Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blown Breakers

Last night I stayed up in the Thai Village. It's near Kfar Blum, and basically a bunch of cabins with a pseudo-Thai theme and a Thai restaurant. It was raining last night and everything was really muddy. This place doesn't have a paved road in site. Most are gravel and the walkways that exist from the road to the cabins are very unevenly spaced paving stones.

I got into my cabin, turned on the lights, turned on the heat, and started some hot water for tea. Two minutes later, the power goes out and an emergency light goes on. I put my muddy shoes back on, go outside, and find out that it is only my cabin that is without power. Because I left my car key inside, I cannot get to the flashlight I have in the back seat.

I come back inside, take off my muddy shoes, and look for but do not see any obvious circuit breaker box. I call the main reception desk. No one answers. I put my shoes back on, get to the car (remember, there are only ill-spaced pavers between me and my car) and drive over to the other side of the Village. [why drive? a) it's raining. b) there is no bridge over the Jordan river and c) it's a long walk in the middle of the night in the rain.

I park my car in a huge puddle (the only place to park) and make my way to the restaurant. It's basically closed, and there are only Thai women there cleaning up. I try to explain that I have no electricity. The woman asks me if I need a remote control for my television. I said, "I have no lights or heat - I have no electricity". She gets someone else who can understand me.

The next woman says, "Why didn't you tell Casey?" A) I have no idea who Casey is and B) I have no idea where I would find Casey if I knew he existed. She calls Casey who agrees to meet me at my cabin. On a side note - seeing Thai women speak Hebrew is weird. I take Casey's number in case there is some problem since I'm not so excited by all the rain and mud and driving. And by the way, it's late.

I drive back to the other side of the Village and find my cabin door open and a man standing on a chair looking at the breaker box I hadn't found earlier. He flips a switch, and then says, "I'll be back." I was grateful that he didn't also say "Come with me if you want to live."

And my flashlight was still in the car....

Talk Radio, the Ocean, and Free Candles at the Coffee Shop

I'm sitting in my hotel in Netanya. I moved the desk so I can look through the floor to ceiling windows as I work. I'm probably not quite as productive as I would be if there wasn't a very blue Mediterranean Sea crashing along the beach 50 yards away, but there didn't seem to be a point in having my back to the view. Two things would make this a much better situation: clean windows and some fresh air. It's very windy, so the fresh air might get old quickly in terms of noise, but it would be better than stale air. Even so, it's all pretty spectacular.

I drove here this morning from a place across the road from Kiryat Shemona. That's less relevant than the fact that it's hard to find a decent radio station. And what I did find was talk radio. I hate talk radio - it doesn't matter what language it's in. If I don't agree with the callers, there seems to be no point in wasting my time listening to them. And if I do agree with them, there's also no point to listening. Thankfully, I have three new CDs to listen to and I can't wait to load them on to my ipod. (Thanks, Esther!)

I stopped on the way at a coffeeshop to get some work done since I had no internet access at our last hotel. I ordered some coffee and sat at a table as far away from the smokers as I could be. The problem - there was no outlet nearby. So I had about 90 minutes on my computer. Just as I started to close everything up, the guy behind the counter gave me a scented candle. That's a new one for me. He also gave it to the guys behind me who looked like truck drivers (and who looked like they had never seen a vanilla-scented candle) and the older couple behind them. Maybe I should stop there more often.

It's been raining the last few days. It's good for the farmers and the Kinneret and muddy for everyone else. Really muddy. My car is filthy as are many of my clothes. Oh well.

I was in Tzfat yesterday. There's a well-known candle factory there that evidently had a fire. I heard they lost their entire inventory. I'm not sure whether it would have been better to lose everything by other means or not....

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Ok - so this should have come before the last post. You'll get the idea. I tried to send it on Wednesday night but it just saved and wouldn't post. I think it's all working now....

I was sitting on Wednesday night (aka Christmas Eve) at the Atlanta airport and learned that Terminal E has free wireless. The other terminals do not - so for any of you who fly and carry your laptops and have a layover and want to check you email, head to Terminal E. In Terminal C, where I landed, there was great Christmas music playing. Terminal E - nothing. If I hadn't been so tired, I'd have taken the little train back.

Seen: one Israeli woman wearing a lime green velour track suit. Lime green. Velour. Lime green. She may have been comfortable, but it was not a nice cut for her and less flattering than she realizes. I know that I tend to let people know when their slip is showing or their fly is down, but this situation was way beyond my abilities.

Seen: One clearly Jewish mother and two tween girls. The mother was dressed in a longer skirt and sweater. The two girls were wearing skirts and tops AND tights that had multi-colored horizontal stripes on them, and really, really ugly shoes. And the horizontal-striped tights weren’t two or three or four repeating colors – oh no. There were at least 9 or 10 or 11 different colors, none of which seemed to match the brown color of the skirts they were wearing. I know it’s not nice to make fun of kids – I’m blaming their mother for this one.

Seen (and on my flight): One tall blond woman (not naturally blond) who was wearing a skin-tight red dress that was quite short and quite plunging. She was also wearing 4-inch heel red leather boots and carrying a gold shiny tote bag. Oh, and she had a fedora on. I was pretty sure she'd be seated next to the most religious man on the flight, but alas, she wasn't. That would have at least made for good theater.

It seems that the majority of people traveling on Christmas Eve are either Israeli and/or Jewish, or Muslim or Hindu. Some of them might be Orthodox (Christian) but I couldn't tell that. Pretty much everyone I saw was speaking Hebrew, wearing a head scarf or appears to be Indian. The Israeli women all had that curly hair and the men all had shaved heads or are old with their shirts unbuttoned too far down. Seriously - I thought that went out in the 70s, or at least the 80s.

I believe the one exception to this was the couple who was sitting next to me for a while who prayed before eating their Panda Express combo plates. I’m not sure how that place really stays in business – and it’s definitely not food I would eat, or I want my seat-mates to eat before a long international flight! I had a bagel and peanut butter for the plane and I was lucky that I got non-peanut allergic neighbors on the plane. I wasn't looking to send anyone into anaphylactic shock. That would be bad Israel karma.

Oh, and one more thing. I think my mother will be followed my flight on NORAD like some people follow Santa Claus. She called in the afternoon to find out what airline I was flying and what time the plane left. And she double checked that I was leaving from Atlanta and not New York. I'm not sure if NORAD follows flights out of North America.... I guess she'll let us know.

A lot to write...

A lot has happened in the first several days....

I spent Shabbat Kibbutz Ginosar. It’s beautiful but it's shocking to see how low the level of the Kinneret is. The boat docks have had to add one lower extension after another so that they have access to the shores. I’m told that you can see the tops of the water pumps – if the water goes much lower, they won’t be able to pump the water at all.

It’s still Chanukah, and what I’ve learned is that latkes are not a particularly Israeli food. On the other hand, there are sufganiot everywhere.

My rental car is one of the worst I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. It actually drives fine, but that’s about all that’s ok. It’s fairly dented up (duly noted on the rental sheet) and when I closed the door yesterday, the antenna fell off. Then, I was driving two people up North with me and we realized the floor of the back seat (left side) was soaking wet as was the seat on the right side. What we didn’t know until much later, was that the trunk was also soaked along with the things that had been sitting in the trunk. Lovely.

On the other hand, I’ve had great shakshouka, which could make up for having a crappy car.

I traded in my car today, which looked even worse than when I got it. I think whatever glue they were using to hold some of the parts together was finally coming loose. But now I have a Subaru of some kind rather than the Mazda. And this car doesn't smell.

Friday, December 19, 2008


We've got a lot of snow on the ground - maybe eight inches or so, plus some serious drifting. I flew in last night before the snow began and they were already cancelling flights for this morning. Even the malls are closed this morning - a surprising thing just a few days before Christmas.

You know it's a bad snow when in addition to all of the school closings, the Milwaukee Beer Hall is closed. They just announced it on the news, which has been all snow, all the time. And it was just announced that the on and off ramps to the main highway out of the state are closed. I guess they figure they're just giving up until it stops blowing so much.

And supposedly some of what we got was thunder snow, and some may have been convection snow. It's all white to me.

Our neighbors to the East are German immigrants and keep a meticulous lawn and driveway. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen them getting snow out of the cracks in their sidewalk with a tooth brush. Seriously. Even they aren’t out yet and theirs is usually the first house clean on the whole block.

Our neighbor on the other side has a a big, powerful, envy-worthy snowblower. (I honestly don't envy her snowblower, but if I did aspire to bigger and better loud machinery, that would be the one). Even she was having trouble getting through the drifting snow. She's the only one out trying their hand on our whole block. And the snow hasn't stopped falling yet.

And then there’s us - playing a game of chicken with our downstairs neighbor for who will go out first to start shoveling, or tempting fate with our small, possibly broken snowblower....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Baltimore Police Department

I'm in Baltimore, sitting in a coffee shop with five Baltimore Police Officers sitting at the next table. They are all really big guys. Humongous guys, all in full uniform. I'm not sure what all of the things are that are attached to their belts, but there are a lot of things. They spent five minutes talking about whether the Sarge likes one of the guys or not. It was very eighth grade, with one of the other officers text messaging the Sarge to find out.

It's an inside look at how groups work. One guy is talking too much (the one who thinks the Sarge doesn't like him), one isn't talking at all and is just quietly eating his bagel, one guy who looks more senior is just sitting back chuckling most of the time etc. This could be police officers (it is), or social workers, or retail workers....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My New Obsession

I'm a bit obsessed with seitan. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I found a new website: http://vegandad.blogspot.com/. I'm not sure how I found myself there but I'm glad I did. The first thing I noticed was his recipe for vegetarian sausages. I figured the worst thing that could happen if I tried them was that I might be wasting $3 worth of ingredients. Not a horrible cost for a food experiment. At least the recipes don't call for truffles!

