Thursday, January 29, 2009

Imagine if your hometown was Titty Ho

When I look at properties--either to actually buy, or just for fun--I pay much more attention to the street names than, I would assume, most people do. I grew up on Row Ct. It was so simple--easy to spell, quick to write. Then I lived on a street with a French name. Oy. With my current street name, I always have to spell the first word. But at least everyone (...most everyone) has heard of Raleigh.

Today I read an article in the NY Times about unfortunately-named streets and towns. Such as:

The examples are quite amusing. I am particularly curious about the ones they said were too naughty to print. I hate to think I would have to pass on an amazing house just because the street name was horribly embarrassing. But as for the town names...that affects a lot more people. I just think I wouldn't move there to begin with!

You can read the article for yourself here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Top 10 Fast Food Chains

Top 10 Fast Food Chains in Customer Satisfaction:
(percentage is the number of "excellent" ratings in a recent survey by a market research firm)

1. In-N-Out Burger, Irvine, Calif., 60% - don't have anymore, but LOVE
2. Raising Cane’s, Baton Rouge, La., 59% - don't have
3. Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago, 56% - don't have, but I think I've been
4. Chick-fil-A, Atlanta, 55% - have, LOVE
5. Panera Bread, St. Louis, 54%- have, LOVE
6. Chipotle, Denver, 52% - have, LOVE
7. Pei Wei, Scottsdale, Ariz., 51% - have, LOVE
8. Firehouse Subs, Jacksonville, Fla., 51% - have, LOVE
9. Taco Tote, El Paso, Texas, 50% - don't have
10. Qdoba, Wheat Ridge, Colo., 49% - have, LOVE

Article here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hilarious airline food complaint letter

This is a funny read. It's a complaint letter from a Virgin Airlines passenger to Sir Richard Branson, the owner.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard.

Cruise warning

I just read this article and it is unsettling. Basically, a couple paid $2000 to cruise through the Panama Canal. Then at the last minute, Carnival changed the itinerary. This happened to me on my cruise in the Bahamas, and although I was bummed to miss the "private island," I understood that the waters were too rough for the tender boat. The port we ended up at instead was sub par, but whatever, the cruise was a few hundred bucks if I recall. But if you are looking forward to going through the Panama Canal, and then you end up only visiting some lame Caribbean islands, that is a huge difference. But apparently it's completely within Carnival's right to do such a thing. That's awful.

The article is here if you wish to read further.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday report...a day late

I only worked out once last week. Shame on me. No good excuse, I was just lazy. But I have every intention of hitting 3 this week.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rent at DPAC

This afternoon my parents and I went to the first show in our four-season package at the Durham Performing Arts Center: Rent. First of all, the theater is lovely. It is far from ornate but its brand new-ness makes it seem nicer. The lobbies are lovely, full of natural light. The seats are wide for a theater and are quite comfortable. Our seats were dead center, at the back of the orchestra level. The rows are tiered just enough so we had a perfect view with no obstructions.

Now, despite Rent being a long running hit on Broadway as well as a major motion picture, I had never seen it nor was even familiar with the plot. I knew it took place in New York City and had something to do with AIDS. This morning I read the synopsis on the official website, so I would be better able to follow along (musicals I'm unfamiliar with lose me easily since I miss half the words in the songs). I found that helpful, because I knew what was happening in each scene. Of course, that meant I was not surprised by any of the events, but seriously, in a play where half the characters are sick, someone's gotta die.

The actors all had great voices. According to the program (which we did not get a copy of until after the show--they ran out! How is that even possible?) three of the actors were part of the original Broadway cast, so that was cool. I think my favorite was the woman who played Mimi (not an original cast member). Her voice was strong and beautiful.

Since we did not have a program until on the way out, I was unaware that photography was prohibited in the theater. Oops. I didn't get any good shots of the play itself, but here's the stage before the show started:

Here's the lobby of the second floor:

Here's the view from the lobby:

And here's the outside, on the way from the parking lot to the theater:

I must say, whoever designed the parking structure with a single small elevator ought to be drawn and quartered. How truly idiotic. And the signage to get to our seats was lacking as well. We had C Orchestra, but there are only doors for A, B, D, and E.

For dinner we went to Thai Cafe on University Drive. It was delicious! I had the Massaman curry, my mom had "Drunken Noodles," and my dad had a veggie medley. We all shared, but each of our favorites were the ones we ordered for ourselves!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shonda Rhimes, you're killin' me

Both Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice were tear jerkers this week. I especially liked Grey's. Good storylines all around. Can you believe what happened to McSteamy? Yikes. I thought Ellen Pompeo's acting was superb with the compassion-for-the-convict plot. But Bailey. When Dr. Miranda Bailey breaks down, you know it's serious. The one moment that sealed it for me was when she was on the verge, but holding it back. Then the Chief put his hand on her shoulder, and she lost it. Isn't that always how it goes.

