Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Weekend: Need Huge Result

Here's the situation.

We have three divisions.  Top team in each division makes the playoffs, and there is one wild card.  Wild card is next best ranking among the divisions.  The next three games are all division games.

My division goes like this.  We and one other team are 7-4, and the next best team is 6-5.  Only one game back.  The last place team is 3-8.  Not good, but they are a spoiler type of team.  They beat us the first time we played.  We beat the other two teams.  Thus, there is a huge race in my division to make the playoffs.  So, we are playing the 6-5 team this week, and the other 7-4 team is playing the 3-8 team.  We need to win this.  We can, if at least half of our players show up.  You can really never depend on that in fantasy.

However, since my team has done well so far this season, I would like to throw out a thanks and a keep it up to some of my starters this week, and's what I think: 

1.  Philip Rivers.  I heart you.  You, for some reason, are not put among the Mannings, Brees, and Bradys.  You should be.  You toss out four touchdowns a game, throw for four hundred yards, and make it happen on a regular basis.  I am so happy I drafted you.  You are totally underrated, give me massive points every week, and you rock.  I don't care if you are unpleasant in person, you play the game.

2.   Marques Colsten:  You started out slow, but you hit it!  Glad I kept you around. 

3.  Adrian Peterson:  All right, you've been stopped lately and there are all kinds of coaching issues going on there, but I have not given up on you.  Any week you can rush for 100 yards.  I'm willing to overlook the past two games, just give me something this week, please?

4.  Santonio Homes:  This is why I drafted you, even though you were suspended at the beginning of the season.  It took you a couple of games, but you found your groove.  We love you!  Keep it up, baby!

5.  Chad Ochocinco:  You have been a total fucking bust.  Maybe you should spend more time on football and less time proposing to women and worrying about your pigeons.  Oh, and how did that pick up of Terrell Owens affect you?  Big.  Every week I have to consider whether to bench you, but when Mike Sims Walker is my other WR, it's a hard choice.  You both blow.  I'm only starting you this week because Sims Walker is injured and there are no decent WR on the waiver. 

6.  Ahmad Bradshaw:  I still love you even though you aren't starting this week due to your fumbles.  You have performed week after week for me, and I'm willing to cut you some slack.  I think you will still get me some points this week.  Also, because Joseph Addai likely is still out this week and he's my only other running back to choose from.

7.  Zach Miller:  (OAK)  All right, you had your off week last week.  Let's see another touchdown.  When my only other option is Carlson, you can't do much worse than zero.  You were good initially this season, let's see it again.

8.  Olindo Mare:  I chose you to start over my usual starter Mason Crosby because your name rocks.  Also because you have been kicking a lot of field goals lately.  I need a team that is good enough to get in field goal range, but not good enough to get a touchdown.  Green Bay, no.  Seattle, yes.  Also, I like saying your name.

9.  Oakland, DST:  Well, my other option is the Lions vs. the Patriots, so don't think you are anything special this week.  Just please, give me a couple of sacks or maybe an interception?

Can this crew pull it off for me?  We shall see. 

Movie Quality is Awful These Days

I'm not sure if movies are getting worse, or if my attention span is getting worse.

I used to be a huge movie fan.  I went to the movies all the time, and when I lived in L.A. I used to go and see practically every independent movie that was released.  Through those years of viewing movies, there were always movies that stood out to me, that I thought:  "I have to own this."  Thus, I ended up with a pretty big VHS and DVD collection.  (First DVD I ever bought?  Fight Club.  Love that movie.  In fact, I bought a DVD player solely so I could view all the extras and commentary.)  There were always movies I wanted to own so I could watch them over and over again.  I can't tell you how many times I've watched Reservoir Dogs, American History X, Chasing Amy, Clerks, Magnolia, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, and many others. 

I don't go to the movies at all anymore.  I just wait for them to show up on cable or On Demand, or I stream them online through Netflix.  While I miss the experience of being at the movies, it's hard to justify the ticket prices these days for a movie that might be garbage.  I buy stuff for $5 on demand and get disappointed regularly.  Hell, I get disappointed by movies on cable on a regular basis.  So, why should I pay $10 or more to go see it in a theater, because if I pay that I'll be a hundred times more pissed off.  Also, I watch a lot of movies on cable that I would never, ever even dream of paying $10 to see in a theater.  For example, I watched Julia & Julia and I actually quite liked it.  Not enough to buy the DVD, but it was entertaining.  I also watched Everybody's Okay recently, and quite liked it, and cried at the end, but not enough to buy it on DVD.  (And seriously, what a terrible movie title, equivalent to It's Complicated, which is currently sitting on my DVR.  Who comes up with this shit?)

Maybe I'm just out of it, but the quality of movies these days is just awful.  I watched Inglorious Basterds, and it was fine, but come on Quentin Tarantino.  (I say this as a person who thinks Reservoir Dogs is one of the best movies ever made.)  I feel like every movie I see is just "fine" or "entertaining" but nothing special.  I mean, that's the bottom line expectation for a movie:  that it be entertaining for a couple of hours.  So, when a movie meets that expectation, it isn't that impressive.  Where are the really good movies, the ones you want to watch over and over again? 

I haven't bought a movie on DVD in probably two years.  I've seen no movie that makes me want to own it or find out more about it through commentary or extras.  I watch Sundance Channel and IFC, but nothing is anything special.  So seriously, what the hell is going on?  We get remakes and special effects these days.  I miss dialogue and story.  Tell me a story; don't give me ten minutes of a chase where I know the hero is going to come out of it alive.  Don't show me a fifteen minute fight scene.  What a waste of time.  It doesn't move the story forward, and I just get bored.  Special effects and CG don't impress me.  And for God's sakes, don't replace John Candy and Steve Martin with Robert Downy Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and tell me it's a new movie.  (I haven't seen Due Date, but the ads make it look like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to me.)   What really impresses me is good storytelling and writing.  And right now, I'm struggling to think of a recent movie that I've watched where I thought both were there -- enough for me to want to own it.  I mean, come on.  Are there any decent writers left in Hollywood, or are they just not able to get their foot in the door?  I say let them in!       

Happy Thanksgiving, and About Spending it Alone

I'm not sure why it's such a tragedy that I actually kind of want to stay home (my "staycation") and spend Thanksgiving long weekend on my own this year.  People I worked with were kind of shocked, and about ten of them invited me out to their place in the suburbs to eat with them.  I thanked them profusely, then declined.  It was very nice of them, but frankly, I'm fucking thrilled I don't have to go anywhere this weekend or deal with any family.  And the last thing I want to do is take a train out to the suburbs to be friendly to people I don't know and look amused by other people's children, since I still haven't bought a new car.  Maybe I'll do that this weekend.  Oh, and unfortunately, all of my good friends (or as I prefer to call them, the people I would want to spend Thanksgiving with) are out of town doing family stuff.  Damn them. 

We aren't big Thanksgiving people in my family.  Oh, let's get together and eat!  No, we don't really care that much about food.  Never have been that into it, since we are pretty much thankful for each other all year long.  Any focus on Thanksgiving got exponentially worse once three out of four of us kids moved approximately 3-6 hours away from mom's house.  Only H still lives in the vicinity of mom.  After I moved to Chicago in 2001, I made an effort and drove to the D for about six Thanksgivings in a row.  On around three of the six, it was a miserable drive due to the snow in western Michigan.  Once it took me ten hours to get there.  This is normally about a four and a half to five hour drive, depending on how long it takes to get out of Chicago.  Let me tell you, that got old real fast, especially since I do the drive again at Christmas.  I, right?  But then I have to rent a car, or else I am trapped at my mom's house.  Most of my high school friends live 30-45 minutes from my mom, since my mom no longer lives where I grew up, so not having a car of my own in which to escape and see people is not an option.  I fly enough and rent enough cars for work, and I kind of hate the whole ordeal now.  It's just such a huge pain in the ass.  Usually it's easier to drive, with exceptions.  It occurred to me a few years ago that it just wasn't worth it, since I always go for Christmas, a mere four weeks later.  Why do it twice in such a short timespan for a holiday we don't even really care about?   

