Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012

"I don't make resolutions.  I have goals."

If I write my goals on the interwebs, it means they are more likely to be achieved, right?

Right.

Okay, here we go:


  1. Exercise.  More than once.  How about a regular routine?  Let's aim for 2-3 days a week.  And include running and weights/yoga.  Be able to run the entire 8K Beat The Bridge in May.
  2. Eat healthier.  Let's put this Christmas crockpot to use.  Lots of fresh, natural food.  Homecooked meals ready when I get home.  Very excited.
  3. Be a hot bridesmaid in July (see goals 1 and 2).
  4. Review probability theory one chapter at at time.
  5. Read at least 20 books. Hush, you.  Yes you.  I know you're scoffing at that number.  It's a minimum.  I want it to be obtainable.  And then I can brag about beating it.  Cough * showoff * cough.
  6. Blog more.  Maybe this blog can act as a record of my attempts at these goals?


And hey, look!  I'm posting this before New Years.  No need to put procrastination down!

Highlights of Korea

The best parts of South Korea at Christmastime:

- Giant tree outside of the customer site
- Glee versions of Christmas songs played continuously on the radio
- Christmas lights
- Snow
- Korea barbecue
- Tofu soup
- International trip that only lasted 3 days

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Simply Can't Go Wrong With The Traditional Fisch Schlapping Song

Finland Finland Finland, that's the country for me.

But not really.

I've thought about moving to Europe, and I could totally do it too!  Drive a compact car?  Check.  Watch British TV shows?  Check.  Navigate the London Underground?  Check.  Eat Swiss chocolate?  Check.  I could do this.

But maybe not.

So far, Finland has been nothing like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmBlUb2dcsk

It has, however, been somewhat cold.  It is currently hovering around freezing, which is about 20 degree Celsius (look at me, being all European with my temperature units) warmer than the same week last year.

It's also dark.  Dark when I go to the customer site at 8:30am.  Dark when we leave at 5pm.  The few glimpses I've seen out the windows suggest that it gets dark around 3pm.  Doesn't help with the jetlag.

Tampere is the third largest city in Finland.  That's only in land area.  The land area divided by population number doesn't even qualify it to be classified as a "city" by Euro standards.

Favorite Finnish Food (so far): Karjalanpiirakka, followed closely by a cream cheese Danish.

New favorite drink:  Coffee.  COFFEE.  Coffee with sugar!  Two sugars!  Woo energy!

Okay, time for bed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First

Hi.  My name is Stephanie.  I'm a recovering car wrecker.  It's been one year (365 days) since my last accident.

I kinda feel like I should get a medal or something for this accomplishment.





Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just One Day

London in one day.  The highlights:

Walked through the city at night.
- Slept a total of six hours because I was busy working and updating my blog.
- Walked again in the morning.
- Strolled through Russell Square and poked head in at British Museum to see the Assyrian lion hunt and the Rosetta Stone.  Walked through the Enlightenment room before leaving.
- Stopped in front of the IES building and thought about the classes I took.
- Hopped across the street to Sticklers, only to find it closed with a "Store for Sale" sign!
- Walked down to Hummus Bros and saw that it is closed on the weekends.  Got a sandwich from Pret outside of the Holborn station.
- Walked through Covent Garden and took a left at Leicester Square to get to Trafalgar Square.
- Spent an hour in the National Gallery visiting old favourites.
- Walked next door and spent the next hour in the National Portrait Gallery.
- Left the gallery and walked along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.
- Looped back around to get to Westminster Abbey.
- Attended Evensong and Service, which allowed me to listen to the choir sing inside the cathedral (for free!).
- Hopped on the Metropolitan line to South Kensington Station.
- Grabbed two Ben's Cookies and ate one (lemon) while walking to King's Road.  It was even better than I remember.
- Looked fondly at the residence hall before hanging a left and booking it down King's Road.
- Ducked into Waitrose five minutes before closing (5pm on Sundays).  Danced quickly among the familiar grocery store aisles and picked up a few items.
- Strolled leisurely along King's Road back to the residence hall.
- Headed into My Old Dutch for dinner.  The pancakes were bigger than I remembered!  Only finished 2/3rds of it.
- Hopped down the street to Tesco to look around.
- Crossed the street for a cider at the Cadogan Arms.
- Took my time walking back to South Ken station.  Glanced at Hugh Grant's house.
- Rode the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus.
- Stepped into a tourist shop to get Royal Wedding memorabilia.
- Strolled down to Trafalgar Square to see Whitehall at night.
- Hobbled back to Leicester Square station.
- Rode back to Kings Cross and back to the hotel.

My feet are killing me, and I have real work to do.  So, I'm finishing off the day with Vodka Blue and the last Ben's Cookie.

Today was wonderful.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

London Town

I walked.  It was amazing.  Felt like home and like a dream all at once.  The funny thing is, it made my semester here feel like a dream too.  

Here's the route I took.  Google said I walked for 8 miles.  I'm not sure if I believe that, but my feet sure do.  Currently drinking some WKD Original Alcoholic Blue to numb my feet.  Should sleep soon.

And here are some pictures.  I'm still learning and practicing the long exposure settings on my camera, but I think these turned out rather nice:
Westminster Abbey
More Abbey
I never managed to get a picture of the entire thing last time.  I think it's because I never thought to cross the street.
It's leaning, don't you know?
Words cannot express how much I love this building
The Eye is watching
Thames, London Eye, Parliament
St. Paul's from the Millennium Bridge

St. Paul's


Thoughts

I'm spending the next 30 hours in London.  When I tell others this, I get polite to mild excitement about it.  I don't think they understand.  A few do.  A few have been there and experienced it such that I have experienced it.  We lived there.  We weren't just visitors or tourists.  We didn't live out of a hotel or walk around with fanny packs.  We didn't talk loudly on the Tube or go for the stereotypical London photoshoots.

