Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Is Over...

**** Beware ****
**** This is not a fun blog ****

As 2010 nears to a close one cannot help but reflect on the year and take its measure. I for one will be glad to see this year end. I honestly feel that it has been one of the toughest years in recent memory. With Dena being out of work for the entire year and the construction business in the dumps uncertainty was behind every door and around every corner.

This was my most expensive medical year in dollars, time, productivity and mental toughness. Between my foot ailments, tension headaches, migraines and getting cold after cold after cold, I just never seemed to be myself. I struggled with the impotency of all that illness and spent a lot of time convincing myself to just keep marching step after step. It's the stress that's been weighing me down all year and slowly eating away at my health.

On top of all of that half of November and all of December was consumed with the logistics and stress of getting Dena's parents moved down from Cambria to Los Angeles. This prevented us from going home to Edmonton for Christmas and this hit me harder than I could have imagined. I struggled with it almost every day in December. Apparently I've become a big softy and family gal in my middle age.... As with all things, it eventually has worked itself out, almost, but not without some much loss of sleep and a trip to the emergency room to boot.

With that said I just kept keeping on with the hope that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel just kept getting longer. As I've said before, we humans have the unique ability to hope and hope has been what's keeping me alive. As the year drew to a close something happened just before Christmas. And this is going to sound corny but it's true. I got a feeling that good things were going to happen to me in 2011 and funny thing, my mom said the same thing to me. Low and behold something good happened the next day. I'm actually looking forward to 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finished Solar Panels on Roof

I hadn't gotten around to posting these but so many people are asking, here they are.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Thanks to my wonderful family who all chipped in for a BIG Apple gift card for my birthday that allowed me to get my iPad today. In the true spirit of "if it's easy, it's not worth having" the iPad purchased turned into a one hour ordeal. There gift card system was down and popped up just as I was making my purchase and the salesman swiped the gift card and a visa gift card I had but couldn't swipe my Visa for the rest, so he cancelled the transaction but before he could do that the gift card system went down again. So now I had two gift cards with nothing on them. I kept my cool but inside I was freaking out. They were very nice at the El Paseo Valley Apple store and after it was all said and done they gave me a free iPad case (a $40 value).

Thanks to my exceptional girlfriend who continues to make every single one of my birthday's special and a special hug and kiss to my desert friends who are the best hosts on this planet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Memories

I remember when I was a kid I would prepare diligently for Christmas. I suppose that should have been indicative of how I am as an adult.... I would take the big Sears Christmas Wish Book catalog and pour over the toy section for days marking the five things I wanted the most. I think I figured five was a reasonable number given things being out of stock and all that. Did you know that you can still get a Sears Wish Book in the mail? I had no idea until I started writing this blog. I just assumed it went the way of everything else - online. See the link above to order yours!

Always in the top five were a couple of large Lego sets. I was a Lego fiend. I distinctly remember circling the big castle. I dreamed of opening it on Christmas day and taking my time to build the castle and then play with it. Back in the day the little Lego menu were like gold. Very hard to come by and rarely in the smaller sets. I believe the castle came with 8 figures and a horse too! Alas, Santa never brought the castle but I built cities with the Lego I had, I had police cars, ambulance, and even a garbage truck with a pick up schedule. Yes, I was so organized (or I suppose you could call me anal) that my Lego trash truck had a schedule.

This Christmas it was my extreme pleasure to buy Sienna and Grace their first Lego sets. This is the set I bought each of the girls. We didn't have pink bricks in my day. My only regret is that this was all we could afford and the biggest killer of all is that I will not be there to see the look on their faces when they open them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What A Day

Actually what a week. What a month. Oh my!

Tuesday I awoke with a crick in my neck. Apparently this is a common malady caused by sleeping on your stomach with your head turned. It was quite painful but I worked through it and made my way to the chiropractor on Wednesday. By Friday between the stress of the week and the dentist I was feeling pretty miserable. Saturday early morn @ about 2 am I awoke in such excruciating pain I cannot even describe it to you. It took about 20 minutes to get out of bed amid much yelping and some crying.

At about 3am I decided that enough was enough and took myself to the emergency room. I went to Olympia emergency just up the street. I was worried that being Friday night and all that the wait would be atrocious but it was only about 20 minutes. Interestingly enough my blood pressure and pulse were quite elevated. This is what pain does to you. I was diagnosed with a severe locked neck joint aka vertebrae and I received a lidocaine shot in my neck and after a few minutes I asked for another near the top of my shoulder blades.

These shots serve to numb the area so that the muscles will relax. You cannot heal if you are in pain which is why pain medication is given after surgery and for many ailments (and of course suffering and comfort). Pain causes muscle contractions and spasms which prevent the joint from loosening in my case. After about 5 minutes my pain level of an 8 dropped to a 4. I was so relieved. Now I just need to get myself to a bed and take the muscle relaxers he gave me to ensure that this joint loosens up. Wish me well....

Monday, December 06, 2010

Brief Post

Just wanted to drop a line on the blog. I've been absent for seems I have a lot to say but it's only in my mind or in the shower or in the car. I've investigated mobile blogging but since I have enough trouble texting and driving, emailing and driving, and dialing and driving on my touch screen phone I thought that mobile blogging would probably really be pushing it.

It seems that my life is so busy lately. Sunday I had a few free hours and I was able to spend it in my garden doing fall cleanup. Pulling tomato plants, heading the herbs and a myriad of other cleanup duties. I completely filled the green bin with clippings. It felt so good to work in the yard. The one plant I didn't have the heart to pull up was a hearty broccoli I started late in the season, I started a whole 6 pack but this is the only one that flourished. It actually has a broccoli head on it now, albeit small. It's kind of exciting to this Canadian transplant to be growing such things. I marvel at the length of the growing season here in Los Angeles.

While gardening is very relaxing to me, as I was weeding I discovered all my tuna can tins. These were placed strategically throughout the garden filled with beer to catch those rotten slugs that were eating all my veggie leaves. Then there were the horn worms on the tomatoes and the aphids on the roses....jeesh, maybe gardening wasn't that relaxing. It seems that wherever I turn there are problems to solve even in my garden.

I suppose this 'eve I'm feeling a tad morose.....I have to catch a flight up to our corporate office early in the morning. While glad I'm going up to the mother ship, ever since my 13 year stint of travelling for business it just no longer interests me and often brings about a deep funk the night before. Alas dear readers, perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Life is full of lessons, some big, some small. This past long weekend we managed to scoot away for a couple days for ourselves and on the agenda was a trip to the Rancho Sisquoc Winery. I have wanted to go here for years as I am in love with their Chardonnay ($15.99 @ Whole Foods and $20 @ the winery). My first introduction to Rancho Sisquoc was actually their Pinot Noir of some year that eludes me now.

After investigating it turns out that Rancho Sisquoc is quite a bit east of the 101 in an area called the Foxen Valley Wine Trail. We left the 101 in the rain and meandered down the small one lane roads past fields of broccoli and cauliflower until it gave way to vineyards. Miles and miles of vineyards. The first winery we stumbled upon was the Cambria Winery. Cambria winery is quite a distance from Cambria the town but the two have much in common. Friendly people, good music and good wine. It turns out they had a fellow (Ray, local boy) their playing acoustic guitar who was great, it was a real party atmosphere with huge 3 oz pours. I highly recommend stopping here if you get a chance as the staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and with a nice depth in their tasting menu. We walked away with some of their Chardonnay (always a favorite of mine) and an incredible bottle of their Clone 23 Pinot Noir.