As for my siblings, my brother W pretty much abandoned all of us for holidays once he got married, both the first and second time.  Occasionally he shows up for Christmas.  It's always a shock when he does, because he never thinks to tell us in advance that he's coming.  He's kind of an odd duck.  My sister M and her husband used to alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas each year with his family and ours, so she is occasionally around for Thanksgiving.  I'm not quite sure how that whole deal is going to work now that they will have two kids who need Christmas morning at home.  H is around for Thanksgiving, but since the bar she works at is open on Thanksgiving, she usually works.  So, generally it was me, my mom, my grandma, M and J sitting around eating turkey and being kind of bored.  (My mom doesn't let us watch football at her house, so this is a major, major detriment to any of us wanting to be there on Thanksgiving day.)

So, this year H is working, W is incommunicado, and M is eight months pregnant, so not coming.  My option was to go to the D and sit around with my grandma and mom for the weekend, which really wasn't that appealing.  I love my mom and all, and we have fun shopping, but it's kind of boring, and I can't watch football, and this is a huge week for my fantasy league.  (God, how shallow is that?  Let me rephrase...I also have to work.  No, I really do.)  Oh, and I'd have to spend a fortune to rent a car to get there, or take the train or a plane, and that wasn't happening.  I mean, I was just there two weeks ago, and I saw my mom, grandma, H and M.  ( you see what I did there?  H&M?)  So, I opted to stay here.  My mom was going to come out here so we could shop, but then she kind of felt bad about leaving my grandma alone, since she is leaving her alone at Christmas due to M's upcoming daughter, and I shared that guilt, so we decided she would come out in the spring when the weather is better. 

I have no problem with this.  We have very small immediate family and a practically non-existent extended family in the Detroit area.  (My dad's side of the family we see at Christmas.  Now Christmas, we all make an effort.  But Thanksgiving?  Eh.)  I will be going to my mom's or M's for Christmas (since M's baby is due December 26), and I have a trial in the D in January.  So, it's not like I'm not going to see these people over the next two months. 

What was surprising to me was how many people cared that I was spending Thanksgiving alone, when I was really just looking forward to watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, followed by three football games, and cooking up some mashed potatos, stuffing, and turkey all for myself (ha!), and not having to deal with anyone else.  I also bought a pumpkin pie at Trader Joe's, so I'll be snacking on that.  I happen to like my alone time.  And I will probably talk on the phone to my mom, H, and M tomorrow, so I won't really be alone.  Maybe W will even call me.  Sometimes, randomly, he does.  Or maybe I'll call him.  I never feel alone when I'm physically alone.  I've got peeps, as they say, or used to say.  We are all thankful for each other all year long, so why does it matter that we aren't physically together on this one particular day?  It doesn't.  That's what I've realized.             

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enjoy the Cold Black Friday Campers!

Winter has finally hit Chicago. That first blast of cold air shouldn’t be so shocking, particularly since it’s nearly the end of November, but for whatever reason when I stepped outside of my townhouse this morning it caught my breath. And I promptly turned around, dug out my bag o’ scarves and gloves and better prepared myself for the elements. I wanted to wear my big North Face ski jacket, but it didn’t go so well with my outfit. This year I may invest in one of their big, puffy, floor length black, down filled coats, even though they aren’t particularly fashionable. The older I get, the less I care about being fashionable – I just want to be warm. I shouldn’t complain about the cold – after all, I live in Chicago. We get snow, bone-chilling cold, and bone-chilling cold wind on top of that. It is what it is.

With winter comes the holiday season. And with the holiday season comes the insane people who camp outside stores so they can be first in line for the Black Friday deals. As far as crazies, I rank these people somewhere below those who camp outside of movie theatres, who are by far the craziest, since the movie isn’t going anywhere, and about even with those who camp outside for concert or game tickets, since obviously there is a limited supply there also. I’m already seeing stories in the news about people who have claimed their spot in line – some as long as a week ago. Those are some big bragging rights, I guess: “I was first in line for the Black Friday sale at Best Buy last year, and all I had to do what sit out in the cold for six days! Beat that, suckers!” Maybe the perspective is different if you live in a place like Florida.

The camping out for Black Friday phenomenon is one I don’t understand in the least. In fact, it scares the hell out of me. Maybe it’s just my old age crabbiness, but the last place I would want to be is among the throngs clustered outside the doors of a Best Buy when they open on Black Friday. Every year we hear about people getting trampled, hit, screamed at, etc. Why would anyone intentionally participate in this? Some people consider it a tradition, and do it every year. Further, while there are sometimes a few really, really good deals, there are only a few, which means you have to be first, second, or third in line. This means that since people are crazy enough to camp out a week in advance, you are sacrificing an entire week of your life in order to save maybe $500. I don’t know, but my time is worth a lot more than that. I can’t imagine how that works out evenly on any planet, much less this one. Even a few hours of camping out would be unbearable to me, for the chance to possibly save $100, assuming the product I want is still in stock by the time I get in the store. Lord, and having to deal with all those people? Ugh. I mean, with the sheer amount of products now available, no one is going to be left without something to buy no matter what time you arrive. And isn’t it a little bizarre to be waiting in line for days on end to buy electronics? It’s not like these people are waiting in the breadlines.

Also, in reading about people determined to be at the front of the line, the thought that always strikes me is: “Don’t they work?” How do you manage to get a week off work to camp out at Best Buy? Or are they using precious vacation time to do so? Don’t their co-workers laugh at them? (I can’t even imagine the barrage of ridicule I would get if I pulled such a stunt.) Even assuming people take turns holding the spot, who is holding down the “day shift” when most people are at work? And how many people are you allowed to “hold a spot” for? I can easily imagine a situation where person 1’s entire family shows up ten minutes before store opening, and person 2 goes ballistic. The dynamics are also interesting. Any other time of the year, these people would likely be kicked off the property; yet during the week before Thanksgiving it’s perfectly fine to set up a tent, sleeping bag, and grill.

Needless to say, I will not be sitting outside of any store on Thanksgiving. Nor will I be getting up at 3 a.m. on Friday to run over to Target or Macy’s or anywhere else for a doorbuster deal. No, I will be sleeping in, lounging around, and then maybe around noon I will wander over to Michigan Avenue to take in the chaos. Unless, of course, it is too cold out. Then I will just stay home and shop from the comfort of my computer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Have You Ever Looked At Your iTunes Top 25 Played List?

It's pretty humiliating.  You think "Did I really listen to that song that many times?"  Apparently, yes.  The iTunes top songs calculator does not lie.  Here's my list, and yes, I'm apparently a Blink-182 fanatic and I really had no idea.  How many Mark, Tom, and Travis bands make up this list?  Jesus.  Oh yeah, and Nick Lachey made the list.  How did that happen?  I must've been really drunk or something.