I do have to say, though, that I could have done without the double dose of assisted suicide plot lines. Or she could have at least spread the episodes apart so they weren't on the same night.

Short post for today. Not much to write but tomorrow I'm going to see Rent at the Durham Performing Arts Center, so I will let you know how that goes. I'm a little concerned that my parents might not like it--I haven't seen the movie myself, but I hear it has to do with gays and AIDS, not exactly their ideal comfort zone.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Strike two

I did not get the puppy. :( I knew it wasn't good when I hadn't heard from the foster mom even by 10pm. I checked my work email after I got home from the department dinner, and saw that the potential adopter was apparently able to convince her husband to take the puppy.

I know there are plenty of dogs in shelters that need good homes, but I am wondering if the universe is trying to tell me something. This is the second dog I have tried to adopt that has fallen through. Both times they just came to me, crossed my path, fell into my lap, so I thought it was meant to be. Perhaps I should take heed that neither adoption panned out. I do have enormous anxiety over how Comet will react to a dog. He is my baby. We are best buds. He is not like the average cat. He is waiting for me at the door when I get home. He follows me up and down the stairs. We cuddle in the mornings. If I am sitting, he is on my lap. If I am lying down, he is right next to me or even on top of me. I love him more than is healthy, and I'm afraid if I get a dog he will change. He will hide all the time. He will be scared and mad at me and hold a grudge and feel betrayed and ignored. But when I see dogs, my heart aches for one. I want to take my dog to dog parks, and for car rides, and to bagels, and to the flea market. I heard of a restaurant that allows dogs on Sunday afternoons. How great is that?! For these past two adoption attempts, I have talked myself into taking the plunge, and then when they don't come to pass, part of me is hugely disappointed, but part of me is also hugely relieved.

I think the best thing for now, since my ambivalence is so strong, is to wait. I think I remember saying that last time. Perhaps if and when I am truly ready, the right doggie will come along.

I have not heard about the puppy...

...and it is driving me mad! The latest news is that there is only one left, a female,

and it was promised to someone already--IF she can convince her husband to get another dog. The woman who is fostering the puppy said she would give them until today to decide. I hope I get a call soon.

It's almost quittin' time, after which I will suit up for the gym, and then we have our new monthly department meeting off-site. We are going to Napper Tandy's, an Irish pub in downtown Raleigh. My manager promises it will not be too loud to talk, seeing as that is the whole point of the meeting. But hey, free dinner, I'm in.

I went to Meredith College today for lunch with my coworker Ashley, who graduated from there in 2007. It is a girls only liberal arts school only about 5 minutes from my office. We ate at the student cafeteria. It's only $6.45 for "guests," (non-students and non-staff) and of course it's all you can eat. I had a little pasta with chicken, some corn, a salad from the salad bar, and Diet Coke. Oh, and a cookie for dessert. I would totally go back and try the deli and the soup, with maybe some soft serve for dessert. They also had chili and cornbread, ribs, mashed potatoes, fried shrimp, and grilled cheese. It's a good deal.

Here's a pic of the campus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday I made a point of not mussing up my front yard, because I like the pristine "blanket of snow" look. But this morning, I woke up and someone--or something--had brazenly stomped all through it. In fact, it looks like two creatures.

Upon closer inspection, there are a couple of clear prints.

The guy who was here today to look at my heater is a hunter (but he's a really nice guy) and he confirmed they are definitely deer prints. This makes sense, because one night last summer I opened the front door and a deer ran away from right near my porch. They love whatever it is I have growing on my walkway.

I just went outside to look for the little marker that says what kind of plant it is, but it's covered in snow and a brief dig revealed nothing so it will have to remain a mystery for now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow art

Can you tell what these are? They don't photograph very well.

Snow in Raleigh!

It is beautiful!

More pix here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Best dog video ever

Excitement 'round these parts

From the National Weather Service:
Precipitation is expected to begin as a mix of rain and snow this evening... transitioning quickly to all snow overnight... continuing through Tuesday. Storm total snowfall is expected to be at least two inches across the area... and could reach four to six inches by Tuesday evening in some locations.
I asked a coworker what HVAC company he uses, and called them today. I got a machine, probably because they are closed due to MLK Day. So, likely no heater appointment tomorrow. However, the above news may indicate I get to stay home anyway!

In other exciting news, another coworker (Jace) sent out an email this morning offering up stray puppies for adoption.

Seems a daughter of a coworker of Jace's wife (could you follow that?) found them and is trying to find homes for them, but all the "adoption centers" have said they're full. She is even willing to pay for the first vet visit and first round of shots! I have already emailed to follow up. If it happens, it was meant to be! They look like they're gonna be big boys, but last weekend I was watching the Doggie Day Care at Petsmart, and I was so drawn to the Great Dane, it makes me think a big dog would be a Good Thing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday report

Another week of not breaking my New Year's resolution! I exercised 3 times. Twice at the gym at work, and once at home. This morning I got on the Nordic track. It wasn't as bad as I was dreading, due in large part to watching Game Show in My Head while I worked out. That show is unbelievable!!

