Sunday, February 24, 2008

What about now, what about today?

Today got away from me a bit. It started out good, with Aimee and me walking 2 miles in preparation for our half-marathon in June. We did 3 miles yesterday, and I'm already starting to feel good from the brisk walking outdoors.

Then I met Jasmine and Sonny downtown to do some planning for local Caltech alumni events. I love me some event planning, so I couldn't resist participating, even though I handed over my official duties of Area Coordinator for Undergraduate Admissions Support in January to a much younger (and thus more in touch) alum.

I came home around 2pm and sort of ... puttered around. I have no idea what I did between 2 and 7. I took a shower. I put away some laundry. I wasn't feeling so well, so I napped for a bit. Maybe that was it - the late nap and the not feeling good threw everything off.

But one of the projects I've been meaning to tackle is cleaning out my closet. I doubt I'll ever be able to let go of the habit of keeping clothes that no longer fit me, for when I get back down to "that size". (Currently "that size" is anywhere from 8 to 14, believe it or not.) But I'm usually pretty good at weeding out what doesn't fit and at least putting it out of sight. (I'm a sucker for those big plastic storage bins.)

But here's the thing. I'm currently at my heaviest ever (sucks to say that) and thus, I have a LOT of fairly recent clothes that do not fit. And I've been really bummed out about it and have put off going through my closet again. (It's much more fun to get rid of clothes that are too big than too small!)

But it's even worse to try and decide what to wear in the morning, and realize it's too tight once I've put it on. Or worse, have things I *know* are too small staring me in the face. So a closet overhaul was due.

The other bad habit I have is shopping while bored. I think there's something about the shopping process that calms me, and I enjoy it. So I buy a lot of stuff, and I try to buy cheaper things, but that means I have clothes that don't hold up that well, that get faded quickly, or stretch out, or just don't quite fit right. I did notice that most of the stuff in the "too small" bins I wanted to keep are from Nordstrom or Ann Taylor, higher quality clothes that are more classic.

I gave away 3 Nine West purses and 2 pairs of shoes because they were tacky. If you are shopping with me, please don't let me buy anything else from Nine West. I'll just end up hating it in a year or two.

The other thing I learned, is that 100% cotton knit stuff just looks bad after a while. I got rid of 3 sweaters and countless T shirts because they were just ratty and/or shapeless. I think I need shirts with just a touch of spandex in them so they keep their shape. And 100% cotton sweaters just don't stay nice, even the ones from Nordstrom. (I think cashmere might be where it's at for sweaters...)

On the other hand, the fabulous white leather satchel purse that cost me nearly $100 (which is astronomical for me and purses) is still one of my favorites and has held up very nicely over the past 3 years. So if I shop carefully, and deliberately, for pieces I *need*, I think I do just fine. The "hey it's on sale and sort of cute" thing just isn't working for me.

I also enjoyed the trip down memory lane when I went through my old clothes. The shoes I bought in San Francisco just after a major breakup. (Yes, those were way too old and now they're going to Goodwill.) The sweater I bought in Chicago when I went to a diversity conference for Deloitte. The skirt I wore to our wedding celebration dinner in Vegas. The gorgeous jacket I wore on the first day of my meticulously-planned customer event at Microsoft. (I saved those last three!)

I didn't have the guts to go through the other 3 boxes of too-small clothes at the top of my closet. I'll save that for another evening. But now I have 4 big bags of clothes, handbags and shoes for Goodwill. And my closet is a lot sparser and it's easier to see what all I have. I even sorted everything by color. So now I'm pretty stoked to pick an outfit for work tomorrow. And quite honestly, instead of feeling bad about the stuff that doesn't fit, I'm all fired up to keep exercising and eating right. So I can revisit those cute clothes a few months down the road. Yay!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Suspicious minds

There's a news story in Seattle about a man who disappeared on his way home from work, after calling his wife to tell her he was on his way. I can't even imagine how scary and sad that must be for his wife and kids and I wish them the best possible outcome for this situation.

The part of this story that hits a little closer to home (besides the obvious Seattle connection) is the fact that the wife has also got a shop on Etsy, and Etsy in general is a pretty tight-knit online community.

