Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm a junkie

Before you read this post I must acknowledge that I realize what I’m about to say is shallow and unrealistic and for all intents and purposes makes me sound like an uneducated couch potato.

I am addicted to the West Wing. I got the first season on DVD for Christmas; we just bought the second season. As we’re sitting there watching it the other night I realized this is the last season, they’re canceling it, so our DVD West Wing love fest will come to an end.

Not so said The Hubby, the man of my dreams and sharer of my WW fanaticism, we’ll simply start it all over again. And then there was light and all was well in the world.

I can’t explain this obsession, because I think that’s what it is. Sadly I think I’m learning something about government from a TV show. No, I’m not so stupid to think that it’s real or this is how things work in real life, but there are things to be learned. Perhaps for higher educated people and those with a more than rudimentary understanding of government and its processes I am quite the Neanderthal here.

For example, I did not know or care before what a lame duck congress was. I did not realize that after November elections Congress is basically on vacation until January and the President can, at that time, call Congress back to vote on something he thinks will not get passed when a new Congress takes its place in January. I also did not know the President could make a limited appointment to certain offices while the Congress is not in session and does this in the hopes that once Congress comes back to work they’ll keep the appointee instead of going through the review process. Interesting and underhanded.

I know I am an addict because I don’t just watch one episode at a time. We have been known to watch up to six or seven on a Friday or Saturday night. I get excited when I hear the music. I love the dialogue. I love the story lines. I’m a junkie.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A promise of things to come?

I’m trying not to get excited, because really, what’s a few stores when you have thousands, but I am hopeful this signals the start of the demise of the Evil Empire…mwwwaaaaahhhaaaaaaaahaaaa.

GERMANY: WAL-MART TO CLOSE MORE STORES
According to a report in Financial Times Deutschland Wal-Mart's German unit will close an additional three stores and drop its presence in the country to its lowest level since it entered the German retail market in 1997/98. Wal-Mart Germany plans to close stores in Sigmaringen, Dusseldorf-Reisholz, and Muehldorf with the newest closures dropping the total number of stores to 85. "Despite the unavoidable closure of the three locations that we regret very much, our large investments underscore our long-term commitment to the German market," said David Wild, Head of Wal-Mart Germany.

On March 31, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin downsizing in the United Kingdom, when its Asda subsidiary opens a small convenience store in the town of Northampton, England. The move is a first for Asda, which has so far operated only giant superstores in out-of-town locations.


The new Tarjay in my town is moving right along, opening sometime this Spring a stone's throw away from the Evil Empire. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Holidays

Despite the fact that I like getting paid holidays, I’ve been thinking about the particular ones that are recognized.

I understand and acknowledge Martin Luther King, Jr. had a huge impact on civil rights, but is he really the most important person in American history, the only one deserving of having his own federally recognized holiday? I am not advocating for every president to have a day, some don’t even deserve half a minute let alone a whole day, and I’m ok with lumping them all together and having president’s day, but why single out MLK?

Have there not been other Americans who’ve made considerable contributions? Thomas Edison—where would we be without electricity? Alexander Graham Bell—hello, telephone anyone? These are things we take for granted now, but what impact did these inventors have on the country, the world even? What about Jonas Salk, discoverer of the polio vaccine?

One could argue that civil rights are more important than light and phone calls, ok, perhaps, then why don’t we celebrate Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, etc.? They fought for women’s rights and equality. Are women less important than blacks?

Is it some collective white guilt that has made MLK day what it is? Why isn’t there a German day dedicated to an important Jew?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Getting back to good

The Hubby and I met 23 years ago. I was about a month or so away from my 15th birthday and we’d just moved to Germany. He was the cool guy in the neighborhood—one of the few that drove; 17 years old (also a month away from his bday); he smoked, he worked and he was a “bad boy.”

Up until that point in my life my interaction with boys was limited to crushes, “going together” (which simply meant you walked to class together and maybe talked on the phone) and the relationships my na├»ve, romantic young heart conjured in my head. I’d never kissed a boy, held hands or went on a real date.