I know, I know, I have broken my other resolution several times by missing a few days of posting here. But you have to admit I'm doing better! Yesterday I was out all day, first at bagels, then looking at houses with my friend Kim from work, and then at my parents' house. Today I exercised, had breakfast, took down the Christmas tree (finally!) and had my massage. There were many other things I had hoped to get done this weekend--one of these days, my loyal California reader (you know who you are) you will get your belated delivery from Santa!

I am very much looking forward to the inauguration next week, and I wish I could see every moment live. It turns out that my heater needs to be worked on (it is running in the "emergency" mode too often) so we'll see if I can schedule an appointment for Tuesday so I conveniently have to be home.

In other homefront news, my pipes froze Friday night! It has been bitterly cold here the past few days, and when I tried to take a shower Saturday morning, I had all the cold water I could want, but zero hot. Boo. So that evening I went to Lowes with my parents and bought a hot water insulation wrapper (that's just for energy efficiency) and some foam tube insulation for the exposed pipes. As we were leaving Lowes, we saw this beautiful sunset:

Oh and in case you were wondering, the hot water was functional when I got home Saturday night, and I left the faucet running ever so slightly so as to prevent the pipes from refreezing, and everything was kosher this morning. Good thing, because me after two days of not showering isn't very pleasant.

I will leave you with a picture of Comet sitting in the box I use to collect recyclable paper.

I saw him in it this morning, and he's sitting in it right now as I type this. Cats are funny.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Game Show in My Head

Have you seen this? It's on Saturday nights (I DVR it) and it's executive produced by Ashton Kutcher of Punk'd fame. The premise is this: there's one contestant, and one host. The contestant, who is out someplace where there's a lot of people, has an earpiece and the host gives them wacky tasks to complete. If the contestant can pull it off, they win $5,000 per challenge (5 challenges per show). Then, the final challenge gives the contestant an opportunity to double their money. The show is most often filmed at Universal City Walk, the Santa Monica Pier, a farmer's market, or what appears to be 3rd Street Promenade. One time, though, I totally recognized the fountain in front of the movie theater and Borders at Valencia Town Center (my hometown mall)!! Some of the previous challenges:
  • Give a stranger a ranch dressing facial, complete w/ cucumbers over the eyes. Then get the person to scrape off the dressing from their face with the cucumber and eat it. (Completed)
  • Get a stranger to help you take a coffin--with a body in it--to a funeral home. The contestant, dressed as a chauffeur, was on the side of the road with what appeared to be a broken down hearse. (Completed)
  • Get a group of people to line up for something that does not require a line, such as walking up a flight of stairs outside. (Failed)
  • Sit in a port-a-potty in the middle of a pedestrian mall, and get a stranger to give you a tissue and talk to you for one minute. (Completed)
  • Pose as a news reporter and get a stranger to go on camera and say they were abducted and probed by aliens. (Completed)
  • Pose as an infomercial guy selling a new smoothie product, and get a stranger to taste all three flavors (they were nasty, like sardine) and say on camera that they are delicious. (Failed)
  • Do a stupid magic trick involving a stranger's $5 bill wherein you make it "disappear" by putting it in your pocket, and convince the stranger to let you keep it. (Completed)
  • Pose as a bride in distress just before her outdoor wedding. Get a guy to pose as your groom, whom you say jilted you right before to walking down the aisle. He has to make up his own vows, say he loves you, and kiss you. (Completed)
  • Get a stranger to give you his name, address, and fingerprint. (Failed)
It is crazy to see these people pull off these stunts. I doubt I would be willing to do any of the things these strangers do. It's great fun watching the contestants come up with ways to convince the strangers to participate, and then more often than not, they actually do it! You can watch clips here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top 5 Web Finds

1. "Look at me, I have more in my checking account than you'll make in a decade!" Also, an even more cynical approach: "Who cares what the FDIC limits are, Chase is 'too big to fail' so if it collapses it'll get a bailout."

2. The environmental impact of Google searches - The premise: It takes energy to run a computer. It takes lots of energy to run the numerous and ginormous (ginumerous?) Google servers. Thus, searching on Google contributes to climate change. However, the way I look at it, if you comparison shop once for something by searching online instead of by driving to brick-and-mortar stores, that saves enough carbon emissions to offset countless searches.

3. That mouthwash that hurts like heck when you use it? Yeah, it's probably making you vulnerable to cancer too.

4. Good news for those closet cabaret performers: You can now authorize Visa purchases by singing, rather than signing. High school English teachers of the world, you are right--spell check will not always save you!