Obviously in such a community, there are a lot of 'prayer threads' and 'support threads' pertaining to this situation. Which is what people do, when they feel like they want to help from afar and/or they don't know the family personally, I guess. (I'm not really one for stuff like that.)

The thing I find sort of odd is the plea for financial assistance. There's a bank account set up, and Paypal info posted, etc. with pleas about how the family is in a bad financial situation. And that makes me *very* wary. I'm not telling other people what to do, just expressing my own opinion here.

I'm all for the group search parties, and people being asked to post leaflets and blog posts, etc to get the word out and find this guy. To me, that's true help for the problem at hand.

But the money? Who knows what's going on here? The guy may just have left on his own volition. Which makes it a sad story, but for me, not enough to give money to a complete stranger, who may or may not really *need* it. I'm not accusing these people of anything, after all, I don't know them, but I'm honestly surprised at how willing people are to donate money to something like this without knowing all the facts.

I know this isn't a popular viewpoint, but it makes me feel better to get it out there. I'm saving my charity money for the homeless puppies.

Your thoughts? Am I a horrible person for thinking this way? (Ah, if that's not opening myself up to lots of troll comments, I don't know what is...)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy days are here again

After the crap-tastic week I had, this weekend has been pretty darn good. I finally finished the custom order of 3 necklace and earring sets for my friend Muffie (yay) and it's packed and ready to be mailed out on Tuesday, since tomorrow is a holiday.

I also found out that my fabulous company has President's Day off. Yippeeee! I didn't even realize it until Wednesday so it truly was like receiving an unexpected gift.

The three day weekend has made me especially industrious. I finally caught up on laundry, which had reached a critical situation. My poor husband had no clean white socks, because the trips and visitors of the past few weeks threw off the laundry system I usually had, and I ended up doing a load of colors or whites, but not both the past few weeks. (Upon hearing of the crisis, my friend Aimee asked me if my husband was unable to find the washing machine himself. Tee hee. TJ was actually willing to do his own sock laundry but it was a point of shame for me, for getting so behind in my agreed-upon weekly chore.) I'm happy to report that my fabulous husband is in fact capable of doing his own laundry. But just to be safe, we bought more socks for him.

While we were at Target, I went to look for new, um, "unmentionables". (Sorry male readers!) Why is it that standard women's underwear, that comes in multi-packs, doesn't come in plain, neutral colors like black, brown, and navy? You know, like the color of the PANTS people wear most often. No one wears white pants, or fuschia pants, or bright yellow with balloons on them pants. Is there some law in the cotton multi-pack underwear land that women's butts have to look like Easter candy? Seriously people, I just want a 3 pack of basic black. Or dark blue. I know, no one should see my underwear at all, but on the off chance that my pants are doing something odd, or my shirt rides up accidentally, I'd like to at least not announce that today I'm wearing BRIGHT ORANGE underwear. So I settled for 2 packs, one black/grey and one black/pink. Not sure what to do with the pink pair. Stupid. I guess the land of the happy multi-pack is not for me and I must go to a real store and buy individual ones.

OK, done with the underwear talk. (Sorry if I embarassed anyone there.) Today I saw the most awesome movie. I'm generally not a movie person. I get horribly disappointed when a movie I wanted to see sucks. I'm also married to a guy who's not willing to get up and walk out of a movie. So I only see movies I know are going to be good. Which frankly, is not that many. I like to be entertained at a movie, but not pandered to.

Movies fit roughly into four categories for me, like food:

1. Junk food that doesn't even taste good, like pork rinds, gummi candy or corn nuts. These are movies that don't sound in the least bit appealing to me, and I will most likely hate because they're juvenile, stupid, and lacking any redeeming qualities. Like "There's Something About Mary" or anything with Adam Sandler in it.

2. Junk food that I enjoy, like Pringles or Doritos. Movies that I love, even though artistically, they don't have a lot of value or substance. Predictable sappy romantic comedies such as "Hitch", or fun fluff like "13 Going on 30".

3. Steamed vegetables and cottage cheese. Movies that are artistic, win awards, and are critically acclaimed, like "Empire of the Sun", "Gandhi", "Citizen Kane", "Schindler's List". I can watch them and recognize that they are ART, and GOOD, but they do not connect with me. I never WANT to watch them, but always feel like I SHOULD watch them. Like for a class.

