Friday, December 14, 2012

Federal Health Care Exchange -- Thanks, I Needed a Laugh Today!

I've admittedly been slacking about following what is going on with Obamacare and other governmental issues lately.  However, today I happened across an article that honestly made me laugh out loud.

Only Fifteen States Opt to Run Obamacare Exchanges.  

Apparently there is a deadline of today where the states have to say whether they will run their own healthcare exchange, or whether they will just participate in the one the federal government has to set up.  I'm thinking the feds thought more states would opt to do it themselves.  Well, no such luck.

Here's what is funny.  Enrollment allegedly starts in October 2013.  Ten months away.  Oh, and all exchanges have to be certified by January 1, 2014.
"I am confident that states and the federal government will be ready in 10 months, when consumers in all states can begin to apply," Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told a House panel.

Imagine the breadth of a federal healthcare exchange that has to have the bandwidth and capability to handle people in 30+ states.  Imagine the technology, people, and costs required to design and build such an exchange.  Imagine the technical support and customer service requirements of such an exchange going forward. 

I used to be a management consultant back in the day, so I have some experience with big projects and implementing things like this.  Let me tell you -- ten months is nothing.  Ten months might allow you to set up a basic call center application and software for a company like Ford or Dell -- it certainly wouldn't be enough time to set up one with the complexity and bandwidth to deal with millions of people.  Ten months basically gives you three months for a design phase (where you figure out what it has to do and how it will be done), three or four months to build (software, hardware, etc.), and two months test and train.  Given the complexity of this system, it's a laughable timeframe.   

Some of the states probably realized this, and said screw it:
"I don't envy them for the job that they have," said Dennis Smith, who heads health services in Wisconsin, a state that has decided not to pursue its own exchange.

"At the end of the day, you're trying to connect a buyer to a seller. And the fundamental things required to do that are not yet in place," he said.
Here is what they have to do:
The administration will have to engineer an information technology system capable of processing operations in a way that meet the needs of health care consumers in different states.

Experts say the biggest challenge will likely be providing adequate customer service to handle enrollment, as well as fielding a technology system capable of interfacing seamlessly with the system of each state government.

Cohen told the panel that the administration is building a website with interactive capabilities and a call center and has begun testing a data services hub designed to determine eligibility.
In ten months -- or a year at most.

Think they can do it?  I think this is going to be a disaster, and I think we need to carefully watch the cost of this.  I wonder which private sector technology companies they've hired to do this?  I'm going to have to see if that information is public.  Seems like it should be.  And honestly, the government hasn't exactly proven to be the best at sticking to a budget, cutting costs, and running anything.  Yeah, this is going to be awesome.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Don't Hit on Twenty (Or Dump Him Over Minutia)

The start of this new relationship with CTF has gotten me thinking about my dating past. Why am I still single at age 38? Throughout my twenties and thirties, I was attractive, thin to average weight, and I’ve always dressed well. I’ve always worn a lot of skirts and high heels, and have had long hair. I’m smart, stable, and financially secure. I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor and am fun to be around. I like sports. I like drinking beer. This is starting to sound like an online dating ad, isn’t it? And I’m not trying to toot my own horn here or anything, but enough people (mostly my male friends, but also CTF recently) have made comments to me like “I can’t believe you are still single” over the years, that it got me wondering…why?

In the past, I always came to the conclusion that I simply hadn’t met the right person. While this may be true to a certain extent, a lot of soul searching recently has led me to the conclusion that I was looking for perfection in the past – absolute perfection. To put it in blackjack terms, I hit on 20 with some of my past boyfriends. They almost had it all…but not quite. There was one more thing I was looking for, so I hit and moved on. I wanted every item on my stupid little checklist to be met. Every single one! And I’m not talking about the big things. I’m talking minutia.  I was always looking for something better.

When I was in my twenties, it seemed like I had all the time in the world. I would hit on 20, and I would find him. He was out there!  (And the Heavens parted, and the angels sang, except...not really.)  With other men who were interested in me, I passed because of stupid things like he was wearing tennis shoes at a bar or I didn’t like his gold chain or his shirt was unbuttoned one button too low or his glasses were ugly or he needed a haircut. These things are stupid, yet there were times that they dictated who I agreed to go on a first or second date with. Sometimes they even dictated if I would have a conversation with him. Dumb. While I don’t advocate changing a man, the types of things I just mentioned are things that – if you get to the point of being the girlfriend – you naturally have some influence on. I mean, not many men particularly enjoy shopping. You have a lot of leeway in the selection of clothing, haircuts, shoes, and glasses.  Oh yes, I thought I was all that, and there were plenty of fish in the sea. My Mr. 100% Right was out there.  Except, he wasn't.  Mr. 100% Right does not exist.

I paid less attention to character and the things that really mattered when I was in my twenties. Silly. I didn’t pay attention to how he felt about me, which is the most important thing. It is light years easier and drama free to date a man who is really into you than one who is lukewarm about you. I went out with a lot of lukewarm guys in the past, and spent way too much time stressing out about why they hadn’t called or what were they doing or why he introduced me as his "friend" or why he hadn't invited me to this or that. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t get invested so quickly, and I give more guys a chance. There is no reason not to go out with someone to give them a shot so long as there aren’t any huge red flags waving around. Hell, as long as the first date isn’t miserable, there is no reason not to give them a second date. Now I pay a lot of attention to the things that matter in a relationship – is he kind, stable, loyal, of good character, can I trust him, does he treat waiters nicely, does he tip well, how does he treat me, do we have chemistry, is he drama free,…does he bring me flowers. (LOL). These are the things that are important, not whether his hair is thinning a little bit, or his laugh is a little goofy or his chest is a little too hairy.  Those things are minutia.

To be clear, I haven’t regretted being single. I would not have the career I have if I had made different choices in the past, and I’ve had a lot of fun along the way. However, I am becoming a lot more open to having a relationship, and not sweating the small stuff. I’ve found myself falling into the “I wish CTF did/had/was….” a couple of times about minutia. Minutia! I’m talking completely stupid things. When I look at my “checklist” of what I want in a man, I realize that I am sitting here with 20 in my hand. (How did I get so lucky to get a 20? Literally, how did this even happen? I wasn’t even paying attention!)

And you know, there was an actual moment a few weeks ago when I realized – this thought actually went through my head very clearly – that I would be a fool to let him go. A fool! If he can't believe I'm still single, I doubly can't believe he is still single.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a (seemingly so far) normal man who has no ex-wife, no kids, and no crazy baggage or issues who is in his 40s? It’s damn near impossible! It’s like trying to find a unicorn!

At any rate, I will not be hitting again. It’s still early on in this relationship, so anything can happen, but for now I am going to remain cautiously optimistic and try to hold on to my unicorn. Oh yeah, and I am going to with him on our first trip together (for six days, eek) to meet his family at Christmas. Maybe once we pass that hurdle I will tell you more about him…that’ll be the three month point.

In the meantime...I have to figure out what to get him for Christmas! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So, This is What it Feels Like

So, I’m sitting here at work and I can’t concentrate on anything.

Well, anything except CTF. (That is what I will call him for blogging purposes.)

Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve felt like this about anyone? I feel like a crazy person.

People, I have work to do!!!

Anyway, here’s what happened. Last Thursday I went to a lawyerly type function, and then out for drinks with some coworkers. At the lawyerly type function, I got hit on and asked for my number. Then later on at the bar the same thing happened. At the time, I was kind of taken aback and not sure what I should do. While I didn’t really want to go out with anyone else, CTF and I hadn’t had “the talk.” So, with somewhat mixed feelings, I gave them both my number. Based on past experience, I tend to feel that until you have “the talk” you really can’t assume anything, and there is no reason to take yourself off the market. (However, I really didn’t want to go out with either one of them.)

CTF’s ears must’ve been burning because Friday night, he brought up exclusivity and…low and behold…looks like I have a boyfriend.


I am falling so hard, and I’m trying to pull the reins in on this thing, but it is getting increasingly difficult. I mean, what am I supposed to do with a guy who

…says exactly what I’m thinking in my head…(almost freakishly)

…is the best hugger ever…

…has a way of picking out the one appetizer on the menu that I was eyeing…

…regularly shows up with a bottle of wine…

…always seems thrilled to see me or talk to me on the phone…

…talks about the future, but not in a creepy way…

…carries my doggy bag…

…has started watching NFL football because I like it…

…and has given me zero stress about how he feels about me since we started dating?

Has it really only been five weeks since our first date?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is the Election Over Yet?

I realize I haven’t been posting much lately about the presidential campaign.

Rest assured, I have been watching the debates and following the news closely. At the end of the day, I’m tired of it all. I feel like this election season has been going on FOREVER. Have we really not elected someone yet? Does it even matter?

All of our taxes will be going up in 2013, not just the taxes of the evil rich.

All of our health insurance costs will go up.

We still don’t have a budget.