So I tried to make them. It was a little too easy and I was pretty sure that I must be doing something wrong. Plus, I didn't have all the spices he called for (fennel and oregano - I know, who doesn't have oregano?!) and I added some Korean hot sauce.

Ronnie and I were both nervous as we tried them - I mean we knew they wouldn't be completely inedible, but whether they would be worth eating was going to be another question. They were not only edible, they were excellent. And lightly cooked in the frying pan for breakfast the next morning, they were even better.

So for Thanksgiving, I tried the stuffed "turkey". It was also excellent! The only thing I would do differently there would be to try the stuffing he recommended or make mine more interesting. I made a pretty boring stuffing and it tasted too much like the "turkey" (but with a different texture).

And today, I watched a video (from a different website) on making seitan corned beef. There are two strange things about that last sentence. First, seitan corned beef?! (Evidently yes.) Second, a video teaching you to make seitan corned beef on the internet? (I am so far behind this whole technology thing!)

I think my next project is going to be the veggie lunch meat from Vegan Dad's site. The one thing I know for sure, I will never buy another package of Tofurkey slices or otherwise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Transference of Opposibility

I'm in St. Louis. One of my regular fall tasks at my parents house is to duct tape a big garbage bag over the air conditioner in the kitchen so it doesn't let the winter air blow in. I've done this for the past four years without consequence.

This year, I decided to sign my work in duct tape strips on top of the air conditioner. Just trust me - if you saw the set up, this would make sense. But I learned that vanity comes at a price. In fact, I paid in blood. Trying to cut thin strips of duct tape to spell out "AH", I got the scissors stuck on the tape and when I unstuck them, I also sliced open my left thumb.

I finished my signature and then headed inside, leaving a bloody trail. Ok, there wasn't enough blood yet to leave a trail, but there could have been if the wound was bigger or if I'd had a few more initials to put down in tape on the garbage bag.

There are no easy decisions at my parents house. Bandaid or steri-strip? Anti-bacterial goop or none? Emergency Room or Urgent Care? I decided right away against the ER and also decided that if the bleeding didn't stop in 10 minutes, that I would consider Urgent Care. I think with enough pressure on a wound, you can just assume that you've scared the blood away.

And we went with anti-bacterial goop, gauze and tape.

So for the next few hours, I couldn't really use my thumb. Which made eating dinner hard. It was then that I was wondering why only our thumbs are opposible and not our other fingers as well. I can't really figure out what that would look like, but it would certainly make eating easier.

I know that there are people all over the world who for many reasons have no thumbs, or even hands for that matter and they are not malnourished. So I get that it's possible to eat without the use of one thumb. But wouldn't it be interesting if our bodies compensated by transferring the opposition to another finger when our thumbs aren't able to perform their regular duties?

I'm just sayin'....

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I was in a mall today for the first time in a long time. My Trader Joe's is on the outskirts of an outdoor mall, but other than that, I don't think I've been in an indoor shopping mall in well over a year. What I learned, is that there will probably be very little reason to return anytime in 2009.

Malls are filled with maybe three or different types of stores (jewelry, clothes of various types, and electronics) and they're all basically selling the same thing. And right now, everything is on sale, which makes me wonder why anyone goes there during the rest of the year.

Why did I go to the mall? There was one store going out of business and I was hoping to see if there was anything worth buying given how inexpensive things would be. After all that, there wasn't. Really, at 40% off, there still wasn't anything worth spending money on.

What was interesting about the overall experience though is what happens at malls before the stores actually open. I got to the mall before the stores open. People were walking in so I figured it would be better to wait inside where it was warm than in my car. Plus, there was no coffee in my car.

There were probably a hundred people, really, walking around in circles throughout the mall. Mostly older people and mainly women. And these are serious walkers - a few of them almost ran me over. But in my search for coffee, I found the men. They were all sitting at the food court drinking coffee and playing cards and probably waiting for their wives.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Herbal Medicine Class

So last night I took another class with the cheese lady. This time, it was class three of a four class series on using herbs. I wasn't so interested in the first two topics so there I was in a room of 15 other people, some of whom were also taking the 3rd class as their first. Who knew it would be so popular. Why did I take it? Well, I would never go to the doctor for a simple cold, but I figured it was cheaper than a co-pay, so why not.

She started off introducing herself as someone who is trained in the tradition of the Wise Women. And then she sang a song. She said that she always starts class by singing a song. Trust me, had there been a song at the cheese class, I'm not sure I would have come back. And I already paid for the 4th class. Oh well. At least it was a short song. And she didn't try to teach it and make us sing, so that was ok.

Now before I go on, picture in your mind the person who might be this teacher. Okay, got the picture? If you saw a 50-something woman with long gray hair tied in braids, you get a gold star.

And then she passed around kelp for us to munch on. I like seaweed, so I expected it to taste like the bottom of an aquarium. Others in the class had no such expectations.

Last night we learned how to make infused oils and the dangers of essential oils. I don't really remember why they are dangerous, but I suppose as long as I know she believes that they are, that's good enough for now. And then we made a balsam fir infused oil. In four to six weeks it will be ready to strain and ready for use. Evidently I'll be able to make lotions and lip balms, use it for cooking or massage, and if I remembered what healing properties balsam fir is known for, I could use it for that too.

Then we made a comfrey poultice. Yes, a comfrey poultice. It was fairly easy. You chop up some comfrey, add water, put it in a blender and then put a few spoonfuls on a rag. It's good for sprains, strains and other such maladies. I'm not sure I could ever do this on my own, not knowing what comfrey actually looks like in the wild. (She'd brought a big basket of the roots already harvested. )

And then, we made throat lozenges out of honey and marshmallow root powder. They don't really taste like anything, but my throat was soothed, or so I imagined. I brought six or seven home and I'm fairly certain I could make them on my own.

At some point, she had mullen tea for us to taste. I have no idea what a mullen is, but I will not be making tea from it anytime soon.

Class 4 should be interesting...

What not to Do

It's not a good idea to spill split pea soup in your keyboard.

Thankfully, it's our regular desktop computer keyboard and not my fancy new laptop from work. That would just be embarrassing. Mainly because I get the sense that our IT guys are more minestrone types than split pea.

Which takes me to the problem with winter. It requires too many bowls. Hot cereal for breakfast, soup or chili for lunch (or dinner) times two people is already four bowls a day. Not to mention spoons. In three days, we're out of bowls. Four days if we share a bowl or two.

The other problem with this is that when you're out of bowls, it doesn't mean the dishwasher is anywhere close to being full. The only part that's full is where the bowls go. Okay, maybe there are also a few plates but not enough to run the machine. So then the bowls have to come out to be washed by hand, which I would have done to start with if I had known.

Or it's possible I'm just eating too much soup. But it's easy to make and relatively healthy and freezes well.

Oh, the other thing not to do is wait to buy an electric teapot. I've wanted one for years and finally got one a few months ago. It's among the greatest inventions ever. It's probably just a winter appliance but since it's winter now, I'm happy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I just got back from our public library returning some old books and checking out new ones. The basement of the library was serving as a polling place today and the study room in the Young Adult section was being used to register new voters.

Let me be clear - the polls have been open since 6am and they are open until 7 or 8pm tonight. And early voting has been available for weeks. And yet, there was a line of at least 8 people (I didn't look and see how far into the room the line extended) waiting to register to vote. What were these people waiting for? Did they not get the message? I don't begrudge them their right to vote, but I think that registering to vote shouldn't take place two hours before the polls close.

When we went to vote this morning, we were asked for our name and to confirm our address. No proof of idenfitication, address or signature necessary. I left wondering who else's name I could vote under. I did not try and test the system.

Our polling place is an elementary school. They were having a bake sale. I think no one gave them the message that if you vote and wear your "I Voted" sticker you get free treats. Plus, if the referendum to lower property taxes by increasing sales tax passes, they shouldn't need to be holding as many bake sales or charging as much for what looked like a misshapen, dried out brownie.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Knock, Knock

I want the political canvassers (aka: people with clipboards) to stop knocking on my door and ringing the bell. It's been going on for weeks now, several times a day. And they're leaving all sorts of annoying literature. ARGGGH!

I finally wrote a note and posted it on the door. It says:
"Dear Political Canvassers,
Please do not ring the bell. We have finely honed
ESP skills and your thoughts will be more appreciated than
your actions."

What I wanted to end with was "Now go away!" But I didn't, because no matter what my reputation, I'm just not that rude. Most of the time.

When I went down to tape the note to the door, the clipboard-holding doorbell-ringing canvassers were across the street. You would have thought that I held raw steak for a hungry junkyard dog to see how fast they ran toward me. I pulled their literature off my door and handed it back to them. And then I (more or less politely) asked them to please take us off whatever list shows that we want to be interrupted several times a day by a loud buzzer.

One of them tried to hand me a "I Voted Today" sticker to put on our door that she swore would stop the offenses. I told her I hadn't yet voted and that when I did, I would be happy to wear a sticker. (Plus, I hear that all sorts of coffee, ice cream and donut shops are giving away free treats if you wear your sticker tomorrow. I wonder what happens to the people who voted last week and didn't keep theirs, or it stopped sticking. Maybe we could get a whole roll and pass them out to homeless people so they can get a coffee and donut? But I digress....) And, I have no idea if both parties are abiding by the "sticker on the door" rule or just hers.

The sad thing is that I love Election Day. I don't care who you vote for - I love that we vote. In fact, I think we should have a rule that says if you can vote but don't, your taxes double. That would either pay down our national debt really fast or get more people involved in the democratic process. Hmm, I wonder if any of the candidates has thought of this yet....