4. Sushi, which is VERY healthy and one of my favorite foods EVER. I'd eat it even if it wasn't healthy. That it *is* healthy astounds me. The movie I saw today was sushi.

And the winner is... "Juno". This movie was freakin' AMAZING. It was perfect in nearly every respect - funny, touching, hip, complex. Not one of the characters was the typical stereotype - every single one had redeeming qualities and complexity. The story was brilliant, the characters likeable, and even the music and mood were just right. It was quirky, and different, and yet you could get inside the main characters head and just KNOW how she was feeling, from a single look at her face. Seriously awesome. As the cliche goes, I laughed and I cried. It was better than Cats :).

I don't often see sushi movies. Because they're few and far between. Others in that category are "Bend it Like Beckham" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

So today was a good day. It even offset the fact that I got a threatening letter in the mail from the Scary Dentist, referring to our ill-fated phone conversation and reiterating her threats. I did remove my original review, but left a completely factual account of recent events in its place. I will also be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Washington state commission for healthcare quality, because I resent my health records being used to harass me.

So that unpleasantness aside, what are your sushi movies? Or, if you hate sushi, what food do you love that also nourishes you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hush little baby don't say a word

This is one of those weeks where getting out of bed, getting ready and getting to work by 9am seems like an insurmountable task EVERY SINGLE DAY. I like my job, it's just that it seems like an awful lot of effort to get there each day. (I'm working on getting them to allow me to work from home once a week but the wheels of HR move slowly and at a tiny company, there are more pressing things to address in the near-term. I get that.)

On Sunday while shopping with Wendi I consumed an excess of both sugar and caffeine, which resulted in me trying to fall asleep unsuccessfully from 10pm to 2am. So Monday was a rough day at work and when I got home, I just wanted to eat the nice steak TJ prepared for us on our much-adored George Foreman Grill, zone out to some tv and hop into bed.

Instead, the minute I walk into the kitchen we get a phone call. I don't usually answer the phone at home since our signal to noise ratio is pretty low. But sadly, I chose to.

The woman on the line identified herself as a dentist I went to once a few years ago.

Background: I went there because a friend wanted the referral credit to get some free service and it was one of those plushy and spa-like place so I figured I'd give it a shot. This dentist gave me a very alarming diagnosis of my teeth and how I needed extensive jaw surgery or else my face would start to cave in and look old, because of my teeth grinding issues. She also said the mouthguard I was given by my old dentist would make my problem worse. I left the office pretty shaken, since no other dentist had *ever* told me this stuff and went promptly back to my previous one, who reassured me my teeth were fine and healthy. So needless to say, I never went back to Scary Dentist.

Back to the present. It took me a few minutes to comprehend why she was calling me - she started ranting at me about an online review I had written on InsiderPages and how it offended her and defamed her etc. She just kept ranting. I tried to get a word in edgewise, and I was already annoyed due to my lack of sleep coupled with the ranting, so finally, I told her I didn't have time to listen to this and hung up on her.

Aside: I'm more than a little peeved that she used my dental records to find my phone number and call me about this matter. My review online only had my first name and last initial, but of course, my name isn't Bob so it was probably trivial to track me down in the patient records.

About a minute after I hung up the phone rang again. This time TJ answered and got an earful and some legal threats. He's much nicer and calmer than I am in aggressive situations, so he calmly told her he would talk to me and got off the phone with her.

So we're just sitting there stunned. I wrote the review in 2005, for a dentist visit in 2004. And she's calling me about in January 2008? I guess she just discovered the Internet or something. Also, isn't it a better idea, if you're going to call a dissatisfied customer, to try and find out what the issue was instead of yelling at them? I can only imagine if Microsoft called its dissatisfied customers and ranted at them. That would win them a lot of business, I'm sure.

So given that it's been 3 freakin' years since I wrote the review I went to look it up. It wasn't that bad (even for me!) and there was another review by someone else backing up exactly what I had said. That poor person also had an unusual name, so I guess she probably got a nasty phone call too.

And then, using the power of Google, I searched for this dentist on other popular review sites and what I saw completely floored me. My little review was tame compared to some of what's out there. (And now that I look I'm noticing some of the really inflammatory ones have been pulled. Which is a bummer.) People talked about shady business practices, complaints to the dental commission, and huge bills not covered by insurance. So I definitely got lucky by just walking away.

