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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blogleague trophy

More on the Christmas visit soon--fun with rental cars and magnifying devices.

In the meantime, as promised, a preview of the fantasy football BlogLeague "Trophy." Whew--do I have bad taste or what? The one I chose isn't pictured here--it's a more elaborate version of these.

Congrats Wendy (on winning--not on receiving this monstrosity--coming to your home in mid-January 2007)!

Now, aren't the rest of you glad:

1) you didn't play; or

2) you didn't win?

Thought so.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bloggy Holidays

It's heresy to say this given the time of year, but the holiday spirit has eluded me in 2006.

Oh sure, I've bought gifts, and even wrapped some of them. But I just seem to be going through the motions.

Things may change when we arrive at my parents' house, I don't know.

When I dropped Biscuit off at the dog boarding place this morning, I wished the folks there a Merry Christmas. My favorite woman at the kennel said that they had to work all weekend. "It's just us and the dogs, though. No people for three days after this," she said brightly. Yep, lots of dogs for Christmas. Sounds fun to me.

My office was decorated nicely by my staff. We opted for the no-tradition route. Snowpeople and snowflakes. Because we work for the state, we can go that route or the inclusive one, wishing equally that people have nice Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, and whatever else. Solstice? We are in California after all. Still, however festive the snowpeople are, they haven't fostered (in me, at least) a spirit of the season. Honey and I haven't decorated because we're not going to be here. So, no fostering at home either.

Anyway, we're off to eastern realms tomorrow where I may borrow my Dad's santa hat (it's a nice one) and try to shake off the heretical blahs.

What I can say (and mean) is that I hope all my blog friends have a wonderful end of 2006. I may blog from the lands of peaches. I'm glad to have spent this year blogging and am deeply grateful to have connected to people this way.

To finish like the government employee I am, I end with the secular/no-tradition wish...

Happy Holidays and may your snowpeople stay frozen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now that everyone has had virtual theoretical sex with my therapist (in my last entry's comments), I'm moving on to new topics. You all owe me money for all the trauma. Not really. Other people owe me money for therapy, but blog friends are not among them.

Anyway...we're just back from Las Vegas and, as is my wont, I am over-thinking it. While in Las Vegas I manage to not think much about it other than in the usual sensory way. The massage feels good...why in the hell did I bet on the Dolphins...I ate too much at the buffet...that kind of thing. Since I've gotten back (and indeed, as we left), I began to think about the environment itself. So, I'd like to take you, oh blog friends, if you can rip yourselves away from the aforementioned virtual sex with MY therapist, on a virtual tour.

Las Vegas, like the hyper-America it is, is all about angles. No, not angels. They don't come to Las Vegas. Maybe fallen ones.

We stayed at THEhotel. Honey, copy editing queen that she is, does not like the "styling" on THEhotel. THEhotel is part of Mandalay Bay.

Art and modernity dominate the aesthetic. It's dark, light, swirl, contrast. White and green flowers in plain vases contrasted by a floral explosion above dominate a stark entranceway. "There should be places to sit," was Honey's comment. I agree totally. Butts before aesthetics.

The hall to the check-in desk establishes what you find through THEhotel, glass and clean lines dominated by muted or primary colors.

The art theme persists. Mondrian inspired plates of glass in the elevator give way to a musk-ox like swirl of art on the wall in the elevator lobby of our floor.

If there's any doubt that the perspective theme will dominate my thoughts, it's done away with by the massive painting that greets us as we head to the room. And, no, my therapist doesn't look like her.

The dense environment that one finds in the theme hotels is not overlooked in THEhotel. The theme may be a little more opaque than, say, Excalibur. When you get down to it, the theme is the THE. Thusly, THEpad and THEtp, to pick the two I took pictures of.

Perspective can be a lovely thing, too. The upscale nature of the hotel was reinforced through touches. The lily on the pillow one night was a nice touch (as were the Godiva chocolates--one dark and one milk as if they knew Honey's and my chocolate preferences--they were consumed before I could take a picture). Oh and the whirlpool was very nice, very nice indeed.

And lest we forget that the individual perspective is not part of the equation, may I present my Las Vegas drink o' the trip. My recent history has suggested that I will spend casino store prices to consume a drink that I have never before consumed each night before bed. SoBe Lean was June's choice. This time it was Pom Blackberry Tea. MMM. It's sold in containers that can be rinsed and used as glasses later. Quite the "bargain" for the expensive random Las Vegas drink. Sort of like how they used to sell jelly in cartoon glasses. Drink the tea. Keep the glass!

My perspective was made complete by being able to stare at my favorite casino shape of all. What's not to like about a black glass pyramid?

I can't think of a thing.

(Oh, and we had a great time, the spa was lovely, we lost money, and had two terrific buffets. We also had the best burger I've ever eaten and saw some sleeping lions).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Therapist theories

My therapist is very tall.

