on a hot summer day does in our house. One of these years, I'll lift up the sofa cushions and discover an entire stylus farm has sprouted and is just waiting to be harvested.

After entertaining TSA with the spaghetti bowl of cords in my laptop bag, we got through with minimal trouble other than losing the above mentioned peanut butter and cheese spread. I hope they at least donated them to a food pantry instead of throwing them in the trash.

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride beckons to me to come ride it tomorrow, which means getting up early. I'm heading to bed, albeit without my white noise maker to drown out the loud-speaking neighbors....

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is what I get for staying up late gaming....

Since Lord of the Rings Online is updating to Book 8 today, I stayed up late last night collecting goodies and other things that I know are going to get changed for the better according to the release notes. In fact, it appears the game's subscriber base is actually increasing--not bad for a 2 year old game.

What did this mean? I stayed up until about 2am gaming, in anticipation of the LOTRO servers being offline for about 6 hours today (5-11am my time) while they update the game for the major release. My theory at 1 am was that I would be able to sleep late while the game was updating, and then I wouldn't feel like I was missing so much time from the game. After all, I'd be sleeping through most of the time they were offline.

This would not normally be an issue since it's summer time and I can sleep in. Of course, this is assuming, that I didn't have kids who decided to have a fight at the bottom of my bedroom stairs at 7:49 am. I awoke to screams of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Now, mind you, this was not the cute kind of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" that the gulls called out in the movie "Finding Nemo". If you have not seen Finding Nemo, go rent it or buy it--it's hilarious.

No, this was not the cute gull-Mine. This was the obnoxious, ear-splittling tantrum-child "MINE!!!!!!!!" It's the kind of "MINE!!!!!!!" that makes you wonder what possessed you to ever have unprotected sex in the conscious decision to procreate.

What where they fighting about? A 6 year old stuffed calico cat. I am not kidding. Why they decided at that time of day to fight over a stuffed piece of fake fur with cheesy plastic eyes, I don't know. I came downstairs to see them both lying on the ground wrestling over the darn thing. In no uncertain terms, I declared the cat was now MINE!!!!!!! and dragged myself over to the coffee pot, because further sleep wasn't going to happen. My Trusty Hubby, God bless him, had started a pot earlier that morning, and it was nice and hot. It was the only positive to waking up that early.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yes! A Funnel Cloud, Finally!

Living in Wisconsin, as I do, you get used to severe weather. We see a ton of snow-storms in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer. We don't usually see tornadoes, however--they're rather rare in our part of the state.

I have been fascinated with tornadoes ever since watching The Wizard of Oz. There's just something about this powerful force of nature that is breath-taking, and not just because it can magically turn Almira Gulch into the Wicked Witch of the West. I thought they were so cool that in fourth grade I wanted to be (besides a geologist or paleontologist) a meteorologist. I even wrote a fan letter when I was 10 to WTMJ's chief meteorologist at the time, Paul Joseph. Now, if that wasn't a harbinger of me becoming a complete and total Geek, I don't know what is. To his credit, he took the time to write me back, gave me a few book references, and told me the basics of what was involved in learning meteorology. That helped fuel my love for weather and inspire my pursuit of science. I still have that letter, believe it or not, in a scrapbook.

Yesterday, the weather got truly exciting, and by 'exciting', I mean 'potential for finally seeing a tornado at the age of 'permanently-29', w00t!' Trusty Hubby does not call this 'exciting'. He does not share my same enthusiasm for forces of nature that can create windspeeds of over 250 mph, destroy buildings, flip over cars, throw cows and trucks in the air, and in general cut swathes of destruction for miles. He calls this 'foolish' and 'dangerous'. 'Idiotic' and 'completely crazy' pass his lips occasionally, too. I cheerfully ignore these comments.

I was prepared for yesterday. When I heard on the radio that the weather might be 'eventful' on Thursday night and into Friday, my first visit was to the National Weather Service page for my area, followed closely thereafter by the Storm Prediction Center. I was in seventh heaven when I found out my county was in the 'moderate risk for severe weather zone'. I was later disappointed when the SPC moved the zone south, but lucky for me, the weather came through.

It rained all morning, dashing my hopes for severe weather, because that kept the temperatures down. Early afternoon, however, the rain moved out, the sun brightened the sky, and the temperature went up a good 15 degrees. The humidity went up, too. It was a phenomenally juicy atmosphere, and I cheered on the thunderstorms that formed and frequently checked the radar on my smartphone. I will never be without an internet-capable phone ever again after this. I finished with one patient and noticed the sky had gotten very dark. One of the staffers mentioned "You should see it out back--it's black out there." Of course I had to go quickly to investigate this. Trusty co-worker Derek was outside watching the storm. I immediately noticed the section of the thunderstorm base that was significantly lower than the rest of the storm--a classic wall cloud. Since this wall cloud was only a few miles away, this probably should have been a signal for me to take cover, but it was so fascinating to watch that I stayed. Then, I saw the funnel shape hanging off the bottom back end of the wall cloud. Derek asked if I thought we were going to have a tornado. I pointed at the funnel, explained what it was and informed him we were having one right now. He nodded and said, "Cool!" I knew I liked Derek for a reason, and not just because he is a fellow Cubs fan.