Congress does nothing.

Every day we hear about more taxpayer money being wasted in the form of government investments in companies like Solyndra and A123. The Chevy Volt is a bust.

Even thinking about the government waste exhausts me.

Anyway, I’m obviously not voting for Obama.

And here comes Gloria Allred, my favorite person. Today she is trying to unseal some deposition testimony given by Mitt Romney in his buddy’s divorce case in 1991. Twenty one years ago! (Seriously, if this is the best dirt they’ve got on Romney that’s saying something.) Why is it that whenever a Republican starts to gain some ground Gloria Allred trots out some poor, downtrodden woman with a bone to pick? Remember Sharon Bialek? I barely do either, but she is the one who got up and talked smack about Herman Cain. Whatever happened to her? I guess the case got dropped when Herman Cain dropped out of the presidential race. Or what about Nicky Diaz-Santillian, Meg Whitman’s illegal immigrant maid? Whatever happened to her? Who knows? After much ado about nothing, they fade into the woodwork the second Gloria Allred’s dirty work is done. Obviously we have the right of free speech in this country, but what she does seems almost immoral. It’s my dream to dig up some dirt about her and hold my own press conference.

I'll just leave you with this:

The Scary Time

I’m up to Date 9 with my new guy.  Things are going very well – as well as I could hope at this stage of the relationship.  The butterflies are INSANE.  He is doing everything right.  He plans awesome dates, pays for everything (unless I insist on paying, which by this point I have), comes and picks me up, bought me flowers, calls when he says he is going to call, and says all the right things.  We talk about everything and have so much in common.      

I’m absolutely terrified because now we are entering the time when we actually get to know each other.  The two, three, four month period of time is prime “drift away” time, if he decides something about me is a dealbreaker, or that maybe he doesn’t like me as much as he thought he did.  It’s an unstable time.  I don’t like unstable -- it makes me panic these days.    

(You should know that the last relationship I had lasted around six months, and the guy – who I shall call Asshole – disappeared.  He drifted.  He’s not dead – I checked.  He walked out of my house one day, and never called me again.  I had met his family.  He had told me he loved me.  And yet – he still vanished with no explanation.  He wouldn’t even respond to my calls.  As a result, I am jumpy about this kind of thing now.  I never had anything like that happen to me, and never realized someone would do that.)

I know I need to just relax and enjoy how things are now (because it is wonderful in a lot of ways), but it is so difficult.  I worry, worry, worry.  (But he doesn’t know this!  I’m cool as a cucumber and light and breezy about it all around him!)  I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve only known him a month, and we don’t have to talk constantly.  (It’s funny because we are both kind of unsure about the appropriate level of frequency of communication at this point.  He keeps telling me to text and call him more, but I don’t want to do that.  I am fearful of getting too attached until things are a little more stable, and I prefer to let him do the chasing in that regard.)  Yet, even going a day without talking to him feels like eons.  I find it so weird that a person I just met can create such an impact in my daily routine so quickly. 

Anyway, I will post more details about him in the future…hopefully.              

Other than that….work is the same.  Good, I guess.  I went to my 20 year high school reunion, which turned out to be loads of fun.  The short story is that most of the women looked great, and most of the men were fat and bald.  Ha! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Maybe Dating Can Be Fun

I’ve dated a lot. Interspersed with that, I’ve had three longer term relationships (a 1 year, 2 ½ years, and 4 years). Over the past several years, though, I’ve mainly had a lot of first dates. Some people enjoy dating. I don’t. I prefer to hit the stage where things are more comfortable, where the Saturday date is expected, where you are starting to get to know the real person, and you don’t have to wonder whether you are ever going to hear from them again when they hang up the phone or walk out the door. It’s getting to that stage that is difficult for me. I’ve gone over in my mind whether or not I’ve been too picky over the years, or whether I expect too much, and I really don’t think either is the case. I’m willing to give most anyone a shot, provided they meet the basic requirements of having a decent job and being decent looking.

I go through stages with dating. I’ll get fired up and go on a lot of dates, and then (typically) lose interest in dating entirely for several months. It’s also hard for me to date because of work. I’m a typical workaholic, and have had to cancel more than one date over the years due to some work issue arising at the end of the day. Most men don’t like this, and for those early dates, you really have to keep the momentum going when things are looking promising. I fail at keeping momentum going, usually.

So, I date, although the older I get the more of a draw it is to sit on my couch in my fleece pajamas with a glass of wine and the DVR rather than try to make small talk with a stranger, who typically wants to start groping me within a half an hour of meeting. The fact is, my life as a single person is very good. I have no drama, great friends, great family, a nice place to live, and a good job. I don’t have anyone complaining about the number of purses in my closet. I guess I’ve just had a difficult time meeting the right person. I’ve met men that are “okay,” but “okay” just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I mean, why bother?

In other words, it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve met someone who I felt was hitting it on all cylinders. My “checklist” has changed over the years. When I was younger, I cared a lot more about looks than I do now. (Although I’m still shallow enough that I’m not going to date a dog.) Now what is really important to me is whether or not he is a good person. How does he feel about me? I hate game playing, and having to worry that if I send one too many texts the guy might think I want to get married tomorrow and have 10,000 babies with him.

I met a guy toward the end of August, but we weren’t able to have our first date until around a month later, because he and I were both out of town back to back. It’s kind of a miracle that we even ended up getting together. That really never happens for me. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve given my number to and then either never heard from again, or talked to a couple of times on the phone, and things just petered out without even getting to a first date.

And…well, here is the summary thus far.

Date 1 (two weeks ago): We met at a sports bar on Sunday afternoon with the intent of having a couple beers and watching the afternoon NFL games. Just casual, and if we hit it off, we’d see where things led for the remainder of the evening. (This is my ideal first date – relatively pressure free, I can have a drink to help me not be so nervous, and if we don’t hit it off, we can cut things off fairly quickly and easily. I’m actually not a fan of going to a nice restaurant or doing something more involved on the first date – just too much pressure.) We met at around 3 p.m. Watching the game led to dinner at a nearby restaurant, which led to me getting home at around 9 p.m. Time flew by.

Date 2 (the following Saturday; requested at the end of Sunday’s date): He came by to get me at 7 p.m., and brought a bottle of wine. We drank a glass, then went out to dinner. He actually had a plan for the evening and had made reservations. I’m telling you, most men do not go to this level of effort anymore. It was astounding. Good restaurant also. After dinner, we went to a German bar to have some Oktoberfest beer. The next thing I (we) knew it was 3 a.m. I couldn’t even believe how fast time flew by.

Date 3 (the following Tuesday): We met up for dinner after work, since I was going out of town the rest of the week, and already had plans with my friends on Friday and Saturday night. Again, he had a place in mind, came and picked me up, and out we went. Although I didn’t plan on being out so late on a school night, it was midnight before I knew it.

Date 4 (this past Sunday): We went to a bar where they were having Canadian Thanksgiving. (He is from Canada.) He came by my house at around 3 p.m., then we went to eat, then came back to my place and watched a little television. It was almost 11 p.m. when he left. Crazy.

Everything thus far has seemed effortless. I had forgotten what that feels like. I can’t even believe I’ve really only known him for two weeks. There are no uncomfortable silences, no awkwardness…it’s just “easy.” (That’s what he keeps saying, anyway, and I think he’s right.) I’d forgotten that it can actually be easy, and dating doesn’t have to be a miserable process. However, I worry much less these days about impressing the men I meet and stressing over it. I be myself, and they can take it or leave it. That also has made this much easier – also that we have a lot of things in common.

So….we shall see, but so far, so good. It’s kind of fun, too.  Date 5 is tomorrow and Date 6 is Saturday.  We are moving right along...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stuff I Bought Today, and Why Eddie Bauer Was My Hero

I haven't been in the Eddie Bauer store on Michigan Avenue in about six years.  The last time was when I bought my brother-in-law a puffy vest there for Christmas.  (He's totally the Eddie Bauer type, and was, believe it or not, a forestries and wildlife major in college.  I never even knew such a thing existed until I met him.  My mom keeps hoping he will be a ranger in one of the big national parks out west.)  The only reason I entered Eddie Bauer was because I have been on this quest for the perfect pair of chocolate brown dress pants, and out of complete desperation decided to go in and see what was what.  You would not think it would be so difficult to find chocolate brown dress pants.  It's a pretty neutral color, right?  Well, no one has them in the stores!  They have gray and black and light brown and khaki.  But no dark brown. 

Well, let me introduce you to the Holy Grail, courtesy of Eddie Bauer:

It's the Blakely cut, which is for curvy (PEAR!) types like myself.  These pants fit me so perfectly!  No waist gap!  Perfect color!  Good fabric!  Total happiness!  The Blakely StayShape in Dark Sable. 