Today I watched from my couch vantage point as she looked for a book on a lower shelf in her office and was struck again by how tall she seems. She's also thin, which makes her seem taller.

The book she was looking for concerns itself with a subject I struggle with mightily. By looking for it, she was essentially diagnosing someone else. "Why Dr. C (I used her whole name) are you doing a remote diagnosis on someone you've never met?" In her very therapist way, she neither confirmed nor denied that she was.

She offered to loan me the book. I demurred, figuring my uni's library would have it. Turns out they don't. I see her one more time before the end of the year. I could borrow it then. I could order it from interlibrary loan. I could buy it from Amazon who are offering free 2-day shipping upgrades today.

The Amazon thing is pretty funny. "Here, we'll rush you a book on psychiatric disorders just in time for holiday gift giving!" Or at least that's how it seems to me.

Honey offered to buy it for me if I'd read it in the presence of the person who was semi-diagnosed today by my therapist. Again, I demurred.

I wonder sometimes if I believe in my therapist, in part at least, because she is so tall and so calm. We all need something to believe in, after all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday is a long way from Saturday

We head out Saturday for a sojourn to Las Vegas. The weekend between the big rodeo (it has a proper name, but I'm not looking it up) and Christmas is one of the cheapest weekends of the year.

What could be better?

Football to bet on.

The Mandalay sportsbook.

Last minute shopping to wrap up.

The spa at Mandalay. Massages have been booked.

A ride across the desert in the winter in the FJ.

New weird slot machines to discover.

The Original Pancake House at Green Valley.

The way they answer the phone at Green Valley: "It's a beautiful day at Green Valley Ranch."

Watching bryduck's skill at craps.

Watching slangred decided where to bet her VERY small stake. It's so small I've forgotten how much it is.

That we're staying at THEhotel. High class all the way.

The only problem? It's Tuesday and my staff is close to revolt. Damn retreat.

Saturday will get here, though. I know it will.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Growing up

On Saturday, Honey and I grew up. Sure, evidence suggests that we had already done so. We own a house, have cars we make payments on, own pets. We're edging into middle-age (Honey claims we're already there, but she's SIX MONTHS older than I am, so she'll get there first--those six months will be sweet (even if I'm in them right now)).

The day started normally, I guess. I had one goal for the afternoon, and that was to get a substantial start on my Christmas buying. I have pledged to not enter a mall until 2007. I'm happy to go to stores that are divorced from malls, but I will not go to the mall. Nope. Several hours and the memorization of my Visa's special secret number later, I had a number of gifts bought, "wrapped," and on their way. When my mother called and suggested that my sister-in-law liked outfits from Nordstroms, I haughtily pointed out that Nordstroms was at the MALL and that L'Occitane, which she also likes, was online and size-free. That and I can't bring myself to buy clothes for my sister-in-law. She's a wonderful person, but I won't buy size 4 clothes on principle.

Anyway, while I was being online shopper/shipper, Honey was readying us for our growing up.

Working as I do, in academics, I have made friends with folks who are older than I am. One of them is retiring early and leaving the area. We were invited to a going away party for her last week, which we were late to because...we were invited to TWO parties the same night. We are just that popular.

Anyway, we wanted to invite them over to our house for a smaller gathering, having been invited several times to theirs. Time is running short. She leaves in two weeks. We're going to Las Vegas next weekend (woo-hoo!) and my parents' the weekend after. So last night was it.

A dinner party.

Honey made beef, potatoes, and asparagus. We followed with chocolate chip cookies for desert. People like those things. They don't get served at dinner parties, at least in my experience, but each thing was greeted with enthusiasm.

We don't have it quite down. Biscuit was REALLY aggressive when the first guests arrived and therefore had to spend the evening outside. We didn't have six of any silverware (knife, fork, or spoon). The guests got the "good" flatware and the steak knives. We don't have a butter knife. The fire made the house a little hot. I got cork residue in two bottles of wine and had to replace wine glasses. We don't have enough wine glasses, so people had to use the same one all evening, at least until it became corky. Then they could have a new one. I didn't buy enough sparkling water or enough of the same kind of wine.

But the conversation was good, the food was eaten, people stayed for the whole evening.

Honey said she kept wanting to ask our guests (both couples are veteran entertainers) how we were doing. When we cleaned up the kitchen after everyone had parted, we agreed we had done well, especially for our first attempt to have a dinner party for more than two other people.

How we mark passage changes over time, I know. Last night, Honey and I did something we had never done before. It went well. And this morning, we're just a little more worldly. I'm even tempted to see if we can get six each of these:

but then I remind myself that that might involve a trip to the mall. That, and there's not a spork in sight. What's up with that? Sporks belong in fine dining...but I don't have six sporks either. Oh well, someday I'll get it exactly right and then I'll be a grown-up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The lunch table

Our office doesn't have a lunchroom per se. We have a conference table that doubles as the lunch table. The area has a sink and years ago someone brought in a small refrigerator which gets complained about regularly. Its maintenance is taken VERY seriously by everyone. If other things were taken that seriously, I would be happy and the office would work better. We can't replace the refrigerator with state money (it's against the rules), so that rule also gets discussed with some frequency. I'm usually blamed.