1. I Miss You – Blink-182 (#1 by a landslide, by the way and I haven't listened to it in about two years)

2. 155 -- +44

3. Heaven – Angels & Airwaves

4. True Love – Angels & Airwaves

5. Feeling This – Blink-182

6. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) -- U2

7.  Adam's Song -- Blink-182

8.  I Can't Forget -- Evan Olsen

9. Landed – Ben Folds

10. Mr. Brightside – The Killers

11. Forever Young -- Alphaville

12. Down – Blink-182

13. All The Wine – The National

14. Lifeline – Angels & Airwaves

15. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

16. Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

17. Weapon – Matthew Good

18. Brick – Ben Folds Five

18. Ring the Bells -- James

19. Paper Planes -- MIA

20. What's Left of Me -- Nick Lachey

21. How to Save a Life – The Fray

22. Poker Face -- Lady Gaga

23. Show Me What I'm Looking For -- Carolina Liar

24. When You Were Young – The Killers

25. Sway – The Perishers

Judge me as you will.  I'm still in shock myself at this list.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Memories...and Songs That Remind Me of My Parents

Last weekend I embarked on a mini road trip with my mother to visit my sister, who lives in northern Michigan.  We ate at Cracker Barrel both on the way there and on the way back.  I don't think I've ever eaten at Cracker Barrel before this, and to be honest, it wasn't that great.  I'll take Denny's or Bob Evans breakfast instead.  But my mom has made the trip enough that she knew which exit had the good Cracker Barrel versus the other two that had not so good Cracker Barrels.  It was pretty amusing, particularly when she asked me if I could wait 20 miles to eat so we could go to the good one.   

While we were driving back to the D, we found a radio station that was playing an old Casey Kasem Top 40  broadcast from the late seventies.  I was born in 1974, so this was probably broadcast when I was maybe three or four years old.  What was odd about it is that he played "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gayle and I had this moment where all of a sudden I was about three years old and my dad was singing that song, and dancing with me.  I was standing on his feet.  It was like a whoosh of a memory.  I remembered my dad singing that song around the house.  (My dad had brown eyes, my mom has blue, and all of us kids have either blue or green.  The green is the recessive from both our grandpas.)  That song was big in 1977, which means I was three.  So how do I remember this?  I don't know.

Anyway, I told my mom that song reminded me of dad, and it took her about five seconds, but then it came back to her, too.  "Your dad always used to sing this song.  How do you remember that?"  I don't know.  I just did.  And if it was 1977, my dad was 30 years old when that was happening.  Jesus.  My dad died in 1993, by the way.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned that.

This got me to thinking about the songs that remind me of my parents, because there are quite a few, and they are all tied to a specific memory, if vague.  It's strange the way a song can do that.  So, here they are:

1.  Promises, Promises by Naked Eyes.  No idea, but recall this video on MTV and both of my parents singing along to this song.

2.  Karma Chameleon, by Culture Club.  We had this album on tape, and I recall us listening to it while driving to Jenny Wiley state park.  Or possibly Hartwick Pines.  At any rate, some state park.  And we listened to this tape over and over again.

3.  Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.  This is my mom all the way.  She loved this song and sang along to it whenever it came on the radio.  I thought she was the biggest dork ever.  She was 37 years old.  See the irony?

4.  Night Moves by Bob Seger.  My dad loved Bob Seger.  He even bought a '60 Chevy and fixed it up.  I chose this song, because I remember him singing this one, but any Bob Seger song makes me think of him.  I also remember his orange Bob Seger t-shirt.

5.  Summer Nights from Grease.  Oh how I loved Grease.  There is a picture of a four year old me next to a Barbie record player with the Grease album on it.  I didn't catch all the dirty jokes or anything like that.  I just wanted to be Sandy.  Or even Olivia Newton John.  Either one would've been fine with me.  So, my dad and I used to sing Summer Nights together.  I was Sandy and he was Danny.  Now that I think about it, the lyrics make that sound a little creepy, but it wasn't.  I always used to make him sing it with me. 

6.  Kashmir, Led Zeppelin.  This is dad.  He bought the Led Zeppelin box CD set off one of those TV ads.  And I took ownership it from him when I was in high school.  He knew I took it, and didn't really mind.  But I can't hear the opening notes of Kashmir without feeling a little guilty about that.

7.  When Doves Cry and Purple Rain, by Prince.  This is mom.  She took some class (she was always taking classes), and they watched Purple Rain.  From that moment on, she was obsessed with Purple Rain.  She still thinks it is one of the best movies ever made.

8.  Every Breath You Take by The Police.  Again, mom.  She listened to this song so much that I am still sick of it twenty years later.

9.  Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder.  I wasn't there for this, but when my parents were on the way to the hospital when my mom was in labor with H this song came on and my dad looked at my mom and said "It's another girl."  At least that's the story.  This was back before you could find out the sex of the baby beforehand.  At any rate, whenever I hear this song I always think of that.  It's H's song.

10.  Cat's In The Cradle, cover by Ugly Kid Joe.  This one is my issue, and reminds me of my dad.  I was only 19 when I lost him, so I was at an age where I was only beginning to get to know him as a person as opposed to a parent.  The line "What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car keys, see you later can I have them please?" basically epitomized by high school relationship with him, so as I had just gotten to college our relationship had changed.  And it got cut short.  I don't feel guilt over it, but it still makes me sad.  I wish every day he was here now, and every time I hear this song it makes me sad.                              

Please Don't Remake The Wizard of Oz

Word on the street is that a remake of The Wizard of Oz is in the works. 

Why?  This movie is a classic.  What's next?  CasablancaCitizen KaneGone With the Wind?

There is no need to do this, not when we've got movie perfection as it is.  The only reason I can imagine is that someone wants to show how great they are with CG and other special effects.  I mean, sure, the flying monkeys are a bit lame, and the melting of the Wicked Witch could've been better, but why do we need anything better as far as special effects?  What are they going to do, dress up Taylor Momsen in a plaid hoody and send her down a specially enhanced 3D brick road with an iPod in her ear and a tiny dog in her Louis Vuitton bag?  (God, can you imagine the things they could do to ruin and/or update this movie?)

Remakes only lead me to believe that no one in Hollywood can come up with an original idea.  I mean, send in the freaking clowns.  Or, for that matter, have the sense to adapt a different book that is already written.  Although Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk, didn't do very well, L. Frank Baum wrote twelve other books about the land of Oz, including Ozma of Oz, my personal favorite.  (I read all of these when I was a kid.)  Rather than remaking The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which doesn't need remaking, why not adapt one of his other Oz books?  They're good, I swear!  Have at it!  I might even go see it.   

Time to Start the Christmas Shopping!

Yes, I start my Christmas shopping insanely early.  This works out better for me because then I don't end up in a complete frenzy at the last minute trying to find "the perfect gift."  Some years there is a "perfect gift," but some years there just isn't.  I've learned to accept that.

My buying list keeps getting larger, because my siblings keep having children.  I'm happy to be an aunt, but it's one more person to buy for.  Thus, I start early.  These are the people I buy for:

1.  My brother's four kids (3 girls and a boy) and his step daughter.
2.  My sister's son (and after December, her daughter).
3.  My mom
4.  My grandma (only grandparent left)
5.  My other sister, H, sometimes, if we agree to it.  (just something small, usually)
6.  My secretary
7.  A few other secretaries at work, with whom I've worked with a lot over the past year
8.  Some of the attorneys and associates I work with

Here's where I am in the process:

1.  Three of my brother's kids are done.  My one niece wanted stuff from Justice, so I got her an outfit, a purse, and a sequined scarf.  They had 40% off everything the day I did it, so I kept it around $50, which is what I spend on each of them.  (It slowly gets out of control if I spend more than that, and I spend around the same for their birthdays each year, so I think they are good.)  My other niece got an outfit from Aeropostale, and a scarf and mitten/gloves.  My nephew (who has Asperger's) got a electrical funky flashlight and a Chicago Bears sweatshirt (he loves lights and orange.)  So, that leaves his other daughter and his step daughter.  Step daughter is 18, so she will probably just get cash.  I'm not sure yet what I'll get his other daughter, since his wife can never give me any ideas.  Maybe a Wii game or something.  By contrast, his ex-wife, the mother of the other three, quickly gave me all their sizes and wants.  She rocks. 

2.  My sister's son is partially done or possibly done.  I got him Toy Story 3 and Toy Story on DVD.  He is two and can't take his eyes off those movies.  (My sister took him to see Toy Story 3 at the theatre -- he was about 1 2/3, and he sat there and watched the entire thing!)  I got him clothes for his birthday that just passed, and he has a ton of toys.  I may pick up an extra set of Lincoln Logs for him, since my mom got him one of their sets, and she thinks he might need some more logs.  Man, are those things ever expensive.  My mom tells me it is because they are real wood.  Huh.  The baby already got her clothes, so she is done.