Saturday, November 01, 2008

This Week in DC

I was in DC working. Many things happened. Try and match the quote with the quoter:

1. "Andrea, let me know before you go downstairs. I need to get lightbulbs and some pants." [commentary: You don't hear that line too often. I think it would make a great first sentence in someone's next novel. If you know any writers, please let them know. ]

2. "Really?!" (when talking about the cheese voucher we get in Wisconsin each year)

3. "You know what you should blog about?"

4. "I'll have a job by the end of the night" (said at 9:30pm)

a. Andy
b. Dennis
c. D'kneel
d. Stevie

I also learned a few things. We have a Hillel director at Tel Aviv University, P'nina, who was part of Operation Moses (the efforts to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel). It was the first time I'd heard her story. She was only three, but she said that their community hadn't know that Israel was a modern country. They'd assumed it was just like Ethiopia, only Israel. Since the Ethiopian Jews were cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for so long, they only practiced the Judaism found in the Torah. They didn't know Chanukah, and some of the more remote villages didn't know that the 2nd Temple had been destroyed. And then of course there was the regular work stuff....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Cheese Stands Alone

I live in Wisconsin, so of course I love cheese. Alaska may give out rebates to their citizens for their oil production, but in Wisconsin, each resident gets a voucher for 10 pounds of cheese a year. That's just not enough, so I decided to learn how to make my own.

It wasn't the full adventure I think it could have been, but it was interesting none-the-less.

Last Tuesday, I took an Intro to Cheese Making class at our local food co-op. We made mozzarella and started some feta. It was not hard at all. I'm not sure I would try feta at home, but the mozzarella - definitely. It takes a few days to get all of the whey out of the feta and I'm not sure I'd have the patience for it. But maybe...

I learned a few interesting things.

  • Cheese is better with non-homogenized and non- or low-pasturized milk. And according to our teacher, raw milk (or "farm fresh" as the euphemisms go) is the ideal. I priced the non-homogenized, low pasturized milk and it's $5 per half gallon. I'm not sure when I'm going to try the mozzarella, but it better be good at that milk price!
  • It's not hard to find vegetarian (and even kosher) rennet.
  • At least for the soft cheeses, (if I understood correctly) the type of cheese is determined by the timing - when you put the acid and coagulant in.
  • If you have a goat and nettles, you can make cheese. I have neither.
  • Salt (flaked and non-iodized) is used to pull the whey out of the curds and it keeps the bacteria at bay. It's not a flavoring agent.
  • If you really want to make hard cheese correctly, you need a cave.
  • You can put feta in olive oil and then just put it on the shelf - no refrigeration needed.

And I now own a piima culture. This can be used to make kefir, cultured butter and cultured milk (aka buttermilk). Evidently this will last forever if I take care of it. I'm not so confident.

Some commentary on the class itself: There were 22 people - about 12 too many in my opinion. And the teacher was interesting but talked about her food and health agenda too much. I was there to learn how to make cheese, not hear about her aversion to anything that is not a whole, unprocessed food. I still may take an herb class with her next month - we'll see. And she said that if enough people request it, she'll teach another cheese class.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Problem with Conservative Jewry

I got an email today from someone who works at a local Conservative synagogue. She asked if I could recommend a speaker for their Sisterhood Shabbat. Their theme is Jewish continuity, they have almost no money to pay someone, and they want someone to speak about population decline in addition to the practical side of what to do at home with your children/grandchildren to keep Judaism going.

Really?! This is their topic?! I recommended that they invite someone from interfaithfamily.com. It was a serious recommendation. To me, this whole topic, addressed at a Sisterhood Shabbat is preaching to the choir. Are there really that many things that an "outsider" can tell them that will teach them how to keep Judaism going with their children?

And what does it even mean - to keep Judaism going? Does that mean they have to marry someone Jewish? Go to services every Shabbat? Keep kosher? Is it ok if they just wear a Jewish star around their neck?

If they'd asked me, I would have suggested they find someone to speak about what the Jewish world will be like 10 or 20 years from now when their children are older. How have things changed and what direction are they headed? What will the next Heeb magazine be? Who will be the next Matisyahu?

And what's the point of talking about a population decline? There are far fewer Jains in the world than there are Jews and they've been around almost as long (if not longer).

I probably shouldn't pick on the Conservative Jews. I imagine these same subjects are bandied about in all sorts of congregations in all sorts of denominations. They just aren't asking me for recommendations....

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Today we removed a tree stump from our back yard. The yard guy who told us it needed to be done said it would take two hours. Sadly, he was mistaken. It was three hours of actually working in the yard, and another hour or so to buy the right shovels and an axe.

Yes, we are now the proud owners of an axe. Well, really it's more of a hatchet, but I don't really care.

We have at least three more large tree/plants to dig up around the house and I'm fairly certain if not very, very hopeful that we started with the most difficult.

First, it was, at some point, a fairly big tree. And at some point in the not so distant past, someone cut it down. And it looks like they even tried to take the stump out of the ground - a few of the monster roots were cut short. What wasn't cut were the two really, really huge and thick roots coming out the side and happily entrenched in clay and mud. Yes, I am now the proud owner of the knowledge that our back yard is evidently mostly clay.

But before we could dig in, we had to move the red volcanic rock that had been laid down by the previous owner. When we bought the house it looked beautiful. And then last fall the trees lost their leaves and have you ever tried raking rocks? That's right - it doesn't work! So no matter what we need to get rid of the rocks. I can only imagine what the slaves in Egypt felt like. Note to self: moving rocks is not fun.

We found no buried treasure. We did find lots and lots of worms. I'm not sure if they're red wigglers or not, but the idea of composting is fast becoming a possibility if they are and/or it doesn't matter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Amazing Race and Survivor

I'm bored. It's a great show. It wins Emmys every year. And this season - it's just not doing it for me.

I was okay when the older bee keeping couple lost in the first round. There have been much more interesting older participants in past rounds. And I can't even remember who lost last week, but I'm sure I didn't like them so much either.

This week, the geeky boys lost. That was a shame. They were at least a little interesting. If only they'd read their clue more closely. Oh well. I would have been fine if the fraternity boys had lost. They are not doing anyone any favors by being on the show.

This week, the teams were in Bolivia. Seems like a great place, but not necessarily the place you want to do an aerobic challenge - like wrestling. Did they not think about altitude sickness for participants in advance?

And yes, I'm one of the people still watching Survivor, even though it hasn't been so interesting this round either. Maybe this week, when the previews have a wild elephant a little too close for comfort it will be a little better. And then again, maybe not.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Bailout

This whole economic situation is crazy, and here's a perfect example. The headline reads: Woman, 90, shoots self inside foreclosed home. I was intrigued that a 90 year-old was still paying a mortgage. So I read the article.

Here's what gets me about this story - the woman took out a 30-year mortgage in 2004. I'm not sure when her birthday is, but if she's 90 years old now, she was 86 then. And a bank gave her a 30-year mortgage.

Really?! In what universe did they expect this woman to live up to the terms of her contract? More people are living beyond 100, but not so many are making it until 116. I don't think I'm advocating age discrimination. But c'mon, don't we have to wonder what the loan officer was thinking? No wonder the banks are failing!

Okay - the issue isn't that she died and left 26 years on her mortgage for her heirs to figure out. It's that she couldn't make the payments. Maybe she owed her bookie? The article doesn't say whether she was working into her 80s and therefore had reason to believe she could pay, or whether her social security was enough for the payments.

I am not unsympathetic to the folks heading in to foreclosure. But I think a good number of them should have read the fine print, and I definitely don't feel bad for the banks who made stupid loans when any 7th grader can tell them that someone with a $30,000 income can't afford a $500,000 mortgage.

There was a item on the news recently about a woman's whose bank failed and she lost $20,000. I coudn't figure out how that could happen - everyone knows that accounts are insured to $100,000, right? So I kept watching. It turns out she had $120,000 in her account and therefore the last $20,000 wasn't insured. It's a shame to hear that people are losing money they've worked hard for, but she knew the rules. A second account at the bank down the street would have taken her 15 minutes to open whether she thought her bank might fail or not.

Wow - I had no idea I was so heartless....

Update on the woman who shot herself here.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I don't send out Rosh HaShanah cards. Probably because I'm a bit lazy and probably because even if I wanted to, it would require a different investment in time related to collecting addresses. And before that, figuring out whose addresses I needed, and finding cards, and finding stamps, and....

Today and yesterday my e-mail inbox has been filled with both generic and personal greetings for a happy and healthy new year the majority of which have been the former rather than the latter. I got an e-card from the president of El Al airlines and another from an international student organization (both generic, no surprise).

I got a video greeting posted to my Facebook page from someone I'm rarely in touch with. I appreciate the sentiment but really, I don't need to see your 4 year old spilling honey all over themselves and trying to say Happy Rosh HaShanah all at the same time. Call my cynical, but really, it's not as cute as the parents think it is.

I got e-mail wishes from people I don't know but evidently should have by all of the other people they cc'd. And if I'm not mistaken, I think I even got a Rosh HaShanah e-mail from a Nigerian prince.

I got an e-card from a friend and presumably his wife, though I've never met her. The email included a picture of (their?) dog with an apple. So then I had to figure out whether the name I thought was his wife's may actually be that of his dog. (I have not decided, in case you are wondering.)

It's too much work. I would much rather assume that every one is wishing everyone a happy, healthy New Year and if they aren't, that's when they should e-mail me!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Milwaukee Brewers

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers won a place in the play-offs. Ronnie called to tell me and said that the last time this happened was in 1982. I remember that year well. The Cardinals won the World Series, and, as Ronnie thoughtfully pointed out, it was the year we started going out (the first time).