We took classes.  We learned.  We grew.  We spent our time reading Shakespeare and Bronte and Austen.  We explored the depths of the city.  We shopped at Waitrose and Sainsburys.  We had multiple month-long Oyster cards and went to the theatre at least once a week.  We found those cute, cozy restaurants, and we saw the inside of the great cathedrals and museums.  We visited the Tate often enough to notice when paintings would leave and others would appear.  We spent afternoons in the librarys and treasure rooms.  We did research in the Imperial War Museum vault.  We attended bonfires on Guy Fawkes Day and pantomimes at Christmas.  We saw Prince William and Prince Harry in the flesh.

I think that college is about learning, not only about your chosen fields, but about life itself.  There has to be a point where you grow up, when you realize that you can be a functioning adult, that you can and will make it on your own.  London was that time for me.  Yes, it was still somewhat sheltered.  We lived in a dorm and were asked to submit travel reports so that the leaders knew where we went on the weekends.  But it was the first time I was expected to cook for myself.  It was the first time I flew on my own.  It was the first time I was in charge of making travel plans and bookings.  I turned 21 in London.  I may have screwed up a couple of times.  I was robbed at one point.  I might have eaten more candy than necessary.

My semester in London is the reason I can travel now.  It's the reason my boss can send me around the world, and I can willingly accept travel assignments.  It gave me the confidence to get around on my own.  So when I tell people I'm going to London this weekend, there is so much more to it.  I once heard it described as, "You love London like you love a child."  And I'm willing to believe that is true.

So, once more with feeling: London.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bydgoszcz

A few observations:

- The hotel room temp was set to 21 degrees Celsius when I got here.  That's the same temperature that the temp in my hotel room in Shenzhen was set.  It requires a heater to maintain that temperature here.  The hotel in Shenzhen needed an air conditioner.

- I'm confusing my limited knowledge of other languages.  When the waiter placed my dinner in front of me and said something incomprehensible in Polish, I responded automatically with "Shi shi" (Chinese for "Thank you").

- Shopping in Poland looks like a lot more fun than in Seattle.  All the fashionable stores were full of sweaters, jackets, and thick winter coats.  My idea of great clothing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poland

Walking to dinner.  It's much colder here than in China.  It's wonderful.


In Transit

This is quickly becoming a traveling blog, as I am becoming more and more of an on-the-road employee.  The latest trip?  Bydgoszcz, Poland.  (Sounds like "bid gosch").  And getting here was just as complicated as figuring out a language with minimal vowels.  Here's the itinerary:

5:45am (PST): Leave apartment for airport, making sure to empty garbage, unplug most electronics/appliances, and lock up
6:15am (PST): Check in and get through security.  Seattle loves its Starbucks, and I love SeaTac for a coffee spot in every terminal.
7:15am (PST): Visit a Hudson News stand to buy Kleenex, cough drops, and water.  The cashier hands me some Emergen-C when I pay.  Also, I have a Chinese cold.  It's like a regular cold, except I caught it on the way home from China last week.
8:00am (PST): Board my first flight to Chicago.  It's a completely full flight, and I trade my last-row-aisle seat for the last-row-middle-seat so that my Professional Rolling Briefcase (PRB) can fit under the seat in front of me.  Have I mentioned that you should always carry-on?  I have four flights (five airport visits) planned, and the last thing I want is to lose luggage.
10:00am (PST): Midflight.  My nose stops running.  It's a nice break from a constant leaky faucet.
1:45pm (CST): Land in Chicago.  Leave my ears up in the air.  Or take some clouds down with me.  Either way, my ears refuse to acknowledge the new altitude.
2:00pm (CST): Change terminals.  Experience unpleasant flashbacks of the night I spent in O'Hare on the way home from London.  Be mildly impressed that O'Hare has ice cream (that's how I judge airports, you see.  It's surprising the number that don't offer ice cream).  Go through security again.  Discover that there is no food or ice cream on the other side.  Buy Gardettos and water and DayQuil (did I mention that I have a cold?).
4:30pm (CST): Board my long flight to London Heathrow.  It too is a completely full flight.  I have a window seat, which is nice, but it means bugging not one but two people when nature calls.
7:00pm (CST): Food is served.  I break my boycott on airplane food to nibble at lasagna, a roll, salad, and banana cake.  My nose is constantly running (unlike me, who is definitely out of shape).
9:00pm (CST): I overcome my inability to sleep on a plane, only to wake up feeling crappy.  Yes, actually crappy.  My stomach is rolling and I'm not sure which end is going to lose it.  I manage to calm my stomach down and doze off again.
6:20am (BST): Land in London Heathrow.  It's still dark outside.  My ears are still floating somewhere over Chicago.
7:00am (BST): Get through customs and discover that my next flight is not out of Terminal 5.  Also discover that transit between terminals is extremely slow.  You have to catch the express train into Paddington (which only leaves every 15 minutes) and take it to Terminals 1-3.  If you want to get to Terminal 4, that's another train from London Heathrow Central.
8:15am (BST): Find the check-in counter for LOT Polish Airlines.  It's tucked in an annex called K.  Change middle seat for an aisle seat.  Go through security for the third time with both bags.
8:30am (BST): Walk around mini-London while waiting for the gate number to be announced.  Poke head into Pret, Harrods, Hamley's, and a cheap touristy souvenirs store.  Find the restrooms, as the stomach is starting to complain again.
9:00am (BST): Decide that it might be a good idea to eat some soup.
9:10am (BST): Decide that the soup was a bad idea.
9:30am (BST): Visit restroom again.  Empty stomach contents.  Decide never to eat again.
10:10am (BST): Gate is finally announced.  Join the throng to Gate 20 and wait some more.  Ears are still over Chicago.  Nose is still running like crazy.  Trying to minimize my symptoms so not to freak out fellow passengers.  Even though I'm sure I'm going to die some unpleasant death in the middle of Europe.  Alone.
10:30am (BST): Take off for Warsaw.  Actually fall asleep on plane.  Wake up to my ears making the most wonderful popping noise.  My noise is clear and dry.  I'm having a mental party while simultaneously refusing snacks.
2:00pm (CEST): Land in Warsaw.  The ears decide to stay behind again.  Damn them.
2:15pm (CEST): Make my way through security for the fourth time.  My PRB sets off alarms and security wants to hand search it.  After careful examination, my never-been-used set of allen wrenches is deemed "dangerous," confiscated, and thrown away.  This is the seventh airport on three continents that I've taken them through, and this is the very first time they've caused any sort of alarm.  I wonder how the Poles put together Ikea furniture.
3:45pm (CEST): Board a tiny prop plane to Bydgoszcz.  Both bags are too big to carry on and are gate-checked.  I sit in seat 5B.  There are three seats per row, and probably no more than 10 rows.
4:45pm (CEST): Land in Bydgosxcz.  Find taxi.
5:15pm (CEST): Arrive in hotel and revel in free wifi, something that hasn't been available since I left Seattle.