5. My brother asked for a meatloaf recipe, which sounds like a simple request to fulfill. But it becomes a day long odyssey if you are like me and want to know all the possible permutations out there. Here is a list I compiled throughout the day of people's tricks and "secret ingredients":

  • Use stuffing mix instead of breadcrumbs. For moister meatloaf, soak the stuffing mix in water before mixing it into the meat.
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese for a richer meatloaf
  • half a cup of Heinz chili sauce
  • 1 cup French fried onions
  • 1 cup applesauce for moisture
  • 1 cup cooked rice for bulk (or use a flavored one for taste)
  • 1 ½ cups refrigerated hash brown potatoes
  • 1 cup refried beans (for a Mexican version, see below)
  • Use crushed Ritz crackers instead of saltines
  • Use crushed BBQ potato chips in place of some of the breadcrumbs or crackers
  • Grape jelly in the sauce on the top
  • Pork and beans instead of ketchup/tomato sauce
  • Chili instead of ketchup/tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup horseradish
  • Fennel seed (my favorite)
  • Hoisin sauce (for an Asian-tasting meatloaf)
  • Condensed cream of mushroom soup (not diluted) as topping
  • Italian dressing seasonings packet
  • Add half the meat on the bottom of the pan, layer with cheese, then add rest of meat on top

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Have you ever? Meme

I stole this from Nicole’s blog. It’s a list of activities/experiences. I have marked them according to the following:

Things I've already done: bold
Things I want to do: italicize
Things I haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font

1. started my own blog
2. slept under the stars
3. played in a band
4. visited Hawaii
5. watched a meteor shower
6. given more than I can afford to charity
7. been to Disneyland/world
8. climbed a mountain (well, it was technically a butte, but I’m counting it!)
9. held a praying mantis
10. sang a solo
11. bungee jumped
12. visited Paris
13. watched a lightning storm at sea
14. taught myself an art from scratch
15. adopted a child

16. had food poisoning
17. walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. grown my own vegetables
19. seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. slept on an overnight train
21. had a pillow fight
22. hitch hiked
23. taken a sick day when I was not ill
24. built a snow fort
25. held a lamb
26. gone skinny dipping
27. run a marathon (but I’ve done 2 5k’s and a 5 mile…)
28. ridden a gondola in Venice
29. seen a total eclipse
30. watched a sunrise or sunset
31. hit a home run
32. been on a cruise
33. seen Niagara Falls in person
34. visited the birthplace of my ancestors (I guess that’s Germany and Lithuania??)
35. seen an Amish community
36. taught myself a new language
37. had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. gone rock climbing
40. seen Michelangelo's David in person
41. sung karaoke
42. seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. visited Africa
45. walked on a beach by moonlight
46. been transported in an ambulance
47. had my portrait painted (if you count a caricature)
48. gone deep sea fishing
49. seen the Sistine Chapel in person (pinch-me moment!)
50. been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. gone scuba diving or snorkeling (But I want to snorkel again, in less tumultuous waters)
52. kissed in the rain
53. played in the mud (surely as a child...)
54. gone to a drive-in theatre
55. been in a movie
56. visited the Great Wall of China
57. started a business
58. taken a martial arts class
59. visited Russia
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. sold girl scout cookies
62. gone whale watching
63. gotten flowers for no reason (doesn’t say someone ELSE has to have gotten them for you)
64. donated blood
65. gone sky diving
66. visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. bounced a check
68. flown in a helicopter
69. saved a favorite childhood toy
70. visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. eaten caviar (eww)
72. pieced a quilt
73. stood in Times Square
74. toured the Everglades
75. been fired from a job (laid off)
76. seen the changing of the guard in London
77. broken a bone (foot)
78. been on a speeding motorcycle
79. seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. published a book
81. visited the Vatican
82. bought a brand new car
83. walked in Jerusalem
84. had my picture in the newspaper
85. read the entire Bible
86. visited the White House
87. killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. had chickenpox
89. saved someone’s life
90. sat on a jury
91. met someone famous (I know! 30 years in LA, you’d think this’d be cake)
92. joined a book club
93. lost a loved one
94. had a baby
95. seen the Alamo in person
96. swum in the Great Salt Lake
97. been involved in a law suit
98. owned a cell phone
99. been stung by a bee

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kitty elevator

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unhappy Anniversary

A year ago today my house was broken into. It was around 5:30 am, and I was upstairs in bed, sleeping. I heard a crash. That day I had taken down my Christmas tree and left the bins with the ornaments stacked downstairs. I thought Comet had tried to jump on top, and knocked them over. I came downstairs in my long-sleeved tshirt and underwear and saw that the sliding glass door was shattered.

My first thought was that a fierce wind must have blown a tree into the door or something. As I walked closer (carefully, as I was in bare feet and there were shards of glass everywhere) I saw a sledgehammer lying on the ground outside, and the wooden stick (called a "burglar bar") was disloged.