As we continued down the trail my excitement grew - at last, Rancho Sisquoc. The place was crowded with people 3 rows deep at the tasting area. $8 for tasting with no free tasting if you buy anything. I was highly disappointed in the entire experience. The staff was cranky and just poured with wine with no explanation or help. You picked 11 from their tasting menu and you could do it however you wanted. I suppose choice is not a bad thing but a little kindness goes a long way. Of the 11 wines I only liked two, one was my stand by - the Chardonnay and the other was a Meritage. Frankly, I probably only really bought the Meritage because I wanted to love it..... Did I set myself up for disappointment by expecting too much? Isn't that what "looking forward" to something is all about?

We shrugged off this disappointment and followed our new friends (Francis and Rick) to their favorite winery - Foxen Vineyards. Foxen vineyards blew me away. Perhaps a pleasant surprise is better than having your expectations met? Their wine is not cheap, frankly none of the vineyards we visited were even close to reasonable in price - but generally speaking Foxen was great. We walked away with a four pack and that's only because we were being frugal. Don't miss this area for tasting next time you're in Santa Barbara or Santa Maria - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Solar Installation - Day One

Today was Day 1 of our solar installation. Yes, we're going green. Sungevity is our solar provider and they've contracted the install out to a local electrical company. The fellows from the installation company are awesome. Friendly bunch of guys and they don't have any problem with Dena popping up on the roof every hour or so to take pictures and check on them and of course, the quality of the installation. Perhaps Dena can get a new career out of this as a solar project manager or something.... The guys were telling Dena that homeowners normally never pop up on the roof to check the work out which amazes me because it's your roof, your property and you should know everything that is going on and being installed in/on your house.

So far I am happy except for one thing, the inverter and the cut off switch and all the boxes on the back of my house stick out like a sore thumb. I'm not sure why they couldn't put them all on one side but I guess it's too late to bitch about now. There are 3 boxes and a conduit running under our windows connecting them all. An eyesore to be sure. We'll have to get some little trees or something in pots to hide it. Interesting that you would think the solar panels would be the eye sore but they are almost completely hidden and part of me was all proud driving up to my house with just a little corner of a solar panel peeking out from my pitched roof.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Conversations At Scrapbooking

At a scrapbooking weekend normally the conversations center around family, the latest scrapbooking tools, where in your home is your scrapbooking room and which store has the latest embellishments. My how times have changed.

During the first day while walking around saying hello to fellow scrapbookers and catching up, the conversations all took a surprising turn. Instead of "how are your kids?" the question is "how long have you been unemployed?" Are you on your first Federal extension yet? At one point a woman jumped up and yelled, "I just got a job!" Everyone in the room applauded. She'd been unemployed for two years. People are exchanging tips on where to find part time work and how this is great for your unemployment benefits as it actually extends them. We clarified that part time work is very different from full time (short contract) contract work. If you get one of those jobs, forget it, your unemployment is gone forever.

I started to ask some of them if they'd ever thought they'd be experts on unemployment insurance and the unanimous response was that they never thought they'd ever have to collect it let alone be an expert at the mind boggling maze that it is.

Of course, as is becoming readily apparent in the American Society in general, there has become a great divide in the scrapbooking room between the rich and the middle class. The middle class has less and the rich scrapbookers couldn't care less. It's a brave new world we live in.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Social Media Revolution - Facts

Social Media isn't a fad, it's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

  • 96% of all Gen Y have a social networking page.
  • social media has overtaken porn as the number one Internet activity.
  • one out of 8 recently married couples met on social networking sites.
  • It took 13 years for TV to hit 50 million households, 4 years for the Internet and only 9 months for Facebook to hit 100 million users and 12 months for 200 million users.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world.
  • 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.
  • The fastest growing segment on facebook is the 55-65 year old female
  • 80% of twitter usage is on mobile devices, people update anytime, anywhere, imagine what that means for bad customer experiences
  • in 2009 Boston College stopped issues email addresses to new students, Gen Y feels email is passe
  • YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.
  • Studies show that wikipedia is more accurate than the encyclopedia Britannica.
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations.
  • Only 33% of 18 - 34 year olds have ever viewed a show on a DVR - they hulu it

Thanks to the youtube video on social revolution for reminding me of the fundamental shift in communication that we are currently living in. If you're looking for a job and you're not on LinkedIn then shame on you. Do you know what wikipedia is? Do you Yelp? Even my hairdresser asked me to review him on Yelp the other day. Where are you in the social revolution? Have you been trying to play catch up, are you right in the thick of it all or have you been left in the dust?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The "Hell No" Party

I just have to throw some more comments out there about the Republicans last two years strategically speaking, how it's hurting this country and it's people, and driving the United States further into economic oblivion globally. We don't have the time to sit around and watch Washington get nothing done for another two years. China is done nipping at our heels, now they are pulling limbs off. India is done being our call center dumping grounds and is now becoming a major force in the global economy. Their economic engines are stoked and running at high rpm's while the US is an engine overhaul.

Here are my excerpts:

The Huffington Post:
Republicans in the Senate, with dimmer prospects of gaining control, are plotting a much simpler course. Their platform, to the degree they have one, is to offer themselves as an even bigger roadblock to the Democrats than they are now.

Another from Huffington:
Democrats, including Reid, have said several times in recent weeks that jeopardizing the recovery seems to be exactly what the GOP is trying to do. "It wouldn't do their electoral prospects any harm for there to be more economic misery in America before the election, let's put it that way," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
John Boehner and Eric Cantor asked. “The purpose of the minority, is to become the majority.” Boenher and Cantor laid out a bold plan, the New York Times reports. Boehner told his troops to be not just the party of no, but the party of “Hell, no.”

Frankly it's all just depressing....
Here's more depressing articles
GOP vote count and commentary
Some video excerpts:

Friday, November 05, 2010

Now You're Mad?

After 8 Years Of The Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?
  • You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

  • You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed energy company officials to dictate energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

  • You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

  • You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

  • You didn't get mad when we spent over $800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

  • You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

  • You didn't get mad when over $10 billion in cash just disappeared in Iraq.You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

  • You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

  • You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

  • You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

  • You didn't get mad when Bush rang up $10 trillion in combined budget and current account deficits.

  • You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

  • You didn't get mad when we let a major U.S. city, New Orleans, drown.

  • You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

  • You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

  • You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.

  • You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

  • You finally got mad when a Black man was elected President, and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick...Oh, Heck No!!

And let me add - You're thrilled that the Republicans just spent the last two years with a political strategy that is basically, just say NO. They have spent two years building and maintaining roadblocks in congress and the senate when what this country really needs is representatives spending time fighting for the people and way less time worrying about getting a republican back in the white house.

*** shamelessly stolen from this article in the comments section ******

Monday, November 01, 2010

I'm Tired.....