I also stumbled across this sweater, which I had to buy:

There are buttons on the shoulder.  Isn't the little pocket cute?  I had to restrain myself from buying it in all the colors.  There is a really cool bright blue version that I just might have to go back and get. 
So, Eddie Bauer, I'm sorry I ever thought you were a big nerdy outdoorsy store.  I shall return.  If I hadn't just bought the perfect pair of black pants at The Gap, I would've bought those pants in two colors.

I also went to Ann Taylor, since I figured they would at least have brown dress pants.  No dice.  But...

The story goes like this.  A couple of years ago I bought a blouse and skirt from Benetton that I love.  The skirt no longer fits me (too big).  So, I've been kind of half-assedly looking for a replacement, because I really like the look of that skirt with the blouse.  The above is that skirt, but it's now from Ann Taylor.  Same color and fabric.  (It's wool and soft.  I know it looks boring, but it really is cute.)  Very happy!

And then I got sucked into this one.  It was way too expensive for how often I'll wear it ($128 but 30% off), but it is so cute in person.  It's very swingy and fun, and I figured it would be good for clubs or date nights going forward -- a little lacy, swingy, and leopardy -- just my style!  (Teeny, tiny...why Ann Taylor's website is not consistent I don't know.  Click here to see it.) 

And finally, I'm Banana Republic's whore.  Honestly, over half my closet is their stuff.  Since I opened a credit card with them, I've been inundated with 30% off, 40% off, $10 off, etc. and I have taken full advantage.  Also, the rewards dollars have accrued.  But, I really, really like their stuff.  Like, if you told me I could only shop at Banana Republic for the rest of my life, I wouldn't even be sad.  If you need a solid work wardrobe, there is no better place to go, particularly since they have really fast turnover.  Do not pay full price for anything at Banana Republic unless you absolutely can't live without it.  (If you wait for the sale, you obviously risk them not having it in your size.)  Most things you can live without, and most things you will find in your size on sale, if you go regularly -- like every week.  (Also, they are classic enough that a lot of their designs repeat in different versions.)  I'm lucky enough to have a Banana Republic really close to my house, so I go there every weekend to scope out the inventory and see what has been moved to the reduced racks.  I can usually get cute tops for $20-30 that were originally marked $50+.  The trick is to not wait too long.  If you start going regularly enough, you get familiar with the timing. 

Anyway....I've become a little obsessed with this mustard yellow color that I've been seeing everywhere this season.  At first I hated it, but then I saw it paired with gray, and I kind of liked it.  Then I decided that I had to have a shirt in that color.  So, I got  one today, which of course I can't find online, for $20.  This is the more expensive version, which is the one I really wanted to buy, which I could not find in any of the three Banana Republics in Chicago that I have been inside in the last two days:

But this color, right?  I think it looks great with gray.  I may still get this one, but I'm not sure I need two shirts in this color.  I plan to wear the one I bought under my gray blazer.  Oh, decisions, decisions.

And thus ends our shopping excursion for the day. 

Random Thoughts on September 22

1.  It's been six months today since I quit smoking.  It's weird how much of a memory smoking is now.  I can't even believe I did it for so many years.  Also -- I've saved $1800 by not smoking, which paid for the majority of the vacation I just took.

2.  My sister H got a job!  As a nurse!  Yay! 

3.  I'm officially into a size 4 or 6, depending on the brand, so I'm done losing weight.  I've lost about 18 pounds total.  Now I'm just going to try to stay right where I am for as long as possible.  This may take some trial and error.  Also, I tried The Bar Method Beginner's Workout DVD, and it's a good one.  Can I just say how much more fun it is to go clothes shopping in my new size?

4.  I was amazed to find out how difficult it is to find chocolate brown dress pants.  You'd think that would be a standard color, right?  Wrong.  (Doesn't it sometimes feel like when you are looking for what seems like a very basic item of clothing you can't find it when you need it?)  Everywhere has black, gray, or light brown.  No chocolate brown.  I've been looking for months.  (I know I could get them online, but pants I like to try on.)  I found them today at Eddie Bauer!  It seriously felt like I had found the Holy Grail.  I guess it's good that I didn't find them, since if I had, they likely wouldn't fit me now. 

5.  Hmmm....I've got nothing else, but I feel like I need five.  Well, I've got a first date tomorrow.  Maybe this one will work out better than those in the past?  I met him over a month ago, but he went on vacation right after we met, and then I was on vacation, so tomorrow it is.  Fingers crossed.  I don't want to get married or anything, but it would be nice to have someone to go out with sometimes or to bring along when I need a plus one.    

Vacationing With Mom

I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks because I took my mom on vacation.

You should know some things about my mom.  She's quirky beyond belief.  She's set in her ways.  She's opinionated, yet at times lacks the self confidence to just say what she wants to do.  She can't read a map to save her life, yet thinks the maps is wrong when she misguides me, the driver.  She watches too many forensic shows.  She thinks she knows everything, and if you disagree with her, you are wrong, end of story.  She has a GPS system built in to her body for locating ice cream.  She is the best at convincing you that you also need to eat ice cream.  She flosses her teeth wherever and whenever she feels like it.  Even though she's 63, she wears her hair down to her waist, dyed white blonde.  She raises her voice for no apparent reason at times.  She can spend two hours in a gift shop, looking at everything.  She will buy a shirt she likes in every color of the rainbow.  She doesn't know how to converse with waiters -- it's awkward all around.  Yet, at the same time, she will tell her whole life story to a cashier.  She doubles and triple checks that the door is locked or that she put her wallet back in her purse.  (Note:  I do this also.)  At times she will sit next to me in a booth rather than across from me, and not think anything of it.  She refuses to sit outside at 7 p.m. because of the sun.  She brings her bathrobe with her on vacation.  She would be happy eating hotdogs for every meal for the rest of her life.  She acts like deciding between the triple chocolate brownie and berry muffin is a major life decision.  She chews gum obsessively, smacking, smacking, smacking.  She doesn't make plans.  She dwells on everything.  If you think a decision has been made -- don't be fooled; it has not.  And on and on and on.      

My mom drives me crazy in ways that I can't even describe.  She drives me crazy in the way that only family members can, the people you've known for your entire life.  Yet, for all of her flaws my mom is a caring, giving person.  She would do anything for any of us kids, and she did her best raising us.  For all of my complaining about her, I love her to death and talk to her for hours on the phone each week.    

Over the past eight years, she and I have taken trips to Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Cape Cod, all around Colorado (i.e. Aspen, Vail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods), Jackson Hole, Salt Lake City and Park City, and Yellowstone National Park.  This year we went to Florida.  We started out at Disneyworld, headed to Clearwater Beach, Ft. Myers Beach, and finally Cocoa Beach.  It was relaxing and beautiful (and the best time to go to Disneyworld -- we didn't wait more than 10 minutes for any ride).  My sisters both think I'm nuts for going on vacation with mom.  They told me I should be Sainted.  They told me they didn't see how it could be a vacation with her around.  Maybe it makes me a nerd.  But, the thing is, she likes taking trips with me, and she wouldn't go see any of these places if not for me.  For all of her annoyances, we travel pretty well together.  We have fun, even though on Day 1 I'm usually wondering how I'm going to survive the rest of the trip.  I do survive -- and I keep doing it. 

You know why?  Because someday I won't even have the option of doing it.  She will pass away, or who knows how many years she will even feel like taking a big trip.  It might not be much longer.  So, even though I might rather take a big trip with my friends, for now, I take my mother instead.  I will have something none of my siblings have -- the memories of the time we spent together one on one, as adults.  I feel like I know my mom as a person, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Return of the Pointy Toed Shoe

I've been informed by the powers that be that pointy toed shoes are back in style.

You know, like this (from Elle):

I have to admit that I'm not a fan.

Like skinny jeans, which don't look good on anyone except very skinny people, I don't believe that pointy toed shoes are very flattering.  They make your foot look bigger.  Who wants their foot to look enormous?  It looks bigger because the shoe is longer because there is a section of the toe box that is empty, and just sitting there doing nothing.  Obviously your foot isn't of a shape that can fit into the pointy toe, so it's just sitting there empty.  When I try on pointy toed shoes, I feel like my feet look like boats.  Further, the especially pointy toes get worn out, and you see women wearing them and the toe is all scuffed and ragged looking, which makes it look even more strange.

Also, they remind me of a witch. 

No, I will not be joining in on this trend.   

Your Red Soles Are Safe: Christian Louboutin v. YSL

We have an update in the world of Christian Louboutin v. YSL.  You'll remember that Christian Louboutin sued Yves St. Laurent over its red soles trademark.  YSL was selling a series of shoes that were all one color, including the soles.  There was a red pair that had red soles and formed the basis of the lawsuit.  (There were also purple, green, and yellow pairs.)  I talked about the Complaint here, and the Order here

The summary goes like this:  Louboutin filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would prevent Yves Saint Laurent from selling any shoes with red soles until the lawsuit is finished.  To win on this motion, they had to prove "likelihood of success on the merits," which in layman's speech means "do you have a shot at winning this thing?"  The District Court Judge thought not.  He was not wild about color as a trademark, and essentially felt that red soles are ornamental and aesthetic, and thus not protectable by trademark.  As a result, he denied Louboutin's motion, believing that they would not be able to prove success on the merits of the claim. 