I believe my words were, "Oh my god." I instinctively looked over to my big TV, but it was still there. I looked around quickly and everything seemed in its place. More importantly, I did seem alone. I ran upstairs and used the on-call cell phone (which was by my bed, of course) to dial 911. After about 10 rings, the dispatcher picked up and I told him what happened. He said he was sending the police right away, and that he would stay with me on the phone until they arrived. At this point my heart was literally pounding outside of my chest. I had never felt it pound like that before. It was unreal. Even so, the guy on the phone said I was handling this remarkably well. As we were waiting for the cops, I threw on some PJ bottoms and finally they arrived. They came in through the back. I remember one saying he had just driven through this area and hadn't seen anything. The other said he would call for someone to come dust for fingerprints. It wasn't until the officer asked me for my ID that I realized my purse was gone.

I was devastated. Frankly, I would have rather the crook stole the TV. Losing your purse means you have to cancel all your credit cards, close your checking account, get a new driver's license, etc. But if you're me, your purse is also a portable electronics store. It had my Canon G7 digital camera, my 30 gb iPod, my brand new iPod nano that I'd gotten for Christmas (red, engraved with my name!), my work pager, my flash drive, almost $100 in gift cards, $40 in cash, and other things that, while not monetarily valuable, I'd always carried around with me. The same tiny mirror since junior high. The same lens cleaning cloth since who knows when. Not to mention the purse itself, which I adored because it was the perfect size and had the perfect number of pockets. I had just gotten it, too. Thankfully the thief had dropped my cell phone outside, and my keys must have been sitting next to my purse rather than in it, because those were still on the table. That would have made the nightmare even worse.

While the cops were waiting outside for the fingerprint guy to come, I hopped online to see if there'd been any activity on my cards. Sure enough, about 6am, my debit card had been used at the gas station half a mile from my house. A $400 purchase. I ran out to the cops and told them to go get the guy! One of them took off, and said I did a good job going online. The fingerprint guy came, and after he put black dust all over the door handle, my phone, and the sledgehammer (which, by the way, the cops found out had been taken from my neighbor's work truck parked across the street), he said there were only partial prints.

By now it was getting light out. The sliding glass door was basically down to its metal frame, because all the glass had been falling out as the cops slid the door back and forth. Thankfully it was about 60 degrees outside--a blessing, since my house was open to the elements for several hours as I waited for a repair man to come. I called my parents and they came over. They watched the house while I went to get a new license. I called work to tell them I couldn't come in until the door was fixed. Of course when the glass guy came, he measured and said it's a custom size so they'd have to order the glass. So he boarded the door up (he did a good job, it was very secure) and cleaned up all the glass, which was a huge help. Even so, I was picking up stray glass chunks for weeks afterwards. I had to pay half of the cost up front, but with what? I used a credit card that I had in my desk upstairs, that I never carry. I was very grateful for that! Another thing I was very thankful for was my homeowner's insurance. I called Allstate and filed a claim, and over the next few weeks they did an awesome job. I received a check in the mail for the door right away. For the stolen items I had to provide receipts for the expensive ones, and just fax them over. I had a boarded door for over a week, and when it was finally replaced it was so bright in the kitchen! Alas, I don't look at that glass much these days. The curtains are pretty much permanently closed (and I clip them together so there's no peeking at all!). The fence into the backyard has a padlock on it. And I always arm the alarm when I go to bed. Not that the alarm would have deterred this guy. This is the definition of irony right here:

It was a smash-and-grab job. He would have been off and running before the alarm even sounded. (It's not instant at the doors. It gives a long beep--about 30 sec, I guess--to give you a chance to enter the code.)

In the days that followed I was ready to move. I wanted to go back to Apex in the worst way. I'd always lived on the second floor. In apartment buildings, I chose the second floor so that I would not have to hear people above me. In my condo, the garage was the first floor. I'm only now acutely aware of how vulnerable I am at street level. Anyone can see into my house. They can see my stuff. I don't like it. I have become a huge fan of certain styles of midcentury modern architecture, where they have windows up very high. That way you can cover all the lower ones but still let in light.

I am tired of living in the dark. I also seriously considered getting a dog, for the security aspect. Alas, that never came to be. Perhaps this is the year.

I am reminded of what happened every night when I am forced to take my purse and computer upstairs with me. I can't just leave them on the kitchen chair like I used to because even though the gate is locked and the curtains are know the saying: fooled once, shame on them; fooled twice, shame on you. I have trimmed down drastically what I carry in my wallet, but there are still other things you have to carry that would be a pain to replace. My insurance card, all the supermarket rewards cards, business cards for doctors and mechanics and such. At stores I see women open up their massive wallets full of every credit card they have and I cringe.