The sirens went off at that point, and we decided the funnel was coming a bit too close for comfort, as in 'nearly on top of us.' At this point, we thought it was prudent to take cover. The funnel went over the top of our building an touched down not to far from us. It also dropped hail and two inches of water in under 2 hours--quite an impressive storm. After the funnel passed over, I called Trusty Hubby, and with glee that was almost disturbing to the rest of the staff, I said "Honey! I just saw a funnel cloud! It went right over us!"

Geeky Mom birding

Yep, as if I'm not geeky enough, I'm also a birder.

For some reason, someone decades ago decided that it was not cool to be a 'bird-watcher', so they came up with the term 'birder'. This is how we distinguish people new to the hobby from those of us who have a good 100 species or so under our belts. If someone comes to a birding event and says "I'm a bird-watcher", we birders look around at each other, nod our heads sagely, and think 'N00b!' Then we help them learn how to use their binoculars properly (hint--find the bird with the naked eye, and bring your binoculars up quickly. Don't try to spot it through the binoculars), where to look (sides of trunks, on branches, hiding in the leaves, paddling on the lakes, etc.), birding etiquette (never disturb nests, no matter how badly you want to squash the starling eggs, and don't 'pish' frequently and upset the birds, and for God's sake please throw your water bottle away in the trash can!), and how to find things quickly in field guides. We might chuckle at newbies, but good birders are always helpful to them just the same.

I discovered, however, that binoculars are 'way cool' with middle schoolers, and I a. lost Geek Points (tm) and b. gained Cool Points (tm) because I brought not one, not two, but four sets of binoculars on my son's field trip to a YMCA park last month. I passed them out to eager students who proceeded to look through the wrong end of them. After reassuring them that no, they weren't complete idiots for doing that, we checked out the edges of the lake for sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, and swallows, and saw lots of wonderful species. This was Cool for about 3 minutes for most of the students, but I was pleased that some of the students took to it for a little longer. I learned later from the teacher that "Patrick's Mom was Really Cool (tm) because she brought binoculars!" I was just crazy enough to trust them with something that's just as expensive as a Nintendo DS.

Now, the camp leaders/middle-school herders had the day-trip 'experience' down to a science, which meant capturing lake bugs and assorted other fresh-water creatures that are Truly Gross But Fun, followed by lunch, followed by a looooooooong hike to a place where they could learn to build a shelter in case they survived a plane crash in the wilderness. We adults think loooooooooong hikes are brilliant because it tires out middle-schoolers enough to change the speech volume level from 'ear-splitting shrieks' to 'mere loud screaming'. Anyway, I learned that the most important thing for survival in the wilderness following an imaginary plane crash is not food, not shelter, not even water (which was number 2) but "a positive attitude". If I ever am so lucky as to experience survival of a plane crash, my initial thought will be to a. call 911 on my cell phone and b. go wherever the hell the pilot goes because he's probably got the GPS. Fortunately, the middle-schooler herders were bright enough not to discuss how to start a campfire, or my binoculars would have seen use besides sighting birds. 10x50 binoculars can do a pretty good job of heating things up if you allow the sun to focus through them.

Nevertheless, I did get some decent birding in that day, in spite of being forced to trek a mile into the camp's forest to a little shelter where we proceeded to make tree-branch teepees. I let the kids run around like maniacs collecting wood lying on the ground while I cheerfully watched the birds fly around. Apparently the birds are used to loud middle-schoolers, because I didn't have too much trouble seeing them. I did manage to earn back Geek Points (tm) by using Cornell University's online bird guide and then entering the data into their eBird site. If you fellow birders haven't discovered eBird yet, click the link and check it out--it's extremely easy to use, and you can even enter those old life-lists you have sitting around.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Geeky Mom Exercise

While cooking my "Better than Eggs" ham and cheddar omelet this morning, I was considering what exercise I needed to get done today. I've started the Great Weight Loss Quest, which will include lap-band surgery. I took Taekwondo three times a week for about 5 years, and lost a whole 10 pounds or so. Now, I did get my 1st Dan, which I'm very proud about. However, I realized that even that level of working out isn't cutting it for weight loss, so it's time to go on the Surgery Quest. Anyway, I still need to exercise, and my crapped-out knee isn't up to doing roundhouse and spinning back kicks anymore.

I hate exercise.