Okay, math problem: who can tell me how long my journey was?  That's right.  From door to door, it was 27.5 hours.  And I got to my destination feeling like I was never going to get out of bed.

But you know what?  Sleep is amazing.  It has healing powers like you wouldn't believe.  My ears came back overnight, my nose has stopped running, and I feel like a normal person again.  Let's hope this continues.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Puzzled

I finished it!  All 1999 pieces of it.  It only took 7 weeks (4 of which I spent in China).


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going Home


I'm well-aware of how lucky I am to get the chance to have work-paid trips to far away lands, like Holland and China, but it's hard not to think of it as punishment sometimes.  Like detention.  Detaining me from my regular life, with my routines and habits.  I didn't ask to be sent away, and I wasn't excited to have my return postponed.  I was only given 3 days notice of my month-long trip.  Not nearly enough time to research and plan, to look up sites to visit and to learn useful phrases, to build up some anticipation and excitement at the opportunities.  It's not that I don't like to travel to other countries; it's that I prefer to travel on my own terms.  To create my own schedule and lists of attractions to see, food to taste, and experiences to have.  

Working while traveling isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It reminds me of working on my research project remotely in college.  What was supposed to be a day job became a summer-long homework assignment.  I constantly felt like I should be working on it.  If I didn't make any progress one day, I felt compelled to keep working on it in the evenings.  

Now, as I'm at the end of my sojourn in China, I look forward to returning to the familiar: my car, my apartment, eating fresh produce, working in the office, having a set schedule.  I even look forward to running.  I was detained from several things this trip: watching the seasons change, my birthday, sending time with friends, the start of the TV season.  Sure, I got to visit new places and experience new things and improve my chopsticking, but I look forward to going home.  So much.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mind the Gaps


I rode the metro today.  While on it, I was trying to figure out the last time I was on a metro, praying that it wasn't the Underground, because that would just make me sad (it wasn't.  There's a form of the metro in SLC called Trax).  While I was trying to figure this out, I was looking around and noticing all the posters and signs, including the notices over the doors to "Mind the Gaps".  I started to feel a little nostalgic as we were pulling into a station, and then the intercom flickered to life.  "Mrgngsk mgsgdien [insert Chinese words here]."  I ignored the Chinese while I waited for the English translation second.  This happens everywhere.  Something will be announced in Chinese and then the announcement will be followed by the English translation, spoken by someone (usually female) with a strong Chinese-English accent.  When the English translation kicked in on the metro, I kid you not, it was spoken in a very British accent.  "Please mind the gap between the train and the platform."

Cue London Tube flashbacks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dreams

I was robbed once. When I was studying abroad in London, a friend and I decided to sees Four Christmases at a cinema down the street from our residence hall. We had done other things earlier in the evening, and in the course of our ramblings, had stopped at an ATM to get out some cash. Since my birthday had occurred during the semester, I also had some American cash in my wallet, courtesy of generous relatives. I had been saving it for who-knows-what, and I hadn't thought of a better place to keep it than my wallet (maybe I thought that if I saw a good exchange rate somewhere, I would trade it for the Pound?). After the lukewarm movie, we stopped at Tesco to get I-don't-remember-what and both opened our wallets to discover them empty of all forms of cash (21st birthday money included). It was one of the most disappointing and scariest feelings I've experienced.

Last night, I had a dream where it happened again.  The same friend and I were contemplating what Chinese candies to buy when I opened my wallet to discover that all the cash had been taken.  In addition, my credit and ATM cards were missing.  And I was still in China, several hundred miles away from the airport where my return flight is originating.  I awoke in a cold sweat, with my heart racing and my mind listing all the things I needed to do: call the bank, call the office, figure out how to get home, etc.  As with any nightmare, it took several minutes to calm myself down and finally fall back asleep.