***** Warning ****
This is a depressing blog entry.

I'm tired of having nothing to celebrate. I want to have some awesome events to celebrate, an event that warrants a bottle of champagne. Like Dena getting a job or me getting a raise or my company winning a bunch of bids. It's hard to keep a positive attitude and just keep plugging along when you're not winning but just keeping your head above water. I don't want to think when I hand out Halloween candy how much it's costing me. I don't want to see adults lining up with their kids mooching candy off of me. I don't want to covet an iPad from afar anymore, I want my own. I'm tired of watching benefits slip away that you know you'll never recover. I'm tired of wondering who will be laid off next.

Who is fighting for the American middle class? I can tell you right now before you vote tomorrow, no one. Not the Democrats (they have been castrated), not the Republicans (all they can do is trash people's ideas, they have none of their own) and it certainly isn't going to be the Tea Party. Will it take a revolution of some sort or will we just quietly slip into oblivion wondering who was supposed to save us?

I remember the good old days less than three years ago when the United States was foot loose and fancy free. Without a care in the world we lived in our consumer based capitalistic society and just waited for our next raise, the next new gadget and our higher 401k statements. I loved those days. When can we have them back? I want them back now. I'm tired of waiting.

Who wants to start a revolution? Is John Stewart on to something?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari

This is a little video that Grace and I made of the Brockie, Dawn & Dena adventure on the high seas. Keep the sound up for a few seconds and then you can turn it down to cut out the wind noise. We went down to Dana Point and took a 3 hour tour with Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari.
No whales were seen but that was AOK because we saw the white faced pod of about 200 long nose common dolphins. They stayed with the boat for quite some time even following if we turned away or sped up. They didn't seem to want to leave us. About five of them had babies that looked like little footballs with awkward jumps and landings. A priceless trip to be sure. I don't think Grace left the front of the boat for the entire trip.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

City of Los Angeles Budget Cuts

Why in the world can they afford to sweep the streets every single week but not cut the grass on our large boulevards? Perhaps because street sweeping generates revenue from parking tickets and mowing the grass doesn't? I took this picture about 4 weeks ago. The grass still hasn't been cut. It's about 2 feet higher now. It makes our city look trashy and impoverished. It's depressing. You can read about it here. Fort Worth, TX is apparently having the same issues of tall grass along streets due to budget cuts.

In doing my research it turns out that the actual problem is that they accidently laid off all the street maintenance median people. What a bunch of incompetent morons.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Facebook Tagging & Other Features

Wanted to key you in to a feature that has been out for awhile but some of you may not be aware of on Facebook. We're all familiar with tagging people in our pictures but you have been able to tag people on your status posts for about a year now. The way you do this is to type your status - "out scrapbooking with @ir ....." after typing the @ symbol and a couple letter a drop down box appears with matching names. You choose the person you are tagging in your status and it's done. Why is this important? Well, frankly it's not important at all but it does alert your friend that you've posted something with/about them. This also works for any entity on facebook, like starbucks or minabea. Here is a detailed description of the feature with screen shots.

Today Facebook launched a revamped old feature that I'm really digging which is groups. I've always felt that Groups in Facebook was useless essentially but now they have made it easy for you to build a space for important groups of people in your life—your family, your soccer team, your book club. All you have to do to get started is to create a group, add friends and start sharing.

When a group member posts to the group, everyone in the group will receive a notification about that post. Now I won't have to guess anymore about whether my parents saw the pictures I posted of their grandkids; when I post in my family group, I'll know that they've been notified about it and that only they will see it. Since information posted in my new groups is only visible to group members by default, I can feel confident about who sees what I post. Other features in the new revamped groups is group chat and group email.

The last item that I wanted to talk about was another revamped feature released on September 30th, 2010 in Photos. Facebook is now allowing higher resolution (photo quality) pictures, easier picture viewing (it was quite a pain before), easier tagging (multiple photos if you're uploading like a wedding or something with all the same people) and a simpler uploading plug in.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Movie Shots in Downtwon Los Angeles

One of the benefits (well that's debateable) of working in downtown Los Angeles is seeing movies, commercials and TV shows being shot. I've seen them do a helicopter scene for the TV Show 24, they've spent 3 weeks building out the 6th floor of my building for some movie that Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck are in and now they are decorating 6th street @ Olive with snow and christmas lights. Here are a couple of recent pictures.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Solar Update

I thought I'd let you all in on our solar situation. Sungevity has sent out a technician to prefield the installation. They've drawn up the plans for our installation and submitted them to the city of Los Angeles and Department of Water & Power. Now we wait.....we are waiting for approval and permits. It's nice that Sungevity takes care of all this so that we don't have to. All I have to worry about is how the sun is not making me any money yet.

And I know this is stupid but they sent us a present. They sent us a solar charging iGo for our electronic accessories. It's pretty cool and I love presents. If you don't know iGo is the charging device widely available at Radio Shack that allows you to just buy ends to charge different things, like an ipod end, a blackberry end, a micro USB end, and the list goes on....

Troubleshooting my Body

The shotgun approach I am taking with my body to rescue it from all I've done to it in the last couple years is almost overwhelming me. Is it possible I've stressed myself out even further with this self care thing? Perhaps.

What I've done is started seeing a Podiatrist for the plantar fasciitis who subsequently prescribed physical therapy. That's twice a week. I'm seeing a nutritionist to get me on track in the food and diet department. I'm working out twice a week and doing some of the wellness challenges we have at work including 50 situps every day. And I'm seeing a psychologist to help me deal with the stress and mental strain. Between all of these things I'm busy 5 nights a week. Frankly, it's ridiculous. When is a person supposed to relax? I fall into bed every night sometimes as early as 9:30, then wake up in the morning and do it all over again.

I'm totally pissed off at the podiatrist now. They made my orthodics wrong, which required two more visits to fix. I'm reviewing the EOB (explanation of benefits) provided by my insurance company and I am appalled at the over charging that they are doing to me and the insurance people. $50 for this, $50 for that, if the doctor touches my feet it's another $50, if I walk down the hallway with him watching it's another $75 per foot for "gait training". What a load of crap that is. One visit was $617. I mean seriously!?

What I do feel is helping the most is the physical therapy. With the stretches, pool therapy and other treatment they give me the pain is definitely getting better. Everyone says that plantar fasciitis takes a very long time to heal (or heel hahaha) and I can see why. I'm trying to be patient but that is not one of my strongest virtues. I'm also trying to be vigilant and keep up with my stretches and ice but it's exhausting.

Thank goodness I have good health insurance. What do people do without health insurance? I suppose they would have to be good to themselves and stay healthy or go bankrupt.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Long Absence

Let me apologize to all my faithful readers for my long absence. I've been very busy with work, sleeping and trying to practice "self care". I've worked pretty much every weekend for most of the summer and I have to say, burn out is imminent. Thank goodness a vacation is near. It is amazing how important it is to have something big like that to look forward to. I cannot wait.