Just a few minutes later, I was back in the car and listening to whatever was on NPR and they mentioned that the baseball season came down to the wire. The Mets lost and the Brewers won and that meant the Brewers were in the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.

Now, remember that I was driving. Thankfully I was on a side street and could pull over abruptly. How can 1982 be 26 years ago? That cannot be. It's a physical impossibiity. 26 years is a really long time, and while it's fine for the interval between play-off runs (I know it's not, if you're a Brewer's fan, but I'm thinking existentially here), it's not for the length of time for any other number of things, including 1982.

I refuse to believe that 1982 and 26 years ago can occupy the same temporal space. Being a fan of science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you prefer), I know that 1982 does not always have to be 26 years ago. In other dimensions, 1982 could be last year, or even yesterday. And as long as we're speculating, it could be next week. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking through the Neighborhood

I was asked to help with a literature drop today for a paid sick leave initiative in Milwaukee. We walked a few miles of a very low-income area, dropping off flyers and meeting anyone else who was outside.

First, we had to figure out how we wanted to hit both of these streets. One idea was that we would each take every other house. But to me, that's twice as much walking to cover both sides of both streets. I suggested that we each take a side of the street, and whoever finished the block first circled around to help the other person.

It wasn't the distance we walked that was difficult, it was the stairs up to the front doors of all of these houses! And by my guess, very few of them would meet any kind of inspection standards. The first house I walked up to had concrete steps before the wooden ones up to the house. A piece of concrete was loose and as I picked my foot up to go to the next stair, a big chunk of concrete came out of their staircase! I was pretty happy there was no one sitting on the porch!

The neighborhood itself was interesting. Most of the homes looked like wood-framed homes, and then there were some incredible old brick homes. I couldn't figure out which came first. Presumably the brick, but they were so far away from each other that they couldn't have been the original homes there. Probably 75% of the houses were duplexes (which sometimes means two sets of stairs for one house!).

And then every so often was a brand new house that would have been at home in any new suburb. There were two or three boarded up homes on each block. Or if not boarded up, then just abandoned-looking. And there were houses that had their fronts on what appeared to be alleys. That was unexpected. And so were the brand new townhouses.

And today was evidently the day to be passing things out. We saw a few other teams of people passing out information about free clothing and food (but only if you go to the 1pm service at their church) and something else that was about a children's health center. There were also guys trying to drum up voter registration at the gas station we passed.

A few things I couldn't figure out:
  • Some houses that otherwise looked relatively nice also had lots of garbage floating around their front yards. Not just a cup that had drifted from somewhere else, but a lot of stray bags, wrappers, cups, and cans. I don't get that.
  • There were a fair number of people sitting in their cars listening to the radio. That was a definite mystery. First, it was a pretty hot day out. And of all the cars I saw with people in them - not one was running the airconditioning. In fact, they all had open windows, which I know because I handed them literature. And I didn't get the sense that they were waiting to pick people up. Maybe they don't have a radio in their house? No clue on that one!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Too Much Coffee?

I wasn't sure it was possible until today, and I'm still not convinced. But really, I think it's just maybe possible that I've had too much coffee today.

I probably wouldn't have gone out at all this morning except that I left my jacket at Einstein's yesterday. So I had to go back today. Yes, a rational person might say that I could have simply picked up my jacket and not also had two large coffees (free refills), but it was 6:30am and if I were already rational at that hour I wouldn't want the coffee!

And then I had a 10am meeting at a different coffeeshop. And it's a place with really good coffee. And it was. Two more larges for me (more free refills)!

And then I had a 2pm meeting at yet a third coffee shop, and they have the greatest ice coffee in town.

And now, I think I've had enough. I think.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Red Pill or the Green Pill

Ok, that's not the actual quote from that classic Matrix scene, but it may as well be. Nyquil is green. Dayquil is red. Both are magic, just like in the Matrix. Well, not just like in the Matrix, but the point is that all the pills are magical.

[And now the dilemma - do I name names? I think the answer is yes.]

Last week, I stayed with Toby. [I was going to write "my friend, Toby", but I decided that if that's not the case after this post that I would hate to go back and have to delete those words.]

Toby wasn't feeling well. I'm pretty sure that like most people I know, that's a euphemism for "I want to take Nyquil and get a good night's sleep no matter what's really making me not feel well". So Toby went out to get Nyquil. [It's also possible that she went out to get Dayquil and not Nyquil but somehow the story works better the other way.] So she went to the drugstore, got some Nyquil and lo and behold, there was a special box that also included Dayquil. That's essentially 24-hour Quil. And somewhere in the universe, Quil is another name for crack. [note: if you're offended by 4-letter words, don't click on that last link.]

Night one: green pill. Things are good.

Day one: red pill. Things are good.

Night two: another green pill. things are good.

Day two: another pill. Things are not good. Toby is feeling okay, but is dead tired. Now this isn't so surprising since she just moved and has been packing and now unpacking boxes for days. But it's weird that it would all catch up with her even after a good night's sleep.

Night three: there's a green pill missing.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two Kinds of People

I've rediscovered that there are two type of people in the world.

The people who "get" it. And the people who don't.

And here's the thing - when speaking to them at a conference, say, presenting on a panel, it just doesn't matter what you say. You don't really need to be speaking to the people who already "get" it, and it's a waste of time to speak to the ones who don't.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Still Full....

I went to lunch around 1pm today. It's 8:30pm and I'm still full. I guess you could say I got my money's worth since I didn't have to eat dinner, but really, this has gone on too long! Needless to say, the food was good but I'm fairly certain that I shouldn't go back anytime soon (given how much I ate!).

Here's the thing -I don't go out during the day so often since I work at home. That means I don't always pay attention to whether my clothes match in the morning. And at some point I reconciled myself to the fact that the people at the coffeeshop don't really care what I'm wearing at 6:30am. (And no, contrary to popular belief I do not work in my pajamas!)

So when I left the restaurant this afternoon, I realized I was wearing a pink striped shirt, brown pants and green crocs. And brown socks. So at least my socks and pants matched, that's gotta count for something. Had I looked at myself before lunch, I probably would have worn pink crocs so that the shirt would match something too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Don't do this Icebreaker

I went to a workshop today on Classroom Management. It was sponsored by the local board of Jewish education and was run by a well-known educator in town who also teaches graduate level courses in education at one of the local universities.

She introduced the session and asked us each to go around and introduce ourselves. And then she added, "And I'd like you to also tell the group what kind of fruit you're most like and why". NOT what fruit we like, but what fruit we are like. Seriously? This is like Barbara Walters asking Katherine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be.

It's one thing to do this in a group of people who know each other, and even then, it's a dumb ice breaker.

Two people said apples and two others said pomegranates. Someone said blueberries and then spent too much time telling us that they are good for you and that teaching is about passing along things to the students that are good for them. I really didn't need to know her that well. One person said persimmon, and there was a pear, and an orange. Just to be ornery, someone chose a tomato. The teacher described herself as a pineapple. Lovely. No one said a fruit with a pit, maybe because they were afraid others might interpret their choice to mean they really have a heart of stone. I was disappointed that no one chose coconuts or a durian. At least that would have been interesting.

As for me, I said a banana for no particular reason other than there was one in my bag.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yet Another Coffee Shop

Today I met someone for coffee late in the afternoon. We went to a locally-owned coffee chain called Alterra. Their coffee is roasted right on the premises and it always smells great there. It was a gorgeous day out so we sat outside.

Let me just say that the people there are not like the people at Panera. It's in a completely different neighborhood (Riverwest), so that's not surprising, but still, I was surprised.

The woman sitting at the table next to us was wearing what appeared to be a men's herringbone pattern polo-style shirt with baggy striped cotton pants (but not like prison pants!). She was reading a book about Black Sexual Politics and taking copious notes. Across from us, a man with long curly hair had on capri jeans, a nice shirt, and a little furry dog was sitting on his lap. I believe it was the first time I've seen a man wear denim capris. And yes, before you ask, I'm sure it was a man. Behind us was a guy with jeans, a white t-shirt and a mohawk. A mohawk? Yes, a mohawk.

Finally, I said to my coffee companion, "Wow, I haven't seen a mohawk in a really long time". the response, "We're not cool enough to be sitting here." Probably true, but nonetheless depressing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


My friend and avid Lentil Bowl reader, Dennis, today bemoaned the fact that there is a waiting room at Penn Station in NY for riders of Amtrak's Acela train. It is easy to see that the waiting area is always empty. And there is no waiting room for anyone (read: commoners) riding the regular regional Amtrak trains. It's as if the Acela waiting room is there merely to taunt other riders and not actually to be used.

I suggested that if someone is taking the regional train they'll be sitting for quite a long ride and since the Acela folks have less time to sit on the train (it's a much faster train) Amtrak is merely offering them more total butt time by giving them a waiting room!

As a result of this suggestion, I was accused of being a shill for Amtrak. Of all people, me? A shill? For Amtrak? Dennis, surely you jest!

I will be taking the Acela next week to a conference (paid for by the sponsors of the conference, not my employer!) and I promised Dennis that I would get into that waiting room and test out as many seats as possible before my train. That seems fair, right?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We Jews are SO not Baptist!

Yes, I'm stating the obvious.

But really, tonight it could not have been made more clear. I went to a press conference for the Milwaukee Opportunities for Restoring Employment (MORE) ordinance. They already have the committed support of four alderman and need 10 in order to have a veto-proof vote. The ordinance would require any development project in the city, subsidized by more than $1 million dollars of city tax payers’ money, to hire at least 30% of its needed workforce from residents of the city.