Now, my question is: what the hell happened to my nightmares?!  Not that I want to have them, but if I do have a nightmare, please make it a proper one!  Monsters in the closet, things under the bed, being chased by an unknown thing, getting a B in a math class.  You know, proper nightmares.  I want to still believe that the Headless Horseman is in my closet, because that's where I put him when my mom read me the story (I always made sure that my closet was closed after that).  What is it with these "grown up" fears and dreams?  No more, please.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

24

To say that I was not excited about this business trip to China would be an understatement. I didn't particularly enjoy my previous China trip, and the only difference I expected from this one was that is is going to be a week longer. I spent the days leading up to the flight whining about China to anyone who would listen. It's hot and humid and muggy and crowded. And they don't speak English. And it's hot. And humid. And muggy. And it smells! And then I realized that I would be traveling on my birthday. Alone. In a foreign city. On my birthday. Not excited. At all.

Slowly, over the course of two days, I managed to readjust my attitude a bit about the trip.  Even got it to the point that I was enjoying being here.  It helps that I have two coworkers in the area, both of whom are Chinese, speak Chinese, and know what to order at Chinese restaurants.  One even recommended some places that I should visit if I have time.  So by Saturday (my birthday), I had a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see.  A good start.

After a lazy morning, I grabbed a map, my camera, and a water bottle before setting out.  A study of the map showed that it would be a bit of a hike to Nanjing Road, but I had nothing better to do and all day to do it.  Plus, I promised myself an afternoon snack of ice cream.  I set out in a very balmy (but not so hot) afternoon and started down the street.  After several blocks, I realized that I was inadvertently stalking a short, middle-aged, white man with an umbrella.  The fact did not escape him, so he started a conversation.  His name is Francois, a French Canadian who spends one week every two months in Shanghai.  He was out for a walk on the doctor's orders. When I told him my destination, he said, "Oh, that's far!"  And for the next hour, we walked together through the muggy streets of Shanghai.  90 minutes after setting out, we had reached the mouth of my destination, 8km (5 miles) away and 4km longer than Francois had planned to walk.  Before leaving, he said that he was going to drop into a hotel bar for a drink and asked if I would like to join.  After buying me a Chinese beer (tastes like Corona), he took off.  That was surprising event number one.

I had no more than 10 minutes to myself, exploring People's Square, before I was approached by a tiny Chinese girl.  "Nice to meet you!" she said (a phrase almost all Chinese know).  I smiled and made to move on my way when her male friend struck up a conversation with me.  It included asking me where I'm from, what I'm doing in Shanghai, how long I'm planning on being in China, and the same information about the two of them.  They then asked if I had any plans and I mumbled something about wanting to see Nanjing Road.  They started listing things I should see, and then said, "Why don't you come with us?  We'll go this way and then back to Nanjing Road."  Since the area was full of people and these two seemed okay, I followed them up to the crosswalk and down a slightly-less crowded street.  We then turned down an alley way of sorts and walked into a dingy mall-like alcove.  As we kept walking, I started getting more and more nervous.  We turned and started up a flight of half-lit stairs and down a nearly vacant corridor.  By this time, my internal dialogue was saying, Oh Steph!  What have you gotten yourself into?!  This is not safe!!  I got a firmer grip on my purse and sized up my company.  We then stopped at what looked like a massage place.  A small Chinese girl welcomed us and showed us down a hallway.  A door slide open and I looked inside.  A handful of chairs were crammed around a table where several glass jars of questionable-looking grass.  They're going to drug me and rob me! The voice in my head screamed.  I sat down between Lily and Ji, the seat where they say new friends always sit, and they explained that they were going to learn about how to brew tea.  The small Chinese girl moved to the other side of the table and started heating water.  She showed us a menu of sorts, which calmed my nerves a bit, as it did look professional.  I agreed to the tasting and the lesson, and soon we were sampling our first tea, a slightly-sweet oolong.  The oolong was followed by a series of teas, all brewed slightly differently, all with distinct flavors: some sweet, some bitter, one fruity, one flowery.  Six teas in all.  By this time, I was almost enjoying myself.  Still very suspicious of my companions and not too excited about the bill (>$60/person, and I was informed that Chinese people always split the total evenly, even though Lily had been the only one to purchase tea), I started thinking of how I was going to shake them off when we left.  Lily then surprised me by buying me a small container of tea, and both of them exchanged email addresses with me.  We walked outside and they escorted me to Nanjing Road before taking off for their evening plans.  I took a picture of them and watched as they disappeared into the crowd.  By this time, I was almost sure that this day had been a dream.  That was surprising event number two.

Now, nearly four hours after I had set out, I was at my destination and finally on my own.  I meandered down the crowded pedestrian road towards The Bund, where I staked out prime property on the waterfront and waited for dark, taking skyline pictures along the way.  After I had satisfied my artistic side, I started back up Nanjing Road with my feet beginning to show signs of soreness.  More pictures and a stop for Chinese snacks preceded my hailing of a taxi.  Well, not so much hailing as jumping into one right after a family vacated it.  I successfully told the driver where I needed to go (I handed him a piece of paper with the address written on it).  

Now, as I sit here, enjoying a birthday ice cream and reflecting on the day, I'm still not positive it wasn't a dream.  This was not how I imagined spending my 24th birthday.  Heck, it wasn't even how I planned on spending my day this morning.  And yet, it turned out better than I could have imagined.  I don't think I'll ever love Shanghai.  I don't think I'll even like Shanghai.  But I did enjoy how I spent my birthday this year.  And I didn't spend it alone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Leave the Country in 5 Days (or Less!)