I moved right before the start of 10th grade; it was still summer so my friends at that time were girls of my age that lived in my neighborhood. One day one of them told me to come outside because she had a cute guy she wanted me to meet. I came out and there he stood, smoking a cigarette and looking tough and cool. To this day I have no idea what made me say it, but it was probably the best, worst first thing I could say to a guy. I said, Ok, where’s the cute guy?

From The Hubby’s point of view at the time, that meant war. HE was the BMOC and who was I, this preppy little non-descript 10th grader to question him? He befriended me. For some magical reason, as I can only say its magical looking back now, I felt good around him. We became friends right away, though at the time for him it was part of his plan. He fixed me up with my first boyfriend, another boy in the neighborhood. The Hubby told me he was a year or so younger than me, I can’t remember exactly. The boy and I dated briefly. I had my first kiss. I was on a giddy high of a first boyfriend. He wasn’t anything remarkable, just the first.

As the days turned into weeks The Hubby, who served as a chauffer many times for my dates, began to see me not as the smart ass that questioned him, but as someone he’d like to date himself and his little game of getting me back backfired on him. I found out The Hubby laid to me, the boy wasn’t a year behind me in school, he was going into 7th or 8th grade—I was distraught. I broke up with the boy. Being a 10th grader, new to the school I couldn’t very well date a “child,” plus he’d lied to me.

Though breaking up with my first boyfriend upset me, the bigger disappointment was that The Hubby, who’d become my friend and confidant, had lied to me. I got over it, though through the fog of age I can’t remember how long it took or what that defining moment was when I realized we were more than friends. We went to the fall carnival together that October, probably our first real date. Oddly enough, before we started dating I could ride in the car with him whenever I wanted. After we started dating we had to walk everywhere. We walked a lot; to the movies, to the store, around the neighborhood, through gardens. We weren’t going anywhere in particular, just out of ear shot of my younger brother, away from prying eyes where we might steal a kiss or two. We just walked to be together.

Friday The Hubby and I had a date. I have to be honest, marriage is hard work. When you mix two demanding jobs, two incredible kids and two hardheaded individuals there’s a lot that can and does go wrong. Sometimes you lose track of why you’re together; sometimes you lose track of being a couple rather than just Mom and Dad or an employee, sometimes you forget to put that person first and to let them know why you stay around. Friday The Hubby and I went for a walk in the park. It was his idea, a surprise. He reminded me of our beginnings, the walks, the talks, the being together, holding hands and just enjoying each other.

It was one of the most romantic things he’s ever done.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Wasting time

Found this little quiz, you know how I love quizzes, so I took it and am posting. Go on, take the quiz, it's fun!

Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.
You won’t find his 19th century songs on the top of the charts today, but that doesn’t mean Stephen Foster’s tunes have lost their appeal to many nostalgic Americans. Some of the old favorites written by the songwriter include My Old Kentucky Home, Oh! Susanne and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair. (The Book of Days—Jan. 13 is Stephen Foster Memorial Day)

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can and see what you touch.
At arms length I touch a crazy working woman ornament a friend gave me.

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
I watched the news before going to bed last night and was sad because we didn’t have the piles of snow they did in New England.

Without looking, guess what time it is.
2pm

Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?Dammit, it’s only 1:36pm

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
The hum of the printer and other people typing on their keyboards.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
I stepped out about 20 minutes ago to have an after lunch smoke. It’s windy and cold. I had yummy leftover chilli for lunch.

Before you started this survey, what did you look at?
I was procrastinating after lunch, surfing around blogs and found this test.


What are you wearing?

Uh, a salmonish/pinkish sweater set with black and white pants. I am not a style guru.

Did you dream last night?
I’m sure I did, but I can’t remember what I dreamed. If you ask as soon as I wake up I might be able to tell you, but not at 1:30 in the afternoon.

When did you last laugh?
Hmm, probably yesterday with the hubby and kids. Don’t know that I’ve laughed out loud so far today.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Ah, my pod, it’s like a quilt of personality. I rip stuff out of magazines all the time so I have everything from pictures of ivy covered windows (because I don’t actually have my own window) and flowers to quotes, photos of Rod, artwork from my kids, pictures of my hubby, kids and friends and penguins.