You might have wondered what this "self care" thing is all about. Perhaps its all come about because I'm working so much, very stressed out about money or a combination of all that has happened in life over the past year or so. I feel that my body has reached its limit and has been whining for years about my lack of attention to it. Over the past 18 months that whining has gotten increasingly louder and moved into a scream over the past few months. That's a scream for attention. Well, it has worked. The back pain, the plantar fasciitis and pain associated with that, the eye strain headaches, the migraines, it just cannot go on.

I troubleshoot things for a living. Yes, those things are electronic, both hardware and software in nature, but let's face it, troubleshooting is a skill that can be applied to every problem in life. There are two approaches to troubleshooting; one being a methodical and linear step by step approach, eliminating each piece as you go until the problem is isolated; the second is the "shotgun" approach. This is the method I am taking to troubleshoot my body.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the details I've been taking.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Watermelon Tap - Yummy

As is our tradition we have a little BBQ in the backyard. This year we decided to "tap" a keg - aka tap a watermelon. My sister and her husband gave me the idea as they did it camping this year. Hollow out the watermelon, strain the meat - we cheated and used our juicer. Took no time at all. Mix liberally with your poison of choice - in our case Vodka, then stick a hose bib (aka spigot) into it and voila - a keg of watermelon. Dena decided to add a creative touch and carve a face into it.

We were wondering what to do with the left over meat after you strain or juice the meat. It's basically waterless meat. We decided to freeze it and make watermelon ice cubes.....

Cheers everyone and Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

More Routine - Except Really Old....

Back a very long time ago - Junior High I think we called it in Thunder Bay I went to a school that was just for Grade 7 & 8. This was a big deal for me because I moved out of "grade" school to the big times. We were required to purchase a lock for our locker. I'd never had a locker and we didn't really have much money so it seemed a big deal to get the money for the lock. The lock I received was a Dudley lock. These are Made in Canada.

I use this lock still today and even though I'll go years without using it the combination never leaves me. 54 - 34 - 6 Amazing what sticks in your head for over 30 years isn't it? I dug it out of the garage this morning, dialed in my combo and viola - open sesame. A little stiff but still completely functioning.

In my research to link to Dudley I was pleasantly surprised to see them still around (I mean it was 30 years ago) and they are going strong. We didn't have a bunch of cool colors to choose from! My how things have changed.

Friday, September 03, 2010


There is something to be said for routine. I admit it, I'm very attached to my morning routine. I realize that I need to break out of it because some parts of it are not healthy, aka the diet red bull and zone bar for breakfast..... But on the bright side, I'm starting to implement a new part to my routine - making my lunch. We'll see how that goes.

Part of my morning routine just appeared one morning about a year ago. That was the addition of Leonardo the Standard Parking night shift guy. I get to work just before 7 am and each day there is Leonardo to greet me with a big smile and a buenos dios seniorita. He tries (and doesn't always succeed) to teach me a couple Spanish words but always with a smile. I used to bring him the paper every morning way back when we actually received one.

Back in July I was surprised one morning to see that he was gone. There was another fellow there and I didn't even receive a look let alone a smile. I was sad. A couple days later I finally asked the surly fellow where Leonardo was. He was on vacation. I was happy that he was coming back. Two weeks later he is back and all is right with my routine again. He brings a smile to my face and will often wash away any crankiness that LA morning traffic may have brought on.

When I came back from my vacation he welcomed me and said he missed me. We chatted as there was no one behind me on the ramp and it turns out that we both had taken our vacations in Edmonton. What a small world we live in. Try to remember today that random acts of kindness to strangers can develop into an important part of their day. A smile can change the world for someone. Smile.....come on, you know you want to.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dawn and the Girls....

Off to Canada - Packing Hell

So I'm trying to get out of the house and off to the airport. Dena is staying home to mind the farm whilst I head up for a family visit. This is what our world has come to. In my "packing" world this morning it has involved:

  1. Charging the laptop
  2. Fixing the Ipod Touch which is stuck on the Apple Logo
  3. Clearing out videos off the HDD movie camera so there's room for more
  4. Finding and cleaning out the USB HD sticks for transferring pix while up there
  5. Finding my headphones
  6. Getting all the cables packed for transferring the camera, HDD Movies, ipod, etc, etc
  7. Finding the Ipod charger
  8. Cleaning out my laptop bag and making it a travel "purse" and not a work bag.
  9. Packing allergy medication
  10. Inhalers
Oh and then there are things like clothes...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sungevity Solar - The Deal is Done

We've signed the contracts, solar here we come. You'll all be amused to learn that our solar panels are, you guessed it, Canadian.

Here is what we get...

10 - Canadian CS5A-185M, 185W Monocrystalline Module

1 - Kaco 1502xi (240V), 1.5 kW, 240 Vac, 125-500Vdc Utility Interactive Inverter

Seems minuscule but apparently it does the job.

I've figured out how they do it. My main question was "how do you sell all this solar for $ 1,500?" They do it because they are "leasing" it to us. They own it therefore they claim all the tax benefits, rebates, utility incentives, etc. They also own the electricity it generates. While I get to hopefully have a zero dollar Department of Water and Power bill (minus the water of course) any money earned by my meter spinning backwards is Sungevity's. A smart idea on their part. Kind of a win win situation I suppose. One must ask oneself if going solar is good enough or do you want to own it too?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Solar Panels on our Roof?

In our never ending quest to save money Dena discovered solar power. I had always thought that it was too expensive to have any kind of good ROI (return on investment). When I say good ROI, to me that means that I'll make my investment back in less than 2 years

So Dena got a quote for adding solar panels to our house. Apparently there are a tremendous amount of tax incentives both federally, through the state and through the power companies that we essentially would pay $1,500 and would have a 1.85Kw system. The company name is and I have done some research on why it's so cheap and read a lot of reviews. It's really all about the government subsidies so the time is now....

This is a grainy photo of our house with solar panels on the roof. I'm looking forward to some $0 bills....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Suze Orman and Bugsy - Update

If you're not familiar with the story, scroll down to last weeks posts for the whole story.

Monday Dena was practicing her script for the Suze Orman show, making changes and generally getting completely excited. Tuesday rolled around and the phone interview with Suze herfself began. Dena got about one sentence into her spiel when Suze rudely cut her off and peppered her with a few questions. None of them good. Suze Orman has a typical deny scenario for people - if you don't have 8 months in an emergency fund (aka liquid assets, either cash or easily liquidated stocks) you are automatically denied. Despite our emergency fund Dena (aka we) were quickly denied because she is unemployed. Dena was upset all day because Suze didn't let her speak, was rude and abrupt and hung up on her at the end.

Suze Orman said that we shouldn't be spending any money, period. Are we going to get Bugsy and rescue him from certain death at the bird sanctuary? I don't know. We are generally avoiding the question around our house. Why? I don't know. Maybe we're both hoping she gets a job soon and won't have time to deal with another bird, especially a special needs bird. Maybe we don't want to go against the Orman curse. Maybe we're just not committed enough?