I have a great job.  At graduation, I was one of the lucky ducks who had a job (in my respective field, nonetheless!), and in the past year, I've learned quite a bit and have gotten to do some of the things that I really enjoy.  My job consists of writing computer code, reading emails, and traveling.  The travel is sporadic and usually last minute (I went to Europe for 5 days on 24 hours notice once).  And then there are days like today.  My previous post is of the conversation[s] between myself and my boss earlier today.  The result of these conversations are two plane tickets and a very stressed employee.  Luckily, I have some experience with work travel and have figured out some useful tips for these last minute trips:

  • Set up online bill pay.  Even the Great Firewall of China will still let you pay most of your bills.  This way, you can pay them from anywhere.  An even better step is to set up automatic bill pay.  That way, you're never late and you don't have to worry about it (as long as you keep sufficient funds in your account).
  • Stop mail.  The US Postal Service has a handy website for arranging a hold on your mail delivery.  It's free, unlike some other sites, and you can arrange the start date for after you return.
  • Arrange a remote access account for your home computer.  This step may not be necessary (and in some cases may not even work) but in case you need emergency access to some of your files (or if you're just missing some of your favorite websites, like blogspot) you will be able to log in and retrieve them.  I use LogMeIn to link between my work laptop and my home laptop, and I'm hoping that during this trip to China I'll be able to log into my home computer using this account.
  • Hand sanitizer.  Toilets in China are rare.  Most of the public restrooms I saw in my previous visit consisted if holes in the floor and platforms to put my feet.  TP and soap were almost never seen.
  • Some hotels have a laundry service.  It might be a little expensive ($3-4 per item), but if you just need a few things washed (I thought it would be considerate to my seat mates to be wearing clean clothes on my 14-hr return flight) it's a good way to go (and you can expense it).
  • Go digital.  I may be gadget-happy, but I continue to sing the praises of the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad.  Sure, the iPad has a reader feature, but the lit LCD screen is hard on the eyes.  The Kindle's e-ink technology is realistically book-like, and the memory is large enough to house a small library.  Plus, there are thousands of free books available.  The iPad is great for videos and games and general websurfing.  
  • Make copies.  I was stopped and questioned at the Amsterdam airport.  The security's biggest concern was that I didn't have a hardcopy of my itinerary.  So, while I don't like to carry papers around, it is wise to have hardcopies of your travel itinerary.
I leave Tuesday for Shanghai and won't be returning until September 28th.  At least, that's what my ticket says.  My boss says that we may push out the return date.  Oh boy.

Going, Going, Gone

<email from my boss> Please look at flights leaving [for China] next week.  Lets buy today
 
My boss: "Have you researched some flights yet?"
Me: "Yes.  When do you want me to leave?"
My boss: "Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday."
Me: "Wait!  THIS Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday???"
My boss: "Yes!  This Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday."
Me: ". . . can I leave Tuesday?"

Me: "How long will I be there?"
My boss: "Well, let's plan on the 28th, but we might push it out."


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wimp

During a soccer game, I'm pretty sure that you're not supposed to be thinking don't kick the ball to me please don't kick me the ball please not in this direction no please don't kick the ball at me...


And yet I did.  For the entire first half and most of the second.  And I was sorely reminded that I am fat and out of shape.  Must work on that.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Modern World

Me: "I've been listening to Harry Potter audio books in the car.  It's been great."

Response: "There's something different about listening to books on CD, or I guess iPod, than on tape.  'Book on Tape' just sounds cooler."

Me: "Oh, I'm not listening to it on iPod or CD.  I'm listening to it on thumbdrive!"

Friday, August 12, 2011

Safety First

The general manager at work has some of the best stories.  The following is one:

I was working at the Trojan Nuclear Plant (about 30 miles outside of Portland) many years ago, and we had one of those tallies that counted the days since the last accident.  The company had a policy for giving out rewards after hitting certain benchmarks, like 6 months, 9 months, etc.  We were coming up on a big one, and the company decided to get us sweatshirts.   We thought, "Hey, that's pretty cool."  A subcommittee was formed to design the sweatshirt.  They must not have done a very good job reviewing it, because when we got them, no one would wear it.  First of all, it was pink and none of the men were going to wear that.  Secondly, the writing on the front said TROJAN SAFETY.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word of the Day

Phenomenologically.  adv.  Related to:



phe·nom·e·nol·o·gy 

n.
1. A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.
2. A movement based on this, originated about 1905 by Edmund Husserl.




Used in a sentence: "Thank you for phenomenologicallly solving this problem."


This word was used in an email written by our Japanese contacts.  We're all very impressed -- and slightly embarrassed -- that they've managed to out-vocab us.  (And yes, I'm using "out-vocab" as a verb).




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silly

The Utoid has a blind spot when it comes to remembering birthdays.  Some people forget names; others forget faces.  He forgets birthdays.  A detail that I hope to correct, at least for one (mine).  So I've begun a pop-quizzing routine, checking that he remembers mine.  Every few days, I'll ask.  He's getting better about it, but I can't tell if he's teasing me by guessing or he if really doesn't remember at times.

The last conversation about birthdays happened just over a week ago, with me dropping heavy hints about what I'd like on my day.  A few days later, a card from the Utoid shows up in the mail.  Not just any card.  A birthday card.  It's a joke card, too, with Donald Duck on the front, ranting about how people receive no respect on their birthdays: trick candles, gag gifts, etc.  When I try to open the card, I find that it's glued shut.  Turning it over, I see "cards that don't open."  Underneath, the Utoid had written "And cards that are really early!"  I laugh, since this is him joking with me about not remembering my birthday.

We start talking, and I let him know that I liked the card.  He's satisfied that I appreciate it.  A bit later in the conversation, I tell him that I like him, even if he does send me birthday cards over a month in advance.  Then it becomes apparent that he didn't mean to!  He had made a note to send me a birthday card before the 10th, but in his rush to get other things done, it slipped his mind that it was the 10th of September, not the 10th of August.

Silly boy.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Why I Love Southwest Airlines

"Welcome aboard.  Your flight attendants today are Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe.  Allow us to pretend to tell you about the safety features of this Boeing-747.  In the seat pocket in front of you, there is a brightly colored pamphlet that you will never read. . .