Exercise is boring. Taekwondo does not count as exercise--there was always something new and interesting to do. Let's face it, there's also a lot of camaraderie in doing 200 push-ups and 100 sit-ups with fellow colored and black belts, and then beating the snot out of each other in the sparring ring. I consider this Fun.

Finding something equally as Fun is very difficult. First, it has to be cheap. With Trusty Hubby on active duty, we have to watch our pennies. So, gym membership is right out. The monthly fees cost too much right now. It also has the side benefit of not having to deal with side-long glances from people comparing themselves to me to feel better about themselves, and/or worried looks about if I'm going to have a heart attack, despite the fact that after 5 years of Taekwondo my heart is probably in far better shape than theirs.

Second, it has to be Fun. I like socializing and I like working towards a goal when exercising, because then it doesn't feel like 'exercising.

Third, it has to ideally be really Geeky. This is important.

So now you're thinking I have a Wii Fit, right?

You're right. I have one of those. It's not serving as a resting spot for books, the large cup of iced tea, and a half-eaten bag of Doritos next to the sofa, either. I'm actually using it. It's totally cheesy, the music is vomitrociously cutesy, but it's fun. My Mii and I run around on some fake cartoon marathon course, do some step-training in front of an entire audience of other Miis like we're some exercising rock stars, slalom, and do hula hoops. I've tried the ski jump. I suck. I keep crashing, even when I bend and jump at exactly the same time as my Mii. The game cheerfully ignores that and tells me it's very sorry, but I went splat off the end of the ski-slide. Wii Fit feeds my goal-oriented mindset--it informs me how many minutes I've exercised and has leaderboards for all the activities, so I can beat my high score as I improve, or get beaten by my kids who do everything better than me because they don't have crapped out knees.

I hit on an even better better way to be active, however. I just turned on Rock Band 2, grabbed the guitar, and started dancing along the music like a real Rock Star. The kids think it's hilarious that their Geeky Mom is rocking out, but they jump around and get active with me, too, so it can't be that ridiculous. Then again, it can. I mean, how serious can you take anyone who dances around in the living room with a video game and a plastic toy guitar? However, I'm earning Xbox 360 achievements playing, and while I have to play on medium so that I don't fail out while dancing around with my guitar, it definitely falls in the category of Fun.

If you add Jae Onasi to your friends list, we can rock out together some time. :D

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lacuna Coil concert

Last Saturday, 16 May, my totally cool sister, who is not geeky like I am, and I went to the Music as a Weapon IV concert down in Chicago. If you love hard/metal rock, you'll love their music. It features Disturbed, Killswitch Engaged, Chimaira, and one of my favorite bands, Lacuna Coil.

My sister and I had a blast going out to lunch for pizza at Giordano's beforehand. By the way, they do mail order pizza.... If I ever move away from the Chicago region, I'll be in good hands.

It was a beautiful night, if a bit chilly, but I had my new Lacuna Coil t-shirt and a black leather jacket, along with a margarita and a few thousand of my closest rocking friends to keep me warm. If that wasn't enough, there was enough pot smoke around to keep any of us from caring. One lady in her 50's was sway-dancing in the aisle with a joint in her hand--utterly hilarious. The guys in the row behind us smoked so much of it my sister and I got contact highs. We were buzzing after only 2 music sets, though to be fair, since we don't do drugs, we have no tolerance. There was break-dancing in the mosh pit--no kidding. I had a flashback to the 80's. There was also body surfing and frisbee-throwing to go with the general mayhem. Next time I go to a Lacuna Coil concert, I'm going to get tickets in the mosh pit. They seriously rocked and had a great time. I thought the crowd was a bit sedate, but apparently the bands thought we weren't, because we were told repeatedly that we were "f**king awesome fans!!!!!!"

Lacuna Coil rocked. They started out with I believe 'To The Edge', played 'Spellbound' off their new album, 'Fragile', another one off their new album, and finished up with 'Our Truth'. I sang right along with them, particularly belting out Our Truth, which I am proud to announce I have gold-starred on Rock Band 2. I love singing that song and 'Swamped'. The band played very well, Cristina held notes so long my sister was stunned. I always knew she had it in her, so I was happy to see her having fun with it. Andrea poured on the passion when he sang, and Maus, Maki, Chris, and CriZ played their instruments extremely well. They put the same level of work and passion into their onstage performances as they did for their studio performances, and I appreciated it. My sister and I also appreciated CriZ's drummer-built biceps. :D

I bought LC's latest CD, called Shallow Life. Yes, I know you savvy geeky readers know what a torrent is and when to use it. Buy the album anyway. It's only $9.99 on iTunes and you get a bonus song. It's worth every penny, and this is a band we definitely want to keep rocking. One of the perks for buying the CD at the concert, however, was the chance to get it signed by the band along with the opportunity to say 'hi' and shake their hands. I loved it. I had a thank you card and poem for them. I WANTED to bring them some beer and extra virgin olive oil because I'd read that's something they really like, but the venue wouldn't allow it. Sigh. They were very gracious about signing. Every single band member was there, and they were grateful for all of us who'd made purchases and come to the concert, and they said thank you to all of us, too. I thought this was a very nice touch and I appreciated it.