So as of today, we have one bird and Dena is pissed at Suze Orman for being so rude and she'll never watch the show again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

IRS (Internal Revenue Service) Adopts Rules for Domestic Partners

Well praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! Yesterday I spoke with our CPA about tax planning for 2010 and she said a cryptic phrase of "well the IRS has recently adopted new Domestic Partner rules so this could be interesting." Not wanting to appear stupid and out of touch with the news and especially our community news, I kept my mouth shut and resolved to investigate it on the Internet this morning. Apparently, this new ruling (June 12, 2010) reverses a position the IRS took in 2006, when it said California's registered domestic partners should each report on their own federal tax return only the income they personally earned, not one-half of their community income.

For those of you unaware of my previous blog posts this is it in a nutshell quoted from Box Turtle Bulletin:

For several years, California law has treated couples in domestic partnerships exactly the same as marriages, including in how income tax returns were filed. But the federal government’s DOMA has banned any recognition of same-sex couples as married and the Internal Revenue Service has treated them as though they were two unrelated individuals. This has resulted in the peculiar situation in which a couple files as married for state tax purposes, and then files separate federal returns in which each reports their own individual incomes and deductions.
While it is not true in all cases, quite often this results in same-sex couples paying much higher rates of federal income taxes than they would if they could file jointly, especially when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. It has also resulted in increased time and expense in complying with income tax return preparation.

I'll let you know if we actually get a financial benefit from it, however, it cannot be any worse than the financial hit we took being RDP's last year. I was appalled that as a RDP we would have the benefit of paying more than you average couple federally. I am all about fairness and equality and this didn't sit well with me. Now if we could just get rid of the imputed income bullshit for the health insurance benefit I'd really be happy. Maybe for once in my life I'll look forward to the April 15th filing deadline.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bugsy and Suze Orman -- Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 - please scroll down and read part 1 of this blog post.

So Dena's bright idea was to have Suze Orman tell us if we could afford buying Bugsy. Suze Orman does this segment on her money show called Can I Afford It? I figured, what the heck, so we filled in the form Sunday night. Monday morning they had already called Dena and emailed her. They were very interested. They never had a request like this before about a pet rescue and the financial ramifications of such a thing. Forms were emailed back and forth and a Dena and I did a deep dive into our finances. After all, the show is a money show and it is called "Can I Afford it?" so some true financial soul searching was required to fill all these forms in. At one point in the process Dena was sure we'd be denied. They have since called Dena every day and she has an official interview on August 10th. This could be interesting.....

Today Dena went to the bird store (For Birds Only ) to take a picture of Bugsy for the show. What happened though was that Dena was feeling bad for Frieda.... Frieda's cage is right beside Bugsy and they are buddies. As you can see, Frieda is a lilac crowned amazon and is beautiful. She is also a 2nd chance bird and is quite the flirt. She's about twice the size of Picasso. Frieda, Picasso and Bugsy get along quite well.

Whatever shall we do if we are denied? What shall we do if we're approved?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bugsy and Suze Orman -- Part 1

Sunday we took Picasso (our white fronted amazon parrot for those of you that don't know us) to the bird place for a manny/pedi (talon & wing clipping). We go every 4-5 months or so. For the past 18 months there's been a bird there by the name of Bugsy (see picture). Bugsy is a 2nd chance bird. He was rescued from a fire where the house was burned down by the boyfriend of the owner and the birds were left to fend for themselves. Bugsy was and is, needless to say, traumatized. The store staff have been working with Bugsy ever since to calm him down and re-train him.

Each time we're at the store Dena talks calmly to Bugsy and they seem to bond a little and Picasso and Bugsy love to chat. They are quite closely related with Picasso being a white fronted amazon and Bugsy being an orange cheeked Amazon. This visit we received disturbing news. Due to the economy Bugsy was slated to be shipped of to a bird sanctuary by the end of the year. All the staff at the store think Bugsy is a sweetheart underneath that scared exterior and that he wouldn't do well at a sanctuary.

We left the store quite sad and then Dena got a bright idea. See Part 2 of this blog tomorrow for the rest of the story.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Android vs. Apple....

Everyone loves a winner until the winner gets a little too big. You can take your pick between Apple's fluctuating stock price, antenna gate on the new Apple iPhone 4G or the bitching and moaning about iTunes being too restrictive and totalitarian but the result is the same; let's pick on Apple.

People whine that they "have" to download their apps from iTunes and developers whine that all the apps are subjected to a rigorous certification test from Apple. The blogosphere is whining because Apple's new iPhone 4G can get poor antenna reception if you death grip the phone. Bag on Apple because they have become the new Microsoft of the 80's. They are the innovators where Microsoft once was, they are becoming the behemoth that everyone hates just like Microsoft has become. I suppose there is one difference, Apple customers are rabid. So rabid in fact that they can be referred to as fanboys.

So where does that leave us? It left an opening for Google to come in and introduce the open source free for all called the Android platform. In the Android's case applications are distributed either through the Android Marketplace (an icon on the phone's home page) or through the developer's website (scary). This link is from Phone scoop and it talks about a Chinese owned domain stealing personal information from people downloading their wallpaper Android app. Imagine that....No controls on the apps at all, unlike iTunes, so thieves go about unchecked. Give me Apple and it's controls anytime!

Here is a poignant snapshot of the Android Marketplace article:

In June 2010, a study performed on 48,000 Android market applications by SMobile Systems Inc., revealed that 20 percent of applications asked users permission for access to private or sensitive information that an attacker could use for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or mobile banking fraud. 5 percent of applications have the ability to place a call to any number, without requiring user intervention.[15][16][17]
However, while installing applications, Android displays all required permissions, so the user can decide whether to install an application whose permission requirements seem excessive or unnecessary (e.g. a game is likely to enable vibration, but unlikely to read messages or phonebook). This effectively makes the process more secure than other systems that do not ask for any permissions and instead receive full complete access.

Which phone will you buy? Who do you trust? Only you can decide but you shouldn't decide based on the phone's good looks. You should decide on many factors and being well informed is vital!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Oh how I hate these. Look at this huge bugger I found gobbling down one of my baby tomatoes. I put it on the garden clippers for size context. I suppose sacrifices of some must be made for the good of the whole but my goodness he's a fatty. I hope there aren't little hornworms running around that I haven't caught yet. These buggers are the ones that put the little and sometimes BIG holes in your tomatoes. If you listen closely in the quiet of the night you can actually hear them crunching. Then take your flashlight and go a picking....

These caterpillars are so big (three inches long or more) that it would seem to be easy to control them just by picking them off. And so it is, sometimes. The problem is that their pale green color provides excellent camouflage, and the nymph and larval stages are far smaller and less obvious. If there are only a few, picking them off works well. If there are more than a few, other measures may be called for. One of these is Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, an organic treatment that can control numerous other problems as well.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tomato Harvest #1

The first tomato harvest happened so suddenly I almost missed it. We had weeks during June and early July of marine layer cloudiness and cool temperatures. I enjoyed it but the plants weren't all that fond of it. A couple of my tomatoes even developed a case of "cat facing" which is an appropriate name for what they look like. See picture. I only have a couple like that fortunately. Catfacing is an abnormality that develops on the blossom end of susceptible tomato varieties. It results from cool weather at blossom time and causes the fruit to pucker and have deep crevices.

Here I am all proud with the days harvest. As you can see it was bountiful and there are plenty more where that came from. Dena is in the kitchen right now making some sort of tomato soup.