- - -

So now you will understand why I almost had a heart attack a couple months ago when the alarm went off in the middle of the night. It was not the normal siren sound, but rather a horrible screeching. But when you're dead asleep, a sharp piercing sound is a sharp piercing sound. I immediately leaped out of bed with my heart racing and thumping out of my chest. I tried to enter the code to shut up the alarm but it wouldn't be quiet. I was in the process of calling the alarm people (they are programmed into my cell because I've had so many problems with it) when entering my code finally worked. Needless to say, I could not go back to sleep. I was afraid the alarm would screech again, and that my heart could not take it a second time. I laid in bed and watched TV, and around 5 am it blared again even though it was not armed. I called the alarm company and they sent a person out the next day but that person found nothing wrong with the system and looked at me like I was looney when I described what had happened.

So that's the story of how my 2008 started out. It did not bode well, and needless to say I am elated to be moving on to '09. I did not write about all this when it first happened because the violation and vulnerability were too raw. Even now it's something I think about nearly every day. I get gas at the station the thief used my card at. I wonder if my purse is somewhere in the bushes in empty lot next to it. But you know, life goes on, and every experience teaches you lessons.

Oh, and by the way, I spoke with the investigator assigned to my case several weeks after the break-in, and they did get the guy, although he claims a friend gave him the debit card. I filled out paperwork saying I wanted to know what happened in the case but never did hear. Part of me wants to know he's behind bars for a good long time--this burglary was a first-degree felony--but what if he isn't? Sometimes ignorance truly can be bliss.

Weekly Exercise Report, 1/11/09

I worked out three times this week. Tuesday and Thursday at the gym at work, and on Saturday I walked in laps around my backyard. It was a beautiful day and I totally rocked out to the music on my mp3 player. It was a blast!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Downtown Raleigh

Today was my company's annual kick-off meeting, and tonight we all went out to dinner at a restaurant in downtown Raleigh called Humble Pie. It is late, so I will talk more about all that tomorrow. For now, I will leave you with a photo I took on the way home, of the skyline. This was taken from the bridge on S. Boylan, between Hargett and Kinsey.

Oh, okay, I'll show you my entree as well. Stuffed shells. And those brown thingies on top? Garlic chips. Mmm hmm. Slices of garlic, baked (I'm guessing) to a most delightful crisp. Oh my, were they delicious!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Surge

Remember when you first heard about surge protectors? They are supposed to protect your electronics from bursts of power coming through the wiring. I'd bet everyone reading this has something plugged into one. It makes us feel like we are protecting our expensive toys: TV's, computers, stereos, etc.

While I understand the theory behind surge protectors, I must admit they seem kinda useless. I mean, have you ever had a surge? Come on, how common are surges? It's probably as rare as winning the lottery, and it's a conspiracy to get everyone to spend 10, 20, or even 100 dollars on an extra piece of equipment. It's a great upsell, the Circuit City salesperson's greatest dream.

Well, I have to say that I believe in surge protectors now. Yesterday there was a surge at my parents' house. Their electricity went out. Not unheard of, since the Triangle region was in the middle of a storm--rain and high winds. Their generator automatically kicked in, and moments later, POP...POP...POP...and the rancid stench of burning plastic and wire.

The TV, DVR, etc. downstairs were plugged into this surge protector:

It was sitting on the floor underneath the TV. Check out the floor:

(Yes, that is a burned-in X from the bottom of the surge protector.)

What's more, they pay the electric company extra each month for a "whole house" surge protector. Which, if you ask me, sounds like you shouldn't have to use the extra surge protectors at each outlet. So today, Progress Energy came out to check on the circuits, etc. Some things were unplugged, some were plugged into the couple spare surge protectors my parents had on hand, and some things, like the brand new front-loading washing machine, were plugged directly into the wall. When the power guy ran his test...POP...POP. No more washer. So much for the whole house protection! Good news is, if you pay for that "protection," if something gets ruined due to system failure, Progress Energy is liable and will reimburse you for it.

But what a hassle! The cause of the problem has yet to be determined. It could be a wiring thing, it could have to do with the generator, who knows. All I know is that I will plug everything important into a good, strong surge protector.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bonus web find

Top 5 Web Finds

1. Pics: Just came across this today from Cute Overload. It made me laugh out loud because I can totally imagine myself trying the same thing with the same results (that is, if I had 2 cats and a dog).

2. Video: Can a cat and a crow be friends? Check out this fantastic video that my mom sent me a link to. It's about 7 minutes, but it is worth it. You especially have to see the pranking action around the 5 minute mark.

3. Article: The New York Times column The Minimalist has some good tips on what to ditch from your pantry and what to always keep on hand. It's amazing how he can make a simple bean recipe sound so delicious. I will have to try cooking dry beans since he says there's a huge difference from canned.

4. Video: Wing Suit Base Jumping. Go watch and prepare to be in awe. Something with 9,000 diggs in 2 days--you know it has to be good.