After the signing, we'd 'missed' most of the other band and part of Disturbed. That's sort of a misnomer because the signing booth was only about 30 yards from the stage, and it was so loud we had no problem hearing anything but that. Since I had to be at continuing ed at 7am the next morning and we were both seriously fuzz-headed from whatever the guys behind us were smoking, we decided to cut out a bit early and grab, you guessed it, some food, because we had the munchies. Don't laugh too hard at that. :D I don't remember the name of the Mexican restaurant my sister took me to, but it had the BEST enchiladas I've ever had. We sat around for quite some time just enjoying the night.

My sister is now a virgin Lacuna Coil fan, too. :D

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to have a crap week, yet celebrate Mother's Day and Anniversary, all Geek-style

Well, OK, maybe not an entirely bad week, but certainly a bad 5 days. It started last Friday with the office manager insisting I see more patients than I realistically can. She insisted on this for a good half hour while a patient waited. Being the good little worker bee that I am, I gave a little ground. Sometimes you give on a battle to win a war. Silly me. I should have known that she'd take complete advantage of that. Screw Sun Tzu. Give me Machiavelli.

Saturday was the day from hell. Said office manager had slammed my schedule full of people. I swear, she inserted them in between real slots, stuck them in sideways, upside down, and diagonally. Naturally, I was horribly behind very quickly. I loathe, despise, and otherwise bear negative sentiments at being behind. I suddenly had 4 patients waiting to see me, and the pre-tester, who is slower than molasses on a cold winter's day, was preparing a fifth one. I informed the fifth patient, since it was not fair for her to wait if she was busy too, that it would be at least 45 minutes. She was not happy about his. I told her I'd get to her as quickly as I could. She didn't like the idea of having to wait when she made an appointment. I didn't like it, either. After I got through the butt-load of patients, the office manager stormed into my office and yelled at me for being rude and informed me the patient had walked out, along with an older couple (who didn't have appointments anyway), and the noon patient. Now, mind you, I had personally checked in the noon patient, so I knew this was a lie, and promptly informed her that she should never lie to me. After several minutes of the office manager insisting that I was rude (blunt, yes, rude, no), the pre-tester actually sped up and got my patient to me and the office manager thankfully left my office.

Lunch could not happen soon enough. I decided to get out of there. Unfortunately, I'd left the lights on the car on, something I haven't done in, oh, 20 years. So of course the battery was dead. My thought was to rip hair out, but it's so fine it doesn't need any help in the thin department. Instead, I called Trusty Hubby and vented. He, bless his heart, listened and even offered to bring lunch. I had actually brought a cold lunch, so I told him I was OK, I just needed a drink. I was talking to him in the break room, language peppered with assorted Anglo-Saxon terms which are not repeatable in front of young children, when the 2 gals eating lunch at that time heard me.

"Wow, I've never heard Dr. Jae swear before," one of them said. This was said with a mix of awe and amusement, particularly at the alternative word used for nookie. When I got off the phone, I apologized for my frequent use of Anglo-Saxon. They weren't bothered in the least, other than wondering why I was so ticked off. I vented some more. At this point, I discovered from one of the gals that the office manager was doing some funny stuff--telling patients she was giving them a glasses care kit and then charging them for it, and hiding the charge when she handed them the bill. I told the gal I called that fraud. I also realized I now had a. the responsibility for figuring out how to handle this information without losing my job (because the thought of people getting screwed by her, or anyone, just grates on my sense of honesty, and, oh, this little thing called ethics), and b. a huge trump card if said office manager decides to give me problems again. If she tries to mess with me too much, she will be so Anglo-Saxoned so hard she won't know what hit her. This made my day worse and better all at the same time.

By the time Trusty Hubby came to the office at the end of the day, bringing a lovely large Diet Pepsi and jumper cables with him, I was fried. Of course, there were cars parked on either side of mine. I thought I was stuck having to wait in a place that I would loved nothing more than to see burn to the ground. If I'd had heat vision, the place would have been torched. Trusty Hubby decided that getting me the hell out of there was a good idea, so he told me he was taking me to dinner right then and just to get in the van, we'd deal with the car later. This, I decided, was sheer brilliance. I suspect he thought it was mother-preservation.