Now I'm not a rich dentist in private practice, and I like my assets just fine, thank you, so I'm a little worried about this. While I really do believe in freedom of speech and the general usefulness of online reviews, I'm not willing to stand up for this and risk that I might get sued. Though I'm guessing the statute of limitations in Washington has long expired. So I removed my review just in case. And left in its place a note about how I was threatened with legal action. I'm sure the site will delete it soon, but it gives me some small measure of satisfaction that at least a few people will see it.

The most awesome thing ever is the fact that mysteriously, *very* favorable, glowing reviews have popped up on all three review sites, identically cut and pasted, yesterday. They also take pains to mention that the other reviewers must be awful people to "defame" the dentist like that. Which is just hilarious when you know the backstory. I wonder if it's hard for one dentist to maintain all those different profiles on those sites. (Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, "Dean from Medina".)

Anyway, the moral of my story is this: if you're going to post Internet reviews, and I recommend you do, to help people out, post anonymously or use a common name. I am probably way too free about posting my own name all over the Internet and this has been a great lesson for me to be just a bit more careful. There are a lot of nuts out there. Word to your mother.

TJ's lesson learned from this: Don't go to the dentist. :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Soft fuzzy sweaters, too magical to touch

This was a GOOD weekend. My dad was here in the early part of the weekend, and we ate very yummy Japanese food at Flo on Friday night.

Yesterday was an extremely lazy day and I was still getting over my sinus issues. After a four hour nap, I finally started on a couple of necklace and earring sets for a friend. Check them out, and click to see bigger versions:

So that was a good, productive day. Oh, and my fabulous husband went grocery shopping so I didn't have to. So nice!

Today I got up and went for a 1 mile walk with Spike at the dog park to begin my half-marathon training. As I expected, it was easy. But still felt good to be outside.

Then I went to visit Jasmine, Charlie and Catie to drop off the baby present I had for Charlie (who was born 4 months ago!) and Jasmine's birthday present (from November!). Ugh, I have no idea where the time goes!

After that, I met up with Wendi for a fabulous afternoon of eating and shopping. We had sushi (what else?) and then spent quality time at Nordstrom, where 3 gorgeous cashmere sweaters found their way into a shopping bag destined for my house. Does it count that they were 50% off? And one was pink? The others were red and brown. Wardrobe staples, right?

A good time was had by all.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pleasure, little treasure

So Etsy has this cool feature called Treasury, where users can create a page to showcase 12 items they like. These lists are ephemeral, only lasting a few days. There's also a limit to the total number of Treasuries allowed, so people wait for old ones to expire so they can jump in and grab one as soon as the opportunity is available. The other cool thing is that several times a day, a different treasury is chosen for the Etsy home page.

Like many sites and forums, Etsy has some rules of use. Which are fine. The thing I find odd about some of their rules is that they try to enforce "nice", in my mind, a bit too much.

One of the generally 'accepted' rules about Treasuries is that if you are the curator of one, you are supposed to put at maximum, only one of your own items in it. Most people don't put any of their own items in there.

Which to me is such an odd rule, because Etsy is an ecommerce site. People are there to sell stuff. Why not use the free marketing tools provided to actually market your own stuff??

But no, the Etsy rules say that Treasury is for allowing the community to promote other peoples' items. Yeah, it's all very nicey-nice, but that just seems very odd to me in a business setting. (Then again, I used to work at Microsoft. And liked it.)

And of course everyone is peer-pressured into following the rules and thinking that those who don't are horrible self-promoting narcissistic people. Dude, I just want to sell some of my jewelry!

Another one of the etsy rules I find odd is that you can't "call out" another community member on their message boards. So if you had a bad transaction, or someone is ticking you off, etc, you cannot come right out and say it. And the Message Board Police are watching. It does keep a lot of the snarkiness down, but it just seems like a form of censorship you'd expect in elementary school. Like having to give a Valentine to everyone in your class, not just your friends or crushes. We *are* grownups, right?

Anyway, I digress. Rules aside, the Treasury is a pretty cool feature. People generally pick some sort of theme, so many of them are visually stunning.