This morning, as happens more regularly than I'd like, one of my staff had a birthday. I suppose they're all allowed. Given that there aren't that many of them, though, it seems to me that the birthday thing happens more often than it should.

Some time ago, I dictated a new rule that we would no longer have the office fund (to which I contribute rather disproportionately) pay for lunch or breakfast AND a cake. Instead, I decreed (like Caesar) that the birthday celebrant could choose lunch or breakfast OR a cake and have it be paid for from the fund to which I contribute disproportionately.

Fairness aside: How disproportionately? Between 3 and 6 times more than anyone else. Why so disproportionately? I was told it was my obligation based on a precendent set by my predecessor who makes at least $30K more a year than I do. How do I know what she makes? Because as state employees, all our salaries are published in a book every year which is kept in the library and consulted often by many.

Anyway, my Caesar-like proclamation (I wish I had one of those dudes to go announce what I had decided in the forum like Caesar's dudes did), was met with some resistance and some negotiation. I capitulated to our newest employee having a lunch/cake combo for her birthday because it was her FIRST birthday with us. It wasn't her first birthday, mind you. Though her clerical skills would be really notable had it been.

Anyway, this morning, one of my employees was celebrating her birthday and had chosen breakfast as her celebratory meal. Office Manager showed up with the breakfast we had each ordered. This was a change from the last birthday, where two of us didn't get our food and OM spent a good portion of her meal trying to get me to eat fried chicken livers despite my attempts to avoid said food. This morning, I ate the small thing I had ordered and then got up to walk into my office. I wasn't being anti-social, I wanted to check the currently ongoing woot-off for stupid stuff that I shouldn't buy. Why is the woot-off so compelling? Same reason I think garage sales and thrift stores can be. As Honey's mother says, "you never know."

As soon as I left, the loudness and mirth level at the table rose. People were talking and laughing as they hadn't been a few minutes before. After a while, our one year old clerical wonder brought me my water cup, assuming (hoping?) that I was not coming back. I pointed out that breakfast would be followed by staff meeting and that's why I had left my cup there. She seemed a little deflated by the idea of staff meeting. It happens every Thursday morning. It may be deflating every Thursday morning. I don't know. I know I don't exactly go to bed Wednesday night with joyful anticipation in my heart.

As I began this entry, I was waiting for a pod of staff to finish at the lunch table. When they did, I got up and went eat. I eat with them sometimes. After the mirth increase this morning though, I didn't want to today. When I first started here I remember sitting in my office and listening to them having lunch. It seemed really nice then.

I found salt packets and plastic spoons in my predecessor's desk. It's possible that she felt as I did. I've pictured her salting her food at her desk.

I'm trying to resist talking about the lunch table in school and the day I asked if I could sit down with a group of kids and was told no. Didn't resist it very well, did I?

Tomorrow is our annual staff retreat. I've designed team-building activities. I hope they help.

I wonder if I could design one called "talk to sporks like a human even though she's the boss." Probably not.

Now, who do I see about one the Caesar announcement guys?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Long burning

Late Saturday afternoon, Honey and I drove up one to the top corner of our fair valley. There's a place there with cut wood stacked as high as I could imagine a log stack having any integrity. We pulled into the lot. We both expected (though neither of us had expressed this expectation to the other one) "surly log guys." Instead we were greeted by friendly log guys, who discussed our wood options--citrus, eucalyptus, mixed, etc. We went with eucalyptus because I requested the longest-burning wood they had.

"It's a little hard to get going, but once you do, it will burn forever"

The FJ was all loaded up (its rubber interior was a comfort once I looked at all the logs we had bought). Honey and I got the wood back to the log holder using a tarp. I didn't fall down, even once. Che il miracolo!

There are those who have not lived in Southern California who will wonder about our acquisition of wood for the fireplace.

We're deep into Santa Ana season. Usually the Santa Anas are dry hot winds. This year, they have taken on a new quality. They are cold and persistent. As usual, I have perma-headache. And my nostrils have lost all dampness. Bleedy motherfucking membranes.

So, as the cities around us burn (literally), Honey and I light hard-to-keep-going fires in our fireplace in the middle of one of the non-fire zone in our region.

I have discovered one thing that will get that eucalyptus to burn all night. Speaking, as I was, of miracles...may I present the JavaLog? They're a little pricey, but seem worth it to me. I got mine at Whole Foods. Environmentally friendly, these things burn hot and long and when cradled amongst even the most stubborn logs, and will promote flames with the most stubborn wood. Now if only they could do something about my nose and head. I suppose, if the choice is between miracoli piccoli and nessuni miracoli, I'll go with the small ones every time.