Since it was a day-before-Mother's day dinner, he asked me where I wanted to go. I told him "wherever they have a giant margarita". I figured this was a better option than committing arson and/or other felonies against the office manager. He took me to my favorite Texas Roadhouse without even asking. It was packed, but fortunately the wait was short, and the bar had 4 chairs free for us. He ordered the top shelf margarita, bless his heart. Apparently no one had ordered one in awhile, because the bartender had to get a stepstool out and, you guessed it, get the Gran Patron off of the top shelf.

It was a fabulous dinner, as always. However, both of us had a top-shelf margarita with dinner. The bartender, bless her heart, had made them very strong. She must have know what a thoroughly Anglo-Saxon day I'd had. We decided that we should not drive, but instead should walk across the street to the Best Buy. This, I decided, was also sheer brilliance. The kids wanted me to find something for Mother's day, so I found a wireless router for the new Xbox 360 they'd bought for me about a week earlier. My family LOVES me.

Mother's Day was awesome. The family let me sleep in. They made me brunch. They took me out to see Star Trek, which I loved. They made dinner and even cleaned some of the dishes. They let me game the night away. Trusty Hubby and I watched an episode of Legend of the Seeker together. Best. Mother's. Day. Ever.

I spent Monday finishing up my final portfolio for my writing class. Finishing up revisions the Monday before the Tuesday night class was never a problem--we have two printers at home, so getting stuff printed out is never an issue. Until, you guessed it, this last Monday. As the evening progressed and the nearly 100 pages of material was printing, we discovered we ran out of black ink. Only half the pages printed. No problem. I went to the other computer. It was getting later in the evening, and I was tired. The last thing I wanted to do the night before what I was sure would be another Anglo-Saxon-Day At Work was run around trying to find an open store for an ink cartridge.

Did that printer work? Of course not. It would only feed about 2 sheets at a time without jamming. I tried cajoling it. I Anglo-Saxoned it. I threatened to throw it out the window. It did not listen to me, and in fact decided to quit printing entirely in a fit of rebellion. Trusty Hubby heard all the Anglo-Saxon and decided that he would take it to work the next day to print out, and bring the portfolio with him to the public reading my classmates and I were doing for our final class of the semester that night. This, I decided, was sheer brilliance. However, on Tuesday morning, because I believe Murphy's Law always applies to me, I printed out a color version of the 3 pieces I was to read, juuuuuusssst in case. The darkest color I could create was a lavender-blue. I hoped 18 point bluish-purple would work in the poor lighting of a small theater where we were going to be doing our readings. My only option to improve the lighting would have been to pull up some white internet pages on my smartphone and shine it on my material for more light. I really need to get a little penlight for my bag.

Tuesday was our 19th Anniversary. It was also a work day. Amazingly, it was relatively quiet. Amazingly, the office manager was nice. Not so amazingly, one of the other staffers confirmed that she was committing fraud on a regular basis. Not so amazingly, I was nervous about reading my work in front of people, despite the fact that I talk to a couple dozen strangers on a daily basis. So, I practiced my readings in my free time and prayed that 10 minutes, 58 seconds would still count as '10 minutes', since we weren't supposed to go over that. I just didn't want to cut my chapter reading off anywhere else than where I'd selected. I had decided to go out to lunch that day as well, to escape Witch Manager and just to relax. At least I didn't have to worry about the headlights that day--it was nice and sunny, and I never turned them on. It also helps that my van has the 'Hey you! Yes, you! Turn off the damn lights, what, are you blind or something?!' tone.

Right before lunch, however, I got The Dreaded Call From School. My son had thrown up in the bathroom. So much for relaxing. I drove like a maniac to pick him up, called Trusty Hubby who said he'd leave work right away, told him I hoped it wasn't Miss Piggy Flu, and dropped my son off at home with a pillow, blanket, TV remote, and bucket.

Trusty Hubby informed me that the reason he could leave so early was because the server was down at work. Of course it went down before he was able to print the portfolio. He picked up an ink cartridge on the way home, bless his heart. However, both of us forgot we'd used up the last 50 sheets of printer paper on half-inked copies. I gave up and emailed the entire portfolio to the professor, at least to show her that I'd done the work.

Reading in front of the class was a piece of cake compared to all that. Too bad I couldn't have a margarita while I was reading.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Geeky Mother Guide to "The Annual"

Just about any woman over the age of 16, and certainly any woman who's given birth anywhere except maybe out in the bushes with only the help of the friendly local maternal wolves/raccoons/favorite forest animal du jour, has had the dubious experience of 'the Annual'. The gynecological community euphemistically refers to this as 'the annual pelvic exam', as if we women will somehow be fooled into thinking it actually has something to do with a pelvis, rather than the crotch-and-boob exam that it really is. The receptionists and nurses don't pretend, at least, so they just call it 'The Annual'. It also means when they call the doctor, they don't have to yell out "Jae's here for her annual crotch-and-boob!!"