Yesterday I was thrilled to find myself in two treasuries created by strangers, so I took screen shots to save them. Click the pictures to make them bigger and see the details.

Here's one with a cherry blossom theme. My bracelet is in the upper right hand corner:

Theme for this one is preppy pink and grey. My earrings are in the lower left corner:

And to repay the favor, I got my own this morning, and like a good Etsy robot, I did not include any of my own delightful pink items, but chose to focus on my fabulous buddies on my Seattle team. (Who are a *very* talented bunch, I might add!)

Hopefully this weekend I'll get some time to add more pieces to my store. I have one waiting to be photographed, but I'd like to have several ready for pictures, because it's easier to do them in batch. I've had an idea rolling around in my head for a necklace, so hopefully this weekend it'll come into being!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I don't feel so well

So the party last night was FUN. Smaller than last year's gathering, but by the end of the night everyone was talking to each other. I worry about that a lot - inviting friends from disparate groups and wondering if people will talk to each other and have fun. Last night we had Caltech friends, TJ's old job friends, my new job friends, and my old job friends.

I was feeling the aftereffects of those 3 lemon drop martinis this morning and TJ pointed out that I'm out of practice. This is true. We do have the occasional bottle of wine, but for the most part I don't drink, even on a weekly basis. Which is fine. I think my limit is probably 2 drinks from now on - the last couple of hard liquor times have been a little rough on me.

I feel a lot better in general this afternoon but am not really motivated to do much. I had a long to-do list for the party and it wiped me out. So I am sitting on the couch, enjoying our wireless internet and my pretty MacBook, and the nice fire my husband so kindly started for me in our fireplace. A nice relaxing way to spend a Sunday, if I could only get those nagging voices to be quiet about all the things I *should* be doing right now.

Oh, and after all that obsession about the Hello Kitty sewing machine, and my reading through both the user's manual and a general book about sewing, I am actually too scared to try to thread the machine. I am working up the courage to approach it. Wish me luck.

And in other news, I signed up to walk the Seafair Half Marathon in June. A few coworkers are running in it. I'm not that brave, since I'm so out of shape, but could definitely think about walking it. The super-cool thing about this event is that I'd get to walk across the 520 bridge. On a clear day, I bet the view is stunning and I'd get to enjoy it for the whole 30 minutes or whatever it takes to get across. I'm pretty stoked about that.

I also convinced my friend Jenn to walk with me. Are any of you interested?

Interestingly enough, I swore I wouldn't walk another half marathon after the one I did in Sept 2004. But somehow that feeling wore off and I'm ready to do it again. But this time, I will be sure to train with an accurate distance measure so I don't think I'm done when I have a few miles left to go! My trusty Omron HJ-112 pedometer should help with that.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tonight's the night

Ahhh, so glad it's finally the weekend. Last night was *supposed* to be the Tesla concert, but it was cancelled due to snow (!). There's no snow here. I can only assume there's snow blocking some mountain pass that Tesla wants to cross. So it's been rescheduled for March 9. Which is fine, I guess. Just annoying since I had made dinner reservations, and was mentally prepared to go to a show last night.

On the bright side, it gave me an extra evening to prepare for our Groundhog Day party tonight. But of course I squandered that extra time, watching Law & Order reruns and then finally going to bed at 9am with a raging sinus headache. Which, incidentally, is All Better Now.

So today will be a frenzy of cleaning up and Food Preparation. I've got to bake brownies, make many Pigs in Blankets, intoxicate the Champagne Grapes, wrap gifts, and find the fancy tablecloth. We have hired the same Fabulous Bartender we had at our Christmas soiree last year and she's come up with some awesome themed drinks for the occasion.

So I'm off to start my day (it's 8am, on a weekend, aren't you impressed?!).

I leave you with one of the Christmas creations from Anandi's Laboratory. This necklace was commissioned (I love that word, so hoity-toity!) by my friend Nikki, for her mom. The black beads are clay, handmade in Thailand. (They are marked as Fair Trade, so I'm hoping that's actually true.) I was pleased with the way the necklace turned out - it's a little different from the other things I've made, since I haven't done much with sterling silver chain. But Nikki said her mom liked it, so that makes me happy. Yay!

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