. . . In case this flight turns into a cruise, there are life vests under the seats.  Place one over your head, fasten the buckle, and pull the straps to tighten.  If the vests don't work, that's too bad for you.  Thanks for flying Southwest!

We never anticipate the loss of cabin pressure -- if we did, we wouldn't have come into work today!  In case this does happen, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.  If you are traveling with a child -- or someone who acts like a child -- secure your mask first before assisting your husband.  If you are traveling with multiple children, take a moment to decide which is your favorite. . .or which one has the most potential.

Once again, thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines.  Please keep all hands and legs inside this ride.  We are cleared for blast off!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Random Thoughts

I'm still holding onto the hope of being a good blogger: interesting, witty, captivating, funny, consistent, poignant, and dedicated.  Unfortunately, I feel none of those things, and I have several blog ideas floating through my head, but none of them are formed enough to sit down and write.  So here they are, the snip-its:

  • I don't own a TV.  Okay, that's not true.  I have a TV.  It was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, and even she thinks that I should replace it.  It's currently hooked up to my VCR so I can watch my handful of VHS tapes that I'm "borrowing" indefinitely from my parents.  And here's the thing: I don't need a TV.  Every show I want to watch is available on Hulu, Netflix, or CBS.com, and by watching shows online, I minimize my exposure to commercials and TV schedules.  I can watch shows at my leisure and on my own schedule.  
  • Related to the above, I end up watching a lot of TV on work trips.  I turn the hotel TV on for white noise.  When flipping through channels for something to watch tonight, I found 6 crime/murder solving shows, two talk shows, one sitcom, and lots of community cable.  Despite getting sucked into the first few minutes of Without a Trace, I settled on this.
  • The person boarding in front of me on the plane should have read this, specifically the part about choosing seats on a plane.  Stopping in every row and trying to readjust the full baggage bins is fruitless, especially for a bag that can easily fit under the seat in front of you, ma'am.  All you do is hold up the line for the rest of us to board the plane.
  • Tablets are the future of computing.  The touchscreen interface brings a whole new interactive multimedia experience to surfing the web, reading magazines, and playing games.  Plus, it's how we're going to be teaching out children to think.  Example: young couple with a tiny toddler on the plane today.  She started off the flight screaming but they quieted her and kept her entertained by allowing her to play games on their iPad.  The future of parenting, people.
Maybe someday I'll get into a groove with the blog. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Curiosity

My great aunt is working on project now that she's retired.  The project?  Creating a family genealogy.  That side of the family migrated over from Norway, Sweden, Scandinavia, and it would be fascinating to have a record of that.  However, when asked about her project, she states that she wishes she had started it 30 years ago, when her mother was still alive and her mother's mother was still alive, when the older generations were around, and when those with the stories were still here to tell them.

My mother's great-grandmother had 10 kids.  Ten kids!  And one of them died the same day the family buried another kid.  And my grandmother and her sisters never asked about that.  They never asked about moving to America or raising a family of daughters.  They were never taught to ask.

And maybe it's natural not to ask.  Maybe you don't start to wonder about it until it's too late to ask.  After hearing about this, my brothers and I asked our grandparents about their lives, about how my grandmother was 16 when she got married, how my grandfather was drafted in 1952 and stationed in Germany, how my grandmother worked two jobs to earn enough money for a round-trip ticket to join him in Heidelberg for six months.

Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents have had entire lives: stories, experiences, successes, failures, thoughts, ideas.  And they can share them.  All we need to do is ask.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lord of the Flies

There has been a war.  Battles have been fought.  Ground has been won and lost.  There are winners and there are losers.  And those who survive.

The first wave hit a week ago.  I had just returned from my weekly business trip and noticed that there was a fly in my apartment.  A single fly.  My bananas had been getting more and more ripe, so I just assumed they were the cause of the lone fly.  Yet, the offending fruit were just starting to show brown spots.  I've seen much more ripe bananas sitting on other, fly-less counters.  The bananas were peeled, sliced, and frozen (excellent for throwing in a smoothie), and I assumed that would be the end of the fly.

It wasn't.

The next day, there were three flies in the apartment.  After a moment's investigation, I assumed it was the garbage.  Time to take it out again, I thought and promptly did.

That didn't take care of it either.

The weekend came, and my new house-guests had multiplied.  A half dozen were sneaking around my kitchen.  Fly strips were hung, staking out bunkers in the bathroom and kitchen.  Thinking a bottle of bleach would do the trick, I spent a few hours scrubbing, dusting, wiping, and sweeping.  A clean apartment should harbor no flies, right?

Wrong.

The flies didn't go away.  They only got worse.  By the end of the weekend, it seemed like there were a dozen little buggers around, and my kitchen was in danger of being conquered.  Monday yielded such web searches as "How to catch flies with vinegar" and "Honey traps."  After a stop by the grocery store to replenish my arsenal, I returned home ready to do battle.  Following these instructions, I set out to make traps.

That was when I found the cause of the infestation.

When I opened the cabinet under the sink, several flies came out.  Since I had just emptied the trash, I was surprised to see the enemy there.  I pulled out the can and then remembered what was behind it.  Hidden under a package of paper towels sat a 10-lb bag of potatoes.  Potatoes that had been purchased not-too-recently and had begun to liquefy.  Ewwww.

I literally threw the bag out my front door.  It landed on my front patio and began to move.  Hundreds of flies were began to move around the bag.  I ran back into the apartment for shoes and a garbage bag.  After managing to get the potatoes out to the dumpster, I returned to complete my traps.

A combination of scientific instinct and pure desire to get rid of the invaders led me to try three different traps: pure apple cider vinegar, apple cider vinegar and sugar, and a honey trap.