Friday, July 23, 2010


There's something to be said for Anonymity. Only last year if you googled my name you got millions of hits with none of them pointing to me. You see Dawn Armstrong is a fairly common name. There are literally 1000's of us out there. Today after reading an article regarding Social networking personal brand suicide I figured I'd better google myself again. I was shocked that this blog is the #2 hit. I didn't realize how much I missed that anonymity....

For awhile I was thrilled that when you googled "direct buy scam" my blog was the first hit. I was proud that I had become searchable. I've had this blog for about 6 or 7 years now and it had never been searchable until that fateful blog post in late 2008. It took about 4 months for it to climb to the top of the page rankings but it did. Today using that search term gets me at 3rd place. I'm happy now to have dropped. I don't want to be first and I don't want to be so out there on the internet.

Over the past two years I've become very cognizant of the fact that what I post will be read by too many people and some day it may be used against me. It enters my mind each time I write a blog. I have to temper feelings, delete blog posts and be careful what I write so as not to offend anyone too much or damage any career opportunities.

Have you googled yourself lately?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today's Harvest

Spaghetti squash, red cabbage, and a few tomatoes. Soon I will be up to my ears in tomatoes just like today I'm up to my ears in squash. Spaghetti squash is different from other squashes when it grows in that once the vine bears fruit it dies, other squashes will continue to produce. I've planted peas and cucumbers in the spaghetti squash's place to see if I can get another crop of veggies. I'm sure I will as it is only July.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Red Neck Trellis

This Better Best Boy tomato plant, yes there's only one there, is so out of control I had to use a 6' ladder to prop up this side. There's another trellis on the back side to the left of the main plant because there are some 8' off shoots there bearing fruit and they are sagging from the weight. The same thing was happening on this side so what's a girl to do? Why spend money on another trellis when you have a ladder around?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unemployment and the Federal Extension Bill

There seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion out there of what this bill in the Senate and Congress actually accomplishes. It is called the Federal Unemployment Extension Bill. To me that means that they are considering extending unemployment benefits past what is already allowed or been voted on previously. That's what I always assumed because they use the word "extension". That is not the case.

In all actuality it is really an unemployment funding bill. The unemployed people currently collecting or moving toward any form of federal extension of benefits can no longer collect anything until they pass this. If someone has remained unemployed for more than six months, typically they have moved into one of four tiers of federal extension benefits that have been available since July 2008. Without further Congressional action, unless these unemployed workers are currently collecting on the separate FED-ED extension, they can continue to collect the balance of benefits available on their current extension tier but nothing further after that.

Some of the "tiers" of extensions are only 6 weeks long. So if you happened to be in that tier while they dick around and argue about funding what they already granted then you already ran out and you haven't gotten any checks for a few weeks. People and the media often talk about the 99 weekers. These people are supposedly eligible to collect unemployment for 99 weeks. Often right wingers and people frustrated about the deficit are against unemployed people because they figure they can collect for almost 2 years so why would they go back to work? What they don't realize is that there are about 6 different applications to apply for each extension that you have to deal with and that every time congress delays on funding the extensions these people get no checks. And when/if any of the unemployed do get a job they are more than likely getting it for 25 - 50% less of a salary than they were making before.

What would you rather have? Millions of people without benefits moving to welfare, food stamps and without health insurance or fund the federal unemployment package? Which do you think would cost more in the long run? Definitely welfare.

The middle class are disappearing, write your congress person and your senator!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Old Age - The Eyesight

I am constantly reminded of my age lately. It's getting quite annoying. Over the past 18 months or so my close eyesight has been failing me. It started with the directions on the back of pill bottles, progressed to menus in dark restaurants and has recently hit a new low with any form of reading in almost any light. I'm thinking of having Dena make me a cool chain to hang my glasses around my neck. Can glasses chains even be cool?

I've been in restaurants with my mom and she'll ask me what looks good and then says that she'll have that. I eventually figured out that she had forgotten her glasses and couldn't read the menu but now I have a new understanding and empathy. It's depressing and debilitating. Am I going to have to start carrying a purse or something? Maybe I could get away with a small messenger bag? I seem to have lots to carry the older I get. Reading glasses, Carmex, eye drops, cell phone, keys..... I only have so many pockets and the older I get the less I can do without any of these things.
Mom, I love you but bilberry isn't going to bring my eyesight back. I know you think it does but it doesn't. Maybe it helps eye fatigue, I'll give you that. Oh and mom, I appreciate all you've given me, my young looking skin, my small bladder, my thin esophagus, but you could have left off the poor eyesight gene.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Notebook Feature - SplashTop

SplashTop is a new "feature" or program that is starting to appear on some laptops and noteboooks. It appears as a Web button on the computer that you would press instead of the power button. Pushing this Web button tells the computer to boot this new special program or OS instead of going to Windows.

The benefits according to the SplashTop website are as follows:

Fast - Be online seconds after you turn on your PC. Why wait for Windows to load when you could be surfing the web right away! (True, pretty fast boot)
Safe - Surf the Web safely, immune from the malware that targets Windows. (True)
Eco-Friendly - Give your PC a rest when you do not use it. Splashtop boots quickly so there is no reason to leave your PC on all the time. (This is a load of hooey)

What are the problems? Some people have complained about YouTube issues and it seems easily corruptible. The major issue is if your computer is no longer bootable it is not supported directly from the SplashTop website but only from the OEM vendor. In the example I'm referring to, Sony Vaio uses it under the OEM name of Quick Web Access. There is little to any help available from Sony if you are having issues and SplashTop itself won't help you because they are selling the program to Sony, so you are not the customer, Sony is.

Do the benefits outweigh the pains? I believe so. If it stops working and it's beyond you or your poor computer geek friend who you rely on and abuse and don't pay, then you can just not use that button/feature anymore.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HP TechForum 2010

Well it's actually Day 2, I'm exhausted already. Last night I didn't get back to the room until 9pm, and no, it wasn't because I was gambling or at a strip club. I have to admit that HP really knows how to do it up and I know from other attendees that this is scaled back affair. Yesterday evening was the opening of the Expo and the reception. I learned so much in just that short period of time and I did it all with a glass of wine in my hand and prime rib in my belly, all courtesy of HP.

What I've learned thus far:
  1. There are waaaaayyyy more geeky people than me.
  2. The $20 "sandwich" is a valuable tool in Vegas where money talks.
  3. 4G is not fully in Las Vegas, that's just bull$hit
  4. The Luxor really does suck, just like people have told me.
For those of you not in the know, a 20 dollar sandwich is where when you have some cheap a$$ hotel in Vegas and you are checking in, you slip a $20 in between your credit card and your ID. Then you innocently ask if you could possibly get an upgraded room. Sadly, I found this trick out after I checked in. The fellow I met has a beautiful suite in a tower including dining and living rooms, me - a crappy room on the 3rd floor of the pyramid with a view of the Starbucks on the first floor and all the noise that goes with being in a major traffic area, all night long.

Tonight, I finally got dinner during this blog post. It's been a long day. I had to eat my lunch in 15 minutes between sessions. Perhaps I've just overbooked myself. Me? Do too much? Never....