3.  My grandma is done.  She gets a renewal to her National Enquirer subscription.  (Don't laugh, that costs like $100 for the year!)  And she loves it.  Frankly, it makes it very easy for me because I have no idea what else I would get her.

4.  My sister H got my old car.  So, she is good for the next three or four years on gifts! 

So, that leaves all the rest.  I might just give my secretary cash, at the risk of looking tacky.  I usually spend about $500 on her, in the form of a small gift and gift cards.  Maybe I'll just get her a small gift (so she has something to open) and then $500 cash.  I don't suspect you can go wrong with cash.  The other secretaries I usually do one of Lush's gift sets or something like that, so I can pick those up anytime over the next month.  Or maybe I'll just give them gift cards this year.  It seems lazy, but I'd rather get them something they can use.  If they are like me, they have a ton of that body crap laying around already.  The attorneys are a little harder, but I may do a bottle of wine or something like that.  There are a few who I have some specific jokey stuff in mind.  But hey, I've got some time!  My mom, I have no idea.  I'll think of something. 

Oh, and I also do a "letters to Santa" type drive every year, so I have a kid to buy for in that area, which I also already ordered his gifts off Amazon.  So, also done with that one.

At any rate, the process is at least begun.

These are the people I will get a gift from:  (1) my mom; (2) my secretary; (3) a few of the secretaries; and (4) some of the attorneys at my office.  Despite that I spend quite a bit of money on their kids year after year, my brother and sister never think to send me a little gift.  (I mean, seriously, get me a $10 gift card from iTunes or something, that would be fine.  Just acknowledge that I don't have a family of my own to buy me gifts.)  My grandma is the cheapest woman on earth, so she might send me a pair of socks or $5 or something.  (Not kidding about the $5.  It's so comical.)  But she is what she is, and I don't really care when it comes to her.  For me, it really is about the giving, but it kind of baffles me that neither of my siblings ever gives any thought to getting me something when I am spending quite a bit on their kids each year and they don't ever have to reciprocate in any way.  After my sister finally had her son two years ago, it occurred to her that maybe she should buy presents for my brother's kids.  I mean, duh, they are your nieces and nephews!           

Decision Points is Worth Reading

Earlier this week I finished reading Decision Points, George W. Bush's book.

Two things struck me while reading this book:

1.  President of the U.S. is a full-time, nonstop job.  You don't get a vacation, even when you are purportedly "on vacation."  Every day there are briefings, phone calls, and decisions to make.  This goes on all day long.  It's mind boggling, and one wonders if it is a job one person can even handle anymore, given the state of the world.  In fact, Newsweek has an article on that topic in this week's issue.  (The one with the ridiculous picture on the cover of Obama as a Hindu god.)

2.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and it's easy to criticize when you aren't the one who has to make the decision.  However, the fact is that the President has to make the hard decisions, and thus the President gets blamed when his decision turns out to be wrong.  I think we all have to take a leap of faith at times and accept that the President is privy to more information than we are, and that the President is doing what he thinks is the best thing to do.  That's why he (or hopefully someday, she) got elected in the first place.  I'll try not to be a hypocrite on this point going forward.

The book is a good read, and Bush explains pretty clearly why he did the things he did, to the extent that he can without releasing classified information.  He covers most of the major issues of his Presidency -- 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, stem cell research, etc.  I feel like I have better knowledge of him and why he did the things he did after reading it.  I also think he was a pretty good leader and an intelligent man, despite what the polls say.

There were some things I learned that impressed me:

1.  He personally wrote a letter to every family who lost a child/spouse/parent in Afganistan/Iraq while he was in office.  This amounted to over 5,000 letters.

2.  In Thanksgiving 2003, he made a surprise trip to visit the troops in Afghanistan that was so secret many of the secret service agents at his ranch in Texas didn't even know he'd left.  It was a dangerous trip for him to take at that time, given what was going on with the war, but he wanted to go. 

3.  I hadn't realized the true extent of his work in treating and eliminating AIDS in Africa.  He is an extremely compassionate and caring person.  In some ways this explains why he was so utterly offended with Kanye West's statements about him being a racist in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

4.  He accepted the blame for a lot of things that weren't really his fault because he recognized that he should.  (Again, for example, Hurricane Katrina and Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin's failings in that department.)

5.  He did make a lot of efforts to reach across the aisle, but on some things he just wasn't going to fold.  I do have respect for that.

All in all, it was a good read, and I highly recommend it, particularly if you are a person who hated Bush. 

I also recently read In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect which was pretty fascinating.  A lot of good tidbits and gossip about some of the Presidents and their families, as well as an inside look into the Secret Service organization.  (Apparently I'm now in my "political book phase.")  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Riddance to the Paycheck Fairness Act

This week the Senate voted 58-41 against allowing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation, of course, addresses the so-called wage gap between men and women and expands the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Also, don’t forget about the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act of 2009, which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964). We’ve already got a whole lot of legislation in place to prevent discrimination based on sex when it comes to pay. In fact, that is the law of the land – equal pay for equal work. Yet, for some reason, some folks in Congress thought we needed even more legislation on the matter. Enough is enough. 

I constantly see the $0.77 or $0.78 for every $1 a man earns argument floating around. I don’t buy it at all, and there is nothing that bothers me more than statistics that are misleading. Groups like NOW irritate the crap out of me with all their spouting off about non-equality. Things seem pretty damn equal to me. 

Here is a great article that purports to dispel the myth. As I suspected, all of these figures do not take the following into account: occupational choice and time commitment. Both of these should be important, no? You can’t compare apples to oranges, yet that is what these figures do. Sure, let’s compare a physicist to a teacher. Let’s compare a person working 40 hours a week to a person working 50 hours a week. Let’s compare a person who has continuously worked for 5 years to a person who took off 2 years to have a baby. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is going to make more money. You can’t even truly look on paper at a person’s credentials, years of experience, and job description to do a comparison. The fact is, some people go above and beyond while others sit back and do the minimum. In my opinion, the former, whether male or female, deserves higher pay. That’s not equal work, so why should it be equal pay?

In my little world, we have female associates who make less than their counterpart male associates. Why? Those male associates work harder. They are here earlier and later, they volunteer for the crappy document inspection trips to places like Omaha, and they don’t complain about any of it. We also have female associates who make the same as, or more than, their male counterparts. It goes both ways, and has absolutely nothing to do with gender.  It has to do with how they perform on the job.

Then there is the whole “men work more continuously than women” argument, so thus their pay is higher. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one. If a female decides to take three months off for maternity leave, or to take off a year or two (or more) to raise children, or constantly has to leave early or get in late or miss work due to child obligations, then she can’t possibly expect to make the same as male (or for that matter, female) coworkers who aren’t doing those things. Is it fair that women bear the brunt of child rearing in this country? Of course not. But it’s called making a sacrifice. If you choose the child and family route, your work (and pay) may suffer as a result unless you are able to keep up the same schedule and obligations as your counterparts. Here’s an idea: marry a man who is willing to take on half the responsibility.

Here’s my favorite statistic from the above linked article: “Women who have never had a child earn 113 percent of what men earn.” You never hear anything about that, do you?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Now The TSA is Launching an Absurd Investigation

The TSA is investigating John Tyner (who I posted about yesterday, and whose videotaped experience opting out of the AIT can be found here):
Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.
Here is what the investigation is about:
According to Aguilar, Tyner is under investigation for leaving the security area without permission. That’s prohibited, among other reasons, to prevent potential terrorists from entering security, gaining information, and leaving.
Funny, on the video (right at the end of his second video), Tyner says “Where to?” and someone who I assume is a TSA officer says “Follow me.” He then walks out of the security area with the TSA officer, and the TSA officer asks him what airline he was on and he told them American. The TSA officer then points him to the American counter and lets him go on his way, so that he can get his ticket refunded. Tyner says “Sorry for the hassle” and the TSA officer responds “No problem.”