No shock, Louboutin appealed.  Now the Second Circuit has ruled  Here is the full opinion, if you are so inclined.  They ruled that a single color can be used as a trademark in the fashion industry.  This is a huge -- and I believe correct --  decision.  There is no reason why color as a trademark should be treated differently in the fashion industry than in any other industry.  Also, this:

We further conclude that Louboutin’s trademark, consisting of a red, lacquered outsole on a high fashion woman’s shoe, has acquired limited “secondary meaning” as a distinctive symbol that identifies the Louboutin brand. 
Absolutely correct.  Sometimes the courts do get it right.

However, it doesn't mean that Louboutin is a big winner.  The Second Circuit also held that because Louboutin's trademark covers only a red sole that contrasts with the shoe's body, YSL can keep selling its entirely red shoes.  (Remember what I said about the Louboutin trademarks being surprisingly weak?  Yeah, here's where it comes back to bite them.) 

So, both sides are claiming victory, and you can likely expect to see a settlement very soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insanity = Accomplished

Well, almost. I’ll be done on Friday. It took me a bit longer than the 60 days due to my attention span and some vacation days, but I did it! It looks like I lost around nine pounds, but I’ve also lost major inches. The biggest accomplishment is how strong I feel.

When I started, I couldn’t even do a real push up. Now, I can do ten in a row, and even more after a brief rest. I can do burpees, squats, lunges, and lots of jumping up and down, and I don’t feel like I’m going to hyperventilate and die. I’m starting to see abs, people! And my upper arms and shoulders are actually getting definition. I don’t remember having that since high school when I rowed. It’s amazing how far you can come in two months.

I think I’ve said it before, but I’m not the type of person to do this sort of workout. I would flip past the infomercial and think “Wow, those people are crazy. Why would you want to do that to yourself?” I would think there is no way I could do it. And then for some insane reason, I decided what the hell? If all those people can do it, then why can’t I? So, I did. And I have to say, my first foray into the Beachbody workouts has been a good one. I am going to keep the Insanity workouts in my workout DVD rotation going forward, because I really enjoy doing them (except Max Interval Plyo, which I abhor), particularly the Month 1 workouts. I may try Insanity Asylum in the future (maybe in January or February when it is too cold to do anything outside.) However, next up is Chalean Extreme. Time to build up my guns.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

E-mails from Old Navy

Some things irritate the crap out of me. At the top of the list is unsolicited e-mail. I’m not referring necessarily to SPAM like e-mails about Viagra advertisements and penis enlargement pills and things like that, even though those annoy me also – oh, no. I’m talking about legitimate companies who just start sending you e-mails even though you never asked to receive e-mails from them. This is almost as bad as the pounds and pounds of junk snail mail I receive every day. (Is there any way to stop all the catalogs? I would love to know.)

Sometimes its my own fault, because I’ve bought something on their site, and they’ve forced me to provide an e-mail address as part of the process and I forgot to uncheck the box that says “Please send me all kinds of shit!” The default of that box is always checked. However, I feel I’ve become wiser as my Yahoo account has filled with daily e-mails advertising sales and free shipping, and tried to remember to look for and uncheck that box. So, yes, those situations are my own damn fault.

Here’s what isn’t my fault. Old Navy.

Recently when I’ve shopped at Gap and Banana Republic, they have asked during check out if I wanted my receipt e-mailed to me. My answer is always no. I can’t imagine for the life of me why I would ever want a receipt e-mailed to me. When I shop, I try to make smart decisions. I don’t buy things I don’t need, don’t want, can’t afford, or don’t fit. I have returned items to stores at the most maybe five times in my life. If I buy it, I keep it. (The exception is ordering clothing online. I’ve had to return items occasionally for fit issues, because there’s no way to try on clothing through the computer. But at the store? I try it on.) I think stores have return policies that are way too lenient, but that’s another topic. The point is, when I’ve been asked if I want the receipt e-mailed to me, I say no. A paper copy is fine. I get enough junk in my inbox.

Enter Old Navy. Old Navy is part of the Gap and Banana Republic family, so I am able to use my Banana Republic credit card there. I usually do this, because you get fabulous rewards points when you spend money at any of the stores, and I shop at these stores quite a bit, so rewards are always welcome. Probably half my wardrobe is from Banana Republic. (More accurately, Banana Republic’s sale rack. They have crazy fast inventory turnover.)

Over the weekend, I bought a couple pairs of shorts at Old Navy, because I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks and most of my shorts are too big for me. (Unfortunately, I had to scrounge around for what was available on the sale rack, so I will not be super stylish. Fact: It’s nearly impossible to find shorts in a store in Chicago at the end of August.) I paid using my Banana Republic credit card, and the salesgirl audibly confirmed my e-mail address to me. (This e-mail address is part of my credit card account.) I thought it was strange, but didn’t really think anything of it at the time beyond that. She didn’t ask me if I wanted my receipt e-mailed to me, and I didn’t think to notice at the time that she didn’t ask.

Later that evening, I checked my e-mail.

An e-receipt from Old Navy.
An e-mail from Old Navy welcoming me to their e-mail list.
An e-mail from Old Navy informing me how to best make use of their e-mails.

What the bloody fuck?

I know this is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but things like this irritate the hell out of me. First off, the company has my e-mail address, obviously, because I like to receive the “Hey, don’t forget to pay your bill” notifications. I gave them that freely as part of my credit card account.  I’m on the Banana Republic e-mail list because I want to be. I’m not on the Gap and Old Navy lists because I don’t want to be. I’m not stupid. I know how to get e-mails from them and any other company if I really want them. And this stupid salesgirl put me on the Old Navy list without even asking. So, I went to the Old Navy website and promptly removed myself from their list.

I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. I was annoyed enough that I sent an e-mail to the company, complaining about being added to their list without my permission. (Oh yes, I became that person.)  I got a response back apologizing, and then – listen to this – instructions on how to remove myself from their e-receipt database.

Oh, yes. Not only did I get added to the Old Navy e-mail spammer database, I got added to the e-receipt database. Two different databases!  And removing myself from one did not remove me from the other.  This further infuriated me. Not only did I have to take additional steps to remove myself from the second database, I couldn’t even do it because I needed information from the e-receipt itself, which I had already deleted. You have got to be kidding me. I responded and told them to just remove me. I mean, seriously? What the hell is wrong with this company?

(It’s entirely possible that I’m overreacting about this, but this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as getting spammed by companies three times a day. Yes, I get it.  You are having a sale.  Shipping is free.  Yes.  I’m hoping for a $10 gift certificate for my troubles.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Am I On Candid Camera at TJ Maxx?

I had the strangest experience at TJ Maxx over the weekend.

Since my pants are all too big for me, I went over to buy a couple pair of work pants. (Size 6, baby!) The checkout area has one of those big mouse mazes, whereupon you end in front of a row of registers. So, I approached the registers, walked all through the mouse maze, even though there was no one at all in line, and emerged in front of the registers. One of the registers looked open, so I walked over.

Let me just reiterate – no one was in line. No one was standing in the mouse maze.

So, the salesgirl (hereafter, SG1) working the empty register sees me approaching her register, and says “Ma’am, the line is back between those boards.”

I turned around, and she was pointing at the mouse maze I had just walked through. I said “I just walked through there and came out here.”

SG1 (pointing at the mouse maze): Ma’am, the line is over there.

(Note: There is no one in line.  This is when I first expected to see Ashton Kutcher.)

Me: Again, I just walked through there.

SG1: Well, I don’t know that.

Me: I’m telling you. And there is no one in line.

SG1: You have to wait until someone calls you.

Me: Well, you should put that on a sign. You were open, so I walked over.

SG1: Ma’am, please get in line.

(Again, there is no one in line.  I am the line.)

At this point, salesgirl #2's (SG2) register opens up, and she looks at me warily. By now, I am highly annoyed.  All I wanted to do was pay for my fucking pants.

Me: (to SG2) Are you calling me?

SG2: I guess.

Me: This is so silly. I walked through the line.  I just want to pay.

SG2: Well, I don’t know if that’s the truth. People will come after us.

Me: What do you mean people will come after you?

SG2: People get really mad when other people cut.  They'll come after us.

Me: They'll come after you?  That's silly.  I didn’t cut. And, there is no one in line! Who do you think is going to come after you?

SG2: They do. And you’re supposed to wait until you’re called.

Me: Well you should have a sign up that says that, then.  I saw an empty register, so I walked over to it, which is the normal process for checking out. 

SG2: That’s not my job.