Seen anything weird lately?
I had dinner at my parents house this weekend, wonder if that counts? ; )

What do you think of this quiz?
I love quizzes, I’m a closet quiz taker, as long as it’s not for a grade.

What is the last movie you saw?
Watched Sum of All Fears on TV last night since the Olympics were on and West Wing was not.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
A deep fryer for the hubby and the second season of West Wing for me. After that I’d pay off our house/debt; buy us each a new car, well, new to us; sock the college fund money away; make some wise investments; take some awesome vacations and give a buttload to my brother and my aunt.

Tell me something about you that I don’t know.
I spent all day yesterday in my pajamas.

If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
I would have a trap door set up in the 10-item-or-less grocery aisle that would instantly drop people who enter the line with more than 10 items down a long chute.

Do you like to dance?
Yes, actually I love to dance. I think it would be cool to take ballroom dancing lessons.

George Bush?
Well, I don’t think he’s the brightest president we’ve ever had, but I think he really wants to do what’s best, he’s sincere, though I don’t always agree with his decisions.

Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
I like my daughter’s name, Heidi. I also liked Hannah.

Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
I like my son’s name, Benjamin. I also liked Jackson.

Would you ever consider living abroad?
Sure, though not permanently.

What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?
C’mon in, there are lots of people waiting to see you. Don’t you see? You weren’t as bad as you thought you were!

Monday, February 6, 2006

A picture's worth 1,000 words


This shot was taken on my first trip to Vegas a year or so ago. The Bellagio has gardens it changes periodically, and on my first trip there the hotel had a Monet exhibit in it's museum and this scene in its garden. Yes, it looks exactly like his painting, Le Pont Japonais, Bassin Aux Nympheas.



Above is my first picture of the Bellagio fountain, from street-side.


Left is shot from the hotel side.

No, that's not the Eiffel Tower silly, it's the Paris Hotel (where I stayed) in LV.

Birminghell, Judgment, Sin City and Suduko

I know it’s been a long time since my last post (sounds like the beginning of a confession—give me 10 Hail Mary’s and let’s call it a day), but I’ve been on the road a lot this month. I have many bits and pieces of things to share, so hold on, it might be an interesting ride.

First stop—Birmingham, AL. I was dreading this trip, thinking it would be an awful place to go, nothing redeeming about the city, etc. but I was pleasantly surprised. B’ham is quite hilly, though I’ve never been to San Fran I can only imagine they’re comparable in the number of hills. The hotel I stayed in was the last place Hank Williams Sr. stayed, little bit of history for you. It was the first time I’ve ever stayed in a hotel where they call you at 7 a.m. to ask you if you want your room cleaned (and then they didn’t). B’ham residents are apparently on a health kick because during the two-day trip I saw no less than a kabillion people jogging. Don’t they work?

After B’ham and Atlanta (nothing noteworthy happened on that trip, except that after two days of navigating around B’ham and then driving to Atlanta without incident I almost got clipped by a stupid truck a block away from my hotel) I was home for a little while. During the respite I had the pleasure of serving jury duty.

The first day I sat in a room with other would-be-jurors waiting to be called or let go. I read. I worked crossword puzzles and I silently fumed at the man behind me who insisted not only on doing business over the cell phone in a room full of people, but actually telling each person he talked to that he was sitting in a room full of people and probably annoying them. Hello, if you realize you are doing this, why continue? He worked for some copier or software company. By 3 p.m. I assumed I was home free, but alas my number came up and I was called back. We were informed we were possible jurors for a DUI case and the jury selection began. More than ½ a dozen people were excused because they’d either been convicted of a DUI or knew someone who was a victim in a DUI case. One man was excused because his wife was expecting twins any day. Another was excused because he’d not only been convicted of a DUI 20 years ago but he’d also been a witness in a racketeering and murder trial where he’d plea bargained to get a lesser sentence if he testified. I was beginning to question the morals and ethics of my fellow man.

By the end of the day we had 12 jurors and an alternate and the assistant DA started her questioning. By 3:30 the second day the attorney’s had made their closing arguments and we were sent in to deliberate.