Are you telling me that constitutes “leaving the security area without permission?”  Walking out with a TSA officer constitutes "leaving the security area without permission?"

Aside from that absurdity, the TSA’s position appears to be that they have the ability to force a person to go through security, including an enhanced patdown, even if the passenger decides that they would rather not go through that process, and would prefer not to fly.

Get that? Once you start going through the security process you can’t change your mind and walk out. Here is a guy who decided he would rather not fly than go through the enhanced pat down, who wasn’t freaking out or acting like a fool, and the TSA is going to investigate him and possibly fine him? The other problem with the TSA’s position is that when you get in the security line, these are the things you don’t know:

1. Whether you will be forced into the AIT line (you have no choice at all in the matter if they grab you out of the metal detector line and into that line); and

2. What pat down guidelines will be followed, if you opt out of the ATI. (I haven’t been able to find anything from the TSA that describes the enhanced pat down or what to expect, other than fairly vague statements.)

So how are you supposed to know when you get in line whether the procedure is one you want to deal with or not? How are you supposed to know whether the TSA officers are following procedure with respect to the pat down? How are you supposed to know whether you will be able to go through the metal detector or be forced to go through the AIT? This is what we like to call “notice.” People expect certain things when going through security. After all, we all go through pat downs at sporting events, concerts, and the airport. However, the new level of the pat down is far different than any of those. Many people have no problem with a regular metal detector, but don’t want to go through the AIT. You don’t know specifically what you are facing, yet apparently once you set foot in the security area in order to find out, you have no ability to reject these options and simply leave.  You have to go through unless you want to invite an investigation?  That is really unbelievable to me. 

And by the way, how many “acts of terror” have actually been thwarted by the TSA based on security screening? Any?   

Monday, November 15, 2010

The TSA's New Pat Down Procedures; Maybe I'll Just Stop Flying

I posted last May about my experiences opting out of the TSA advanced imaging technology.  The pat down then was intrusive, and that was before the “new” pat down procedures that just went into effect, and seem to be the equivalent of getting sexually molested.  I didn’t like what I went through before at all – I can’t imagine going through a “groin check” in front of an airport of people.  It's pretty unbelievable that a security person in an airport can -- without any reasonable cause for suspicion or probable cause -- essentially force a person to let them touch their genitals.  If you opt out and don't agree to this pat down, guess what, you aren't flying anywhere.  Oh, and you might get a civil fine. 

Drudge has been posting a number of articles about the outrage over these new procedures over the past couple of weeks, including vast articles about pilots and flight attendants complaining about these procedures.  Today he linked to an article that linked to a blog post by John Tyner who attempted to opt out of the AIT procedure when flying out of San Diego’s airport, and recorded the entire exchange with his cell phone.  It’s a pretty interesting read and listen.

Last night I flew out of Detroit Metro to Chicago Midway. There was one AIT open at DTW, and three metal detectors open. I got in the metal detector line, so I was able to avoid any of this nonsense. (I explicitly ignored the agent who kept trying to wave me into the AIT line; no one wanted to get into that line.) As long as there is at least one metal detector line, I’m happy to continue flying. (Unless, of course, as happened to me on my Vegas flight I get pulled out of that line for no apparent reason and told to walk through the AIT.)

However, eventually, there will only be AIT machines at airports in this country, and no standard metal detector option. This means that in order to fly anywhere, the choice is to (1) potentially expose yourself to radiation by going through the AIT machine, along with the whole virtual strip search issue; or (2) allow yourself to be extensively groped by a TSA employee. If I had children, I would not want them to do either option. Can you imagine an agent giving a “groin check” to a six year old? Or letting your child walk into radiation exposure?  Part of the problem is that when you are at an airport attempting to fly somewhere, you have already spent money on a plane ticket and possibly hotel and other reservations at the other end.  If you don't comply, you don't go.  If people aren't complaining about the new pat downs or the AIT devices, it's because once you get to that point at the airport, you have no choice but to comply if you want to make your flight.  I'm inclined to call that duress. 

The ACLU of Massachusetts is reporting this about the new pat down procedure:
Women in tight skirts that don't allow an agent to feel the thigh area may be asked to remove the skirt in a private screening area and will be given a gown or towel to put on.
I frequently wear skirts when I fly for work, since I am usually in a suit. Are you telling me that with this new enhanced pat down I have to let an agent put their hands up my skirt or remove my skirt entirely? Or wear pants?  Is it me or is this getting entirely out of control? What’s next?  Are we all going to have to strip down to our underwear?  Submit to a full body cavity search?  If this is what is necessary, then why aren’t other countries going to these lengths?

Why don’t we do security like they do at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, which is lauded as one of the safest airports? You know what they do? Profile. Passengers who look suspicious or are acting suspiciously are questioned. Of course we can’t do that here because someone might get offended. Well, you know what? I’m offended that I have to consent to being sexually molested to take a trip to Las Vegas.  I honestly do not want to fly anymore over this.  With work things I don't have a choice.  At some point I am going to have to decide what I will do when I opt out of this AIT.  Submit to a "groin check"?  Let a TSA agent stick her hands up my skirt?  I really hope I don't flip out and get arrested, because this issue really gets me going.

Of course, a lawsuit has already been filed in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit regarding, inter alia, the privacy and 4th Amendment issues raised with all of this.  The opening brief in The Electronic Privacy Information Center et. al. v. DHS et. al. can be found here.      

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does No Kids, No Marriage Really Mean Anything?

I've been struggling with the above question, thanks to the advent of Facebook.  I didn't think much about it before I created my profile and started friending people from high school and college and law school and all that.  But now, I get all of these "look at how cute my kid is" and "look at my beautiful wife" and all this family shit.  Most everyone's life now is through their children.  Their posts are about their kids.  The photos they post are all about their kids.  Everything is about how wonderful being a parent is.  And it makes me truly wonder how they look at me.  Now, I am not a person that really cares what anyone thinks of me, but yet...

You can't help but wonder.  These are people who know nothing about the many past relationships I've been in, the possible marriage opportunities that I passed by, who have no idea that I am where I am (single and without kids) mainly through choice.  Do I want their lives?  No, I don't.  But that doesn't mean that I might not want another type of life of my choosing with a partner and possibly a kidlet.

See, I always knew I wouldn't get married.  I wasn't someone who dreamed about it or wanted it -- I wanted a career, and I wanted to make a shitload of money.  That's what I wanted.  And hurray, I got it.  And I -- personally -- don't care that I am not partnered up yet.  Yet everyone else seems to be on a spree of wanting to be partnered up.  I don't get it.  I just don't care about that.  The only reason I care about it -- honestly -- is that people think I'm weird that I'm not married or with a serious boyfriend.  People do think that now.  And I think WHY?  Why does it matter?  Can't I just be a cool person on my own?  Why is it required that I have someone attached to me who can vouche for my coolness?  Can't you just see that I am a cool person on my own?  Do I need to just hire a stand in, maybe an out of work actor who could fill the role?  I mean, why does it matter?  If I was a man, it wouldn't matter so much, because he would just be a bachelor.  But a woman?  I'm a lesbian, even though I'm not.  That's what everyone thinks.  Why should it be that a 30 something year old successful woman who chooses to be single is automatically a lesbian?  It shouldn't be.  And my coworkers know better, and my friends know better, but a lot of other people think that.  It's hard to just be single and happy about it in our society.   

That's why we haven't had a President in eons who is a bachelor.  It matters.  I hate this societal bullshit.  It's very bizarre.   