All this for two pairs of pants?

Honestly, I could not believe how rude these two salesgirls were, or how silly the entire situation was. I was admittedly getting a little heated because they both accused me of lying about walking through the empty mouse maze. I mean, who does that? Also, there was no one in line. I guess I could see if there was a line or someone was complaining, but there was no one there.  I would’ve left, except I wanted the pants.  It was really a bizarre experience. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Project Runway: Real Women Don't Wear Fashion (And Ven is a Douche)

Last night’s episode of Project Runway involved my favorite challenge of every season – the “real women” challenge. I don’t particularly like using the term “real women” because if you exist and are a woman you are a “real woman” regardless of your weight. (I get so ticked off when women put down other women by saying they aren’t “real women” because they don’t meet some weight standard.) By “real women,” I mean women who don’t make their living modeling clothing. In other words, women who have been plucked off the street.

It seems like it would be easy to design for a model. They are tall and thin and usually have small boobs. They are meant to be clothes hangers. Arguably, you aren’t even supposed to notice them – you are supposed to notice the clothes. You don’t have to worry about bulges. Women who don’t make their living doing this have a wide variety of body types. We have curves and bulges, maybe we are long waisted, short waisted, pear shaped, apple shaped, big boobs, small boobs, big thighs, big calves, short, tall, big butt, flat butt, whatever. There is variety here. This means it is more challenging to design clothing for “real women” because you have to take this into account.

It’s a good challenge because in the real world as a designer you have to think about the shapes of “real women” if you want to sell clothes. As much as fashion designers would like to imagine that it’s all about the art and creativity, the bottom line is that people have to want to buy your clothes if you want to succeed. If you are really successful, you might be chosen to design a gown for an actress or other woman, and her body might have some “flaws” that you have to contend with. Plenty of fashion designers have failed when they haven’t done that. It’s why each season on Project Runway there is usually at least one contestant who is praised because they understand a woman’s body.

Each season in the “real women” challenge, at least one designer bitches and moans about their huuugggge client. Many times this woman is around a size 8. Other times she is plus sized, maybe a size 14 or 16. I’ve never seen the show pick anyone hugely obese for the “real women” challenge. These are the types of women you see everywhere on a daily basis. For better or worse, the norm, as opposed to a sample size 4 model. These are the vast majority of the women who are buying clothes in the real world. And women who buy clothes usually like to look good in them.

Inevitably in this episode, all design capabilities go out the window. Last night’s episode looked like a runway show for Kohl’s. For whatever reason, these budding fashion designers don’t understand that “real women” who aren’t models might want to be fashion forward or fashionable also. Everything they would do if it was a model wearing the outfit is cast by the wayside when it is a “real woman.” Why is that? They all resorted to dress designs that were boring, and that I feel like I’ve seen 100 times on the 50% off rack at Macy’s.

One designer last night – Ven Budhu – was in rare form. While the rest of the designers appeared to have learned from the mistakes of past contestants, Ven did not. He could not stop insulting his (he said in a hushed tone) size 14 client. He seemed to have no concept that it was embarrassing for her when he went on and on about how none of the belts fit her. He reminded her that black is slimming. Even when he complimented her it sounded like an insult. He made her and her friend cry. The other designers were shocked and horrified. And he sent her out on the runway in what looked like a satin sheet wrapped around her top. It was hideous. It was an “old lady” matronly outfit. Then again, as he told Tim Gunn, she was “almost 40.” He said this in a horrified tone, as if we should all start wearing sweat pants or muumuu dresses and give up once we hit our late 30s.

This is another attitude that appears every season in Project Runway, usually from a 22 year old designer who can’t fathom life after 30. I remember being 22 and thinking 40 was old, so I can’t really blame them for thinking that way, but now as I’m inching toward 40, I don’t feel old at all. And I certainly don’t intend to give up and start dressing like a slob. Hell, I have way more money to spend on frivolous crap like fashion now than I ever did at 22. At 22 I was slogging through the racks at TJ Maxx and couldn’t have even imagined ever spending three digits on a pair of shoes. When designers on this show start insulting people who are over 30, it makes me know I will never buy their clothes. At least have the brains to keep those thoughts to yourself.

I liked Ven’s designs prior to last night. No more. He’s the type of person you want to see fail. I don’t care what you think about plus sized women – you don’t say it on television over and over again. He was Tweeting last night trying to redeem himself, and it made him look worse. He said it “wasn’t fair” that he had such a big model. Gunnar’s model was equally as big, if not bigger. He said it was a conspiracy against him. He blamed everyone except himself. A good designer would have risen to the challenge and made this woman look spectacular. Instead, Ven hid her under a mound of teal blue satin. (I hate Gunnar, but he made damn sure his plus sized woman had a great time and a great outfit.) The word “douche” was invented for men like Ven. And let’s not forget that Ven himself is plus sized. (It’s always the fat men that hate the fat women the most, isn’t it?) Unfortunately, Ven didn’t get aufed last night, so we will have to put up with him at least another week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Month 2 of Insanity is Horrible

Yes, I said it.  Awful.  Awful.

I loved Month 1.  It was very challenging and a lot of fun.  The workouts were around 40 minutes long, which is totally doable for me at 6:30 in the morning.  I looked forward to getting up in the morning to do my Insanity workout.  I was excited for Month 2.  New workouts, longer workouts, more Shaun T, what's not to like?

I'm not sure, really.  The 60 minute workouts have totally thrown me off.  For some reason that extra 20 minutes in the morning is killer for me.  It makes a huge difference, even though it shouldn't.  And on top of that...I don't really like the workouts as much as I did those in Month 1.  There are so many push up variations.  I know that's the entire point, right?  I should man up, push through it so my arms get stronger so I can actually do the push ups.  But I hate push ups.  I also hate plank punches, v pushups, side push ups, and power push ups.  There are also a lot of jumping lunges and squats, which I've been altering a bit because I'm afraid of injuring my knees.  The workouts are amazingly difficult.  At least in Month 1 I felt like I could eventually make it through them without feeling like I was going to die.  I don't even see the light at the end of that tunnel with the Month 2 workouts.  The people doing the workout on the DVD can't even keep up with it. 

It's just...I've lost steam.  I was worried about this.  I have a short attention span, and I tend to get bored easily.  It's why I've never done P90X.  I couldn't imagine doing the same damn thing for 90 days.  I thought 60 days of Insanity might be okay.  And actually, if Month 2 had 40 minute workouts, I might be enjoying it more.  The 60 minutes just feels almost neverending, though, and it's hard for me to do in the morning. 

That said, I have gotten so much stronger than when I started this program, back on June 30.  I can't believe the burpees I can do, the ski abs, the squats, and more.  I feel amazing.  But I'm burnt out on Insanity.  I think I just don't have the attention span.

So, I've decided that I'm going to mix things up as I complete Month 2.  Month 2 will take me longer than a month as a result.  Yesterday I did Level 3 of Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30.  This morning I ran 3 1/2 miles.  (Oh hurray for cooler weather!)  Tomorrow I will go back to Insanity.  I am determined to finish Month 2 -- I just am really feeling the need to change it up a little bit.  I miss Jillian Michaels and I miss running, and I can't do either of those at the same time I'm doing Insanity.  So, I'll follow the Insanity schedule, yet only do it 3-4 days a week instead of 6 days a week. 

As I said, I'm very much nearing my goal weight/size.  Yesterday I wore a size 4 suit that I wore to moot court competitions in my third year of law school.  (Thank God I held on to it!)  Not a bad way to celebrate turning 38!  I haven't been losing the weight as quickly as I near the finish line, but I am still losing inches big time.  I need to start doing some more strength training at this point, but blech.  I like cardio way too much!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Non Scale Victories: Getting Back Into My Interview Suit

Over at My Fitness Pal, people always talk about "non-scale victories" that accrue during the weight loss process.  You know -- things that may or may not be scale related, but are an added bonus to dropping some poundage.  Like being able to run a mile without stopping, or going to McDonald's and ordering the salad without dressing.  Little things.

I had one this past week.

I've had this stack of pants and jeans in the back of my closet for three years -- since I moved in to my house.  They didn't fit me in 2009 when I moved, and hadn't fit me for I don't know how long before then.  Yet, I kept them.  The pile has been cut down in size over the past few years, yet I kept around eight pairs "just in case."  I'm sure most people are well acquainted with the concept of "just in case" items of clothing.  Beyond that stack, I also have a bunch of dresses and suits that fell into the "just in case I can fit into this again someday" category.  You keep them out of hope.  Some items get tossed or given away out of frustration, but there are still always those items.  You equate them with a happier, skinnier time.  I remember when I wore some of these items.  For most of the jeans, it was during law school, back in 2003 or 2004.  I also remember wearing my olive green suit (that I still love) when I interviewed for my current job in the Fall of 2003.  Then there are the pants I wore to my 10 year class reunion, in 2002. 