The press conference was held in the basement of the New Hope Baptist Church, a predominantly (maybe completely?) African-American church. The audience was maybe 25% white or Hispanic. A pastor (I think from a different church) welcomed everyone and it was evident from his first sentence that I was a fish out of water.
"Good Evening" he said.
"Good Evening!" said the audience.
"Good Evening!" he said a bit louder.
"Good Evening!" said the audience even louder.

And from there, whether it was the Union worker, any of the four alderman present, or the primary community organizer working on this project, it was very much an audience participation event. Whether it was to shout out "MORE" (as in the name of the ordinance), or "Yessir", just a louder "uh-huh" than usual, it was a fascinating experience.

When the community organizer got to the podium, she repeated the pastor's "Good Evening" call and response, I realized that this is exactly what we do with staff and participants on Shabbat when we call out Shabbat Shalom. Still, we are SO not Baptist.

One particularly nice thing was the prayer that the pastor used to close the meeting. First, everyone stood and looked down. Had I not already been standing in the back this may have caught me by surprise. And since everyone else was looking down, I could look around and see what was going on. But the prayer itself was nice and I was waiting the whole time for him to say "in the name of Jesus....", but he didn't. I believe he said something about "our supreme father" or something like that, but nothing that would have excluded those of us who are "not Baptist".

All in all - pretty interesting. Oh, and all four alderman and the pastor went to Riverside high school here in Milwaukee. Now that's kind of strange.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blog Rolling...

Ronnie set up a blog. It's called The Receptacle. I'm not 100% sure, but I am fairly certain that even though we both named our blogs for containers, that the differences may explain a lot about us and how we interact with each other and the world.

In any case, Ronnie helped me figure out how to add a Blog Roll. I never knew the name of it, but evidently that's what the list of "Places I Go" is actually called in the blogosphere (another word I learned from Ronnie).

It's hard to figure out what to put on a Blog Roll, or even just a list of links, you know? The New York Times is not worthy, but their daily sudoku is. And it's got to be just a little interesting that I included Engrish.com AND Merriam-Webster, right? Ok, maybe not. I'm sure I'll add to the list over time or maybe tomorrow.

It's possible that Ronnie created a monster....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Weekend in Milwaukee

Wow! I was actually home for the last three nights, and unless I'm mistaken, I've got 9 more to go. I don't think I've been home 12 nights in a row for months. This means several things:

  • All of my meetings are on the phone. I'm not actually sure if that's good or bad.
  • I definitely get more done. There are far fewer interruptions than when I worked in the main office.

  • I can buy produce and know that it will be eaten. Of course that's assuming it doesn't get frozen in our strange and mysterious refrigerator.
  • I can eat chili or black bean and onion omelettes for breakfast.
  • I don't have to eat out. I don't usually mind it when I travel because at home, we don't eat out much at all. But after a while....

  • I am not subject to discombobulation or, more importantly, recombobulation.
  • I can use toiletries that are normal-sized and I don't have to put them back in a quart ziptop bag.
  • I can read the paper every day, on actual paper. And do the crossword puzzle and sudoku in pen and not online.
  • I can wear different clothes. Meaning that when I travel, I tend to bring the same three or four things with me because they travel well. At home, I can dress a bit more casually (no, not in pajamas!) and generally not worry about going out with brown pants, a blue shirt and green (or pink) crocs.
  • I have a choice of shoes. When I travel, maybe I have two pair with me, sometimes only one. It's gets boring.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Big City

I'm in NY this week. It's a really, really big place. Yesterday, I saw a lot of people walking down the street eating ice cream cones. Since this was over several blocks, I don't believe anyone was giving something away for free (otherwise I would have seen more people!). Still, it seemed sort of strange.

There are no escalators in the subway system. Given how often they seem to be out of service in DC, it probably makes sense that a system so large wouldn't want the hassle. The problem is that they don't have subway maps in convenient places. Like at the top of the stairs. So if you want to take the subway, you have to walk all the way down stairs to the station, and in my case, walk back up (with all of my stuff) upon finding out that I needed a different entrance. Grrr.

Because I've been in meetings, I've seen very little of the Republican National Convention. I didn't see any of the Democratic National Convention either. But I have seen short clips from both. Here'swhat I don't get - some of the delegates (from both parties) wear crazy things. Don't they realize they are going to be on national television? Do they think it makes them look them or their party look like they can lead this country? I think it's just confusing.

Because the television is on in the background now as I write, I am hearing more of Palin's speech than anything I've heard from anyone else. The one thing I can say - she's got good writers and can deliver a good line.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Harley Time!

Milwaukee is a great place, and especially this weekend for the Harley Davidson 105th Anniversary. I, of course, won't be around for the bulk of it, but even just the taste is pretty good. Last night on the way back from the airport, there was clearly a rumble in the air and WAY more motorcycles on the road than usual.

This afternoon I'm working from Panera and it is definitely not the standard Panera crowd. There are the senior citizens, the moms with their pre-schoolers, and the riders. One woman just walked in looking every bit the soccer mom carrying a big black helmet. And there are clearly many other riders here as evidenced by more leather boots that one would usually see on a Friday afternoon here. And, I'm sitting at a window by the street - it's loud with the rumble of bikes and pretty hard to get work done because the different bikes are just so interesting to look at - not to mention it's all really, really cool.

Too bad I didn't pass my motorcycle class.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go Figure

I'm in DC and getting on the train this morning. I was going to sit in a seat by the door but I noticed a man with a white cane and big yellow safety goggles on. Being the well-mannered person that I am, I moved out of the way to let him sit where he wanted and figured I would sit down after him.

He moved to the middle of the car so I sat in the seat by the door. Ten minutes later I look up and the man is reading the newspaper. Huh? I know there is probably a perfectly good explanation for this - I just don't know what it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

There are certain people....

I'm in a cafe right now and it's pretty busy. There are the requisite screaming kids accompanied by their parents who are pretending to be oblivious, a few of us still working despite traditional business hours being long over, and a few other interesting souls - like the man who got a small cup of coffee and is playing solitaire and gets up every few minutes to raid the samples of bread.

And I see, once again, that there are certain people who can pull off different looks and many, many others who cannot.

For example, one woman who just picked up her food is wearing a pinkish looking track suit. Except the pants are really more capri length. I could go on, but really, it just doesn't work. Doing yoga in the privacy of her own home - fine. Out in public - not so fine. And she's not old - she has no excuse for not being able to see how this looks on her. And then there's the woman who's wearing a blue fitted skirt with big orange flowers on the front and back. If I saw this on the rack, I would understand why it was on sale, but for some reason, this works on her.
There's another trio sitting in a booth - a mother and her two children. The daughter looks exactly like the mother, which is unfortunate because the mother never learned to use anti-frizz product in her hair and therefore neither has the daughter. I know, call me mean, but I'm just telling it like I see it.

One of the people who works here is starting to put away the outdoor tables, chairs and umbrellas. I'm not sure if he can tell as he's dancing to his own beat that we can all see him. He's been dancing for a few minutes now, sometimes using the chairs as props. I'm not sure he's the one I'd like to make my salad....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Too Much Fruit

I found Pete's. It's a produce store on the South side of Milwaukee that is located in the Hispanic part of the city. That's only relevent because I think I was one of the only non-Spanish speaking customers in the store yesterday afternoon.

Now you might ask, why go all the way to the South side of town just to buy produce (let's be real, I live in Milwaukee - it's just not so far!). Well, first of all, this is the only real produce store in town. Other than this, it's the regular supermarkets or the co-op or Trader Joe's. Not that there's anything wrong with those places, but I was looking for a different kind of experience.

I found it.

They sell baskets of things (tomatoes, plums, peppers, grapes, in addition to other things I couldn't identify) for $2 or $3. Not per pound, but per basket. So you can't help but buy baskets of things. You can also buy them by the pound, but somehow it doesn't make sense to pay whatever the cost is per pound for plums when you can get 25 of them for $3, right?

And there in lies the problem.

I now have 25 plums. And a cantalope and a honeydew, some apples, maybe 15 tomatoes, and a bunch of peppers, an eggplant, some grapes, and a jicama. Yes, a jicama. And a husband who might eat an apple and who tasted a piece of honeydew this morning. I'm clearly in trouble.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food at Camp

I kid you not - this was dinner last week at camp: cheddar broccoli soup, macaroni and cheese, ziti with sun-dried tomators, salmon cakes, corn bread, and apple crisp. Except for the tomatoes and very tiny green flecks in the soup, everything was yellow. I did not try the ziti or the corn bread but can confirm reports that the macaroni and cheese was excellent.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reflections on Karaoke

Until last night, I'd never actually been to a karaoke night. Now I know why and I learned a lot.

1. The people who really can sing are nice to listen to, but boring. The people who can't sing aren't boring, but they also aren't nice to listen to.

2. I learned that even when the words are flashed on the screen in front of you, people still don't know how to to put them into the music - even for common, popular songs.

3. I learned a lot about the people in our group. Songs from Grease and the 50's were popular for some reason, as were a few country/western songs. That alone was pretty bizarre. And then there are the groups that go up and really have no business being anywhere near a microphone. But they honestly think that they can sing. This is a YouTube video waiting to happen.

4. I also learned that I am a decent emcee. Not too much harassing of the so-called talent, and definitely not too little. Plus, I got a few people who never expected to be on stage, on stage. Like our president. And the observer sent from a major philanthropic foundation. After that, I was hoping I hadn't cost us a huge grant.....