Some Random Thoughts This Evening, 11/9

I haven't done Random Thoughts in awhile, so here goes:

1.  My fantasy team is 6-3.  This is the best record, but we are sharing it with 3 other teams.  It's a really close race to the playoffs.  We dropped both our defenses this week (Cowboys and Dolphins) and picked up the Lions and the Raiders.  While the latter may seem like not so good bets based on NFL rankings, both are getting a ton of fantasy points in my league week after week, and that is what matters to me.  I need sacks, interceptions, and defensive touchdowns.  I'm sure now that I picked them up they will both start sucking immensely, and the Cowboys and Dolphins will start making it happen.  But oh well, all dropping or adding needs to be done by Sunday, so we needed to do something with our D, and honestly, the Lions and Raiders can't be much worse than what we had. 

2.  I'm bidding farewell to my Jetta this weekend.  She's gave me a good run, but it's time, and she's going to a good home, so I have to just let it go.  I get really attached to my cars, and feel guilty when I let them go.  H informed me that I could consider it an "open adoption" and drive her when I come visit.  That made me laugh.  I love H so much. 

3.  I got my nephew a boatload of clothes from Gymboree for his birthday.  I will get him a toy or toys for Christmas.  I went to Land of Nod, and their stuff was nice, but nothing really grabbed me that day.  I may send him their toolbench for Christmas, because I did like that.  But ultimately, he got clothes, and of course Gymbo had 30% off everything the day I went in, so he got a lot more than he was supposed to get.  Although I really like what I got him, they had way cuter stuff last year, and why is 2T such a popular size there?  Jeez, everything I really wanted was sold out in his size.  At any rate, he'll be well dressed, which is Very Important.

4.  I haven't seen my mom in almost a year and a half.  I can't even believe it.  It doesn't feel like that long since I talk to her at least once a week.  So, I'm really looking forward to seeing her on Friday.  She may come here for Thanksgiving so we can shop like crazy that weekend, but we'll see.  My grandma lives with her and she doesn't know yet if she feels right leaving Grandma alone on Thanksgiving.  Since I will likely still be carless, I will probably stay here regardless of whether or not she comes.  I'm going to see everyone this weekend, so, I'm not sure it's worth another trip over in a week and a half.  We've never been a big Thanksgiving family (none of us are really big foodies -- we'll all eat whatever is put in front of us), so I might just hold off until Christmas.

5.    I'm really interested to see what is going to happen in the lame duck session of Congress, starting Monday.  Will they pass a budget?  Will they deal with the Bush tax cuts?  Although I bitch about the expiration, I don't oppose it at all if it expires for everyone.  Why should I (and others in my position) be the only ones who get hosed?  Don't we all benefit from tax dollars going to the government?  I mean, as a single person with no kids, I don't use nearly as many government resources (roads, schools, etc.) as a big old family of four.  So why should my income be taxed more?  I'm sorry that I make more money, but....yeah, I've discussed this before so I won't go into it.  It will be interesting.

6.  I'm reading Bush's Decision Points.  Yes, I bought it the day it came out.  What can I say, I'm curious.  I never hated Bush, and I always felt that he had the best interests of the country in mind, even though he may have made some wrong decisions.  With Bush, at least, you always knew where he stood on things.  I can't say the same for Obama.  I don't know what his position is on a lot of things because he keeps flipping and wishy washying it.  At any rate, I was very excited to read this book.  I'll likely report back on my thoughts once I finish. 

7.  I've focused way too much on work for the past six years.  Now I need to devote some time to the things I am passionate about like art, theatre, movies, literature, etc.  I'm not just a boring lawyer, but sometimes I feel like one.  There is so much going on in my great city, and I don't do much of it.  So, my new goal is to Get Involved and meet some new people outside of lawyerville.           

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The National Anthem at Sporting Events

I went to the Blackhawks game tonight.  Unfortunately, they lost.  However, while I was there -- and because it's been quite awhile since I've been to a live sporting event -- I was reminded of one of the little things that makes me shiver down to my knees and makes me downright happy:

Hearing The Star Spangled Banner sung live at a sporting event.

I know it's cheesy and all that.  And yes, I am one of those people that sings along -- to myself.  But there is something about an entire stadium full of thousands of people staring at the flag and a usually quite talented singer belting out the lyrics, everyone standing at full attention, cheering and clapping throughout, and those last few words hitting it "over the land of the free and the home of the brave!" followed by cheering and screaming and clapping that gets to me every time.  At the United Center, it is something else, and quite the spectacle with the lights and the spotlights.  (It's not quite the same at the Bears or Cubs games, maybe because they are outdoors.)  I've honestly gotten teary over it before (as I usually do during the Olympics when our athletes are standing on the podium below the flag), because say what you want about living in the United States, but this is a fantastic place to live.  I hate it when people say "there but for the grace of God go I," but that's how it is.  It's a total crapshoot that I was born here instead of in a hut in Ethiopia, and as I've gotten older I've realized what a huge crapshoot that was and how truly lucky I am.

Our country is in a mess with government and spending and I complain about it all the time, but there is no place I would rather live.  I was reminded of that tonight in that stadium.  And to all of the people who want to bitch about what a terrible country this is and threaten to move?  Go ahead!  See what that's like.  Me?  I'll take the stars and stripes and be thankful I have the right to bitch about it on this blog.  But really, the bitching is merely because I know we could be better, even though already we are pretty damn great.

Okay, I'll just get off my "Proud to Be An American" soapbox now.       

You Can Never Have Too Many Pairs of Black Pumps

As I was clearing out more shoes for the Salvation Army truck, it came to my attention that something was needed – a new pair of black pumps. That’s not to say that I don’t have black pumps. Of course I do. I have nine pairs of black pumps. (These are closed toe, all black pumps. I have other pumps with black in them, like a leopard pair, and also some peeptoes, but I’m not counting those.) There is no style of shoe I wear more regularly than black pumps. However, in the midst of my cleaning binge, I realized that about four of those pairs of black pumps were bought back in 2004, around the time I became an attorney and black pumps first became a necessity. This was also during my Franco Sarto phase, so all four are Franco Sarto brand. They were all great pumps, and I wore the heck out of them. I’ve held on to them only because they are broken in nicely so occasionally I will wear a pair for old time’s sake, and also because I thought maybe I would have the shoeshine guy in my building polish them up. Well, that never happened. It was with a sad heart that I put them in the Salvation Army bag, but I don’t get any joy out of wearing them anymore, and when I do wear them I find myself staring down at my feet and wondering why I am wearing such an old pair of shoes.

This leaves me with five pairs: (1) my current favorites, a leather Coach pair with 3” heels; (2) a patent leather pair of Franco Sartos (these are only a few years old) with a 3” heel; (3) a suede pair of Nine West with a 2 ½” heel; (4) a leather pair of Nine West with side openings that are nice for summer with a 2” heel (and quite frankly will be the next pair to get tossed they’ve been worn so much); and (5) a fish scaled design by Naughty Monkey with about a 1 1/2” heel.

Obviously I need another pair – a pair with a 2” heel. Three inches used to really work for me, even for fifteen hour stretches, but now not so much. I mean, I can do it, but I prefer 2” when I have a long day and lots of walking.

So, I just ordered these:

I absolutely love Tory Burch shoes, although I’ve noticed that her Reva flats really hurt my heel if I wear them for more than about 5-6 hours. So, after that learning experience, I go for the Tory Burch shoes without the little elastic band around the heel. This pair I like because I’m a sucker for anything on the toe or the heel of a shoe, and these have both. Also, they are 2”. It is insanely hard to find designer shoes that are high heeled but less than 3” high. Hell, even finding 3” can be hard. I’m not sure who is wearing all of these 4” high stiletto $400+ shoes. They must have feet of steel.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Problem Solved: Why My Sister Hasn't Thanked Me

I complained earlier today that my sister hasn't yet thanked me for the box of baby clothes I sent her.  I believe I (with the help of my mom) have pinpointed the situation.  She is mad at me.