(I'm sure you know where I'm going with this!)

So, as I've been blogging about, I saw a picture of myself in early May this year and about died at how fat I looked.  Now, I wasn't medically or technically obese or anything, but for me, it was the fattest I've ever been.  I weighed 146 pounds at 5'6".  I gained about five pounds of this weight from quitting smoking and being out of town at trial for three weeks.  The rest of it just crept on over the years, slowly enough that while I noticed, I didn't really notice.  I just bought bigger clothes.  What a dumbass, right?

Since May 24, when I in earnest started watching what I was eating and exercising, I've lost about 13-14 pounds.  This morning I weighed in at 131.5, although I'm not sure that's really where I am yet, since my weight tends to fluctuate.  I like to see a number on the scale for at least a week before I fully accept it!  Most surpring to me is how easy this has been.  I'm not starving myself at all.  And in two short months I feel great about how I look.  I can't figure out why I didn't do this sooner.  Oh well, que sera, sera.

Anyway, I'm going through a massive closet overhaul as I move the clothes that are now too big for me into my spare bedroom, because getting ready in the morning has turned into a nightmare as I try on skirt after skirt that is just too big now.  (The tops and jackets are fine, thank God!).  I also have an unfortunate stack of capris that were too small for me when I started losing weight, and forgotten about along the way, so now they are too big for me. I missed the window where they fit! Ugh.  So, the other night I pulled out that stack of pants from the back of my closet and started trying them on.  To my shock, they fit.  So did my ten year reunion pants!  In fact, some of them were almost too big.  These were my skinny pants!  I started thinking "What the hell?"  So, then I tried on my interview suit.  Now, you have to understand that during the late summer and fall of my third year of law school I had some problems with anxiety and panic attacks and lost a lot of weight.  (I'm not sure what the deal was.  I took Celexa for a few years, but then stopped taking it and haven't had any problems since.)  I was bone thin in around August of 2003.  When I interviewed at my current firm, I had put some weight back on, but not too much.  In other words, I was pretty thin.  I've always looked back on that time and that suit as a weight I was pretty happy with, though.  That suit hasn't fit me in years.  Years, I tell you!  Well, guess what?  It fits now!  I'm getting it cleaned, and I'm going to start wearing it again.

Talk about a non-scale victory!  I'm so happy.  So, what's next on the agenda?  I'm pretty much at the weight I want to be at, so soon I will up my calories and just try to maintain.  I'm starting the second month of Insanity this weekend.  (Yes, I made it through the first month!  Hurray for me!)  I've gotten used to working out in the morning and eating healthy, and it really is starting to feel like a lifestyle change.  Let's hope I can keep it up!

My Favorite Web Sites for Retro Inspired Fashion

My favorite time period for fashion is the 1950s and 1960s. I was lucky enough to come of age during the 1980s, where (like right now) it was all fluorescent, colored and acid washed jeans, leggings, shoulder pads, and ghastly cuts. (Shouldn’t the 1980s revival be over by now? I feel like it’s been dragging on forever.) I was in high school and college in the early 1990s, when grunge became all the rage. I never wore skirts or dresses or anything remotely cute. It was jeans, rugby shirts, button downs over t-shirts, and Doc Martens. So, of course I pine for the time when women dressed up in a way that was pretty, yet modest.

This is part of the reason why I adore watching Mad Men. The clothing is absolutely to die for. Not only do I love everything mod, I also love the party dresses and matching shift dress / coat ensembles. I’ve bought some actual real life vintage outfits on eBay, that I do wear from time to time, believe it or not. The ones I wear aren’t too costumey, although sometimes I wonder if I’ve crossed an invisible line. Although, I will say this – whenever I wear anything from the 1950s or 1960s, I never fail to get multiple compliments from people, including complete strangers. I should probably post pictures of some of my outfits in the future.  I'm thinking of dressing up as Betty Draper of Season 1 for Halloween this year, since I can finally fit back into some of this stuff! 

Anyway, as I said, I’ve bought a lot on eBay. The trick to buying vintage to actually wear on eBay is to (1) find a trusted seller who takes a lot of pictures so you can gage the wear in the item; (2) rely upon measurements, not sizes (a size 10 in 1958 is not the same as a size 10 today); and (3) expect to make some mistakes along the way. Here’s one – pay attention to the material of a dress. Although double knit polyester isn’t used much today, it was used a lot in the 1960s and 1970s. I made the mistake of buying one dress made of this horrible material and quickly learned my lesson.  (Double knit may not bother some people, but I just can't wear it.) 

In addition to eBay, there are a lot of shopping sites where you can get retro style clothes or retro inspired clothes.  This means they are new, but aren't designed to look old.  This can be a good thing if you are grossed out by wearing used clothing.  I'm not.  I actually enjoy thinking about and wondering what woman wore the dress in 1963 that I am wearing today in 2012.  Retro inspired clothing is also good for fit purposes. 

Let's start with Plasticland.  Nearly everything on the site is retro inspired, and I love their dress section.  I mean, come on, isn't this little sundress to die for? 

And don't forget to check their shoe section.  Loads of unique heels, like this one:

I am an absolute sucker for a lucite heel!

Moving on, Bettie Page Clothing is another great site for retro clothing.  Like always, I'm drawn to the dresses.  The models and props they use really add to the appeal.  Look at this super cute black circle skirt dress:

The dresses at Bettie Page are -- unsurprisingly -- the pin up type!  Also, lots of cute dresses you could easily picture Joan from Mad Men wearing. 

Obviously Mod Cloth is a major player in this market., which pages and pages of cute, retro dresses, such as: 

Yes, I am buying those tights!  (I don't think I'm too old for you?)  An amazing thing about Mod Cloth's web site is in the reviews section for each item, there is a place for reviewers to enter their measurements (height, bust, waist, hips) and the size they bought.  It is extremely helpful in trying to decide what size to get, particularly for their more popular items that garner hundreds of reviews.  You can always find someone with your measurements!

And, finally, Stop Staring Clothing has even more, like this cute little number:

Oh, I sometimes wish every woman dressed this way.  Oh well, at least I can!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another Attack in Lincoln Park

About a month ago, I posted about a surge of crime in Lincoln Park, where I live.  Unfortunately it hasn't stopped.  This is horrifying to me:
A 21-year-old man has been charged after allegedly attacking a woman jogging early Sunday in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Germaine Walker, 21, of the 1300-block of North Hudson, is accused of grabbing the woman in the 300-block of West Menomonee around 7:30 a.m. Sunday. He is charged with one count of aggravated use of a deadly weapon and one count of unlawful restraint after he allegedly grabbed the jogger and dragged her into an alley.
Police say she screamed as the attacker repeatedly told her to keep quiet or he would kill her.
The victim said she felt a knife in the attacker's hand and in attempt to fight him off, she suffered lacerations and injuries, police said.
When two other joggers passed by, the suspect ran away on foot, police said, but officers patrolling the area were able to catch him minutes later in the courtyard of an apartment building.
What the bloody fuck?  A woman is out jogging at 7:30 in the morning -- on a Sunday -- and this asshole grabs her?  Are you kidding me?      

What a piece of trash he is.  I am so glad they caught him.  Thank God for the other joggers. 

It really makes me wonder -- how many people have seen someone suspicious and not reported it?  How many people have been attacked and the news hasn't reported it?  What is really going on here, and how do we stop it? 

It makes me scared.  I typically go running at around 6:30 in the morning.  Although I usually don't venture quite as far as Menomonee, I'm not too far away.  It's funny because my mom told me I should carry a knife when I run, and I laughed and laughed at the thought of me running through Lincoln Park with a knife in my hand, because it seemed so absurd.  However, hearing this kind of thing happening, maybe it isn't such a stupid idea after all.

Chick-fil-A in Chicago

Chick-fil-A’s president doesn’t support gay marriage.


This has been all over the news in recent days in Chicago, because one of our brilliant Alderman, Proco “Joe” Moreno, wants to block the construction of Chicago’s second Chick-fil-A restaurant in Logan Square because he disagreed with comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president. Rahm Emanuel joined in the fun and even stated that said the anti-gay marriage views of the fast-food chain's president don't mesh with Chicago values.

I don’t know what that means. Chicago values? What, you mean wildings on Michigan Avenue, flash mobs, iPhone robberies, joggers getting attacked in Lincoln Park, burglaries, shootings that regularly kill children, and graffiti? Those Chicago values?

So, let’s be clear. In a city that needs jobs and business, Alderman Moreno wants to take some kind of moral high ground and prevent the construction of a Chick-fil-A because the president of the company doesn’t support gay marriage. Isn’t this kind of silly? Wouldn’t people rather have the jobs? And let’s face it, how often is the president of Chick-fil-A going to be coming to Chicago? I suspect not very often.