5. Lists! Who doesn't love lists?! This is a good one: What's In and Out for 2009. I must be behind the times, because I still like a lot of the "out" things (Lost, LOL Cats).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Random Thoughts

  • I had no mail today. None at all.
  • I got a free cappuccino at Sheetz just for filling up my car.
  • I counted it up today and I did a total of 299 on-call shifts in 2008.
  • I saw Craig Ferguson on Million Dollar Password and was impressed with his intellect, so I recorded his talk show (the Late Late Show). I am in love with his Scottish accent. And he's pretty funny!
  • I am currently obsessed with lox and cream cheese.
  • There were seven other people in the gym at work today. It really is not big enough for that. On the upside, though, I found out they are finally going to put in a new TV in the next couple of weeks. The old one broke and has been gone for about 3 months.
  • I heart Robert Krulwich's science podcast on NPR.
  • I know it's time to take down the Christmas tree but I am so fond of the lights.
  • Quite recently there were no movies I wanted to see. Now there are so many! Marley & Me, Milk, Last Chance Harvey, Hotel for Dogs, Bride Wars, Four Christmases. And in Feb they release He's Just Not That Into You and Confessions of a Shopaholic!

Monday, January 05, 2009

I think it fits in well!

Granted, it's behind me when I'm sitting at my desk all day. But I have other beautiful items to gaze at.

See Elefante, and the new baby? See the fountain behind the bamboo?

Here's a closeup of the painting.

I think I've posted more about my office (i.e., workspace) than anyone ever would care to know. But when you occupy a space over 40 hours a week, it's important to you. Okay, ME, it's important to ME. But it's my blog. You can get your own blog and post about your own office. Or classroom. Or cubicle. Or UPS driver's seat.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday report, with bonus recipe!

Update: I forgot an ingredient for the casserole. See below for correction.

I exercised a total of one time this past week. Not to start the year with excuses, but I did just make the resolution on Thursday. I use the gym at work. It is tiny, but it has two ellipticals, two treadmills, and two recumbent bikes, along with some free weights and one of those weight machine thingies where you can do lateral pull downs and such. I suppose I could have gone into the office Saturday or today to get in another workout, but nah. I did walk for several hours at the mall yesterday. Although it was not vigorous, it is much better than my typical Saturday of sitting in front of the TV and/or computer.

My plan is to work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work. Exactly which days may have to be adjusted based on things like what day everyone wants to go out to sushi and the like. This coming week, Thursday and Friday are going to be atypical. We are having our annual Kick-Off, which is supposed to be a kind of look back, look forward event. I'm not quite sure what we're doing Thursday. It's departmental meetings, I think. So I think I can work out that evening. But Friday we are not going in to the office. We are meeting in a conference room at the RBC Center (it is like 1 mile from our building), and then going out for a big dinner. I have no idea where yet. Communication in my company leaves a lot to be desired, but I'm told that's the number one topic at Kick-Off, so hopefully it will improve in the future. I have often thought of proposing that I add to my current position the duties of internal communication. But that would mean I have to know everything that's going on and decide who needs to be informed. And although we've been told in the past that this is a "transparent" company, the current administration comes across as more secret cabal than populist collaboration.

But I digress. Moving on to a more pleasant topic, let's talk casseroles. As in, the one I made for dinner tonight. It is to die for, but the ingredients are so simple. I found it in one of those recipe books they have at the grocery store checkout line. I love those. They're always good for a few winners. This is a breakfast casserole, but honestly, it is good any time of day.

20 oz. fresh shredded potatoes
1/3 cup butter
1 cube bouillon

Melt butter, combine with potatoes. Mash up bouillon cube and sprinkle over potatoes; mix. Press potatoes into bottom and up along sides of 2qt baking dish. I've found that the taller ones result in a moister finished product than the long flat ones. Bake that at 350 for 30 min.

1 lb turkey sausage
1/3 cup onion

Meanwhile, brown the turkey sausage with the onion and drain fat, if any.

1 cup cottage cheese (original recipe calls for 4%--tonight I used 2% and it was just as good, but not as firm after cooking)
3 eggs lightly beaten (I usually use real ones, but tonight I tried southwestern Egg Beaters and it worked fine)
4 pieces of American cheese (please do not get 2% or god forbid, fat-free)

Combine the cottage cheese and eggs. Tear the American cheese into small pieces and drop into egg mixture, then stir. Pour sausage into egg mixture and stir. (You may wish to add some chopped roasted garlic at this point--the recipe does not call for it but I do!) Then pour everything into the potato crust and bake at 375 for 45 min, or until knife inserted at center comes out clean. Allow 10-15 min for casserole to set before eating. You can get 6 servings out of it if necessary, but it is so good you'll probably only get 4.