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Irony of it All

The other day one of my many bosses walks into my office with his wife's new Costco laptop and a bag full of software. He says, "Dawn, can you load this up and make sure it all works". "Sure" I said, I mean, what else was I to say?

Normally any computer geek is happy as a clam to fiddle with something shiny and new. I fired up the Sony Vaio and went through the typical Windows 7 setup screen. I typed in the password that his wife wanted, very simple, Password123. I let Micro$shaft load its millions of megabytes of critical updates and then the computer was ready to reboot. Yes, please reboot yourself. Back at the log in screen I type Password123. Invalid password. What? Password123. Invalid password. I typed if very carefully - P a s s w o r d 1 2 3 ---- Invalid password. OH MY GOD! As I stared open mouthed at the laptop I felt my heart drop into my stomach and the bile rising into my mouth.

How did this happen? Wait, maybe because the keyboard is strangely skewed to the left on this model and I didn't have my fingers on the home row? I would have had to type the password in wrong twice though, as a confirmation. How could that be? One long sheet of paper and about 100 iterations of Password123 later, still no go. He's been in my office now about 10 times looking at his laptop and seeing how it is coming. I feign casual indifference but inside I'm freaking out.

Four hours later thanks to the hacker community, bit torrent and my helpdesk guy we've procured a hack to wipe the password from the laptop. I'm back in! Whew. Then I start with an older Adobe CS3 package which is not Windows 7 compatible. 8 hours later and with the help of the Experts Exchange (which I contribute to and have achieved Master status on ) I've finally beat that program into submission.

Total cost = 12 hours of labor,
25 new grey hairs,
1 sleepless night
and happy Senior VP
- Priceless.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Afghanistan Is Rich!

In report released just last week mineral reserves of copper, gold, oil and most importantly lithium have been discovered under the ground in various regions of Afghanistan. China has already won a major contract for mining copper in one of the regions. That just pisses me off. The United States goes over there and fights for over a decade trying to bring peace and democracy to the region costing untold billions of dollars and 1000's of US soldiers lives and China gets a contract. That's just horseshit. By default, a US company should get that contract and the lion's share of the others.

I'm sorry if you don't agree with my opinion but there should be no bidding it should be awarded to the US. We will share but we should be making some of the billions back we pissed away in the bloody sand in Afghanistan. It's only fair. If you're going to be the world's policeman and the world's target all at the same time I would think that you should get at least some quid pro quo. And who exactly discovered all these riches? Well, it was a Pentagon geological team. Frankly, I'm so ticked off right now that I think the USA should just kick the government out of Kabul and take over. Make Afghanistan a US territory and take over. Why pussy foot around anymore. It's obvious that it's a corrupt terrorist country that will never be able to manage this kind of wealth except to use it against the US who has saved their ass.

Two excerpts from the article:

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More on Mitel Stock and IPO's

I love that even on a stock market up day my shitty a$$ Mitel stock drops. Down to $ 9.60 and dropping a whopping 32% since it's IPO less than 6 weeks ago. This article says it'll be bullish in about 12 months if their first Quarter public financials show profit. Mitel hasn't shown a profit for years on its quarterlies, why should this quarter be any different? The article continues to state that a long position will be beneficial to the investor with the stock price estimate at approximately $14 by year end. That's what the stock IPO's at so woohoo! I could break even after 8 months if I'm lucky. On the flip side, why sell it, I have 85% less shares that I had before they went public due to their reverse stock split.

So that's my little rant. It's highly disappointing to be sure. People talk about the hey day of the dot com boom and how so many people got rich on stock options. I think that number is probably significantly less than we like to believe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Little Capitalism is Good for the Soul

As some of you may know over the past 18 months or so Dena and I have been cutting back just like most Americans are doing. Only really buying the necessities, cutting where we can, not really buying any new clothes or electronic goodies (my weak spot) and generally watching what we spend. Over the past month I've just felt the urge to spend. It's been so long and I'm tired of being frugal and careful. I WANT SOMETHING NEW! Preferably shiny and bright but hey, at this point I'll take anything.

I was in Costco the other day and couldn't pull myself away from the new generation of flat screen TV's. I was mesmerized by the new LED LCD Side lit technology and the thinness of the new models. I was dazzled by the new feature of web surfing as a PIP feature. Matter of fact, I was so lost in it all that Dena and I were supposed to meet at a certain spot in the store and I forgot. She was very ticked off at me.

So this weekend after hearing some great things about these "Fit Flops" and the Reebok Easy Tone runners (Tennis shoes for you yanks) I just had to go check them out. With all my foot issues I thought these may be the ticket for me and with summer approaching who doesn't need a new pair of sandals? After trying these shoes and the fit flops on I was sold. Certainly not for the magic toning I was going to get but for the comfort. The fit flops especially were so squishy that my feet feel like they are walking on air. They also come in lovely styles that are "in" like the new roman look made popular by Sex in the City 2. I bought 3 pairs. And you know what? It felt good. It felt GREAT to spend money. I was happy for hours and even wore my new sandals home. Of course the guilt set in the next day when I realized how much my June credit card bill was going to be. I guess retail therapy is good but only in small doses.

Side note: The difference between side lit LCD TV's and Back lit LCD is size and quality. Side lit makes the panel extremely thin however, you lose the deep blacks and depth of color. Here is a great article explaining the differences in local dimming, side lit, back lit, etc. It's short and easy to understand as well as a valuable tool if purchasing a new TV.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Another Doctor's Trip

For the 3rd time in 4 weeks I went to the doctor. I had already self-diagnosed and determined that my problem was a sinus infection (from the 1st doctor's visit) that wasn't quite wiped out by the first course of antibiotics. This is because it was so severe. The 2nd doctor's visit was not with my regular doctor and it turns out her colleague is so against antibiotics that he will not prescribe them no matter what. Nice.

Dr. Vasquez confirmed my self diagnosis today with the caveats that if I'm not 100% feeling awesome after a 3 week battery of Augmentin starting today that I would be off for a CAT scan on my sinuses and probably at least another 6 weeks of antibiotics depending on the results. Since I've never had a sinus infection before and NEVER want to have one again after that incredible pain I am adhering to every letter of the law. I'm on such an extensive battery of drugs that I'm thankful for every pharmacy visit for insurance.

Advair, Augmentin, Nasonex, nasal lavage, prednisone and singulair. Impressive and a little bit scary. I look forward to 3 weeks from now when these can all go into the trash can or drawer never to be seen again. I'm am hopeful.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


I'm very frustrated with my body today. As some of you know I had just gotten over a serious sinus and lung infection. I was on a 2 week course of antibiotics and Tuesday was my last day. Also had a doctors appointment Tuesday and received a clean bill of health. Yesterday (Wednesday) I was exhausted, so tired I could have put my head down on my desk and fell fast asleep. All night I was up repeatedly with coughing and a very sore throat (and yes mom, I gargled with melalucea).