Here’s the thing. We live in a free country, where I think it’s pretty damn awesome that the president of Chick-fil-A has the right to not support gay marriage. I may not agree with him, and I may think he’s an idiot, but I completely support his right to feel that way. In fact, a lot of people in this country feel the exact same way that he does. Remember what just happened in North Carolina? People in other states have also voted to ban same sex unions and marriages. So let’s not pretend that he’s taken some outlandish stance that no one could ever agree with.

If you disagree with him, don’t eat there. It's really as simple as that.  If enough people don’t eat there, Chick-fil-A will go out of business, or replace him. I don’t see anywhere that he said that he wouldn’t hire gay people or that he doesn’t like gay people. He just doesn’t want them to be able to get married. (Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would want to get married.) Isn’t it his choice to feel that way? I think it’s ridiculous that an Alderman in this city – as well as our Mayor – would prevent a business from being established here because they personally disagree with the guy. This is what really kills me about our politicians. They make decisions based on how they feel, not on how their constituents feel. In fact, Illinois is fairly evenly divided on the issue. (I suspect many Chicagoans would set aside any dispute they have with Cathay's comments, just to get another Chick-fil-A in town.)  Also, it might even be illegal to prevent Chick-fil-A from setting up shop in Chicago based upon its president’s views.

At the end of the day, a lot of the press feels a bit like bullying. I’m hearing about the Muppets boycotting Chick-fil-A, and other gay rights groups planning sit ins. For what purpose? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to feel how he wants to feel? Why waste your time? Just don’t eat there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's All So Complicated

I keep a Word document with all of my user ids and passwords in it. Currently, it is four pages long, double spaced. Every account I have is listed – eBay, Amazon, Chicago water, my bank accounts, 401(k) account, Sharebuilder account, Pottery Barn, Nordstrom, Macy’s, credit cards, Walgreens, e-mail, etc. Everything. It occurred to me the other day how completely ridiculous it is to have four pages of user ids and passwords. It just seems so complicated. But you can hardly do anything on the Internet without someone asking you to sign up, create an account. So what if it’s free? It’s one more user id and password to add to the list. They are tricky, too, because usually the box to opt out of communications is tiny, hidden at the bottom of the page. I always forget to uncheck it.

I have a Yahoo e-mail account that I’ve had for probably close to fifteen years. It was my first e-mail account. Now it is my spam account. I get hundreds of e-mails per day in this account, mostly from companies who want me to buy things from them. Some of these companies I’ve purchased things from in the past – like Hanes, West Elm, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bliss. I get at least two e-mails a day from Neiman Marcus. Overkill? Other companies obviously got my e-mail address in other ways, because I can’t recall every buying anything from them, or even visiting their web site. Then there are the political e-mails. You make one donation to someone, and next thing you know God and everybody is e-mailing you for more donations. You stay at one hotel, and next thing you know you are getting constant offers. I’m looking at you Bellagio, Venetian, Starwood, and Marriott. Even though I could swear I’ve repeatedly tried to unsubscribe from some of these companies, I still get e-mails from them. It seems impossible to make it stop. They just want to keep reminding me they exist. I know. I also know how to find them – I don’t need a daily stream of e-mails from them. On top of this, many of these companies still send me paper catalogs. They infiltrate my life both online and offline. It’s annoying. I bought something at Pottery Barn Kids twelve years ago and they still send me catalogs and e-mails. Can’t they tell I haven’t bought anything from them in twelve years?

Everywhere you go there are special membership cards which allegedly enable you to get discounts. I have cards from Sports Authority, Ulta, Argo Tea, Binny’s, Sephora, Dominick’s, Jewel, and God knows how many others. I can’t even keep track of them. Then other places expect you to hold onto a punch card to earn a free sandwich or something. If you don’t have “the card,” they always ask if you want it, then look disappointed when you say no. If I had a nickel for every time I turned down the Best Buy card, I’d be rich. I don’t care if I can save 10% -- I don’t want another freaking card to keep track of. The stores also want your phone number, zip code, e-mail address. I never give them any of these anymore. You can also have your receipt e-mailed to you, rather than get a paper copy. Like I need more junk in my e-mail?

Then you also have to make sure everything is updated – apps, virus software, operating system software. You have to back everything up in case your laptop or phone gets stolen or breaks.  Sometimes I feel like I have a thousand devices to look out for, between my iPhone, iPod, iPad, and computers. 

Frankly, I find it all quite exhausting. I actually miss the days when I didn’t have to deal with all this crap. Life seemed so much easier and less stressful when you had to go to the store to buy something and didn’t have to worry about user ids and passwords. I hate being able to check my e-mail from my phone and being constantly reachable. If I don't answer a text immediately, it raises all this "what are you doing" "where are you" nonsense.  I hate seeing 200 new messages of pure garbage in my inbox that I don’t want, but now have to spend time deleting. When I leave the house without my phone, I feel so free.  I do that fairly often on the weekends.  I find it sad (and annoying) how everywhere you go all the people around you are staring down at their phones or MP3 players or talking on the phone.  Remember what it was like "before"?  While I guess it's nice to have all this stuff sometimes, I wonder if we weren't all better off and less stressed out back in the good old days.

There, I'm officially old.  I said "the good old days." 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weird Things In Chicago -- Horse Statutes

I've been doing a lot of walking and running around my neighborhood lately, and have encountered some things that I had no idea even existed.

Like this, for example:

These guys are in a park near the Buddhist Temple in Lincoln Park.  (There's another thing that kind of caught me off guard!) 

What is this?  Why are there horse statutes in this park? 

Really, really strange.  So, of course I had to photograph them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Hate the Commercial for Savages

I've seen the television commercials for the movie Savages about a thousand times in the past week.  I have no idea whether they are just constantly playing on every television channel, or only the ones I'm watching, but at any rate, a Savages commercial shows up nearly every commercial break -- or at least feels like it.

This is an Oliver Stone film.  When you see his name pop up on the screen in big, block red letters, you almost feel like the movie industry is saying to you, "Duh, dummy.  Look who'se back.  It's Oliver Stone.  Look how cool this commercial is.  Look how many famous actors and actresses are in this movie."  OLIVER STONE.  You know, the guy who many years ago made such awesome movies as Platoon and Wall Street.  He's kind of gone down hill, seems a little nutty, and some people might have thought he was dead, but he's back.  OLIVER STONE.  His new movie is Savages.  OLIVER STONE.  RED LETTERS.  BLOOD.  CRIME.

One of the commercials starts out like this:  Voice Over:  "Just because I'm telling you this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it..."


They show a girl, who for about a month I thought was Kate Hudson.  Turns out, it's Blake Lively.

A rap song plays.  Lots of quick cuts.  A glimpse of John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro.  People screaming.  Explosions.  Guns.  Masks.  This is consistent throughout every commercial.  Then, there is some statement by Salma Hayek: 

"There's something wrong with you love story, baby," says Salma Hayek in one. 

"I wouldn't have a problem cutting both their throats," Salma Hayek says in another, as she calmly takes a bite of food.

Blech.  I'm so sick of seeing these commercials.  What's amazing, is that after viewing the commercials about a million times, I still have no idea what this movie is about.  It appears to have something to do with drugs.  You know, watching criminals do something criminal, so we can sit back and notice how cool they are, with the cool OLIVER STONE cinematography.  It's funny, because as I've gotten older, I realize more and more that I don't want to watch criminals rob people or kidnap them or kill them for entertainment purposes.  Why do people do that for entertainment?  Think about if that were to happen in real life.  Do we think people like that are totally awesome, man?  Of course not.  So why does the movie industry consistently make movies about criminals, glorifying them basically, and people go to see those movies?  I don't get it.

Needless to say, I won't be seeing this one in the theater.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quit Smoking, Get Louboutins

I realized I forgot to post my "reward" for 90 days smoke free.  The sad part is that I would've spent $300 more on cigarettes than these shoes cost.

A little history about these.  They are the Mistica style.  A 2 inch, thicker heel.  I've been coveting these shoes for the past year.  This is my style for work!  This is a heel I can walk miles in!  They've been sold out everywhere in my size for ages.  (Duh, the one Louboutin with a practical heel...and it sells out...yeah, duh.)  So, is it not a sign from God that right when I hit 90 days smoke free, the Louboutin web site suddenly had them in my size?  I think so.  I think so.  I love these shoes so much I want them in the nude color as well.  That will be the six month reward.

The Health Kick Continues, and Insanity Kicks My Butt

First, it completely sucks that the 4th of July is on a Wednesday.  Can we just collectively agree, as a nation, that when this happens in the future we will celebrate on Tuesday or Thursday, so we can get the long weekend?  Please?  Wonderful.

On to better things.  As I previously blogged, I am on a fitness kick.  I'm hoping it's the proverbial lifestyle change, but who can say what I will be doing a year from now?  At any rate, I am enjoying it immensely so far.  Who knew I would love getting up at 6 a.m. to work out?  Not the me from six months ago, that's for sure.   