My only complaint about this recipe is that you have to bake it twice. I may try eliminating the potato baking one day to see if it still comes out okay. Or maybe only baking it until I'm done preparing the filling.

And yes, I realize it may seem ironic starting this post with talk of exercise, and ending it with talk of cheesy comfort food. But the comfort food is the reason and reward for the exercise!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Busy Saturday

Okay, I cannot lie. I am posting this on Sunday but I backdated the post to Saturday because I am too ashamed to admit I failed on day 3. I did not forget to post--in fact, I thought about it several times--but I was just too busy. And frankly, I'd rather have a busy life and not be able to post than have no life at all with nothing to post about!

I started the day going to the Starving Artist sale at the Holiday Inn. They probably have these in cities all across America. "Original oil paintings! Nothing over $59!!" It was a tiny room with tons of paintings and tons of people looking and buying. I could have spent several hundred dollars but was looking for something to hang in my office. There is an empty wall behind me and I've been looking for something to hang ever since I moved in there. I was hoping for a 24x36 vertical piece, but 99% of what they had was horizontal. So I ended up getting an 18x24 horizontal piece, framed. The frames really make the paintings look nice. After I hang it at work I'll post a pic. It was a hard decision because there were lots of great ones. I was contemplating a Paris scene with the Eiffel Tower or the Arch d'Triomphe in the background, or a Venice scene with gondoliers, but ultimately chose one that could possibly be along the Amalfi coast of Italy or perhaps Greece. It is very colorful and it makes me happy to look at it.

After the art sale I went to Crabtree Valley Mall to do some belated Christmas shopping. I had tons of fun because there are so many bargains out there. I ended up getting several things for myself as well, such as slippers (new slippers are the best!) and some Hallmark ornaments 60% off. There was also a big sale at Bath & Body Works, and it's hard to pass up things that are normally $10 on sale for $2.

When I finally had shopped till I dropped, I called my parents and asked them if they wanted me to pick up something for dinner on my way to their house. We decided Pei Wei sounded good. I love Pei Wei. It's the bistro version of PF Chang's. Delicious food at good prices. At my parents' house we ate then watched a movie called Hope Springs. Netflix had recommended it to me. It sounded good--a romantic comedy with Colin Firth, Minnie Driver, and Heather Graham. It was kind of slow to start, and a little quirky, but it ended up being cute enough.

I'm off to my massage and then to do some grocery shopping, but I promise to log on again for my Sunday post. Speaking of Sunday Posts, have you checked out Post Secret lately? If it's not a regular on your list of sites to visit, it should be. Go check it out!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Day 2, not a failure yet

Today I'm supposed to write about TV, music, or movies. I chose Friday for that theme because Thursday night is Grey's Anatomy. Except that it wasn't on last night. But new episodes resume next week, and they're also moving Private Practice to that night. Yay!

I'm also highly anticipating the return of Lost. It's been forever so I don't even remember where we left off but I downloaded a recap episode from iTunes so that should help. I haven't watched any video on my iPod lately since I haven't done any traveling. I've yet to catch the "watch shows online" bug. Perhaps if my computer were connected to my TV I would be more inclined. I may have to try that. I think my LCD set has an input for computers.

In regards to cinema, I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last weekend. I enjoyed it. I think it is one of those films that will grow on you the more you watch it, kind of like Meet Joe Black. I didn't leave the theater thinking, Wow, that's the best movie ever! But it did have an epic quality that I'm fond of, along with good writing and performances. I thought the setup of having the story be told as a memory from the woman's deathbed while Katrina raged outside was kind of odd. I didn't see any symbolic reason to set it during Katrina, but perhaps I'm dense. I never was very good at catching on to symbolism.

I am dying to see Marley & Me, but it is not appealing to my friends because they know it has a sad ending. I know I'll be bawling, but I still want to see it!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I have not been a very good blogger lately, so I might be setting myself up for failure, but I am going to try and post every single day in 2009. We'll see how long that lasts. To help come up with things to write about, I'm setting up some daily themes. My rule is that I can deviate from the theme if I have something else to write about, but if not, at least I can have some direction for those days when the inspiration just doesn't strike.

Mondays: Animals
Tuesdays: Travel
Wednesdays: Top 5 web finds
Thursdays: Gratitude
Fridays: TV/movies/music
Saturdays: Quote of the Week
Sundays: Exercise Report

That last day's theme gives away one of my other resolutions. I must, must, must work out at least three times a week. Perhaps if I am committed to reporting back here each week, I will be less likely to flake out.

My last resolution is a very simple one, but if I can keep it my closet will thank me. After I change into my pajamas, I have a habit of tossing my clothes either on top of the hamper (is it really so hard to OPEN it??!) or on top of the chest of drawers in the closet. My resolution is to either put the clothes IN the hamper, or to hang them back up. Yes, I wear many things more than once in between washings. Don't you?