In a nutshell, the defendant had been found in a vehicle on the side of the road (skid marks and vehicle damage showed he swerved several times before running off the road and rolling his jeep a few times), sitting in the driver’s side, slumped over into the passenger side and he agreed to a blood alcohol test (which came up .14 and the legal limit is .08). His lawyer tried to make us believe that he wasn’t necessarily the driver, that he could have been thrown from the back seat or passenger’s side into the driver’s side during the wreck (thankfully no other cars were involved) and that the driver left the seen. He also wanted us to believe the man was so incoherent that he didn’t agree to have his blood taken and that once the blood was taken it was tampered with at some point.

Now, the problem with being on a jury is that I don’t know how not to form an opinion. The cops didn’t do such a bang up job on their paperwork and following up on things, it was the assistant DA’s first trial and there were some holes, but I knew the guy was guilty; he said he’d been drinking and ran off the side of the road. Anyway, we deliberated until 5:30 because we had a foreman who was a court TV addict and just could not wrap her brain around the facts. She took pages of notes.

We convicted him. He was a truck driver, this was his second offense (he’d lost his license in AL four years ago) and this was an appeal, so a judge had already found him guilty. Though he did not take the stand, during sentencing he said I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have done that. DUH! His punishment was 7 days in jail, a year’s probation and loss of his CDL. Thank God I wasn’t on a more serious trial. Being a juror is harder than I thought.

Last stop—Las Vegas. It was my second time in Sin City; I remain under impressed. The best thing about Vegas is the fountain at the Bellagio. I tried my hand at the slot machines. I played for about 20 minutes, lost $4 and gave up. You don’t win coins in those machines anymore, just a slip of paper that you take to the cashier. Don’t they know it’s the instant gratification, the sound of the quarters clanking on the metal, the cup full o’ coin that makes slot players (at least this one) happy?

When I’m in Las Vegas I’m always looking around for the mafia, you know like they stand out like they do in the movies or something. I was sure I’d spot Robert Deniro or George Clooney, maybe even James Caan; I didn’t. I’ve heard all the hype that they’ve cleaned up the city and it’s not like it used to be, but you can’t help wondering. Can a city really clean up its act THAT much?

During my stay, a police officer was killed; first one in 18 years. He’d been called out on a domestic violence case (eerily enough we witnessed the cops heading to the scene though we didn’t know it at the time). When he arrived the man was beating his wife with a stick, right in their front yard. He fled into the house when the cops arrived and when the cop knocked on the door he shot him with a semi-automatic gun. Other cops swarmed the area; the husband shot another cop in the leg before the police finally shot and killed him. The man was a 21-year-old would be rap star; he’d fired 50 rounds of ammunition. The cop that was killed was 30 something with a wife and two young daughters. You see stuff like that on the news all the time, but I’d never been that close to it and was quite surprised that’s the first time in 18 years a cop in Las Vegas was killed in the line of duty.

Good things about the trip—I did get to see the Bellagio fountain again, simply graceful, incredible and breathtaking. Flying in I saw the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam, both of which did not look as big as I thought; of course everything looks smaller from an airplane. I also went to see “O”—the Cirque du Soleil water show. Tidbits about O: 85 acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters perform in, on and above a 1.5 million-gallon pool; "O" required more than three years of development, including 12 months of intensive rehearsals; nearly a dozen performers from "O" have taken part in the Olympic Games; some are gold medalists; all of the 150 technicians and 85 cast members have scuba certification; 14 technicians work underwater during every performance; the water is kept at a comfortable 88 degrees; the pool takes 12 hours to fill and the sophisticated filtering system cleans all 1.5 million gallons of water three times a day. I wish I was a better writer and could actually describe how magnificent this show was, but I can’t. It’s acrobats and synchronized swimmers and music and a love story (at least by my interpretation) and drama and comedy. Engaging.

Finally, if you haven’t heard of or seen Suduko, a new puzzle, find one and try it. They’re in most newspapers now. Despite my aversion to numbers, this game is addictive.