5. Lastly, I learned that the true colors of some people come out. They might be singing songs from Broadway musicals with a group, but then they are channeling Lynyrd Skynyrd when they're singing alone. Truly fascinating.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Rockerbox in Milwaukee

We were wandering around old neighborhood this afternoon and came across some closed off streets, a LOT of motorcycles parked, and a band. This was Rockerbox. There was a bike show, all the people that went with all of those bikes, vendors, and music. What made this a particularly typical Milwaukee event was that nearly everyone was walking around with a beer in hand and for a fairly hot summer day - there were a lot of people wearing leather. Even the kids had cans in their hands which actually (and surprisingly) appeared to generally be soda.

As we walked around we realized several things:
  • There seemed to be pre-set tattoo minimum for anyone walking around either carrying a beer or wearing leather. I couldn't tell exactly, but that number seems to be somewhere between 4 and 17.
  • Vintage records, falafel and schwarma, funny t-shirts and vegan brats make for fairly interesting vendors - and that doesn't include all of the motorcycle-related tents.
  • Someone is making purple port-o-potties. I thought they were all blue and I was clearly mistaken.
  • We are not very cool people.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Airports are NOT Casinos

I have a friend who believes that airports are like casinos. She's never actually been to a casino, but she's heard enough to know that there are no clocks, they are loud, bright and constantly in motion. There are clocks in airports, but you generally have to search for the time on the bottom of the monitors, and so I'll give her that point, since you'd have to get up and go look for the time if you needed to know and didn't have a watch or cell phone (or a friend with a watch or cell phone).

But, according to my friend, the most important similarity is that because of the constant motion and people and lights, you are automatically awake in both environments, even if it's the middle of the night.

I am here to say that is just not true. In fact, it's so not true that I almost missed my flight last night. I closed my eyes for a little while, wasn't actually asleep, but definitely lost track of time for long enough to open my eyes when the plane was nearly fully boarded. Had I had interesting people to watch, or slot machines to play, maybe I may have been able to force myself to be wide awake, but really, there's only a very, very small chance of that.

Airports are loud, and there are too many people, but it's not enough to keep you (or me) awake in the middle of the night. At least at a casino the people are interesting to watch - especially in the middle of the night.

And in case anyone is wondering, there were no celebrities on my flight that I could tell, at least not from my middle seat way in the back of the plane.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crocs in LA

People in LA do not seem to be wearing Crocs. That's ok with me, but I feel a little out of place. I wore mine on the plane here, and I'm pretty sure I was the only person doing so. Everyone else was either dressed to the nines (after all they are coming to LA), or wearing grungy clothes and flip flops. Really - those were the two options - high heels or flip flops. And there I was in my Crocs. Oh well.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ginormous Boca Burgers

Several weeks ago, I bought a box of 16 Boca Burgers at Costco. They've been languishing in our freezer ever since. I go through phases of eating them and evidently when I bought them, the phase was ending.

The phase is now starting up again and for lunch I pulled a burger out the box. It looked abnormally large. So I pulled out another and lo and behold, it was the same size. I thought maybe I was misremembering their size and was maybe thinking of some other brand of veggie burger. But I was pretty sure I wasn't.

I think that a minute in the microwave is about how long they take to heat up. But not this one - it needed another 30 seconds. Still - I thought maybe I was off on the time. But then - I finally discovered proof that this box contained Boca Burgers that were too big. "What?" you ask. Well, it turns out I needed 6 or 7 pickles to cover the burger rather than 4 or 5 (if you can find a really tiny one to go in the middle).

But still, this was strange. I looked at the box - Original Vegan Boca Burgers, 100 calories. I went on-line. Sure enough, the Boca Burgers that come in the regular packages of 4 are 70 calories. It turns out that the big burgers ones are the ones restaurants use when they serve Boca Burgers.

Who knew?! And of course, It doesn't hurt that I was right about it being a bigger burger and taking longer in the microwave. And the extra pickles were good, too!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Respite from the Heat

Who knew that respite from the heat could be found at a grocery store. We were working on some last minute cleaning of the rental house this morning and we were soaked with sweat. But I was also working my real job and had a conference call to be on at noon. When beads of sweat are rolling down ones face, it's not so conducive to focusing on what other people have to say. It's not so conducive to anything really, plus, it could probably short out my phone.

Thankfully, two blocks away is a grocery store. And, given that we live in the modern era, it was a very air conditioned store and a great place to take my call. And of course, right before the call I needed to get something to drink. So I'm waiting in the 15 items or less line with my Diet Dr. Pepper and looking at what everyone else has in their baskets (because I do that).

The man in front of me had a New York Times and a tub of the generic equivalent to Cool Whip. That was definitely not a combination I expected to see. And the woman in front of him had a lot of things (probably well over 15!) including 2 cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. I can understand eating gazpacho in the heat, but definitely not chicken noodle soup!

The problem with this store - it was too cold. So I had to keep walking outside to warm up. And, there was no where to sit inside, so being outside was actually better because at least there was a semi-comfortable bench (made out of 31,000 recycled plastic bags). That bench was worth not using re-usable bags right there!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I've learned that you can make airpop popcorn in the microwave. And then you can put a mix of cinnamon and splenda on it. And I've learned that this is very good. I can't remember where I learned this, but they say you learn something new every day. Of course, I learned this a few days ago...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not a Dead Man

Sunday we went to the zoo in Madison. It's a pretty small zoo, but a nice place to walk around. The spaces for the animals are pretty small and that's not so good but if you can get past that, it's a pleasant enough place.

Right in front of the Herpetarium we saw a man collapsing. He had two people (his brother and sister-in-law) holding him by the arms and taking him over to a bench. He had no strength in his legs at all. There were a lot of people around and so after offering our bottles of water (they were refused), we got out of the way. Someone else was already dialing 911, and soon after they laid him on the ground and started CPR. We moved farther away.

It seems like it took 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. A few minutes later he was on a gurney and in the back. But he didn't have an oxygen mask on and it was clear they hadn't done anything to him. His sister-in-law was walking around a little dazed and his brother was with the kids. Given the CPR and the time it took for the ambulance to get there and the lack of any work on him we were certain we had just watched a man die.

A while later I saw a zoo keeper and I asked him about the man. It turns out that the CPR worked and that he was doing fine and even joking about the fact that there wasn't a pillow on the stretcher. We didn't see him talking or laughing but we decided to trust the zoo keeper (because if you can't trust a zoo keeper, who can you trust?!) and believe that we did not witness a man die.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whad'ya Know?

We went to a taping of Michael Feldman's Whadya Know today. The tickets were only $5, which is pretty reasonable especially since they have free donuts and coffee while you wait. There were only about 150 people (max) in the audience so I figured my chances of getting a question on air or even being a contestant were good. I was woefully mistaken. I had a great question on my card. In fact, I had three of them.

My first question was, "What's the most interesting place have you been and what did you learn there?" Technically that's two questions, but I was pretty sure that would matter. My second question was inspired by the woman selling show regalia outside the theater. They had nice sweatshirts and I thought about buying one for Ronnie. So I asked how much they were. She replied, "$40." I mentioned that I thought that was a lot for a sweatshirt. She then told me that they don't believe in using sweatshop labor and therefore everything was made in America and cost more. Ok, I wasn't asking for a political discourse - I was just commenting on the price of the sweatshirts! So my second question was also two questions and was: why don't you believe in sweatshop labor and if you don't have your shirts made there how are the people who work there going to earn a living?

My third question came from Ronnie who asked "What's your favorite Federalist paper?"

I didn't get chosen to play the game or read the rules before the show. And he didn't answer my question. At least the coffee was good.

More on the Felters

This morning is clearly the last day of their conference. Many of the women at breakfast were wearing their purple "2008 Midwest Felting Symposium" t-shirts. The back of the t-shirt read "If you don't behave, we'll felt you". I have no idea what this means, but it seems kind of negative, don't you think?

We did see a few more women under the age of 60 today who were also clearly felters. And one who wasn't white (and no, she wasn't one of the Tibetan's gone astray). As far as I could tell, no one was under 40, or 38 at the absolute youngest. One woman had a felt watch band (sort of interesting looking from a distance), another had a felt backpack (not sure how that holds up in the rain) and yet another had a felt necklace of sorts that was hideous. Really.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Felters and the Dalai Lama

I'm spending the weekend in Madison, WI with a friend. Our hotel is right next door to the main convention space in town. The big to-do there this weekend is a Felting Convention, which means a lot of them are staying at our hotel. You can spot them a mile away. In addition to the hand-written nametags, they all have appliques on their shirts. It appears that only some are actually felt, and most of them involve puffy paints and sequins. With one dreadlocked woman who looked to be in her 40s, everyone else I saw is easily 60 years old, which then explains the puffy paints and sequins. I'm not sure how or why, but it does. It should be noted that the 40-something woman with dreadlocks was wearing a patchwork-y jumper kind of thing. She looked more like a textile arts person than someone who only works with felt (from my extremely limited knowledge of felters).

And here's another thing - the organization has enough money to hold their conference at a fairly large venue, but not enough to print real nametags for everyone? Maybe they're hoping it feels more "folksy", but it doesn't look like it (in case any of them are reading and wanted to know what I thought).

The Dalai Lama just left Madison and some of his aderents are still here, in our hotel, with us and the felters. We've got the men in red skirts (long, looks like they're made of linen) and red shirts, and the other people who look Tibetan. They aren't wearing red or saffron robes or dressed any differently than us, but they look like the pictures I've seen of Tibetans. And no, they aren't sherpas.

The hotel hosts a happy hour from 5:30 - 7pm each night. Needless to say it was a fascinating crowd waiting in line for Miller Lite and cheap wine. And in case you were wondering, I was drinking Diet Pepsi in my black pants and black and white shirt which was neither boasted an applique or a red linen skirt or saffron robe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DC Weather and Pluots and Sprechers, Oh My!