A little background is required, some of which I've shared, but I'll briefly repeat for purpose of ease. 

I have two younger sisters, M and H.  (Note:  I know way too many people with a first name that starts with M, and I never realized it until I started this blog.  However, I don't want to start assigning fake initials because then I will get all confused later on when I want to complain about these people.  So, I have Crazy Drama Friend M and Sister M.  This post is about sister M.  I will be sure to clarify always.)  I've posted about H before, and I've randomly posted about M, but I don't think I gave her an initial.  M is four years younger than me, and H is seven years younger than me.  M and I graduated from law school at the same time.  (She went straight to law school from undergrad, whereas I worked for almost five years and then went.)  H has recently completed her associates degree, and just started nursing school in the fall.  H has worked as a waitress since she was about 18, and only recently realized that she should probably figure out a plan for the future so she isn't forty years old and waitressing at a shit bar.  Hence, nursing school.  And she's doing well and has had to face the horror of bathing old people, so yea for her.   

M married her college sweetheart J (god, another fucking J, too.  I'm renaming H's boyfriend C for future reference; I don't know why I gave him a fake initial.  I can't keep track of all that) right after law school graduation, and moved to BFE Michigan because J likes nature and hunting.  She now works as an assistant prosecutor for a BFE county in Michigan.  (Cool for her, because she has way better law stories than I do.  No one wants to hear about how I called a technical expert on his mispresentation of a circuit diagram during a deposition.  She also has a ton of trial experience.  I never get to go to trial.)  

Anyway, J got his Master's degree a year or two ago and kind of works, but his company lost some funding due to the economy, so he's kind of part time at this point.  There aren't a whole lot of job opportunities in Michigan right now, particularly for the Fisheries and Wildlife major types.  So, M is the big breadwinner in their family, and when I say big, it probably isn't a lot, although my mom and I have no idea what she is making moneywise.  I figure it's got to be at least $50,000, but maybe not much more than that, although I truly have no idea.  What we do know is that she is making nowhere near what I am making, since obviously I chose to go into a high demand field (patent law) in private practice in a big city.  You can't compare government work in BFE with private practice in a big city when it comes to law.  Private practice  in big city salaries always win.  M could have done this, but she chose to move to BFE with her husband.  And she's chosen to stay there, although with all of her trial experience (albeit in BFE small courtrooms), she could get a job at a big firm around a major city.  I mean, she was on law review, for God's sakes.  I didn't make law review, and it rankled the hell out of me that she did, but I guess apparently that doesn't matter much.  M has a son who will be two around Thanksgiving, and she is due to have a daughter around Christmas.  Thus, M is obviously the sister who got the package of baby clothes from me (on October 14, according to my FedEx tracking), which I bought from Macy's.

I have a 2001 Jetta, as I think I've mentioned before.  (I swear this is all going to come together in a minute.  M, H, and Jetta are the key players here.)  I bought the Jetta new back in 2001 in California, and it's been a great car, and only has about 46,000 miles on it, even though it's nearly ten years old.  And since I'm a fanatic about maintaining my car, it's in pretty good shape for its age.  I took it to the dealer this week for a checkup, and he told me just that.  However, he also told me that it's still almost ten years old.  Regardless of mileage, cars get old.  It is what it is.        

Okay, done with the background.  Quite a bit, but necessary for the story that is about to unfold.

M is having her son's second birthday party next weekend.  I've never been to her new house (which she will never sell since she lives in BFE), so I was tossing around going in my head.  She lives about six hours away from me, driving.  I've also been tossing around the idea of getting a new car by the end of the year.  I love the Jetta, but it is time.  I know I won't get much for it on trade in, despite the low mileage, and I don't know that I want to deal with the pain in the ass of a private sale, so since H is driving a car that has around 150,000 miles on it, I asked her if she wanted it.  (For free, basically.  I'll sell it to her for the token $1.)  She, of course, wants it.  And I'm happy to give it to her.  I'm happy that she's finally in school, and she's my sister, problem.  Since I'm about ready to get a new car, I figured I would drive the Jetta to the Detroit area where my mom and H live on the 12th, and then my mom and I would drive the three or so hours to M's on Saturday for the party, and I would leave the Jetta with H, sign over the title, and fly back to Chicago Sunday night.  That way, I'm rid of the Jetta and free to buy a new car when I feel like it.  (I can live without a car for as long as I need to, since I'm close to the train and there are plenty of taxis.)

My mom then called M and told her our plan to come to her son's birthday party, and mentioned that I was giving the Jetta to H.  This is what ensued:

M:  Why didn't she give the Jetta to me and J?  We could really use it.

Mom:  (speechless)  Um...because H doesn't have a law degree like you do?

M:  (no response, subject changed)

Of course my mom relayed this conversation to me this afternoon.  Our conversation went something like this:

Mom:  (tells me what M said)

Me:  (explodes)  Are you kidding me?  Didn't they just get a new SUV?

Mom:  Remember, it's not new.  J won't buy a new car because he thinks they are a waste of money.  That SUV has 60,000 miles on it.  More than your Jetta.

Me:  (still exploding)  That's her problem that she married a guy who won't buy a new car.  (Note:  I like J a lot and I think he and my sister are good together, but man, is he cheap!)

Mom:  I agree with you, and I think you should give the Jetta to H.  She needs it more.

Me:  Of course H needs it more!  That's why I'm giving it to her.  My Jetta is so bad in the snow.  It's terrible, mom.  Why would M want it up north?  They get like three feet of snow and don't plow the roads up there.

Mom:  I know.  I can't believe she even had the nerve to ask me why you were giving it to H instead of her.

Me:  Why should I, one person, have to supplement two people, M and J?  Two people who both have advanced degrees?  As opposed to H who is just now trying to get her bachelor's?

Mom:  You shouldn't.  She could've gone to work at a big law firm in Detroit area, but she chose to go to go up north for J.

Me:  I know.  She could be making big money, but she chose to go up north and work for the government.

Mom:  You shouldn't feel guilty at all.

Me:  I don't.  It never even occurred to me that she would want the Jetta!  (Note:  It really didn't.)

Mom:  Well, don't feel bad, but she was upset.

Anyway, that pretty much explains how I feel and the situation.  So, she's mad at me because I'm giving H my nearly 10 year old car instead of her.  She, who has the same degree I do, gotten at the same time I got mine, and she, who has a husband with a Master's degree, while H is single.  I'm really sorry that they are feeling pinched financially, but that isn't my fault.

I have to be honest, it's bizarre to me that she is pissed about this.  My mom thinks that's why she hasn't thanked me for the baby clothes, because she feels that I sent her $100 worth of clothes but gave H a car, so it's not fair.  Well, life isn't fair.  And why am I all of a sudden put in the position of having to support people?  Jesus.  I just wanted to do something nice for H, who is super grateful, and M has to go and ruin the whole thing. 

Anyway, I haven't talked to her, and I'll get to see her next weekend.  Oh, and I'm going to go and spend more money on one of her kids tomorrow when I go pick up her son's birthday gift at The Land of Nod.  (Nothing about this is being held against him!  Nephew is getting a great gift!)  God, I'm such a terrible person.  I guarantee you she will say nothing to me about this issue.    

Things I Only Recently Realized

1. I am now double the age required to buy cigarettes. When I got carded the other night at 7-11, I pointed this out to the clerk.

2. I can no longer walk as far as I used to in high heels, so most of my morning shoe decisions are based on how much standing and walking I have to do that day.

3. No one pays any attention to when I come in and leave work as long as I get my work done.

4. My sister never thanked me for the huge box of new baby clothes I sent her last month for my new niece who is due in December. (I mean, would it have been that hard to send me a text?)