Why 'the Annual' freaks any of us mothers out, I don't know, but it does. When we give birth, we could care less if the entire world sees us naked and pokes their hands inside of us every 43 seconds. We're busy trying to squash a watermelon through something the size of a 3 inch long piece of garden hose. If the janitor seeing us buck naked or the OB getting surgically stapled to our cervix for 18 hours will make that happen any faster, we will all gladly stand in line to do any of this. That sentiment flies out the window afterward, despite the fact that there's really nothing more that the OB could possibly see after fully inspecting the inside (and outside if you're unlucky enough to have a c-section) of the uterus, cervix, crotch, hemorrhoids, you name it, during birth. My OB's seen more of my uterus than Trusty Hubby and I have combined.

Nonetheless, many of us who are Geeky Moms are just a little shy about this kind of thing, in spite of the fact that we gamely pretend that it's just slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am and it's 'not that big of a deal'. The nurses are smart. They know we'll put it off forever unless they hold our birth control prescriptions hostage, so we make that annual phone call, preferably not the day before the last pill. However, our preparations for 'the Annual crotch-and-boob exam' tell the real story about how shy we are.

So, let me give you the proper Geeky Mom instructions on how to do this.

Several nights before, make sure there are at least 2 pairs of underpants (white) with no holes in them, in case the doctor sees you in underwear. This is despite the fact that he is likely to see you in something that is equivalent to a sheet for your bottom half and 2 paper towels pinned together for you top half.

Find white socks, without holes. This is important. Stirrups are cold without socks on. Wonder why they call them stirrups instead of 'foot rests that put your legs into contorted positions'.

Wake up the morning of the exam and say to yourself, "Crap. Today's the day."
Make coffee and put chocolate in it because coffee and chocolate make everything better in the morning. Decide that you have plenty of time after dropping off the kids to get a shower and fill up the gas tank, which is below 'E'.

Wonder where a new disposable razor is for the armpits and legs. Decide after looking all over that you're glad you saved the old razor. Determine that the legs are good enough. Wonder if you got all the armpit hair since it's hard to see with glasses off. Hope you don't cut yourself.

Clean off your privates and bottom completely about 5 times to ensure there's a. no toilet paper and b. no poop, despite the fact that they're no strangers to either of these things and actually use toilet paper themselves on a (hopefully) regular basis. Try to remember how long it is you're supposed to go without nookie before the exam, and decide it's not going to matter anyway. You'll never see the lab tech who might note sperm on the Pap smear. Be glad that you aren't going to be like the mom who accidentally got glitter down her pants right before her exam and didn't realize it until the doctor asked her if she was decorating herself. Vow to yourself not to go anywhere near the junk drawer with the glitter in it prior to your exam. Pray that you don't have to go to the bathroom before the exam and mess up your now shiny-clean bottom.

Pick out clothes, despite the fact that you'll sit in the exam room the entire time with a sheet and the 2 paper towels. Go for shabby comfort. Double check the socks for no holes. Worry that the underpants will leave marks. Worry that the bra will leave marks. Worry that the long-sleeved shirt will make it hard for the nurse to take your blood pressure, so opt for the short-sleeved one instead. Wonder about smells. Put on extra deodorant. Apply perfume, but not a strong one. Making the doctor sneeze from a strong perfume on your nether regions would be Bad. Decide against spraying perfume 'down there' for this reason.

Heat up the curling iron. Decide you don't have a lot of time for fixing up your hair, because you have to go to the bathroom. Of course you have to poop. While sitting there, decide whether to bring a book or the Nintendo DS. It would be fun to play Grand Theft Auto, but there are usually little kids with their moms in an OB office. Decide to bring the book. Wonder why your body couldn't have done its business before the shower. Wonder if you're totally clean when you're done. Wash your hands.

Double check your stack of books. Find one you've been wanting to read awhile, and check the number of pages to make sure there are at least 200 unread ones. If you only have 25 or so, it's a guarantee that the doctor will be late because of an emergency delivery and you'll be bored out of your skull then. Having 200 guarantees he'll be there semi-on time for your crotch-and-boob thing.

Look at the clock and freak out because it took a lot longer to get ready than you expected, and you still have to stop to get gas because the tank is empty. Get enough gas at the Speedway to get you to and from the office.

While driving, consider which music would be better--something soothing, or rocking out. Opt for Evanescence's 'Bring Me To Life' played at speaker-vibrating levels while you sing at the top of your lungs to try to forget that you're about to get naked for someone you see only once a year.

Drive quickly to the office. Run the light as it turns from yellow to red. Glance quickly at the cars around to make sure there were no cops who saw you. Breathe a sigh of relief that you don't have to explain to the (most likely male) law enforcement officer that you were in a rush to get to your annual crotch-and-boob exam on time.