So, here is my progress.  Since May 24, when I started paying attention to all of this, I have lost 8 lbs.  This means I am at 138 lbs.  (I'm 5'6").  I'm actually feeling pretty good at this weight (e.g. I don't cringe when I get dressed in the morning), but I want to get down to 130, so I'm halfway to my goal.  Already a bunch of my clothes don't fit me anymore.  (If this keeps up, there is going to be a massive shopping spree in the fall.  I should hit 130 by around the first week in September if things continue as they are.)   

To this point, I have done the following: 

(1) I work out six days a week for (typically) 30-60 minutes.  I burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories, depending on the workout.  I bought a heart rate monitor so I could track calories burned to give me a better idea.  For working out, I've been running, doing a Jillian Michaels DVD (30 Day Shred; Burn Fat, Boost Mebolism; or Ripped in 30); or just plain walking.  Some days I'd just do one of these, other days I might combine two.  It just depended how I was feeling.  As I discussed before, I'm doing the Couch to 5k running plan, and I can't recommend it enough.  When I started, I couldn't run two blocks.  Now, at week 7 (out of 9), I'm running 25 minutes straight -- over 2 miles.  It's pretty freaking amazing.  I also never realized how much I walk, living in the city, but I started keeping track of it randomly with the Map My Run app on my phone.  For example, I walk over half a mile to get to the train each day.  It doesn't seem that far, but that's a mile walked daily, there and back.  It's also about 3/4 of a mile to Whole Foods, and I do that walk every weekend to get groceries, for a 1.5 mile walk.  My best friend lives 1.5 miles away, and I almost always walk when I go to her house.  I never realized I did so much walking.  Somehow, living in the city, it just doesn't seem that far.  So, with my normal everyday walking, on top of my running, on top of some after work walks of 3-4 miles (45 minutes to an hour), I'm covering over 25 miles a week.  Amazing.  And let me tell you -- the running is what has really gotten the fat to fall off.  I'm hating right now because it's so hot (even at 6 a.m. it is humid as hell) so I've kind of put the running on hold until temperatures get back to normal. 

(2)  Tracking everything I eat.  I can't say enough about My Fitness Pal.  I've got the app on my phone and iPad, and the website is great also.  I log every single thing I eat.  If I don't know (if I eat out, for example), I guess, and I guess high.  I've been eating at least 1400 calories a day (usually more), and every week I've ended up with at least one ridiculous day of calorie glutton, typically where my friends or coworkers were involved.  Oh, and alcohol will kill you.  At any rate, I haven't been starving myself.  And you really can eat a lot for 1500 calories.  I've been checking out the Skinny Taste web site and Hungry Girl books for recipe ideas.  And eating a lot of protein.  Although I've been losing about a pound a week, I didn't really plan it that way.  I want to do this in a way that I can keep the weight off, and get used to not just eating everything in sight.  It's amazing how many calories are in some foods, that I never even realized.  For example, the other day I was craving a burger, so I wondered how many calories were in a burger from my nearby Epic Burger.  Over 800.  My eyes goggled out of my head when I saw that.  I used to eat that burger without even thinking about it.  Add fries, and you are over 1400 calories!  Holy crap!  Obviously you can do that sometimes, but I was doing that kind of thing too often.  Now, at least, I'm thinking about it.  That's the good thing about calorie logging.  I thought I would hate it, but it's so easy with the phone app that I don't even think about it, and the database of food is huge.  I'm starting to get to the point where I can add up potential calories in my head when I'm eating out, to help out with my choices.  But, don't think this means I'm giving up the junk entirely.  Not a chance.  In fact, over the weekend I had three taco supremes from Taco Bell (600 calories total), and it was worth every fatty calorie.  You can do it; you just can't do it all the time.

So, all of the above has gotten me down 8 lbs.  It was time to step it up.  I started Insanity on Saturday.  Insanity is one of the Team Beachbody workouts.  Maybe you've heard of P90X?  Insanity is from those guys.  It is aptly named.

Insanity is a 60 day program, that you do 6 days a week. Each workout averages from about 40 minutes to an hour.  I'm not going to describe every DVD here or all the details.  If you want to know that, go over to Charles Lloyd Fitness.  He describes all the workouts in great detail.  (He apparently is also a representative for the company, so you are forewarned, but I honestly haven't found a more detailed review of the DVDs, if you really want detail about what is involved in each workout.)  I've been doing it at 6 a.m. every morning, followed by a glass of chocolate milk, which is my recovery drink.  (If Jillian Michaels says I can drink chocolate milk, you better believe I'm going to drink chocolate milk.)   

This is a hardcore workout.  It is reminiscient of the things you used to do for sports in high school.  Burpees, for example.  I remember doing burpees in the gym for rowing, and pounding through them.  Burpees are incredibly hard for me now, but hot damn, I can feel my whole body working to do them.  Push ups.  Agh.  Mountain climbers.  Heismans.  Butt kicks.  High knees.  Ski moguls.  Jumping jacks.  Squats.  Straight up challenging, hard stuff, with little breaks.  This isn't a DVD where the people on the DVD can even make it through the workout.  No, the people behind Shaun T (the guy who came up with the madness) drop out and hit the ground regularly.  This makes you, at home, feel less guilty about doing the same.  This shit is hard.

However, it is really awesome.  I am dripping with sweat by the end.  I mean, you really feel like you accomplished something.  I like a challenge and I like to push myself, so, I am liking this workout.  Granted, I only just finished Day 5, but, so far, so good.  My plan is to continue Couch to 5K (only two weeks left) at least on the Cardio Recovery DVD days, since that one is only 33 minutes and it is mainly strength type stuff.  I was able to do it this week; we'll see going forward.  The thing about Insanity, though, is that you could very easily injure yourself doing it, so be careful if you decide to try it.  If you've had knee problems in the past, this may not be the workout for you, because there is a lot of jumping, although you can certainly alter the workout to remove the jumping.  Go at your own pace.  The people on the TV go crazy fast.  I can't do that yet -- but I will be able to -- soon.     

So, that's what's up with me.  Work is work.  You know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Summer in Chicago -- Crime on the Richest Block in the City

According to the Chicago Tribune, there has been a series of burglaries of businesses in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast.  In addition:
Authorities also warned of an armed robber who held up people in the 2000 block of North Burling Street and in the 500 block of West Eugenie Street. In both instances, the robber pulled a handgun and announced a robbery.

Police only had vague descriptions for the business thefts, but described the street robber as an African-American man, between 18 and 25, 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-2, with a medium to dark complexion. Police had no clothing description.
Let me tell you a little bit about the 2000 block of North Burling.  Forbes called it the richest block in the city.  I'm lucky enough to live within a few block of here, and it is a beautiful street.  Gawkworthy.  It's  part of my running route.  Here is a link to some Flickr pictures of the area.  For example, this is the tiny 27,000 square foot Parillo mansion:

Another one:

Here is a link to an article discussing some of the mansions in the area, including the Parillo mansion.  (Orchard Street, also referenced, is one block east of N. Burling and similarly littered with mansions.)

In other words, this is a nice area.  I shouldn't be surprised that the criminals may believe they'll have better spoils in a location like this, but hearing about people getting robbed at gunpoint on a street like this -- a street I run on every morning -- is extremely disconcerting.  I had no idea people were getting robbed at gunpoing a few blocks from my house, in an area that feels about as safe as you can get.  The media doesn't report any of this, except in a tiny article that you blink or you'll miss.

Worse, the flash mob problems that were happening last year are happening again this year in the Magnificent Mile area:
Here's how victims describe how the thieves operate:

Several teens walk in, and at first only want to ask for you to contribute money for a cause.

In the meantime, one of them grabs your cell phone and takes off.
But, it gets worse:
[The weekend of June 8-11], a series of "flash mob" attacks were reported downtown. In the first attack on Saturday night, a 40-year-old Michigan man was beaten and robbed by a group of at least eight teenagers on the 500 block of North State Street. Thirty minutes later, near the Lake/State Red Line station, a couple was attacked by an unknown number of assailants. On Sunday, a 36-year-old man walking home from work in the Gold Coast was attacked by 15 to 20 males and females, all believed to be teenagers, according to police reports.

You hear very little of any of this in the media.  Every now and then there is a brief, fleeting article, like the ones I've linked above.  Journalism is a joke in this city.  Where are the demands from the Tribune and the Sun Times for more police?  Or how about accountability from the teenagers' parents?  Why isn't someone bringing attention to these mobs of teenagers who think they can run the city?  The reason is because they feel it will incite a race war.  This is why the Tribune disables comments on any article they run on crime, mobs, and attacks.  It's shocking to me that they actually reported the race of the N. Burling robber in the above article.  Normally they don't.  Frankly, I don't care what race anyone is as long as they aren't robbing, mugging, and attacking people.  It's sad.  Chicago is such a nice city, and it's being ruined.