Apple cider vinegar trap with a paper funnel

Apple cider and vinegar trap in a soda bottle

Honey trap

The final battles were fought in bouts throughout the apartment.  The previously ignored fly strips were surrounded by the enemy, and several dozen went AWOL.  The window proved to be a good ally.  Flies would flock to the window and get stopped by the screen.  Slamming the window shut locked them there.  Nudging the window open an inch allowed access to the screen latches.  A few deft moves, and the POWs could flee the premises.  Can't kill them all.

Bathroom

Kitchen


Now, one week after the initial breach, I am claiming victory!  It was a team effort.  The apple cider vinegar and sugar trap was wildly successful.  The pure apple cider vinegar trap held its own, but the honey trap was a dud.  That adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is wrong!  The fly paper strips did their duty, and my apartment is very nearly pest free.  The stragglers will be thwarted by the last weapon in my arsenal: the fly swatter.

In the future, I will be better about eating my vegetables.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

To Go

The San Jose International Airport is quickly becoming my favorite Friday evening hangout spot.  Perhaps not by choice, but I have ended up there on three Friday evenings (two in the past three weeks!).  Tonight concludes my fourth work trip here (the first being the first week of May), and I am slated to return in 12 days (in a company where I get sent overseas with 24 hours notice, 12 days is nearly longterm!).

Up in the Air (2009.  George Clooney) is quickly becoming one of my favorite movies.  Maybe I still have those little travel annoyances, but I'm becoming quite accustomed to the routine of travel.  Over the course of the last few months, I have developed a few tricks and habits:

  • Keep an almost entirely separate set of toiletries.  Only once in a while do I need to replenish/restock.  The only things that get specially packed in my kit are tweezers and fingernail clippers.
  • Do laundry often.  In my job, I'm sometimes only given a day's notice of a trip.
  • Carry-on.  Always carry-on.  The last thing you want to do after a 14-hour flight is wait for luggage.  Or return to the airport for luggage that has been lost.
  • Check in online the day before.  Southwest doesn't give you assigned seating, but they do assign you a number (A1-60, B1-60, etc).  The numbers are assigned in the order of checkin.  Flights become available to check in about 24 hours before boarding time.  When flying Alaska, you will get assigned a seat.  Checking in the night before sometimes allows you to change your seats (also you get extra miles for checking in online).  I was assigned the last available seat (26B, a middle seat in the back of the plane), but when I checked in online, the unreserved Business Plus seats were available.  Hello, 7A (window, second row in coach)!
  • Sit as near to the front of the plane as possible.  When flying Southwest, I look for the first window or aisle seat with sufficient overhead luggage room.  Sitting near the front means getting off the plane faster, which means less time in the airport and less time in the plane.
  • Sign up for mileage and other frequent user plans.  I'm still not obsessed with accumulating miles, but I can see the advantages, which include upgrades and sometimes free flights/nights at hotels/etc. I may even get a credit card with mileage benefits.
  • Have your favorite off-site parking lot.  Mine is Park 'N Fly.  The shuttles are quick, the attendants are friendly, and the lots aren't sketchy.  Also, there are two lots: self park and valet.  I use the self-park for personal travel, but I prefer the valet lot for business (but I don't want to shell out the extra $3/day for my own vices).
This list is ever growing.  Stay tuned for more updates from the flight deck.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Homework


This is what working from home looks like: work on work laptop (blargh), Gilmore Girls on personal laptop (bonus points to those who can name the episode), and chocolate milk in a wine glass (because I'm classy like that).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

42.

C: "What, like 30 years until retirement?"
Me: "In that case, I guess I have 32 years.  Geesh."
H: "Wait.  How old are you?"
Me: "23."
H: "You don't have 32 years.  You have 42 years."

Also, my car averaged 42 mpg this weekend.

Thank you, Douglas Adams, for making that number pop out at me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Table for one, ma'am?"

Travel has a funny effect.  It can be isolating, lonely, and distancing.  But it can also be strengthening, reaffirming, and exciting.  Things I never do at home, like eat at a sit-down-and-be-waited-on restaurant by myself, I feel comfortable doing while traveling.  Outside of a book and a coffee shop, I never want to spend more than 5 minutes alone anywhere around home.  What if I run into people I know?  What if others recognize me?  What if people look at me and think, "Ha.  She's a loner.  No friends.  By herself.  Sucks to be her."?  

Traveling is different.  Maybe it's the comfort of knowing that I don't know anybody.  Maybe it's the idea that everyone else in the airport Ruby Tuesday's is in the same boat.  None of us particularly want to be waiting on a flight in the airport two states away, but at least we can get a margarita to keep us company.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trust

There should be a list of people you can trust.  Certain people you should be able to take for their word and have faith that their judgement is right.  And shouldn't that list include doctors and dentists?

This whole transition to adulthood hasn't been without its bumps.  Some of those hiccups were my fault (Goodbye Ford Escort), but this one wasn't.  I did everything right.  My dentist (the one I've been seeing since my teeth first made their appearance) recommended a dentist in my area.  I scheduled an appointment, showed up on time, and had my insurance information ready.  That morning, I even remembered to eat a good breakfast and brush extra well before leaving.

The new patient paperwork was harmless, and after I finished filling in my boring medical history, the hygienist took me through a tedious set of full-mouth x-rays.  The next hour was filled with careful, meticulous cleaning, polishing, flossing, rinsing, pocket-gauging (not sure what that is, but the instrument is sure shiny and sharp...), and positive comments ("You have great homecare!  Your teeth look really good.  I don't see any problems.").