Park in a distant spot because you a. didn't get there early, b. were told to park farther by your primary care doctor so that you could get exercise (and the few extra seconds of exercise might make the scale go down, which you now stress out about) and c. if you're really late, you have to reschedule. Arrive right on time anyway because they're holding your prescription hostage until you get naked for them to prod your privates. Stress out about the scale. Stress out about the blood pressure measurement. Stress out about the sheet and 2 paper towels pinned together over your chest. Sit in the room on the uncomfortable exam table and expect to be there in the paper mini-toga for at least an hour. Wonder where you put the book and realize that the reason the table is uncomfortable is because you're partially sitting on the book. The doctor arrives a few minutes later, just as you get to a really exciting part in your book.

Chat, get through the exam, decide it was about as unexciting as usual and wonder why you got stressed out. Know that you'll do this all over again next year anyway when you get ready for the next crotch-and-boob exam.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rest in Peace, Chelsea

I love having pets. Cats, dogs, gerbils, doesn't matter, they're all welcome at my house. We fed the wild birds outside until we discovered they were becoming the daily snack for our next-door neighbor's cat. We knew it wasn't our cats because we don't let ours out. Fortunately, Ms. Snooty Neighbor has moved away, and Nice People have moved in, so it's a lot better.

Anyway, pets are wonderful. We've had up to 3 cats at one time and loved them all. Ophelia came to live with us in '89 (well, more specifically, started living with Point Man, since we weren't married yet then) and lived to the fine age of 15. Higgins walked into our home in '92 as a kitten and was with us til last June, making it to age 16. Joey joined us last June not long after Higgins died, and he'll be 5 in June. Somehow Joey's managed to pick up where Higgins left off in terms of totally awesome cats. He'll never replace Higgins, but he's made a new home in our hearts.

Chelsea, our senior cat, joined our home in '91 at the age of 3. She made it to her 21st birthday yesterday, but over the weekend it became clear that she was too sick to go on for probably more than a week longer. We loved her and couldn't bear to see her suffer, so we made the very hard decision to put her to sleep tonight. When you have a cat that old, you know it's just a matter of time. Some part of me wanted to walk downstairs in the morning and find her curled up in her favorite spot on the couch having gone to heaven in her sleep. That didn't happen. So we made the dreaded trip to the vet for the second time in 9 months. I know it's part of being a responsible pet-lover, but I hate this part. The only consolation is that her death was very quick and totally painless, and she really did just fall asleep before going to heaven.

However, it never makes it any easier to lose a part of the family. Rest in peace, Chelsea.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don't put your book in the dishwasher!!

One summer evening, my son was toddling around the kitchen as I was cleaning up after dinner. He had a Dr. Seuss book in his hand--probably his favorite 'Fox in Socks', which is the greatest tongue-twister of a book I've ever attempted (unsuccessfully) to read. I was putting dishes into the dishwasher and had gone into the living room to get the last few cups left on the table. I walked back into the kitchen, saw what my son was doing, and exclaimed loudly, "Don't put your book in the dishwasher!!" As soon as that came out of my mouth, I realized it was Wednesday night. Church choir night. This ordinarily would not be a problem, except we a. were renting the manse next door to the church, b. the kitchen window was right above the walkway into the church and was wide open, and c. people were walking in, and I had just said something that sounded completely and utterly insane. I peeked out the window at the sidewalk below and breathed a sigh of relief--no one was close enough to have heard my crazy comment.

It made me aware of some of the other things that make us sound like we're inmates of insane asylums, except for the fact that we're parents. Being a parent makes these comments entirely reasonable, or, if not reasonable, shows scientifically that yes, having kids makes us go bananas.

There have been other things that my Trusty Hubby and I have said to our kids and cats that have displayed the fact that we're parents and/or absolute fruitcakes.
Some of these include:

Don't lick the butter
Get out of the toilet! (I've said that to both cats and kids)
The litterbox is not a sandbox
You have to use toilet paper when you wipe
Don't throw up on the couch
Don't put waffles in the VCR
You can't give beanie babies baths in the toilet
Don't put your diaper on the cat
and one of my favorites, which I actually said to my son when we were eating at a Denny's one time:
Don't put pancakes in your pants!

Friday, February 13, 2009

An Uber-geek moment

OK, I had an uber-geek moment tonight reading through a laptop thread on The Lost Haven forums. This would have been geeky enough--we're a. talking laptops on b. a computer gaming site, and c. the subject of sex (and/or lack thereof) came up. People rounded it out with discussions of graphics cards, the necessity of Pepsi and/or wine during a raid, and chocolate, which means the thread officially reached Perfect Geek Status. I think the only thing that could possibly have made it more geeky was the inclusion of pocket protectors, a 4-color pen, and/or a Dungeons and Dragons reference. That would have made it "Immortal Godly Geeky", which might have been too much for most of us mere mortals to handle, however.