No, these three things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

I landed in DC, got off the plane, walked outside and was hit by a wall of heat. And not just heat, but humidity, too. It is hot here! I don't know how people live here. It's pretty hot in Milwaukee right now, but nothing like this. Thankfully, there is air conditioning where I am staying and while I am not a fan of air conditioning in general, I would chalk this up to a life-saving measure for today.

I bought two pluots today. They are some sort of hybrid between a plum and an apricot, but more plum than apricot. Evidently the hybrid of more apricot than plum is called an aprium. Really. Look it up. I wasn't sure what it would taste like and I figured if I liked it, I should have another one on hand. (If I didn't, I was just going to leave it in the fridge where I'm staying and pretend I knew nothing about how it got there.) It has a smooth skin like a plum, and it was brownish-yellowish. Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and found watermelon red fruit inside. I think it tastes plummy - I'm not sure where the apricot part is hiding, which is ok with me since I don't love apricots....

This weekend we went to the Sprecher's Brewery. It was a good tour, and at the end, there is the requisite tasting room. I'm not a huge beer fan and since they also make really, really good sodas, so it's never a problem of not having anything to drink when we go. There was one beverage the tour guide mentioned called Triple X. She said it was something (I missed exactly what it was that this is) that was aged in bourbon barrels. When bottled, it's about 5% alcohol.

I figured I should try this. Whereas they give you a full glass (albeit small) of the beers and sodas, they only give about a 1/2 inch of this Triple X. This stuff was excellent! It was like carbonated bourbon, except I know that sounds terrible and this was anything but. It's only sold at their factory and they recommended that it be consumed soon after opening. I didn't buy any, but I might need to go back.

On a soda note, they are now making a soda called Raven Red, that has Wisconsin cranberries, cherries and ginseng in it. Not only was it tasty, but we were told it makes an excellent sangria when combined with cheap red wine and some fruit. It's also supposed to be a good mixer with nearly every kind of alcohol that you might want mixed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Le Tour du Shorewood

The Shorewood Criterium rolled through our small village yesterday and there is only one word for it - wow. Our house was located smack dab in the middle of the race so by default, the race was the only place to be.

The streets were blocked off by about 3:30pm and the first race didn't start until about 5pm. Evidently that was about 30 minutes later than expected and the delay was due to a crash at a different bike race across town. The women were doing 20 laps of a 1.3 mile course. About lap 5 or 6, the race was stopped for a good 30 minutes to take care of a serious crash. 10 riders went down, 3 were injured and 1 was taken to the hospital. Of course, that took place on the other side of the loop and we were watching from the start/finish line on the main street running through the village.

And 30 minutes later, the women started off to finish the race. It was fascinating. All of the things that you hear about in the Tour de France, but on a smaller scale and with no huge mountains to climb. Plus, since they were going in a loop, you actually got to see them every few minutes and who was now in which position in the pelaton.

The kids race began immediately after. The kids rode the same loop, and only the one loop. They youngest was three and the oldest about 8 would be my guess. Some kids were on tricycles, and they looked determined - to win or finish I don't know, but they were pretty cute.

We decided not to stay for the men's race. BIG MISTAKE! 10 minutes later we had to go to a friends car (that parked outside the loop) and saw the men go by. Needless to say we didn't go home for the next 2 and a half hours. This was serious racing. A huge field of men's professional racing. I'd had no idea what we could have missed.

Every time the pel0ton went by, we would naturally stop and watch. Plus, it made for a very good breeze on a very hot day. In front of one neighbor's house, the woman I was standing next to said, "mmm. Spandex". That was probably the funniest moment of the race.

We were also watching them on the other side of the loop (where the crash had been during the women's race), so the street was narrower and so they were that much closer. They are fast! And the peloton was a full three blocks long. Around lap 30, a break-away group of 4 made it's way forward and by the end had a full 1/2 loop lead on the rest of the field.

They man driving the lead car drove not only the men's race (50 laps) but also the women's - in the same direction, the same 1.3 mile loop, basically for 3 and a 1/2 hours. I think he probably had a crick in his neck by the end. And he had to drive pretty fast - especially for the men.

The other nice thing was that at least on the neighborhood side of the race, everyone brought out their lawn chairs, a lot of people set up barbeques if not full out picnics, and everyone was just hanging out and doing the Shorewood version of tailgaiting. That was pretty nice. We talked to a few neighbors, played with some dogs and declined the offer of shrimp cocktail.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Not to Work and Run Errands

It's hot in Milwaukee today. Somewhere in the 90's I would guess even though the official reading right now is only 86. For a change, I was going out for lunch, which, on a day like today, is a nice thing to do being that most restaurants have at least minimal air conditioning.

Afterwards, I get in my car. My very hot car which has been baking for the past 90 minutes in direct sunlight. Lovely. And since it's so hot, I decide that I'll stop at the grocery store on the way home so I don't have to go out later. It's the regular grocery store - the one I rarely go to, but I need sliced dill sandwich pickles to go with the 16 Boca Burgers we bought at Costco over the weekend and Trader Joe's doesn't carry them. And I need diced tomatoes for the black bean soup I'm going to be making, which I could get at Trader Joe's but I'm not about to make a special trip just for them.

So on my drive to the store I call the office and try and touch base with someone (let's call him Avi) who's working with us on a specific marketing project. I tell him that I'm on my way back from a meeting and running an errand, just so that if he hears strange noises, he knows I'm not completely ignoring him. No problem. Until I'm looking at the diced tomatoes (there are way, way too many choices of diced tomatoes). Then it happens. A guy walks up to me and says, "Excuse me, do you know where the tomato paste is?" He clearly cannot see I'm on the phone, so I can't be annoyed. But do I look like I know where the tomato paste is? Evidently I do.

Avi laughs at me.

I excuse myself from the call for a second and say, "No, but maybe farther down this aisle?" And I was back on the call in no time.

And then it came time to check out. I had four items with me. There were three check-out lanes open and they all had at least three or four people in them. I'm not really sure why all of these people are shopping in the middle of the day, but that's why they have self-checkout lanes.

I start checking out. I'm mid-sentence with Avi when he interrupts me to ask if someone else came on the line. I have no idea what he's talking about because I'm focused on only two things: Scanning my three cans of diced tomatoes (I couldn't decide on just one kind) and my jar of pickles and having this conversation. I'm not listening to or hearing other voices.

If you've ever used a self-checkout at a grocery store, you'll remember that the machines speak to you. I did not remember this. Avi laughed at me again. I reminded him that I am so focused on our conversation that the extra voices are being kept at bay. And somehow he thinks this is funny too. So I have Avi laughing in one ear and a machine reminding me to put my diced tomatoes in the bag and take my receipt. It's a strange world.

(It should be noted that now that I am back and seated at my desk I am really enjoying the breeze and would have been fine not going out at all.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day!

Ever since I read A Tale of Two Cities in junior high school, I've had a thing for Bastille Day. I'm not sure why.

I don't know what would be involved in celebrating it. Should I be eating croissants? French fries? Fromage? I'm drinking eau, if that counts for anything other than my 8 glasses a day.

I don't honestly know much more about Bastille Day than I read in the book, which I realize was not non-fiction.

Speaking of which, isn't non-fiction a weird term? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't we describe books that aren't 'real' as 'non-real', rather than by defining 'reality' by what it isn't?

Au Revoir.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Grocery Cart

I think I've written about grocery shopping before, but it's been a while, and if I can't remember, maybe neither will you.

Whenever I'm at the grocery store, I wonder what the checkout person is thinking when they look at the items in my cart. Now I know they aren't really looking with a critical eye, but when I look at other peoples' carts, I wonder all about them. What they're cooking, what kind of diet they're on, how many people they're shopping for, what kind of party they're having, if they live alone, why they are only buying licorice and tuna fish, what you actually do with plantains....

Tonight I was at Trader Joe's. My cart included: European-style fat free yogurt (I don't generally believe in buying non-fat foods unless they naturally occur that way but I've learned that in smoothies, the fat content of yogurt doesn't make a difference.), Hebrew National hotdogs, soy cheese, frozen roasted corn, Soy Ginger dressing, fake chicken and beef strips, romaine lettuce, a few onions, Luna Bars and frozen green beans and frozen vegetarian burritos.

This was not an interesting cart of groceries. I don't usually shop in order to have an interesting cart, but this was interesting in how boring it was. About the only thing remotely curious was the presence of soy cheese, yogurt and hotdogs. Maybe someone could wonder if I am shopping vegan, vegetarian or carnivore? But maybe not.

Not satisfied with having a boring cart, I stopped at a second store. Actually, a boring cart had absolutely nothing to do with it. In reality, Trader Joe's was out of hotdog buns, and wrapping them in a leaf of romaine lettuce does not make for a Chicago-style hotdog experience.

So I went into the regular chain store that I maybe go into once a month, if that. It was pouring rain - bigger than cats and dogs, more like lions and bears (no tigers were seen). And there I bought buns and a shaker of garlic and parmesan popcorn flavoring. Someone should wonder about that, right? I mean who goes out in the middle of a monsoon to buy hotdog buns and popcorn seasoning? Evidently I do.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

131 steps

We live just a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan, so when it's nice out and I feel like walking, I walk over to look at the lake. In case you've never seen it, it's big. Just heading due east from our house gives me a nice view, but it's sandwiched between two houses, and while I'm sure the homeowners are very nice, I don't want to get arrested for loitering. So I walk the rest of the mile to the park.

The park has a few benches, a large grassy area, and a play area for kids. And it also has a balcony to look out over the lake. Look out over because the actual shore is far below.

How far below? 131 steps. Down. Steeply down. But thankfully, the planners of this good village (Shorewood, WI) were wise. Very, very wise. Just about every 22 steps there are well-placed benches.