The dentist entered and shook my hand.  Some small talk was exchanged, including details about the fact that he worked at my dentist's office in 1996-1998 (about the same time that my dad was unhappy with the student dentists' work and asked that the main dentist do our checkups).  He then spent a couple minutes examining the x-rays, another minute probing in my mouth, and ended the checkup proclaiming that I have three cavities.  Not having had a cavity in all of college, I found this to be surprising.  And that was only the initial attack.  He followed it by telling me that his office doesn't provide the silver fillings (only the tooth-colored composites) and that it's probably time to start replacing the silver fillings in my mouth.  He even went so far as to make a list of them.  Dollar signs were flashing in his eyes.

In a daze and with the kindling of a fury lighting up, I left the office after making an appointment for the first round of cavity drilling and silver filling replacement.  A phone call to my dad ignited the fury when he echoed my suspicions.  By the time I got back to the office, I was livid.  Half an hour later, I placed a phone call to my dentist to ask about filling replacement.  After looking at my file, they were suspicious as well.  They recommended getting a second opinion and said that 9 times out of 10, fillings don't need to be replaced.

I'm 23-yrs-old.  These fillings have been in my mouth for less than 15 years (the "lifetime" of a filling).  And silver fillings are supposed to last longer than the composites.  I feel like this new dentist was trying to take me for my money.  Fat chance.

Now, would it be too unreasonable to drive 220 miles to my old dentist?  At least I can trust him.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lent

Privately religious.  Privately religious?

The Utoid and I had a conversation last night about definitions and values.  Some things he said about relationships and love left me shocked.  Knowing his parents, I said that I was surprised that his values didn't match.  From my experience, most kids' opinions (post-teen years, of course) tend to resemble those of their parents and upbringing.  He pointed out that sometimes the offspring hold the parental values in odd ways.  When I asked for clarification, he used my religion as an example, said that if I hadn't already told him that I am religious, he would have never been able to tell.  He went on to say that I don't display a single sign in my manner of speaking, my attitude, my expressions, or my personality that would point to me being religious.

Well, I felt like I had been called a heretic.  But it also got me thinking.

No, I don't go to church (outside of my parents' church while home), nor do I pray regularly (and never in public).  I don't read the Bible on a consistent basis (but I have read it in its entirety).  I don't tithe.  I eat meat on Fridays, and I work on Sundays.  But that doesn't mean I'm unreligious, that I'm not a Christian.

So, am I privately religious?  I guess so.

It was never a conscious choice, the privatization of religion.  I don't feel comfortable with the idea of evangelizing.  It's not my place to force my beliefs on another person.  I don't often talk about it, because those who bring it up are usually looking for a fight.  Being unable to express my thoughts in the face of ruthless debaters is not my idea of a good time, so I tend to let it go (aside from mushrooms, there is nothing I hate more than "debating" someone who drills their point into you, then stomps you into the ground for good measure).  Maybe somewhere between deciding not to evangelize and keeping quiet during religion talks, I lost my religion.  My public religion.

Lent started on Wednesday.  During the time of year where people are giving things up, I've found that I've already done that.  I've already given up everything [public] about my religion.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seattle

It's fun being a tourist in one's own town.


Over the course of 30 hours, K and I managed to:
- Eat at Dick's Drive In
- Climb up Queen Anne to Kerry Park

- Visit the Space Needle
- Walk to Pike Place

- Night walk back to Queen Anne
- Fremont Troll at night
- Gasworks Park



Presenting....


The Coffee Shop Formally Known As Starbucks.



Somebody somewhere was inspired by Prince...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mission Statement?

This blog wasn't created with a mission in mind.  It wasn't designed to be a soapbox or a daily log.  While personal stories may seep into the posts, the shape and form of the blog won't be a diary.

It will be a place to share moments.  Moments of good food, laughs, stories, thoughts, and dreams.  Random happenings and the small things will give it character.  Perhaps the occasional soapbox may make an appearance, and maybe--just maybe!-- an opinion might be found.  

As I write, live, breathe, see, taste, hear, and experience, this blog will [hopefully] take shape.  Perhaps as I learn the blog will grow.

Welcome to the journey.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life as a "Grown Up"...

May 16, 2010 saw the beginning of a new experiment in the life of a recently diploma-ed scientist-in-training.  The new investigation? Adulthood.  Riddled with job applications, apartment hunts, business clothes buying, and residence changing, the new research project of the mathematician was underway.


Now, after nine months into the experiment, first results are being drawn:

Pros about being an adult:
- Bacon
- Buying candy
- Staying up late
- Watching whatever I want on the TV
- Driving
- Having my own place
- Paychecks!
- Not being forced to eat gross foods.  Like mushrooms.
- No more homework!
- Legal drinking
- Setting my own schedule
- Work-paid travel

Cons about being an adult:
- Bills.  Student loans.  Car payments.  Seriously, life is expensive.
- Work.
- Taking work home.
- No more summer vacations.
- No more winter breaks.
- Responsibility
- Working while traveling

Preliminary conclusions: adulthood is okay.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake...

Chocolate Satin Pie:
-12oz evaporated milk
-2 egg yolks
-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
-pre-made crust (Oreo works well)

Whisk together the egg yolks and evaporated milk.  Heat on stove until very hot but not boiling (descriptive, yes?).  The mixture should thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and pour chocolate into mixture.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and the resulting substance is smooth.  Pour into crust and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Excellent recipe for a homemade Valentine's Day surprise.  Proven by experience.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Age

<work phone call>
P: "M--, this is Stephanie.  She works in Tech Support and will be able to answer your questions."

M: "Oh, I won't have any problems remembering your name.  I have a granddaughter named Stephanie."

P: "M--, Stephanie is young enough to be your granddaughter."
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