5. If I find myself at a bar at midnight on a weeknight, I am now that sad and pathetic mid thirties woman I used to pity when I was in my twenties. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, I’m usually with a group of equally pathetic men in the late thirties and early forties.

6. I have zero interest in traditional female things, like baby showers, bridal showers, entertaining, cooking, and to a slightly lesser extent, children. Some kids I like, and sometimes I think I want one of my own, but generally I don’t care to hear people’s stories about whatever cute thing their kid did that day. I also don’t like to discuss the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and I can’t stand sitting around for three hours watching someone open presents. I would frankly rather be hanging out with the men during parties and things, because their conversations are usually much more interesting.

7. I don’t care when a celebrity “unveils her baby bump.”

8. I’ve started blabbing my life story to cashiers like my mom does.

9. I think I’m kind of turning into a snob. I’ll do a post on this one later.

10. The lyrics to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” are not “….blood on the dance floor.” They are “I left my heart and my head on the dance floor.”

11.  My secretary was on vacation for all of last week and part of this week...and I didn't even notice she was gone.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MSNBC's Election Coverage Was Juvenile

While I’m happy the election season is finally (almost) over, I’m also a bit afraid of what is ahead. Will the parties actually try to work together, or will we have more of the same gridlock? Will Congress actually pay attention to what the people want, or simply do what they think is correct? Can anyone in the federal government get a rein on spending? Will we actually get that transparency folks have been talking about? At any rate, I don’t feel that the ass whooping the Democrats got was the result of a massive conversion to conservatism as much as a message to the President and the rest of the government that people are generally unhappy and ready for a change.

Yeah, hope and change. But this season, it could’ve been the GOP’s slogan. It was truly shocking to watch the lower ticker on the news web sites that showed how many incumbents lost this election. Good. People shouldn’t be in the House of Representatives or the Senate for terms on end. You can’t represent the people when you are removed from “the people” for such a long period of time.

Last night I watched Fox’s coverage for awhile, but then I remembered that I should try to get another viewpoint, so I switched over to MSNBC. While Fox at least presented the illusion of neutrality by having liberal and conservative talking heads discussing the results, MSNBC’s hosts were Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a more Democratic panel. (Can you imagine if Fox’s panel had Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck commentating?) While I understand the difference between a commentator and a journalist, it was baffling to me that a major news network like MSNBC would only have liberal commentators discussing the results of election night.

I have to admit that after watching Keith Olbermann giggle at and insult the Republican candidates who lost, I’m oddly intrigued. Is his show that juvenile? Rachel Maddow at least seems fairly intelligent (despite that she is too blind to see that MSNBC is in the tank for Obama), but Matthews and Olbermann were like a couple of playground bullies. (Isn't it the new in thing to be against bullying?  Didn't Olbermann and Matthews get the memo?)  While Paladino may be kind of a crazy, and his thing with the orange baseball bat was a little questionable, I didn’t expect to see the lead commentators of a major news organization’s election night coverage openly mocking him. (They cut out of his concession speech to interview someone, I don’t remember who, then Olbermann gave some snide remark and played the end of the concession speech.) And then there was Matthews’ discussion with Michelle Bachmann, where he couldn’t simply congratulate her, but had to throw out rude remarks, with Olbermann giggling like a little girl in the background.  While it was fairly amusing to watch the sheer bitterness exuding from the three, at times it was almost like watching the Three Stooges.  MSNBC should be really ashamed. Eventually I had to turn back to Fox.  Who would’ve thought that Fox’s coverage would actually be the most professional? No wonder MSNBC got trounced by Fox in the ratings.

God, I miss Tim Russert.

Working Out With My Wii

I dislike working out. I’ve never been a person who enjoys going to the gym and sweating it out in front of a bunch of people. Also, exercising for the sake of exercising bores me. Stepping on a treadmill or stairmaster immediately diverts my eyes to the clock, counting down the minutes until I can get off the machine and move on with my life. I much prefer exercise in the form of a sport, like tennis, walking around the neighborhood, in-line skating, or skiing. (Riding a bike around the Chicago streets is something I’m still trying to build up the courage to do.)

Aerobics I do like, particularly step, which has gone out of fashion in favor of spinning, zumba, and all these other classes with strange names. But again, going to aerobics class requires me to get off my lazy ass, change my clothes, and take the train or drive my car or walk over to the gym. The odds of this happening on a freezing cold day during the Chicago winter are slim to none. Some of my co-workers go to the gym for an hour during the day, but the last thing I want to do in the middle of the day is get all sweaty and have to get ready all over again.

Enter the Wii – particularly the body moving games for the Wii. This has been my savior. To get motivated to exercise, I need to be doing something I find fun, and also something that is so close I can’t come up with any reasonable excuse not to do it. With the Wii downstairs in my basement, there is no excuse not to go down there and get my heart rate going for half an hour or an hour three or four times a week. Sometimes I actually spend two or three hours without even realizing it because I’m having so much fun.

There are, of course, exercise “games” that aren’t quite as fun, like The Biggest Loser, but I can do a twenty or thirty minute routine or one of the challenges to get my really hard exercise on, then move on to something I find more fun, like hula hooping on the Wii Fit Plus. (I challenge anyone to do Super Hula Hoop for nine minutes and not be a sweaty mess at the end.) Even the balance games on the Wii Fit Plus, while not hard cardio workouts, feel like they are working the muscles. (I have a terrible sense of balance. You should see me trying to do the skateboarding and snowboarding games. Awful. But, I try it again and again in an effort to get a higher score, and next thing I know, I’ve worked my legs and abs quite a bit with all the body shifting involved.) The Wii Fit Plus games certainly aren’t for people who want a super intense workout, but when you had to drag yourself down to do anything remotely active on a certain night, it is better than nothing, and a fun way to kill a half an hour. Tennis for Wii Sports is also decent for getting the body moving a little bit on nights when I’m not as ambitious.

My favorite “work out” game so far is My Fitness Coach. This is aerobics and strength training, but it is tailored to your fitness level, you can select what you want to work (i.e. full body, legs, arms, core), how long you want to work out, and the routine changes each time. This is essential for me, because I get bored of the same workout really fast – hence my boredom with the canned routines in The Biggest Loser. The music isn’t bad, and Maya, the fitness coach, yells at you when you miss a workout. I don’t like it when Maya yells at me. After different sections of the workout, you can tell Maya if it was too easy, just right, or too hard, and she changes the workout the next time to account for it. So, as I get in better shape, the workout gets harder. I’m totally addicted to this game, although there are certain moves she does that I hate and I wish I could tell the game not to include those in my workout.

Over the weekend I bought Just Dance 2. This is the first of the “dance” games I’ve bought. I once tried Dance Dance Revolution at my sister’s house, and was awful at it, although to be fair, it was 2:30 in the morning after a night of drinking and I’d already taken out my contacts so I really couldn’t see the arrows on the screen. Let me just say that Just Dance 2 might be my new favorite game. The deal is you hold the Wiimote and do exactly what a dancing figure on the screen is doing. (I hear this is like zumba.) There are a ton of really fun songs that aren’t covers, and various levels of intensity and difficulty. I did about ten songs the other night and felt like I was going to collapse. It is quite a workout. You just want to keep going and doing it again and again in order to master the dance moves. In fact, I’ve done it for at least an hour every night since I bought it. My favorites so far are Proud Mary, Hey Ya, Girlfriend, Jump in the Line, and I Want You Back. (Dancing like a young Michael Jackson really is quite fun.) The good thing about this game is that no one can see me while I’m doing it, because I am really uncoordinated and look kind of foolish, especially since I’m still trying to master the moves, and because my muscles aren’t quite up to the task yet on some of them. I will get better, though!

God, I can’t wait to get home from work so I can dance some more. There are so many songs left to try!

And now back to my regularly scheduled program of drafting a response to a motion to compel.  Not nearly as fun as Just Dance 2