Anyway, the discussion ended up morphing from "help Trusty Friend Burnetto figure out if he should replace his desktop with this laptop" into "what's more sexy, laptops or smartphones?" As we all know, anything that involves the discussion of the amount of RAM must, by definition, be sexy to True Geeks. Naturally, I had to jump in at this juncture and point out that if you want to be uber-geeky-sexy, you simply use a smartphone to look up the Gamefaqs Neverwinter Nights 2 Stronghold guide while playing Neverwinter Nights 2 on your laptop at work. I made sure to post this from my laptop while lying in bed watching The Clone Wars with the rest of the family. My Trusty Hubby made sure to point out that since I had both a laptop and a smartphone, he had all the luck.... :D

However, since he did not post that a. from a laptop or b. during a Star Wars media presentation, he does not get the same number of geek points. I'll get him trained yet.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A True Hero

A flock of geese flew up suddenly, catching in both engines of a US Airways jet only a minute after takeoff today. The engines caught on fire, and the pilot, Chesley Sullenburger, realized the plane would not be able to make it to the nearest airport. The only other option was to land in the Hudson river. The pilot banked the plane, and with no power, glided down the river and landed with such pinpoint control that the airplane stayed intact. The staff and passengers stayed composed and evacuated immediately onto the wing and into life rafts. Captain Sullenburger went up and down the plane twice to make sure everyone had evacuated before he himself left the craft. The Coast Guard, some tugboats, and a number of ferries immediately responded and reached the plane within minutes. A steel cable was run through the 2 front doors and tied to the tugboats, keeping the plane afloat so that people could get onto the Coast Guard boats and ferries. There were some injuries, but none were serious, thank God. I saw the coverage live, and I got chills watching the amazing response. Congratulations to all the Coast Guard, rescue workers, Good Samaritans, the passengers themselves, the flight crew, and especially Captain Sullenburger. You saved 155 people's lives today.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gaming humor

We geeks have a good time gaming. I DM'd Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde for the family on New Year's Eve--the entire family gamed in the new year attacking gargoyles and zombies. Once you've played enough, though, you learn as a gamer that there are certain conventions that would be Sacred, if it weren't for the fact that this is completely made up fantasy. Since it's completely made up fantasy, it is no longer Sacred, but becomes Something Which We Shall Do But Which We Shall Make Great Fun Of Just The Same. Trusty Friend Emperor Devon got me started on Order of the Stick, and someone on Skype chat sent a link to DM of the Rings. Both are hilarious takes on gaming, and I'll add them to my list of favorites.

While we were on the subject of gaming, another Trusty Friend on Skype sent a link to Peter's Evil Overlord List. I about fell over laughing, it was so over the top. I have copied it below (see copyright in the link) for all of you to enjoy. Number 6 reminded me of the "monologuing" scene in The Incredibles where Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Lucius (Frozone) are sitting in the car listening to a police scanner and just chatting:

Lucius: [Bob and Lucius are sitting in a parked car, reminiscing] So now I'm in deep trouble. I mean, one more jolt of this death ray and I'm an epitaph. Somehow I manage to find cover and what does Baron von Ruthless do?
Bob: [laughing] He starts monologuing.
Lucius: He starts monologuing! He starts like, this prepared speech about how *feeble* I am compared to him, how *inevitable* my defeat is, how *the world* *will soon* *be his*, yadda yadda yadda.
Bob: Yammering.
Lucius: Yammering! I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won't shut up!

Enjoy the things we should never do if we ever become Evil Overlords.

The Top 100 Things I'd Do
If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

  6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

  7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.

  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

  16. I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."

  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.

  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.

  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.

  20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

  21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.

  22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.

  23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.

  24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)

  25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.

  26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.

  27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.

  28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.

  29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

  30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.

  31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.

  32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.

  33. I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.

  34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.

  35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.

  36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.

  37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he's my trusted lieutenant.

  38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.

  39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.

  40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.

  41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.

  42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.

  43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.

  44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.

  45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.

  46. If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.

  47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.

  48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

  49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.

  50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.

  51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.

  52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.

  53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.

  54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.

  55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.

  56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.

  57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.

  58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.

  59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.

  60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.

  61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.

  62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.

  63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.

  64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.

  65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.

  66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.

  67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.

  68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.

  69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.

  70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.

  71. If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.

  72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.

  73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.

  74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.

  75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.

  76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)

  77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.

  78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."

  79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.

  80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.

  81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.

  82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.

  83. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.

  84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

  85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."

  86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.

  87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.

  88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.

  89. After I captures the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.

  90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.

  91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.

  92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)

  93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.

  94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.

  95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.

  96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.

  97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.

  98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.

  99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.

  100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.