This morning I feel like crap. I'm hacking and coughing up lovely things and I have that sick taste in my mouth. Off to the doctor I go. I will beg for another course of antibiotics because I think it wasn't quite done. I do not want to be sick anymore. I would really like to get back to the vibrant, happy, energy filled me. Is that too much to ask? Come on body. Buck up! Kick that immune system into overdrive and beat this thing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Greece is Really Going to the Well....Frogs

Those poor people in Greece cannot get a break. First their country announces it's going broke. Riots in the streets, consumer confidence drops in the EU followed by the rest of the globe. A ripple effect to be sure. Today, frogs. The little amphibians closed a major Northern highway today as they hopped across the road. Perhaps they were in search of food, perhaps a better lifestyle (aren't we all nowadays?), we'll probably never know.

Check out the story here

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mitel Goes Public

I worked for Mitel for over 12 years. Over those 12 years there were good times but mostly bad times. There were pay cuts, many years with no raises and stock options in lieu of bonuses. Then there was the company stock purchase program. Yes, for only $1.50 and later $3.50 you could buy a Common share of Mitel stock in this privately held company to be redeemable when it goes public. We were told what a good deal this was, we would be investing in the company's financial future and subsequently ours, we could cash it all in when they went public and they would make it really convenient and do a paycheck debit for us.

Sounds like a good deal doesn't it? Well, it turns out that the rich get richer and the middle class get nothing. Mitel went public (Ticker symbol: MITL) on April 22nd, 2010. They hoped for $18 to $20 a share, it started at $14 and today, less than a month later it's hovering around $ 11.50, probably the reasonable value.

One week before they went public I received in the mail notice of a 15 to 1 Reverse split of my common shares. Basically, if you purchased 1000 common shares through the employee stock purchase program you now have 66 shares. If you bought them for $3500 they are now worth based on today's stock price, $770.22. Yes, every Mitel employee got this "deal". I'm sure not about the big wigs, they probably had something other than "common" shares (I believe they are called Preferred Shares) and probably didn't have to trade those in so I'm sure they made out like bandits.

Welcome to the middle class. Bend over.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Garden

Spaghetti squash, oh so big, red cabbage, blackberries....yummy, yummy.....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Next Medical Problem

Jeesh, you'd think I was a sickly kid. Oh, OK, I was. But I had hoped it wouldn't carry into adulthood. It has. I've been fighting off what I thought was just a general cold that always moves into my chest due to either weak lungs and/or the asthma. Yesterday and somewhat the day before my eyeballs have felt like someone is pushing them out of my head from the inside. Squeezing them... My face is puffy, my cheek bones are tender and my teeth hurt like hell. I cannot chew anything because my teeth hurt so bad. It turns out that all of this is sinuses, a severe sinus infection it appears.

My doctor gave me an antibiotic, Nasonex to treat the polyp in my left nostril, Advair for my lungs, cough medicine with codeine and a nasal rinse to relieve the pressure. I'm a regular drug store and thank G-D for insurance. Hey, all you people who think that there isn't a problem with America's medical system and are so against health care reform, how much do you think all those prescriptions would have cost you? Over $400. Cough that up. What about my doctor's visit? $150. Swallow that.

Back to that nasal rinse. That stuff is awesome! Gross, but awesome. It's not the nedi pot because I'm so plugged up that won't work but it relieved the pressure in my head quite a bit and cleaned some of the mucus out. I'll spare you the disgusting details.....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Foot Pain Aftermath

Dr. Portillo (Italian not Spanish) had asked me to try and keep my feet dry in the shower for a couple days if possible so that taping would stay. So this morning I had everything all ready - scissors, waterproof medical tape and a couple of Ziploc one gallon baggies. I guess the problem with using zip lock is that it is too bulky. I tried my best zipping it up half way, then folding it over on my ankle and quickly trying to put the tape around before it bowed out again. I wrapped that tape around and around and around and finally just hoped for the best.

In the shower I realized about half way through that the left foot was completely soaking wet, this was the first foot I did so obviously I got better when I moved to the right side. By the end though my too zip lock baggies were completely full of water and I sloshed out of the shower and pulled the soaking wet tape and padding off. A great day had begun....

Why can someone not invent and sell to orthopedic docs and podiatrists a cheap, foot shaped plastic wrap with some sort of adhesive at the top for waterproofing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Poor Aching Footsies

I have been having a devil of a time with my feet. I've kind of always had foot issues especially when I worked at K-Mart in my late teens. All that standing on concrete was so painful. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. Each morning I'd slide out of bed and I could hardly stand let alone walk the pain in my heels was so bad, more so on my right. So limping I would go to the bathroom.

I broke down and went to a Podiatrist to see what the matter was. First however, I had to search the internet to self-diagnose. This is the way of our modern society now and I'm a firm believer in knowledge = power. I had diagnosed myself with plantar fasciitis and my podiatrist concurred on his own, no lead in by me whatsoever. Plantar fasciitis is quite common and is also known as heel spurs. It's common symptom is severe heel pain upon rising, lessening as the day progresses then coming back as a dull ache and often recurring louder as you relax on your couch at night.

My treatment? 5 days of Celebrex, taped up feet for 2 or 3 days, and about 500 cortisone shots in my poor heels. Using his sonogram machine he sprayed my heel with something so cold that it burned. This was apparently to numb my heel although I was and still am suspect of the point of that. At this point he had leaned me way back in the chair so I couldn't see and like any good, compassionate doctor nattered away to me about mindless topics keeping me engaged and asking me questions. A little prick at first (the needle, not the doctor) and then the pain. The searing, propelling me off the table pain as he jabbed the needle into me repeatedly. At least it felt like it, I'm not really too sure. I guess the lidocaine goes in (which burns severely) and that is supposed to numb you so you don't feel the cortisone although I don't really get the logic there.

After he was finished the right heel I had to muster all my guts and glory to let him do the left. He told me sometimes 3 treatments are required although I doubt I'll ever allow that to happen again. I walked out of the doctors office blissfully numb in my heels and hoped for the best. That was short lived because by about 9pm I laid in bed trying not to cry myself to sleep. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Backyard Update

I've spent a considerable amount of time in our backyard over the past month. Transplanting, cleaning up, roto-tilling, planting a new garden, mitigating various plant diseases and pests and my favorite thing - experiencing it all. Often I'll stop for a moment to stretch my back or admire my work and a view of the backyard drama will present itself.

Since it's spring I began my time watching the courting of various birds and listened for days of a poor crow in heat crying for a mate. That crow whined for 3 days straight until it finally shut up. Lately I've been watching the scrub jays defend their nest in the tree behind our neighbors house. I've seen them chase a squirrel right down the fence top pecking at him as they went. My mom told me that squirrels are egg suckers and crows are baby bird stealers. The scrub jays are often screaming at one crow or another, dive bombing it to keep it away from their territory and nest.

Yesterday morning I came across a terrible discovery. There was carnage in our bird bath. It appeared that a crow had been successful and was eating his breakfast on the edge of our bird bath until I startled him. There were lots of feathers, a small wing, blood and bone. I was very sad and could not bring myself to clean it out. I noticed later that the crow must have returned as the wing and bones were gone. I'm still a little sad.

Life goes on around us no matter how small or large, from the caterpillar crawling across the driveway this morning to the night blooms of the cactus - try to stop and experience the little things today. You'll be glad you did.