These are not very important on the way down.

And on the way up, you have to think strategically about where you might stop to pause and look out at the lake and enjoy the view (aka catch your breath). Why strategically? Because there are all sorts of people going up and down the steps and you don't want to look like you can't actually make it more than 22 steps without taking a break. 22 steps isn't so much really, but 66 is getting up there. not to mention 88.

Yes, I know these people aren't really paying attention and don't really care, but shouldn't they? I mean what if someone (else, not me) has a heart attack?

Luckily for me, Pete Townsend kept singing and didn't care that I stopped for the better part of Rough Boys. You gotta love Pete....

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Voice mail

I hate checking voice mail. Work phone, home phone - it doesn't matter. It makes my husband crazy but I could leave the little red light blinking for days. But at work, seeing that red light makes me anxious because I know that a message implies work that I haven't otherwise anticipated.

Yesterday was busy and I could see that I was missing calls and that a few messages had been left. And today was one meeting after another. So it wasn't until late this afternoon that I finally listened to voicemail.

Really, of all the things I do, this is truly the scariest. The most frightening part is the waiting to hear how many messages there are. I know I can listen to three or four and not be overwhelmed no matter what the content is. So any number four or below is what I'm waiting to hear. Five to eight and I may need to listen to them in two groups. It's generally not more than that, so there are only a few times during the year that it would be helpful to have one of those new portable "shock your heart" kinds of things around. Of course there's no one qualified here to operate one, but that's beside the point.

I call into voicemail. "You have 10 messages." What? How can that be? Who are these people and what can they want from me in the middle of the summer?! I'm not that important!

And yet they called. I was brave and listened to the messages in only two groups because the first two were things I'd already taken care of. I like those kind of messages.

The first message was from yesterday morning, and since I'd already taken care of it, I wasn't concerned that it had been more than 24 hours. The ninth message was left at 9pm last night. That meant of all the missed calls today (and there were a lot of them) only one person left a message. What? I'm not important enough for them to leave me the courtesy of a message?!

And, as always happens, and I mean always, while I was listening to my messages, another one came in. I think it can wait until tomorrow....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Spell Check and Tossing Fish

There are too many things that spell check doesn't catch. Like form and from. Today I was trying to write the phrase 'crap shoot' and it came out 'carp shoot'. I happened to notice, which I think was a good thing.

But then I started wondering what a carp shoot might be. Is it like a game of horseshoes where the goal may be to have the fish land on the spike? Fish don't roll, so it would be hard to play marbles with a carp. Or it could be more obviously like basketball, in which case the possibilities are pretty clear. I'm not sure I like the idea of incorporating a fish into the biathalon, although that might bring in a few more viewers to the winter Olympics.

And finally, I finished my email.


I never really thought I liked mangos (an accepted plural spelling). There was an Indian restaurant that had a great sauce for their samosas that someone tried to tell me was really a mango sauce, but I never really believed them, because I was pretty sure I didn't like mangos.

Of course that doesn't mean I'd ever actually tried a mango. I hadn't. And then I went to DC where a friend bought a mango for me. To this day I'm not sure why. But when someone buys you a mango, you're sort of obligated to try it, right?

It turns out I've watched enough of the Food Network to know how to slice one and make it look pretty enough to garnish a buffet. But I still wasn't really excited about eating it. But I did. It was slimy and not completely offensive. In fact, not offensive at all, but nothing I would go look for at the grocery store.

But another friend of mine told me that she loves the frozen mango at Trader Joe's. I didn't really think that would be helpful to me, but I thought I could buy it and make a mango lassi. I did, and it was good. Very good. But let's be real, I'm still not convinced I like mango.

And then, today, a third friend sent me a recipt for amba - the spicy, curry sort of mustardy sauce they have in Israel at all the toniest falafel stands. It's a little complicated and the first step calls for 10 (!) green mangos to be cut up, salted, and left on a window sill for 3-4 days. I might still try it. I can't imagine cutting up 10 (!) mangos, but for some amba... I might need to.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It just goes to show....

You learn something new every day. And today I learned the French word for "yeah". It's ouais, pronounced "way". In and of itself this is not such a big deal. I learn new words all the time as evidenced by my large vocabulary.

But this word in particular brings a totally new meaning to the movie, Wayne's World, and the exchange:

"No way!"

Had I known all these years that they were in fact saying "Ouais", and not "Way", I'm sure my life would be different. I'm not sure how, but it would be different.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Economy Parking?!

I believe it's false advertising to say that Economy Parking is $16/day. That's Economy? Economy is $8/day at BWI or even $10/day in Milwaukee, but it is most definitely not $16/day at O'hare Airport.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Doing Absolutely Nothing

I'm sitting here in a little cabin on a little lake doing nothing. I've been doing this now since Friday afternoon. It turns out it's a very easy thing to do. Especially if you know someone with a little cabin on a little lake.

It's very quiet, and I think because it's a little lake, there aren't a lot of loud boaters - by the time they'd get up whatever speed they'd need to be loud, they'd be on the other side already. And it seems that unless you have a boat, pretty much the only thing to do is hang out and do nothing. And from what I can tell, the people that do have boats are doing the same thing, but on the water.

Rumor has it I'm somewhere in Michigan. and maybe not too far from Ohio. Ok. It doesn't really matter to me. I am pretty sure that I would be able to do nothing in Ohio too. There's a large family of geese swimming by. Other than sliding across the water, they don't seem to be doing anything either. Evidently it's the culture here. You gotta love Michigan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Still Combobulated

I landed at the Milwaukee airport a few hours ago and wondered if there was any chance I'd misread the sign on Sunday. I mean, I've been telling people about this sign and virtually no one believed me. They eventually did because I'm convincing (and in this case, telling the truth), but really, why would they. Who has ever heard of a Recombobulation Area. Heck, I'm surprised the people who make the signs could even spell it. Try typing it three times. Fast or slow. It's nto so easy. But I digress.

The "Recombobulation Area" sign was still there. Evidently the sign was not a figment of my imagination. If was an April Fools joke, no one has figured that out yet. Or maybe they have and figure that after making you walk on the floor in bare feet after hundreds of people before you, you need to laugh to forget how disgusting the floor probably is.

At National Airport in DC they have little booties you can put on. Of course you can't get to them until after you've already put all of your things, including shoes, into the metal detector. But if you want booties for later (I hear they are all the rage among teens today), or for walking through the metal detector, or from the metal detector to the area that in Milwaukee is evidently known as the Recombobulation Area, you can have booties.

And once again, there are people who seem surprised that they have to take off their shoes. Have they not read the news for the past five years. Shoes can be dangerous. They can be thrown. A really spiky stilleto or a heavy work boot can be pretty dangerous (not to mention painful if you're on the receiving end). I'm not sure how the metal detectors prevent someone from hurling their shoe but I'm sure the good folks at TSA know more than I do about this.

These same people seem surprised to learn that they can't take a water bottle through, and that they need to keep their boarding pass with them. There are announcements all the time. And signs. I would think that if they are as unfamiliar with the process as they seem to be, that they would be paying attention to these things. Evidently, I would be wrong.

There was a woman in front of me in line who had two small bags, two jackets and a Virginia Road Atlas. Seeing as she was going through security and about to get on a plane, I'm not sure why she didn't pack the atlas in the bag she must have checked, but maybe she's really attached to her atlas. Anyway, when she got to the first TSA person who checks your ID and boarding pass, she had to put everything down and find her ID. And then find her boarding pass. I'm pretty sure this is the same woman who doesn't think about deciding how she's going to pay for her groceries until the cashier totals her purchases.

But I digress. So she puts everything on the floor and roots through her bags for her boarding pass and ID. The security person looks at them closely, and when she hands them back, the woman bends down four separate times to pick up the bags, the jackets and road atlas. None of them were particularly large and I'm not sure what purpose standing up straight between bobs for her next item served. But again, this is a woman carrying a road atlas onto a flight.

The same thing happens when she puts all of her things down to take off her shoes. And yes, she did seem surprised that this was happening. I was not amused. And it happened again when everything came off the line. I was even less amused. THIS is why we need special lanes for security. She was risking serious harm to herself by those of us immediately behind her. Certainly someone had heavy shoes that could have easily been dropped onto her head while she was bobbing for jackets.

In the end, I think the Recombobulation Areas should have couches, lavender incense and maybe some New Age music to calm us down after being behind these people in line. That would give true meaning to recombobulation.... don't you think?!

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Words

I usually expect my main source of new words to be the Word Spy (http://www.wordspy.com/) and I was very (!) surprised yesterday afternoon to find a new word at the General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee.

I left my laptop in DC last week figuring I could do without it for the weekend. (I was right.) Going through security without a laptop is a breeze. I'm used to pulling my laptop out and putting it in the little gray bin, but not having to do that is just so much easier. So once my bags and shoes went through the x-ray machine and I walked through the metal detector, all I really had to do was put my shoes on. There was no reassembly of anything required.

Right past the formal security area is a place with a few chairs for people to sit down and put their shoes back on. I put my bags down, put my shoes on, and looked up. Why I looked up, I can't be sure. But I'm glad I did. I was evidently using the "Recombobulation Area". I looked at the sign three times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was reading. Yes, it said "Recombobulation Area".

Now I was not particularly discombobulated at the time, although there were certainly people around me who were. And anyone traveling with kids and strollers seems perpetually discombobulated when tney go through airport security. But who knew there was an area where they could recombobulate?!

Let's be clear here - "recombobulate" is NOT a word found in the dictionary. In fact, neither is "combobulate". The word, evidently, can only be used in the negative, or whatever adding a "dis-" to the front of the word would make it.

Yes, I have been to a recombulation area and lived to tell the tale.